A charity event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain has raised £20,000 for Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice.
The Battle of Britain lunch, which had been postponed for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, took place at Coverham Abbey, near Middleham, at the end of May and was hosted by Nigel Corner, an Honorary Air Commodore in the RAF, and his wife, Harriet.
It was held in aid of the RAF Benevolent Fund and Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice, after the couple were made aware of the hospice’s link to the RAF after the Second World War.
Formerly known as Wheatfield Lodge, the impressive manor house in Headingley was originally built in 1855 as a family home. During the Second World War it housed the Regional Commissioners Office and War Rooms before becoming the headquarters of the No. 609 West Riding Squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in 1955. It has been a Sue Ryder hospice since 1978.
“When we found out that 609 squadron – of which Nigel is an Honorary Air Commodore – was headquartered at Wheatfields just after the war we thought that it would be poignant to visit the building and learn more about its history and the vital role it plays in the community now as a hospice,” said Harriet.
“During our visit we were blown away by the level of care provided and we thought it would be lovely for a link to be formed between RAF Leeming, where the 609 squadron is now based, and the hospice after all this time. That’s when we decided to organise the Battle of Britain lunch to raise vital funds.”
The lunch, attended by 180 guests, started with a parade by the RAF regiment in front of Coverham Abbey, before a special flypast from a Lancaster Bomber kindly provided by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. This was followed by inspiring speeches from Sir Winston’s Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames, and Historian James Holland, author of ‘The Battle of Britain: Five Months That Changed History’.
The event concluded with an auction which featured exclusive prizes including a week in a ski chalet in Courchevel for 10 people and a flight in a Spitfire. In total, over £80,000 was raised.
Nigel and Harriet visited Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice on July 22 to present a cheque for £20,000, which will go to support the expert and compassionate palliative care the hospice provides to people living with life-limiting conditions in Leeds, as well as supporting their families.
Harriet said: “After having to postpone the event for so long due to the pandemic, it was brilliant to see everyone come together and we’re delighted to have raised this substantial amount for Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice. It’s a special place and we look forward to continuing to support them in the future.”
Becky Hollingworth, community fundraiser at Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice, said: “Thank you to Nigel, Harriet and everyone who was involved in this event for their support.
“It is wonderful to see the historical link between the RAF and Wheatfields, which goes back almost 70 years, recognised in this way.
“The money raised will make a huge difference in helping us to continue to be there when it matters for people going through the most difficult times of their lives.”
To find out more about Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice, visit: sueryder.org/wheatfields.