Posted on 20 February 2020
The International Bomber Command Centre (IBCC) in Lincoln, England, states its aims as remembrance, recognition and reconcilliation.
The IBCC tells the personal stories of service men and women of RAF Bomber Command, ground crews and civilians impacted by the bombing campaigns on both sides of the conflict during the World War II.
The centre provides a comprehensive record of the role of Bomber Command’s squadrons and digitally displays historical documents and photographs relating to the activity of Bomber Command.
Lincoln was chosen as the location of the IBBC as, during World II, Lincolnshire was home to 27 bomber command stations (over a third of the country’s total). Due to the presence of so many bomber aircraft, Lincolnshire became known as ‘Bomber County’.
The IBBC opened in 2015, with a spire memorial as high as the wingspan of a Lancaster Bomber. A visitors’ exhibition provides a balanced view of the death and destruction caused by the dropping of bombs from both sides. Above all, there is no glorification of war.
With the opening of the IBBC, it left local Lincolnshire Quakers with the question, how do we respond?
On the one hand, the IBBC is undeniably militaristic and many of the volunteers are retired from the Royal Air Force. Therefore, there is an undercurrent of promoting the British military that sits uncomfortably with finding peace.
On the other hand, the IBBC is here to stay and it regularly gives tours to schoolchildren. Without any engagement from Quakers, a chance to promote peace to future generations would be lost.
Two Lincolnshire Friends chose to engage and became tour guides at the IBCC. White poppies were donated by Lincolnshire Quakers and given away free. They are placed next to the red poppies, with a sign explaining their significance, with the blessing of the IBCC.
In May 2019, Lincolnshire Quakers joined a local artist for a session of white poppy making at the IBCC. The poppies were temporarily ‘planted’ in the IBCC’s peace garden, before being moved into a vase that sits in the IBCC’s cafe. Nearly 600 children attended that year’s remembrance service at the IBCC, with some of them wearing white poppies.
Going forwards, Lincolnshire Quakers have given their support in helping to redesign and improve the third gallery, which is concerned with reconciliation. At present, this third gallery seems a little ‘forgotten’ when compared to the other two.
The IBCC recognizes the need to update the reconciliation gallery and have begun fundraising for the work to be carried out. With Quakers being a part of the process, it’s hoped the reconciliation gallery will gives visitors the opportunity to reflect on non-violent solutions to preventing war.
Image from internationalbcc.co.uk/