Blue plaque pays tribute to Sunderland’s vital role in Battle of Britain

The role played by Sunderland’s own RAF base in one of the defining victories of the Battle of Britain has been immortalised.

A blue plaque has been unveiled marking the events of August 15, 1940, when the Hawker Hurricanes of 607 (County of Durham) Squadron, led by Flt Lt Francis Blackadder DSO, succeeded in defeating the largest daytime raid ever launched by the Luftwaffe on North East England.

Flt Lt Dave Walsmsley with Mayor of Sunderland Coun Lynda Scanlan

Flt Lt Dave Walsmsley with Mayor of Sunderland Coun Lynda Scanlan

The squadron was based at the former RAF Usworth - now the site of Sunderland’s massive Nissan plant - and the plaque has been mounted on the wall of the former Three Horseshoes pub, which served as the airfield’s officers’ mess.

The plaque is the brainchild of the youngsters of 2214 (Usworth) Squadron RAF Air Cadets, who are based close to the pub.

Flt Lt Dave Walmsley said the squadron had been looking for a way to mark the 100th anniversary of the RAF.

“After completion of the replica Moraine Saulnier WW1 aircraft, the cadets were looking for something to commemorate the RAF’s 100 years”, said Dave, an officer and former cadet at Usworth squadron.

The raid was the biggest the Germans had ever launched in daytime and they never tried anything as big again because they had taken such a beating, but Francis Blackadder is not known about at all.

Flt Lt Dave Walmsley

“The idea of a lasting memorial to the RAF’s aviation heritage in the region seemed appropriate, in recognition of its 100th birthday.

“The raid was the biggest the Germans had ever launched in daytime and they never tried anything as big again because they had taken such a beating, but Francis Blackadder is not known about at all.

“It is particularly fitting that the cadets are involved because when Blackadder left the RAF, he became officer in charge of the Northumbria wing of the Air Training Corp.”

The plaque, which features the crests of the RAF, 607 (County of Durham) Squadron and 2214 (Usworth) Squadron, RAF Air Cadets, was unveiled by Mayor of Sunderland Coun Lynda Scanalan and is funded by the city council’s Washington committee.

RAF Usworth blue plaque heritage celebration. From left High Street Hospitality manager Phil Smith , Air Cadet Flight Lieutenant  Dave Walsmsley, Mayor of Sunderland Coun Lynda Scanlan and  Mayoral consort Micky Horswill

RAF Usworth blue plaque heritage celebration. From left High Street Hospitality manager Phil Smith , Air Cadet Flight Lieutenant Dave Walsmsley, Mayor of Sunderland Coun Lynda Scanlan and Mayoral consort Micky Horswill

John Rostron, of the Washington Trust, which is identifying sites for more plaques, said: “This is the first of six that we hope to put up between now and June next year.

“We are trying to promote local heritage to local people with it being a new town.”

High Street Leisure took over the pub two months ago and is in the process of rebranding it as Rustica Trattoria.

Marketing manager Grace Noon said: “Dave Walmsley approached me and told me this was happening.

The plaque

The plaque

“We were delighted to help - this is something of historical significance.”

The plaque is unveiled by the Mayor of Sunderland Coun Lynda Scanlan

The plaque is unveiled by the Mayor of Sunderland Coun Lynda Scanlan