The historic items belonged to Wing Commander Ronald Gustave Kellett, DSO, DFC, AE. He served in this vicinity during the Battle of Britain in 1940 as the British officer commanding 303 Squadron, a Polish fighter squadron at RAF Northolt, cementing the Hillingdon connection.
Actor Sam Hoare is playing Wg Cmdr Kellett in the movie Hurricane currently in production.
Wg Cdr Kellett’s children handed over the collection to its new home at bunker, which was the secret heart of Britain’s air defence during the Second World War.
By the end of the Battle of Britain Wg Cdr Kellett had destroyed five enemy aircraft, two ‘probables’ and one damaged, which qualified him as a Battle of Britain Ace.
The following words about the Polish flyers were written in the 303 Squadron Chronicle by Wg Cdr Kellett when he was leaving the unit: “We fought together through the great offensive of 1940 and I then knew that the pilots of No. 303 Squadron were not only the best but would also see me through any troubles. In the month of September, 303 Squadron was on top — no squadron from the Empire could equal the courage and skill of our pilots, no bombing could daunt our airmen.”
above: left to right Jan Dryburgh, Louise Pemberton, Judy Williams, Dan Stirland, Victor Kellett, at the Battle of Britain Bunker
Wg Cdr Kellett’s children explained they were looking to donate their father’s artefacts as they felt it was important to keep all of the items together.
The family explained that with five siblings and 20 grandchildren they were concerned their father’s collection would be split up and he would be forgotten. Consequently they decided that the Battle of Britain Bunker was the best home after meeting Daniel Stirland, Senior Curator, at a Polish Air Force dinner.
Judy Williams, Wg Cdr Kellet’s daughter, said: “Meeting Dan came at the right time and we are pleased future generations will be able to admire father’s items and that his legacy is kept alive at the bunker. This is an amazing place. It is amazing to think of the hard work of the people working down there, and they must have known the pilots including father.”
Hillingdon Council is investing nearly £6 million in a new visitor centre adjacent to the historic underground bunker where the air defence of the nation was directed throughout the Second World War.
Mr Stirland said: “This is an historically significant collection and we are very excited the family chose to donate their father’s items to us and this will be one of the highlights of the new exhibition when it opens in the Spring.”
The donated items include medals awarded for distinguished acts of valour and courage the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), correspondence, flight logbooks and photographs - including one when he met King George VI.
Cllr Lewis, Cabinet Member for Central Services, Culture and Heritage said: “This is a major coup for us and it is wonderful that Hillingdon is home to Wg Cdr Kellett’s medals so near to his old base at RAF Northolt.
“We even have a replica of the plane he flew in the colours of 303 squadron standing guard at the entrance to the underground bunker. These items will be the stars of our collection when the new £6 million Battle of Britain Bunker Exhibition and Visitor Centre opens next year.”
Wg Cdr Kellett served in the RAF from 1933 to 1953. He married in 1939 and lived in Benenden, Kent where he died in 1998.
- Kellett was one of the initial pilots to fly the new Hurricane fighter plane when it was first delivered.
- The Hurricane is credited for shooting down more enemy aircraft than the rest of Fighter Command’s fighters, including the Spitfire.
- Kellett was able to communicate with his Polish officers because he spoke fluent French, the diplomatic language of the world at that time.
- Hillingdon Council is marking the this National Remembrance on Saturday 11 November with the launch of rocket maroons at 11 sites across the borough to mark the two min silence (start and finish 11am to 11.02am) on 11.11.17.
- There are also local Sunday Remembrance Parades taking place on the 12 November organised by The Royal British Legion regional branches.
The children making the donation were Louise Pemberton, Judy Williams, Jan Dryburgh, Victor Kellett and Jonathan Kellett.