Big Jubilee Lunch

Dedicated John helping to tell the stories of Burtonwood veterans

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FOR the past 35 years John Cotterill has been working to uphold the memory of the veterans who served at Warrington’s RAF Burtonwood.

John is manager of RAF Burtonwood Heritage Centre at Gulliver’s World, which sits on the site of RAF Burtonwood, once the largest airfield in Europe.

He started work with the Heritage Centre in 2002 but has been a member of Burtonwood Association since 1987. The Association aims to uphold the memory of the men, women and activities that occurred at RAF Burtonwood, recording and preserving their achievements for future generations to discover.

While it is not necessary to enter Gulliver’s World to gain access to the Heritage Centre, a visit to the centre is included with a ticket to the family-friendly theme park resort.

A donation-based charity, the centre offers guided tours, educational packages and presentations to learn about the men and women who served at the base through displays, films and military memorabilia. The centre also has a cockpit experience of a C54 Skymaster as used in the Berlin Airlift.

John, 62, who lives in the village of Burtonwood, said: “The best part of my role is meeting the veterans and listening to their stories – it’s their experiences that matter.

“Written history is great but oral history – people telling you their stories and what they did – is amazing. They’re the ones who lived it and it builds an atmospheric picture. From that picture, we can design and build our exhibitions.

“We’ve met literally thousands of veterans over the years and I’m interested in the tales people have to tell. We rightfully treat them as a special generation, especially those who were alive in World War Two.”

John, who was brought up on the doorstep of the former airfield, has a varied role that includes organising displays, exhibitions and events, including for US veterans who served at Burtonwood. He also helps at Gulliver’s World during especially busy times.

“I’m not that old that I remember Burtonwood being operational as a flying base, but you can imagine being brought up as a kid and having this massive empty airfield and wondering about the history,” John said.

“I just had a fascination with it. And then when I got older and started delving into the history of it, it just grew on me.

“We get school parties coming in to learn about the rich military heritage around the

Warrington area, particularly what happened here during World War Two. So it’s really fulfilling when you see kids, and sometimes even teachers, finding out about the history of the area.

“We are always excited to share some of the fascinating and inspiring stories of the centre with visitors of all ages.”

Craig Clews, resort director at Gulliver’s World, said: “John does a wonderful job at the Heritage Centre and, with his work for the Burtonwood Association, has spent three-and-a-half decades helping tell the stories of the men and women who served there.

“A visit to the Heritage Centre is a fun and educational experience and the admission is included with a ticket to Gulliver’s World. It’s a great way for families to discover the history of the local area.”

The Heritage Centre is normally open to Gulliver’s World guests from 10.30am to 2.30pm Wednesday to Sunday.

The general public entrance to the Heritage Centre is on Gulliver’s World car park. The centre is typically open to members of the public from 2.30pm to 5pm Wednesday to Sunday, although it is possible to arrange visits outside these hours.

For more information, please visit: www.rafburtonwoodheritagecentre.co.uk or contact john.cotterill@rafburtonwood.co.uk


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