RAF CENTENARY TAPESTRY FOR RAFA GLOUCESTERSHIRE
The RAF will be 100 years old on 1st April 2018. Gloucestershire played a significant role in the service and Ray Bunnage of the Royal Air Forces Association of the Gloucester Branch had the idea to have a tapestry made to mark the event.
The project got underway in November 2016 and Pat Coupe, who had been involved in The Great Tapestry of Scotland, began to put the plan into action. The same fabric as was used in both projects and Ray was in charge of providing the content and organising the fundraising. Chris Bazeley was commissioned to create the artwork which would eventually consist of 10 panels, each to measure 1 metre squared. The panels begin with a map of the county of Gloucestershire showing the proliferation of RAF bases. The next panel represents the Royal Flying Corps from which the RAF sprang. The panels then travel through many topics from barrage balloons to the Red Arrows.The images were transferred to the fabric by a new printing technique which produced the intricate designs and is guaranteed to not fade for 125 years!
Time was clearly against the team and many said it would be impossible to complete in less than 2 years, but there was less than 18 months from the concept to the handover! Undaunted, Pat put together teams of enthusiastic volunteers from throughout the county to undertake the work. Some of the 50 or so volunteers were experienced embroiderers, some wanted to learn a new skill and some didn’t want to stitch, but were very willing to help with the laborious part of a job which involved winding the hanks of Appleton’s wools into skeins and cutting them to appropriate lengths. Sandra Gee came on board in an organisational role to help with the stitching of a panel and dealing with the record keeping, which became so necessary as the project grew.
Regular meet ups are held for all the teams to bring their panels together, to discuss their work, help or advise others where needed , collect extra supplies of wool and to get to know each other. The effort, good will and sheer determination of all involved means that the work is on course for completion by December 2017 when it will all go to Wendy Custerton for stretching and mounting. The completed work will have a permanent home in the Jet Age Museum at Staverton, but prior to that it will travel on display through the county.