HAVING visited the Wales and the Battle of Britain historical exhibition in Rhyl last year, Vale of Clwyd MP, James Davies, was pleased to host it at Parliament and learn about the role played by a former pilot from Prestatyn.

The exhibition was created by the RAF’s Air Historical Branch (Dr Lynsey Shaw), together with Air Commodore Williams, to commemorate Wales’ contribution to victory in the Battle of Britain.

It was originally planned to be launched in 2020 but had to be postponed many times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Rhyl prepares to welcome the Wales and the Battle of Britain Exhibition

The exhibition was taken on a tour around Wales with the aim to visit all 22 local authority areas, and it has been seen by more than 15,000 people.

Having visited it when it was at Rhyl Town Hall, Dr Davies welcomed the opportunity to host it in Parliament.

He said: “I first saw this excellent exhibition in Rhyl Town Hall as part of its journey across Wales last year to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain – which was delayed from 2020.

“The exhibition was not only a commemoration of the Battle of Britain, remembering the 3,000 aircrew that fought in the Battle, of whom 544 lost their lives – it also had an important Welsh perspective.

“It detailed a previously untold story, highlighting the contribution of RAF Aircrew from Wales, together with the Welsh people and communities, in one of the most important periods of our history.

“I was extremely impressed when I first visited the exhibition and was keen for it to be brought to Westminster.

“The exhibition at Parliament was open for two hours and MPs and Lords came to view it during this time, including Baroness Annabel Goldie, Minister of State for Defence; Secretary of State for Wales, David TC Davies; and MPs from across Wales.

“It is great that it has been viewed by so many, both here and across Wales.

“I was particularly pleased that the hosts of the exhibition at a number of the locations invited local school groups to visit the display.

“It was also good to hear that there were a number of veterans at the various events around the country.”

At the event, Dr Davies spoke to the Air Commodore about a key former pilot, Harold Bird-Wilson from Prestatyn, who joined the RAF on a short service commission in 1937.

He completed his training at Number Flying Training School RAF South Cerney, Gloucestershire.

In August 1938 he joined 17 Squadron on at RAF Kenley.

On September 19, flying back to base in a Swallow aircraft, he ran into a storm and crashed, suffering severe facial injuries.

He was operated on four times by the famous pioneering plastic surgeon, Archie Mclndoe, making him one of the first “RAF Guinea Pigs” for this new burns treatment.

In early 1940, Harold converted to the Hurricane fighter with 17 Squadron. He served in the Battle of France in May 1940, contributing to the destruction of six enemy aircraft.

In the Battle of Britain, he contributed to the destruction of a further eight enemy aircraft. He was himself shot down on September 24 by German ace Adolf Galland, and was rescued from the sea off Chatham, Kent.

He went on to give distinguished service during the remainder of the Second World War, being awarded a number of awards for gallantry, including a Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, together with a Distinguished Service Order.

After the war, he had a long and successful RAF career, achieving Air Vice-Marshal rank and being awarded the Air Force Cross and Bar and a CBE. He retired from the RAF in 1974 and died in 2000.

His medals are on display at the RAF Museum in London.

Dr Davies added: "I very much enjoyed hearing all about Harold and his part in the Battle of Britain, the largest air battle ever recorded and one of the most pivotal and iconic moments in our history.

“I am delighted that its 80th anniversary has been commemorated in such a significant way.”