As World War II began to take shape in Europe, the United States remained out of the fray, at least in any official military capacity. In very real and practical ways, however, our involvement began to take shape with assistance to our allies well before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Through the Lend-Lease Act, material support for England and other allied countries began in March 1941. While ships and tanks made their way overseas, British pilot trainees began a journey to Terrell through Canada. The unlikely trek brought them out of the way of German bombers so that they could learn to fly.
Through the efforts of local leaders, the No. 1 British Flying Training School was established on the site that is now Terrell Municipal Airport. Over the course of the war, more than 2,200 Royal Air Force pilots made their way through the school before returning to fight.
“From this school, these pilots flew all over the region, so it was well known at the time” said Rudy Bowling, BFTS Museum board president. “Over time, that memory has faded, and now even the relatives of those who lived here at the time don’t know what went on here during the war.”
The No. 1 BFTS Museum was created for just that task. It serves as a permanent home to memories, artifacts, research materials and tributes to the men and women who prepared for war there.
“We are cognizant of the fact that history isn’t taught the same as it was to us,” Bowling said. “Local donations mean a lot and this money helps us work toward a better education program here at the museum.”
The museum has also expanded its offerings, covering some other parts of World War II history with displays of weapons and items from all of the major combatants, as well as tributes to those who fought in other conflicts.
“We try to work with other institutions and those partnerships really add to what we can do,” Bowling said. “We have a display in the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas, and we have borrowed display items here from the Audie Murphy Museum in Greenville.”
The museum also hosts the Flights of Our Fathers Air Show and Fly-In, which features all types of aircraft, and several acrobatic flight displays. The 2018 event, which will be held September 22, is slated to include flight demonstrations from two Mig-17 fighters, a legendary P-51 Mustang and precision formation flying by Falcon Flight.
On the ground, static displays include military setups, aircraft, a variety of food items and family activities for all ages.
The No. 1 BFTS Museum is located at the north end of the Terrell Municipal Airport on Silent Wings Blvd.
Visit bftsmuseum.org for more information.