Ripon military heritage campaigners to hold public launch
May 16, 2023

An organisation fighting to save forgotten but nationally important military heritage will hold its public launch in Ripon on Saturday.

Members of Ripon Military Heritage Trust (RMHT) will be on hand at Market Square from 10am to tell people about the campaign to protect and preserve structures and buildings currently threatened by demolition as part of a redevelopment of MoD property by the government agency Homes England.

The redevelopment area at Clotherholme is currently occupied by Claro and Deverell Barracks and the Laver Banks Training Ground.

Trust chairman Guy Wilson, former Master of the Royal Armouries (RA) who played a leading role the creation of the RA museum in Leeds, said:

“Ripon has a long and rich military heritage but its key role in helping secure the liberation of Europe in the Second World War and then maintain it has been largely forgotten.

“The redevelopment site at Clotherholme contains a number of unique and very rare military buildings and structures, worth preserving on their own account, but even more so when what was happening in and around them is understood.”

The relocation of the Royal School of Military Engineering to Ripon in 1940 meant the city played a huge part in training combat engineers.

It was here that the famous Bailey bridge, in its many varieties, was tested and perfected before seeing use in theatres of war across the world. So important was bridge building and the other engineering activities in Ripon that the US Army formed its own ‘American section’ to train its key engineers.

Early in the war British army bomb disposal training was centralised on the site and in the aftermath of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour, a secret delegation of US Army personnel, led by Major Thomas Kane, came to the city to train.

On completing the course they were presented with Royal Engineer ‘Bomb Disposal’ patches and given the unique honour of being able to wear them on their US Army uniforms.

Kane returned to the Unites States where, with British help, he set up his own version of the Ripon School. He is regarded as the father of US Army Bomb Disposal.

Saving some of the remaining structures at Clotherholme that tell this story and its continuation into the Cold War is the RMHT’s first important task. But it has a wider remit and is dedicated to researching and preserving Ripon’s long and varied military heritage.

The trust aims to preserve a number of the surviving structures on a site at Laver Banks and develop a military heritage centre alongside countryside trails which will interpret the city’s unique military heritage.

Pictured above are members of the trust on the Heavy Girder Bridge at Laver Banks. From the left: Lt Col Bob Lisle (ret’d), Jane Furse, Stuart Martin MBE, Guy Wilson and Michael Furse. Picture: Ripon Military Heritage Trust.

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