Following Royal Air Force Stradishall’s closure in 1970, one building which lay abandoned was the old Officers’ Mess located on the western edge of the main airfield complex.
This would ultimately change when most of the site was designated to become one of Her Majesty’s prisons, “Highpoint”, a project which necessitated removing a large number of the original RAF buildings.
Fortunately the bulldozers missed a few including the old officers’ mess, the building was then used in a variety of ways, sadly none reflecting its original historic role of 1938 when it was opened and the following dramas of Second World War bomber operations.
Happily, the situation changed when it was chosen to be re-furbished and to provide a Residential, Training and Conference Centre for the Prison Service. Apart from returning the fine old building to structural good health it was decided to retain a strong element reflecting its RAF History.
Advice from members of both the Royal Air Force Memorial Trust and the Haverhill Aviation Society helped in selecting an appropriate interior décor. Add in the various pieces of aviation memorabilia which now adorn the walls and the effect is dramatic. “More RAF than RAF” was the favourable comment of one speaker who had actually served at Stradishall and lived in the mess!
In May 1994 on the occasion of the unveiling of the Royal Air Force Memorial directly opposite the entrance (on a grass area graciously given by the Prison Service) the old building proudly flying the Union Flag and RAF Standard became “STIRLING HOUSE” in honour of the RAF's first four engined heavy bomber.
Today it is a busy working building undertaking a very different but important role in modern society.
Finally, it is certain that the wonderful offer from the Prison Service to our Aviation Society has ensured that the theme of “on site” aviation history lives on at Stradishall.