RAF cadets chip in to bring lost Ely hospital sign back

RAF sign Image copyright RAF Ely
Image caption The sign was discovered on eBay and bought back by cadets

Air cadets have chipped in £5 each to bring an RAF hospital sign back to its former home at their headquarters.

The aluminium sign once stood at the entrance to the old RAF Ely medical unit in Cambridgeshire when it was renamed the Princess of Wales Hospital in 1987.

The sign disappeared in 1992 when the air base closed, but emerged for sale on auction site eBay.

Instructor John Donoghue said a piece of "living history is coming home".

RAF Ely opened in 1940 as a "large and well-used" hospital treating personnel from the region's airbases during World War Two.

It closed as an air force hospital in 1992, but remains an NHS district hospital serving 40,000 patients a year.

It still has an RAF air cadet unit on site, training more than 45 youngsters, aged 12 to 19.

Image copyright RAF Ely
Image caption RAF Ely Air Cadets each pledged £5 to bring the old sign home
Image copyright Frank Newberry
Image caption This photo was taken in 1992 and shows the sign in place outside the base

Mr Donoghue said it was thought the sign - measuring 8ft by 4ft (2.4m by 1.2m) - was lost when some of the old buildings were demolished and rebuilt for the NHS.

"Then a member of the squadron stumbled upon it on eBay, so I started a 'fiver fundraiser' with the cadets," he said.

"In a matter of hours we'd raised the money."

He said the seller in Tamworth, Staffordshire, lowered the price from £315 to £250 because the sign was "coming home".

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A group from the cadet squadron will fetch the sign on Saturday and it will be displayed on the drill hall wall in the coming weeks.

"The RAF hospital here was a bit of a one-off in its time, and there's a lot of history here and in Ely's surrounding villages," said Mr Donoghue.

"The cadets wear their uniforms with pride, even though the thought of the world wars is ancient history to them.

"This is living history coming home to its air force family."

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