Lancashire At War.co.uk

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

Bettys Cafe, York -

The Ghosts of WW2 Airmen

On the oak pannelled walls of Betty's if the following engraving:

"The Bettys Mirror 1939 - 1945.

This mirror bears almost six hundred signatures, most of them airmen - British, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, who were stationed in this area during World War II.

 

We were proud to offer them hospitality during those dark days when, for the Canadian bomber crews in particular, Bettys Bar was York's unofficial 'Op's Room', where amidst the rumours and speculation about impending bomber sorties, friendships were made and absent friends mourned.

 

Each year many veterans return to Bettys and we invite them to make themselves known and to sign the visitors book."

https://www.bettys.co.uk/bettys-york

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Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms in York is famous for its cakes which it has been selling here since 1936. But in its basement there is a hidden story. That of young WW2 Airmen, often thousands of miles from home, leaving their signatures on the mirror before their next flight into the unknown.

 

We first heard about this tradition in 'Yorkshire At War' by Leo Kessler & Eric Taylor (1979) and were delighted to find on our visit that Betty's special history has been preserved to this day. Visitors can still see the names of pilots scratched onto the mirrors in the basement. And Betty's staff were extremely friendly and helpful when we asked if we could see them for ourselves. And of course, we had some cakes......

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During the Second World War, Yorkshire was covered in bomber airfields and the crews would therefore often congregate in the County's Capital - York. Kessler & Taylor mention British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Rhodesian and French air crews stationed nearby. Plus there would have been Polish and Czech soldiers in the city and of course, American G.I.'s.

 

Our thanks to the staff of Bettys for their kind help.

If you do visit, please be polite and purchase something while you are there, as we did (See LEFT).