Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Airfields List you’ve all been waiting for

My father’s second-world-war airfields which I will be visiting in my 1935 sports car next year are listed on my new AIRFIELDS page.  Take a look and let me know if you have any stories to tell me about any of them.

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Royal International Air Tattoo

What a weekend.  Near-perfect weather and for someone who has never seen a real airshow at all, it was wonderful to start with probably the best in the world. The Red Arrows – thrill, precision and an excellent commentary from ‘Red 10’, the airbus with its ponderous bulk and fluked tail graceful in the sky like a whale in the water; the grace of the Polish formation – grey-glint and silver gleam against the cloud base; the flamboyant Italian display generous in sweep and character and a commentary that delighted with enthusiasm – ‘There he goes!  Up! up! up into the sky!’; the sheer power and bone-rattling noise of the jets conveyed not so much through the air as in immediate and direct connection through the ground and our very bones – all this was thrilling. But the highlight of highlights for me was the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight: Lancaster majestic in the air, accompanied by the iconic Spitfire and Hurricane – the note in the drone of their engines we all recognise, even though we weren’t there then. Thank you everyone who put the show on for us, and the tremendous staff and volunteers who were utterly exceptional (thanks, Christian, for your help over the weekend). See my Facebook page facebook/wheretheyserved for more pictures. Here’s just one:

Chattie watches Lancaster and Spitfire overhead

Chattie watches Lancaster and Spitfire overhead

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Transmobile transformation!

We are delighted and astounded at the fabulous job that Transmobile have done on our Mercedes Sprinter carrier in re-spraying it to a mid-blue to match the RAF Benevolent Fund heart roundel.

SprinterBlue

 

As you can see, it’s – literally – brilliant.

Our thanks to Bill Stokes of Transmobile for a great job with wonderful care and attention to detail, and for generous sponsorship of the Where They Served project.

Transmobile

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Night Fighter Navigator by Dennis Gosling DFC

Again, at Shobdon, I was talking to a lady whose relative had been a radio operator during the war, and this brought to mind a great book I have read recently: “Night Fighter Navigator: Beaufighters and Mosquitos in World War II” by Dennis Gosling DFC.  I was particularly interested in his account because in many ways it mirrors that of my father, who also flew Beaufighters and Mosquitos as a night-fighter.  His long-standing navigator was Flt Sgt Ralph Gibbons, and Dennis Gosling’s book gave me a rare glimpse of the story from the navigator’s point of view.  My father’s experience of the RAF was almost universally positive and friendly; Dennis Gosling’s was not like this at the beginning of his wartime career but later he realised he had been unfortunate and his later squadrons were much more welcoming, with the social integration of rank and class more like that of my father’s remembrance.  I found it a good page-turner, even though it’s not a traditional ‘action-packed’ account of war, and would recommend it for an interesting and touching read.

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RAF Old Sarum

At Shobdon show someone asked me about Old Sarum airfield, or RAF Old Sarum (which was also known as RAF Ford Farm).  Today it is still a civil airfield ‘Old Sarum Airfield’ and claims to be the second-oldest operating airfield in the country’.   Apparently there’s a new museum with an aviation collection http://www.oldsarumairfield.co.uk/site/full-news/298-aviation-collection-at-old-sarum.html – I would be interested to hear comments on this from anyone who works there or has visited.
 
There are some photographs of the old buildings on http://www.controltowers.co.uk/O/Old_Sarum.htm and a good history of it on http://www.laverstock-ford.co.uk/old-sarum-airfield—a-history.html .  Briefly it was started in 1917 (that’s the year before the RAF itself was established as such) and became a centre for training in co-operation activities with the army for reconnaissance and tactical purposes – this often involved low flying in unarmed light aircraft over enemy territory, which was extremely hazardous.   They were later formed into the Army Air Corps.   It’s another little quirky corner of the RAF that people tend not to have heard about.  These links should give you a start in any case, if you are interested to find out more.

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Shobdon Food and Flying Festival

Thanks to all those people at the Shobdon Food and Flying Festival who came and talked to me.  I had a very interesting weekend and heard many stories about people’s fathers, grandfathers and even grandmothers who served with the RAF during the war in one way or another.  It was great to meet you all, and I hoped you enjoyed the day as much as I did.  It was a great show, a lovely mixture of vintage cars, food, crafts, community and of course flying.

It was touch and go that Chattie made it at all, but we got down there and back both days with her seemingly running beautifully and certainly without incident.  HOWEVER, when Ground Crew checked the car after it cooled, there was no water showing, so he put in over 1 pint. The oil dipstick was showing about 1 pint higher, so presumably the old problem had reoccurred. Right, he thought, go for bust. He added the Blue Devil again, in the knowledge that Crispin Thetford is going to take the head off in any case at some stage in the near future. It seems to have worked, but Chattie has yet to be tested!

Ground Crew took this photograph of Chattie this morning Imagewith her back-up vehicles and our excellent new promotional banners by ABC Print of Hereford.

 

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