Category Archives: Singer Le Mans

Fly Llanbedr

FBLlanbedr

Carl, Pin, 1932 Alvis, Gary, Owen, Austin 7, Ed, Elizabeth, Chattie, Ian

What a great bunch of folks at Fly Llanbedr! They were all welcoming, and had arranged perfect weather for my tour, though it was not brilliant for flying today.  Apparently the east wind comes off the mountains having been buffeted into turbulence, and today was one of those days.

Llanbedr_control

Llanbedr Control Tower – original building

Llanbedr was re-opened last year and looks as if it has been lovingly cared for. The cafe on the first floor of the original control tower has clear views, of course, across the air field. It is light and airy and serves all-day breakfasts and light snacks. It’s a lovely place to gaze at the open view and watch the light aircraft movements. Dad landed here a couple of times, and Ian, a volunteer who knows the history of the airfield, told me that today’s cafe used to be where Dad would have come to check in and out. Two slots in the walls were where he would have posted his paperwork for his aircraft, and receive it back after it was checked and stamped.

Night Flying Equipment Store

Night Flying Equipment Store

Out of the window he pointed out another newly-painted building. ‘That’s the NFE Store,’ he said, ‘Your father was a night-fighter, right? Well, that’s the Night Fighter Equipment store, which was where he would have collected his gear and kit before coming here to clear the paperwork.’ Dad – walking in here in his flying gear ready to go – 74 years ago. That’s touching.Llanbedr_cessna

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Alvis, Austin, Singer Le Mans, vintage cars

RAF Valley and the start of my Where They Served tour

It’s quite a feeling to drive up towards the flat horizon, knowing that beyond the little village of Valley is the airfield where Dad first flew as a night-fighter pilot in 1941 (456 Squadron). I wondered which of the older little terraced houses might be the one where a lady made a bit of extra cash by serving home-cured ham and fresh eggs in her front room, which Dad and his friends used to frequent. They kept it as secret as they could from the rest of the Squadron. It was quite a feeling to drive through the Station and then for Chattie to be lined up with a Hawk jet for our official photograph. Valley_CO_T2As I shook hands with Station Commander Group Captain Peter Cracroft I couldn’t help picturing my Dad’s amazed reaction if he could have known that this would be happening. He was always proud of serving at Valley. The Station Commander told me that the highest risk at the Station was still that of vehicles straying onto the runway. Seventy-four years after Dad hit that stray cook-wagon while trying to land at 110 miles an hour, it seems that potential hazard has not changed! Valley_CerysThe lovely Cerys, who supports my efforts from the RAF Benevolent Fund, had flown up from Cardiff in the morning; my thanks go to her, and to Darren at RAF Valley who escorted and guided us throughout our stay. After leaving the Station, and I said goodbye to them both at the ‘spotters’ car park’ nearby, a jet thundered by right over our heads. ‘I would like to say I had arranged that for you!’ said Darren. From that car park, I sat a little while looking over the airfield. From here, in a way, it is easier to get a feel for it as it was in 1941. Just the grass between the runways, and a few older hangars and airforce buildings over to the right. In front of me, Darren had pointed out a red light in the grass, where the perimeter track turns in towards the live runways. ‘That is the same system your Dad would have known – that is what the cook wagon ignored when your father was landing his Defiant.’  A strange feeling to finish with, contemplating that red light nestling in the grass, and thinking how close a shave it was that day for my Dad when he crash-landed on the one remaining oleo leg and finished up in the dunes beyond my line of sight. If he had been only 11 feet off the ground when he hit the cook wagon, instead of 12 feet, he would probably not have survived. Then I wouldn’t have been here to visit RAF Valley in a 1935 Singer Le Mans, that’s for sure.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aviation history, RAF Benevolent Fund, Second World War, Singer Le Mans

£200.00 in donations

I have now collected a total of just over £200.00 through the Where They Served project, some of which has gone to the RAF Charitable Trust as part of the Pre-War Prescott ticket donations, but the majority of course is for the RAF Benevolent Fund. My thanks to all those who have donated so generously so far.

It may seem as if things have gone quiet at the moment, but in fact it is all very busy behind the scenes. The airfields tour proper is scheduled to start in April 2015, and currently Ground Control and I are working on the itinerary, which is quite a big job.  On the vehicle side, Thetford Engineering have booked Chattie into their vintage car workshop for a complete assessment and overhaul, which will happen, hopefully, at the end of September, and work on the car will I suspect be continuing throughout the Autumn months, as we also have to try and fit her with an all-weather hood.  I am also working on raising sponsorship for next year.  If you can help with this, or are interested in sponsoring Where They Served for the national tour next year, please get in touch.

2 Comments

Filed under Aviation, Aviation history, Second World War, Singer Le Mans, Uncategorized, vintage cars

Coming Clean

OK, it’s confession time.  Here’s my experience in full of offloading Chattie for the first time ON MY OWN. It was at the Royal International Air Tattoo .  Read carefully if you want to learn how NOT to do it, and avoid the most basic mistake.

After my two-hour drive to Fairford, I had arrived in the Sprinter, with Chattie strapped on the back, to the place on the airfield allocated by RIAT for trade vehicles.  I was the only person there, among a few parked trucks; so with a bit of relief that there was no one to watch me, I put my swede gardening gloves on to protect my hands, and tackled the businsess of unloading the car.

I was being so careful about the webbing straps, which had taken us (Ground Control and I) so very long to do up and get right the night before, that I concentrated on getting them undone in the right order, leaving Chattie’s left front wheel to the last, as it was towards the highest point on the flatbed, nearest the cab. I had forgotten the most important bit of all, which was to attach the winch before unstrapping ANYTHING.  I thought I was doing really well.  But when I loosened the last webbing strap, it started paying out and the car itself moved backwards, beginning a roll down the flatbed. I had put on the handbrake, but obviously not enough to hold it on the slope.  Talk about panic feeling! I immediately felt the webbing paying out through my left hand; meanwhile my right hand, which had just opened the ‘spindle’ out to ‘unlock’ it, wasn’t strong enough to pull the lever to re-cock it again. With my left hand I was pulling with all my might to try and stop the strapping from paying out further.  Inch by inch I was losing, and I just couldn’t get the handle to go back to the ratchet point.  I’d like you just to imagine the situation.  One 1935 vintage car on a flatbed trailer about 2.5 feet off the ground, heading inexorably towards the two narrow tracking planks, but not necessarily properly lined up.  If I couldn’t stop the car going backwards, it was going to plunge off the treads and fall damaged amongst them.  My only hope was to let go of the webbing with my left hand and use both hands as quickly as I could to get the webbing ‘spindle’ (I don’t know what it’s called) to lock.  Even then, would one web-strapping hold the whole car?

At this point, a friendly voice behind me said cheerfully, ‘Do you want any help?’  Without turning round I instantly recognised the voice of Christian, a RIAT volunteer who had shown me to my place. ‘Yes!’ I shouted. ‘Please can you put that chock there under that wheel!’  He did so, and immediately I was able to put both hands to the spindle and ratchet the thing back a little, then lock it. ‘Thank you!’ I said, with great feeling. ‘Perhaps it would be a good idea to put it on the winch?’ said Christian in as tactful a way as it would be possible for anyone do say so under the circumstances.  That young man knew absolutely it would be a good idea, but showed what I consider to be the most exceptional tact and diplomacy I have come across in a long time.  ‘Absolutely it would!’ I said, ‘I was just about to do it!’  Christian, I think you saved my life that day.  I’ve thanked you several times, but here’s another for the road.  You were an angel in disguise, sent to rescue me from total disaster, and I’ll never forget it.

I truly believe I will never forget this lesson, either.  I will NEVER loosen up the strappings on the car UNTIL I’VE ATTACHED IT TO THE WINCH FIRST.

I know some of you men out there will be chuckling at tutting at me, but I don’t care – I’ve come clean now so that some poor soul following me won’t make the same mistake.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aviation, car, Singer Le Mans, vintage cars

Turning heads

Driving back from Kidderminster with Chattie on the Sprinter, I drew up at some lights and two young lads across the road shouted out – ‘Is that a Bugatti?’  Of course,I replied, ‘No, it’s a Singer Le Mans,’ before the lights changed.  They shrugged as I moved off as if to say, ‘A Singer Le What?!’  I’ll never know why they thought it might be a Bugatti I was carrying, but was impressed they were interested enough to ask.

2 Comments

Filed under Bugatti, Singer Le Mans, Uncategorized, vintage cars