Tag Archives: RAF Benevolent Fund

RAF Lossiemouth

My overwhelming impression here is a sense of direct connection with the fighting spirit of the past in a modern world still sadly filled with uncertainty and threat. Having close-up tours of the Typhoon and Tornado brought to the fore that unbroken link of innovation and development which means that, surprisingly, I can now see as many of the similarities as differences between these fast jet fighters and the Spitfires, Hurricanes, Beaufighters, Defiants, Typhoons and Tempests of seven

Sgt Stuart Smylie, presenting me with a print of the Typhoon behind me, signed by crew of II (AC) Squadron.

Sgt Stuart Smylie, presenting me with a print of the Typhoon behind me, signed by crew of II (AC) Squadron.

decades ago. At first, it seemed to me that all had changed and the old planes were unrecogniseable in the new, but beside the computer screen displays in the Typhoons, you open a tiny flap to discover three small instruments dials, by which the pilot can bring the plane home if the computer system should fail. The glass screen that displays green-lit information between the pilot and the bubble of the cockpit canopy are showing him the old instrument information in a different visual format, generated by computer, but still the same information, albeit with loads of other stuff available at whim.

My father wrote a long description (in Flying Blind: The Story of a Second World War Night Figher Pilot, Fonthill Media) of chasing a Heinkel bomber across the English Channel, with his Radar Operator, Deryk Hollinrake, struggling to keep its ‘blip’ on his small radar scanner; and the desperation to get a visual on the aircraft, as this was the only means of shooting it down. The old Mark I Eyball, as they say. Today, suffice it to say, it’s very different indeed. As the amazing technology was explained to me (a little), I kept thinking, ‘What would Dad have said to all this?’

ControlsBeau

Controls, Beaufighter 1943

ControlsTyphoon

Controls Typhoon 2015

One thing has not changed in all the years: the RAF family here – and elsewhere – has made me feel I belong, even though I know that belonging is because of my dear father, because of those years he served in the 1940s, and for whom it really was a family in more than just name.

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Filed under Airfields, Aviation, Aviation history, RAF history, Royal Air Force, Second World War

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.

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

Schedules for Wales and Shropshire/Cheshire

My schedules are now in place for Group 1: North Wales (16th to 18th April) and Group 2: Shropshire/Cheshire (23rd and 24th April).  Please look at my Schedule page which gives the itinerary for each of these tours followed by the link to the most up-to-date overall tour schedule.

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Filed under Aviation history, RAF Benevolent Fund

Mystery airfield solved?

With a little help from various friends, including Graham and Amanda of GA Promotions (Militaria Fairs). I think I have now identified Dad’s ‘mystery’ airfield. On his list, I picked out the 60 UK airfields where he landed during the war, all except ‘Uppingdon’. There were several contenders for this, including ‘Uppingham’ north of London, suggested by several people. But this didn’t open until 1943, and it’s pretty clear (because he listed them in chronological order) that Dad’s visit to  ‘Uppingdon’ took place in 1941-2. It was in the list next to RAF Shawbury and RAF High Ercall, so I identified the nearby village of Uppington as a possibility. But…no airfield at Uppington.  However, RAF Atcham, also a US air base at one stage, was in the same parish district, only a few miles away from Uppington village.  My father wrote his airfields list neatly in the back of his log book at the end of the war, and he might well have known the airfield by the name of Uppingdon/Uppington as well as RAF Atcham. Besides, what more natural that in recording a single stop-off at Atcham, he remembered it by an evening in the pub at nearby Uppington?

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Filed under Aviation history, Second World War

Singer Le Mans Superb

Chattie_sunset

I drove the thirty or so miles back from Malvern’s militaria convention yesterday evening; the first really substantial drive I’ve ever had in Chattie, and certainly the first such drive since getting her back from Thetford Motor Engineering after her thorough overhaul. What a drive! What fun! She handles beautifully, brakes on request, starts without a murmur, and I’m now getting the hang of it all: the gear double-declutch shifts, starting after only a short while on choke (a couple of minutes only on choke, then catching with the throttle when I push it in, after which she ticks over obediently, waiting…), the understanding of where she’s happiest, and knowing when the car is telling me a gear change is needed, rather than me telling her where I think it ought to be – which means we are not having so many arguments about it!

To top it all, the sun set on my westward way home, providing me with at least half an hour’s free drive-through movie. You’ll be relieved to learn that I pulled into a lay-by to share this view with you.

The Where They Served tour?  Bring it on!

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£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.

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

I have just put a fundraising page online for the RAF Benevolent Fund, with a link in the sidebar here.

Fundraising for the RAFBF is a way of paying back the wonderful help and support they gave my family in my father’s last years.  He had become increasingly immobile through Parkinson’s disease, and cognitively was not able any more to manage the household finances – my mother had to take over everything as well as look after him.  The RAF Benevolent Fund put in a stairlift for Dad so he could stay at home, helped my mother sort out paperwork, bills and benefits and put her in touch with other ways of getting help and valuable advice.  It really was a lifeline in difficult times.  My brother was in America and I lived 3 hours away, and it was difficult to support our parents as much as we wanted, but the RAF Benevolent Fund proved to be Dad’s extended RAF ‘family’ when he really needed it.

The ‘Where They Served’ tour has many roots and one is the extended RAF family that meant so much to Dad during the war, and continued in the background throughout his life.  Having written up his memoirs for publication in August this year (‘Flying Blind: the story of a night-fighter pilot’, Fonthill Media), I now feel in myself that sense of connection with the RAF.  It has come home to nest – very unexpectedly and to my surprised delight – in me.  Strange how connections are made in life without us seeking them, and bear such unlooked-for fruits!

 

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06/05/2014 · 9:17 pm