The Last Day of Summer at Duxford.
The Last Day of Summer.
Would it be wise of Bobby to even consider going to an Airshow just six weeks after a ‘Very Serious Event‘? He couldn’t ask anybody, in case they said “No”! He couldn’t ask me, as I was 300 miles away in Wales. Preoccupied with learning Welsh. Was it that important or, as we say in Al-Anon, “How important is it”? Well, to him, very important.
The weather forecast seemed set on the Saturday being glorious sunshine. Not only was it to be a Battle of Britain Airshow, but also a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the film ‘Battle of Britain‘, released in 1969. And finally, the decider. A mass take off and formation flyby of EIGHTEEN Spitfires! What better way to spend the last day of summer?
The Imperial War Museum at Duxford Aerodrome may well be nearly 100 miles away, but a very well organised combined train ticket + shuttle bus + entry is fairly offered at £70. Great Anglian train to Cambridge and a shuttle bus waiting outside the station. Taken right to the museum entrance. All Bobby had to do was take his posh camping chair, a camera and a picnic on quite a long train journey that was part of the day out. From Liverpool Street, the train snakes through the east end of London looking down on Brick Lane, Spitalfields and beyond.
And so it was that he was camped on the grass at midday. Not far from the museum entrance, excitedly waiting for the Airshow to start.
Back in 1969, filming “The Battle of Britain” was thwart with difficulty. There was no CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) then. And, amazingly, far fewer warbirds. Aircraft of the wars. There was no shortage of film stars, however. Just look at the cast list:
Music by: Ron Goodwin & William Walton.
The Film Trailer:
You may want to watch the film again. But, if clips will satisfy you, here are some. Filmed at a time when we were still proud of our achievements, but a little indulgent with the imagery. For: “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few”.
We also learned that the film is now credited with having reignited, or even created, the Heritage Aircraft Restoration Company.
Once the movement started, the existing saved warbirds gradually increased in size. They found suitable aircraft for restoration all over the world. Some prominently displayed as ‘Gate Guardians’ at military facilities. Some in barns. Some in the jungle. Some under water. And even one Spitfire, immortalised in the film “Dunkirk”, that had been buried on the beach there. Dug up and restored and flying that day at Duxford. How much of those planes is original or rebuilt is irrelevant to those who love to see them in the air. And finally, some were still in or just retired from service. The most famous Luftwaffe fighter of all, the Messerschmitt 109, has grown in numbers restored and looks identical to its wartime appearance. It is, in fact, a Buchón – a Spanish aircraft, built under licence and re-engined with a Rolls Royce Merlin. The story of this even involves the film, and you can read about it here.
Ultimately, it was the flying that the crowds had come to see. To bask in the sunshine of, possibly, the ‘Last Day of Summer’ and watch as four 109s started the show by “attacking” the airfield to music from the film and appropriate explosions. The Spitfires scrambled. Five Hurricanes joined in and the sky was full of these immortal aircraft simulating the mortal desire to shoot each other to pieces. The 109s lost. They always do. And departed the scene trailing smoke, to the cheers and applause of the patriotic crowds. Crowds that attract warbird enthusiasts from all over the world.
What a great Airshow it was on such a perfect day for flying. Bobby’s posh camping chair collapsed under his excitement and landed up in the skip saving him carrying it home! Everyone stayed until the very end to see sixteen rather than eighteen Spitfires take off and thus created a massive traffic jam. The sun still beamed down, sinking in the West. Old Dragon Rapides were still doing pleasure flights. Even a two hour wait for the shuttle bus didn’t dampen the spirits. He still got home at midnight. And reflected the following day as the rain fell at Duxford on the Sunday crowd that he had had an unforgettable ‘Last Day of Summer’ just the day before.
Then next was the turn of the first World War Warbirds. Mostly replicas.
There were just two jet fighters at the show. Representing opposite sides of the Korean War. Both planes are with the impressive Norwegian Heritage Aircraft Trust.
And finally, the Bilbo. A term from history, to describe large formations of aircraft. In this case –
Followed by a lone Spitfire display to gladden the hearts to end the show.
To this music:
Lighting a Candle for Diddley
The observant amongst you may have noticed another hare at Laurel Cottage. He is very special. Welsh. With amazing properties. More in time…
Don’t forget, as with Fliss last week, we are more than happy for you to Light a Candle for Diddley. All we need is a few words and a photo of the candle. As with this week’s candle, you can chose anywhere you like to remember her. Even a pub!