The Last Day of Summer at Duxford.

Posted on 27/10/2019 By

The Last Day of Summer.

Bertie sitting on the wing of a Spitfire. Duxford. Last day of summer, 2016.

I have been to Duxford to see Spitfires. Here I am sitting on the wing of one in 2016.

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:

Poster for the Battle of Britain Film, 1969.

Starring: Harry Andrews, Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Curt Jurgens, Ian McShane, Kenneth More, Laurence Olivier, Nigel Patrick, Christopher Plummer, Michael Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Robert Shaw, Patrick Wymark and Susannah York.

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.

Aerial view of the Imperial War Museum, Duxford.

The Imperial War Museum, Duxford.

A short history of Duxford to the present day is here.

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.

The Airshow.

Bobby in the foreground, with the airfield ready and waiting behind.

Excitement building up.

Messerschmitt 109 Buchón flying at Duxford 2019.

“Attack, attack. The Luftwaffe are here.” Messerschmitt 109 (Buchón, see above).

Messerschmitt 109s/Buchóns flying at Duxford 2019.

109s/Buchóns.

Hurricane flying at Duxford 2019.

The Hurricanes are here to defend us!

Line up of Spitfires at Duxford 2019.

So are the Spitfires.

4 Hurricanes in the air at Duxford 2019.

Hurricanes.

Spitfire in the air at Duxford, 2019.

“Scramble, scramble”. Spitfire.

Spitfire flying low at Duxford 2019.

Spitfire.

Spitfire in the air at Duxford 2019.

Spitfire.

Spitfire flying at Duxford 2019.

Spitfire.

2-seater Spitfire flying at Duxford 2019.

Even a two seater Spitfire!

Spitfire flying at Duxford 2019.

Spitfire.

Messerschmitt 109 "pretending" to be shot down whilst in the air at Duxford 2019.

109 – Losing the battle.

Messerschmitt 109 taxiing along the runway in front of parked Spitfires at Duxford 2019.

Landing safely and now friends with all those Spitfires.

Messerschmitt 109 on the runway at Duxford 2019.

109.

Messerschmitt 109 on the runway at Duxford 2019.

109.

Then next was the turn of the first World War Warbirds. Mostly replicas.

Sopwith Triplane banking high in the air as Duxford Airshow 2019.

Sopwith Triplane.

Fokker Triplane banking in the sky at the Duxford Airshow 2019.

Fokker Triplane.

The Fokker Triplane pretending to shoot down the Sopwith Triplane at the Duxford 2019 Airshow.

We ‘lost’ that battle of the triplanes!

Avro plane flying at the Duxford Airshow 2019.

Avro. How fragile is that?

Rear view of a Sopwith Triplane, faking smoke at Duxford Airshow 2019.

Sopwith Triplane, faking smoke.

Airco DH9 flying at the Duxford 2019 Airshow.

The Airco DH9. A very rare, original airplane. Restored to be the only airworthy WW1 bomber in the World.

Mustang on the runway at Duxford Airshow 2019.

The Mustang. Another “Wow, what a plane”!

Mustang in very poignant colour scheme. The 'Red Tails' are a very special story of African American airmen who fought in the second world war. Known as the Tuskegee Airmen, they fought for their country, despite race laws that led to the American military being racially segregated itself.

Mustang in very poignant colour scheme. The ‘Red Tails’ are a very special story of African American airmen who fought in the second world war. Known as the Tuskegee Airmen, they fought for their country, despite race laws that led to the American military being racially segregated itself.

Mustangs in the air at the Duxford Airshow 2019.

Mustangs in the air.

Mustang in the air at the Duxford Airshow 2019.

Mustang.

Three Hawker Sea Furies flying at Duxford Airshow 2019.

The Hawker Sea Furies. A powerful naval aircraft.

Three Sea Furies banking heavily in the skies at Duxford Airshow 2019.

Sea Furies.

Sea Fury, with wings folded for carrier operation, at Duxford Airshow 2019.

Sea Fury, with wings folded for carrier operation.

Sally B. Duxford’s most famous resident, Boeing B-17 bomber, at Duxford Airshow 2019.

Sally B. Duxford’s most famous resident. A Boeing B-17 bomber.

Boeing B-17 Bomber Sally B playing to the crowd with smoke pouring out of the rear at the Airshow, Duxford 2019.

Sally B does actually need some new engines. At enormous expense. But this was playing to the crowd.

Gloster Gladiator at Duxford Airshow 2019.

Gloster Gladiator. Our front line fighter, before the Spitfire and Hurricane. Immortalised as “Faith, Hope and Charity”. “The Three Graces”, when three of them fought Italian biplanes in the battle for Malta.

Gloster Gladiator, two Westland Lysanders and a Bristol Blenheim flying at the Duxford Airshow 2019.

Gladiator, two Lysanders and a Blenheim.

Yakolev YAK-9 flying at Duxford AIrshow 2019.

Yakolev YAK-9. The most famous Russian fighter in WWll.

Yakolev YAK-9 on the tarmac at Duxford Airshow 2019.

Yakolev YAK-9. A very impressive aircraft.

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.

Lockheed Shooting Star on the runway at the Duxford Airshow 2019.

Lockheed Shooting Star.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 15 on the runway at the Duxford Airshow 2019.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 15.

Shooting star chases MiG 15 in the skies over Duxford at the 2019 Airshow.

Shooting star chases MiG 15.

And finally, the Bilbo. A term from history, to describe large formations of aircraft. In this case –

Just Spitfires:

Spitfires over Duxford at 2019 Airshow.

Spitfires over Duxford at 2019 Airshow.

Spitfires over Duxford at 2019 Airshow.

Spitfires over Duxford at 2019 Airshow.

Spitfires over Duxford at 2019 Airshow.

Followed by a lone Spitfire display to gladden the hearts to end the show.

Lone Spitfire over Duxford at 2019 Airshow.

To this music:

Bobby in his broken chair at the Duxford Airshow 2019.

The chair collapsed, but who cared.

Dragon Rapides in flight.

And the Dragon Rapides were still flying. A flight in this is Andrew’s birthday present for his 50th. He is now 52 and we are waiting.

Lighting a Candle for Diddley

A candle lit for Diddley alongside a beautiful art water colour card of two hares lying on their backs cloudwatching.

The inside of the card, handwritten with: "Happy Anniversary, Diddley. Ten wonderful years watching clouds together. Love Bobby" with 9"x"'s in three rows.

The inside of the card.

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!
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Flying LegendsMuseum    


  1. Avatar Kate green says:

    Thanks for sharing the beauty of the planes and your passion. Its inspiring and infectious. I love the way you live life to the full. Life is to be lived and pleasures pursued…. Don t stop Bob

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