Military History Tours On Tour - Bomber Command (RAAF in the UK) 14 July 2014
Following that really good day at Duxford we boarded our coach, said goodbye to the River Oise and headed north. Over the next couple of days we will make our way up to York, stay a couple of nights and then start the 2nd half of our journey/adventure as we head south through Salisbury and then on to London.
Our first stop today was to the current base, RAF Syerston. This was a major base for the Lancaster Bombers during the War and at one stage Sqn Leader Guy Gibson of Dambuster fame was stationed here and in his Log Book, up for auction at present, he notes that he liked his posting here.
Flying Officer Wes Tierney met us and showed us around the base and around the perimeter road on the airstrip itself. Wes is a walking encyclopedia concerning the Base history and also the RAF Cadet Scheme. There are over 100,000 Air Cadets in the RAF and RAF Syerson is one of the main gliding schools. 75% of those in the RAF served as an air cadet.
We thanked Wes and again headed north, this time visiting Conisby, the home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, in other words, the home of the only Lancaster in the UK that still flies. There is one in Canada and is coming on the 4th August this year to share some reunion time with the other. Many 70 year reunions will be overflown by both Lancasters.
We are always treated special when we visit here and this time was no exception, Arthur, one of the great guides here, met us and ushered us, not into the public viewing area but down the centre of the main hangar amongst the Hurricanes and Spitfires. It is a privilege that we respect. He showed us the DC3, that still flies and is used to train the pilots prior to being cleared to fly the Lancaster. Also showed us the oldest Hurricane still flying and the various Mark Spitfires.
We then moved outside and viewed up close, the Lancaster. What a beautiful airplane. Over 7000 were built but over 3000 were lost, but they certainly did their job. We said goodbye to Arthur and headed further west on the A road for around 6 miles before entering East Kirby Airfield. This is a fully heritage site with many of the buildings still in place and sitting in the main hangar is, another Lancaster. However, at present this one only taxies around the airfield and doesn't take off. This may change as they are fitting new engines.
It was now time to head to our accommodation at Woodhall Spa. The Petwood Hotel was the Officer's Mess for the Dambusters of 617 Sqn and the beautiful Manor House certainly gave us a welcome. The old worldly accommodation is very splendid indeed and set in the acres of beautiful gardens is but an added bonus.
We relaxed in the garden with a pre-dinner drink then dinner and bed for tomorrow is a big day. Prior to dinner, we were fortunate to meet 2 chaps who were veterans of 106 Sqn and they invited us to their reunion at Metheringham Airfield the following day. We will try to get there before 1200 as there will be a Lancaster fly past.