Military History Tours On Tour - RAAF in the UK 4 July 2010
This was the day when we left the south west and started to make our way north where in 2 days we will be at York.
We left our hotel in Salisbury and headed to Leighterton, just north of Bath. Once again it was a pleasant journey as our driver Martin took us through that wonderful English countryside. Our journey had us going through Warminster and Trowbridge before we entered the valley where sits Bath. Enough has been said by others about Bath but I will add what we thought as we came into that valley and saw the light cream limestone buildings that were built in the Victorian era, beautiful.
The Romans were there; of course as they had found the only hot springs in the UK when they were building one of their roads from Exeter to York. Bath became a recreation centre for them and their period of occupation lasted nearly 400 years. But it was the Victorians who really established the beautiful city that we see today.
We pushed on to Leighterton where we found ourselves in the village that was the home of the Australian Flying Corps in the First World War. The village still remembers the time when our young men, in their flying machines, were there and on ANZAC Day each and every year they hold a service in their church followed by a march to the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery on the outskirts of the village. This is an old village and dates back to mediaeval times. The church was first here in the 1200 era.
We were able to see the paddock from where they flew, the demolished buildings which was the administrative centre and the cemetery. We held a small service there and it was most appropriate that our 2 flyers that were traveling with us, Ron Magrath and Jim Whittem participated in the Service with Ron reading a prayer and Jim laying a small posy of poppies. It was quite moving there amongst those young men who had paid that supreme price and during our minute silence our individual reflections would increase our feelings.
Many locals came out to support us and we met Herbert Smith who attends to the site, a lady who waters the flowers and the Vicar’s friend who hunted up the key to the church for us. Martin had an audience when he was parking the coach in a little grass lane, a small herd of cows were there giving instructions. It was the best park so far. This is indeed a special place and many will return. Leaving Leighterton we headed to Minchenhampton where the old airfield of Ashdon Down is still in operation, but this time by the Cotswold Gliding Club. We joined them for a coffee in the original control tower from where our bombers were dispatched all those years ago. 458 Squadron operated from the airfield at sometime during the war.
Before leaving we drove the coach out on to the original tarmac and stood awaiting our call from the tower, we were at the spot where our planes would have stood awaiting their call. How fortunate we were to be given such an opportunity.
The members of the Club will be expecting us back next year and want us to spend more time with them, we shall. Pushing on we went to Baginton for lunch, in the Oak Hotel This hotel is near Coventry airfield and was the Officers Mess to 457 Squadron while they were flying from here. The owner gave us a wonderful welcome and all had great difficulty finishing our meals as the plates are carrying too much food. The plate sized pies were consumed with relish. After lunch we had quite a long run up to Wolverhamton but first were able to see some very interesting planes in a plane “graveyard” adjacent to the Coventry airfield, mostly post war jets. Arriving at our hotel in Wolverhampton we had time for a well deserved drink before our buffet dinner. A great day. Tomorrow RAF Cosford.