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Military History Tours          On Tour - RAAF in the UK 9 July 2010


This was a very special day as we headed down to Biggleswade where the Shuttleworth Collection is housed. This collection has grown from into a world renowned establishment with more than 40 aircraft and 30 vehicles. The principles are the same now as when in 1928 Richard Shuttleworth founded the Collection. He himself collected several vintage cars and airplanes in his lifetime, restoring them to working condition, but tragically he was killed in an accident in World War One.

Upon his death, his mother, Dorothy, set up the Shuttleworth Trust to maintain his collection and to educate the public in aviation and automotive transport. The Collection is fortunate to have many planes from the pre-First World War period and War period and some of the world's oldest airworthy aircraft including the 1909 Bleriot XI. After the War many surplus military aircraft found there way to the Collection Also there are specials such as the DH88 Comet who was the winner of the 1934 England-Australia Air Race.

World War Two aircraft also abound in the Collection. All aircraft are able to fly and q few will be flying at Duxford on Sunday. All were overcome by the expert display and knowing that all aircraft were able to fly made the collection more a special collection than if only a good static display.

We dragged ourselves away from the Collection and made our way to our hotel at Letchworth Garden City. The hotel is excellent and in an extensive garden. Very good indeed. Once settled, a few of us went into the City and had a walk through the historic centre. We viewed the Railway Station and War Memorial before walking to view the Spirella Building which was originally built as a factory between 1912-22 producing ladies corsets. The factory was a model using advanced construction techniques such as reinforced concrete with large metal frame windows to light the workrooms. The company provided many facilities for its largely female workforce including a canteen, library, ballroom and even baths and showers. The factory ceased operation in the early 1980's and the building has since been refurbished as offices.

Another interesting part of the social history of Letchworth was the houses built in Nevells Road, which in 1905 was known as Exhibition Road and was the principle site of the Cheap Cottages Exhibition where 3 bedroom houses were constructed for 150 pounds, excluding land costs. Many of these cottages still remain and most have a plaque on the front commemorating 100 years since the scheme was launched.

It was a worthwhile visit to Letchworth and those who accompanied Graham on the visit enjoyed the experience. Tomorrow we go to Cambridge and Lavenham.


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