Military History Tours On Tour - RAAF in the UK 9 July 2011
During our tour across the UK where we have visited many sites from where Australians have flown to combat Germany in the World War that was all encompassing we have had many moments together that have been, educational, memorable or moving.
I know that I have said “ this day was special” but on this tour the adventures just keep coming. Take today for instance!
One of our members was interested in visiting areas where the Polish air force had operated and because of the casualties that they had suffered during their heroic efforts we decided to visit the Polish Cemetery in Newark to pay our respects. There are over 300 Polish aircrew buried in this cemetery. The cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and also it is the original place of rest of their Supreme Commander, Wladyslaw Sikorski. Sikorski was finally taken back to Krakow on 17 Sept 1993 to be interred there in the Cathedral.
We conducted a small service amongst the graves and at the conclusion, Ed Luszczynski, concluded the ode by saying “Zeby Nie Zapominamy”, Lest we Forget. A most moving moment as we remembered their sacrifices.
This was the day that we were to head south in preparation for our visit to the Flying Legends Open Day on Sunday at Duxford. There were a couple of sites that we intended to visit on our journey. Both of these sites had the family of those on tour serving there during the War. We therefore arrived at the current RAF field at RAF Syerston. During the War 50 Squadron and 467 Squadron were operating Lancasters from here. We arrived at the security gate and I alighted from the coach, pressed the button on the security intercom and awaited some action. WE were sure that access would be denied to the field but were hoping otherwise.
The security arrived in the form of two RAF Officers who after a small chat sought support from their senior officer, the Squadron Leader in charge of the base. Surprisingly, permission to enter the airfield was given and we then followed the security vehicle onto thee base. What then happened was more than we could have hoped for. We were given a full briefing, shown through the hangers, taken onto the strip, walked through the historic areas and finally with Flying Officer’s Luke and Michelle on board our coach, we were taken on a trip around the perimeter of the airfield, pass the old Lancaster parking bays and over the runway. An unbelievable tour for those who had their father and uncle serving here during the War.
We said farewell to our escorts and left the base to continue our run down the A1 towards Bedford. Again, our journey was interrupted as we stopped at Tempsford. Another of our group had had a cousin who was operating out of Tempsford flying a Stirling into Norway supplying supplies and agents to the resistance there. That cousin did not return from one of those flights as their plane was shot down in the North Sea by a German night fighter as they were returning. We wanted to visit the St Peter’s Church in Tempsford as there is a Memorial alcove in the Church in memory of all of 138 and 161 Squadron members who had failed to return. We arrived in Tempsford, visited the Church and as there was a Remembrance and Thanksgiving Service pending for the Veterans and Families of the village. I spoke to the Minister, Reverend Margaret Marshall to enquire whether we could attend. Margaret was very happy that we were there and we then proceeded to our seats to be part of the service. At the conclusion of the Service we again found ourselves saying goodbye to new found friends.
We continued on our way and arrived at Biggleswade where we visited the the Shuttleworth Collection prior to moving into our hotel in Bedford. Parts of the 4 star hotel were built in the 18th Century and the interior of the hotel is historic indeed.
The day finished with a wonderful dinner, coffee and preparation for Duxford.