A Musical Tribute to the Few – 17 August 2013 – previewed

Robin J Brooks, publicity contact for the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, paints the story: ‘To the people of Kent Sunday August 18, 1940 was like any other Sunday since the war had started. Some were at Church, some were cooking a Sunday lunch whilst others were walking in the glorious August sunshine. What was different was that across the English Channel, preparations were being made by the Luftwaffe for a fierce assault on the airfields of No. 11 Group, Fighter Command.

At Biggin Hill, a key sector airfield, Nos. 32 and 610 (County of Chester) Squadrons were at readiness awaiting the call to scramble. The former squadron flew the Hawker Hurricane whilst the latter the Supermarine Spitfire. The first mass raid came shortly after midday with Biggin Hill one of the main targets. 32 Squadron were the first to be scrambled followed by 610 minutes later. A short distance away Kenley, Croydon and West Malling were also subject to ferocious raids causing loss of life and many injuries. By the evening, Biggin squadrons had lost five Hurricanes destroyed with two damaged together with two Spitfires damaged. There were injuries but no loss of life.

August 18, 1940 became known as ‘the hardest day’ for together with the attacks on other No.11 Group airfields, the evening saw 100 German and 136 British aircraft destroyed or damaged.’

Former Spitfire pilot Warrant Officer Maurice Macey visited BHHH on Friday 22 March to help publicise a new event, titled ‘A Musical Tribute to the Few’.

W/O Maurice Macey

W/O Maurice Macey

Maurice, 89, from Eastbourne, Sussex, flew his 41 Squadron Spitfire during D-Day in 1944. He was shot down in France and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. However, when he was repatriated to RAF Duxford, Cambs, Maurice was signed up to fly a Spitfire in the first ever flypast over London, which was led by Squadron Leader,Douglas Bader. Maurice couldn’t be restrained from climbing up into one of BHHH’s Mk IX Spitfires!

W/O Maurice Macey

W/O Maurice Macey

Biggin Hill is to commemorate that momentous day on Saturday August 17 2013 with a spectacular concert. The Biggin Hill Heritage Hangars ‘A Musical Salute to the Few’ will feature music by the RAF Central Band interlinked with flying by all of the aircraft in the collection. Colin Hitchins, formally the organiser of the Biggin Hill Air Fair said “This unique event gives us the opportunity to celebrate what Churchill called ‘ his few’ and Dowding called ‘his chicks’ together with the many groundcrews who laboured under adverse conditions”.

Squadron Leader Andy Pawsey, creative director of the event and historian said “To have the opportunity to tell the story at the most famous of all the Battle of Britain fighter stations is an incredible privilege. The event will appeal to everyone who has respect for ‘Britain’s Finest Hour’”.

Further news and ticket details are available here: http://www.synergyeventsuk.com/tickets/buy-online

The event will take place around the still extant wartime E pen which gave protection to the fighter aircraft whilst on the ground, and will include video screens, lighting and role play to accompany the orchestration and flying displays, with actor and pilot Martin Shaw (The Professionals, Judge John Deed) providing some of the commentary.

BHHH own a number of warbirds including Spitfire Mk IX TA805 which is titled ‘Spirit of Kent’ – often referred to as ‘The Kent Spitfire’ – and which will be part of the event. It is seen here undergoing winter maintenance:

The Kent Spitfire

The Kent Spitfire

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LNER A1 Class 60163 Tornado ‘fails’ on Steam Run

Tornado from 8 December 2012

Tornado from 8 December 2012

Steam loco 60163 Tornado was due to haul a Cathedrals Express tour out of Southend Central to Bristol on 16 March but failed on the day before. Diesel loco 67006 stood in as far as Acton where steam engine ‘Clan Line’ took over. Tornado is seen above on a previous visit.

67006

67006

HMS Westminster visits HMS Belfast to celebrate her 75th anniversary

Museum ship HMS Belfast

Museum ship HMS Belfast

Royal Navy frigate HMS Westminster ‘sailed’ up the Thames and under Tower Bridge to moor alongside museum ship HMS Belfast, on Wednesday 13 March 2013. The ship’s visit to the capital was an opportunity to strengthen and renew the affiliations that HMS Westminster has with a number of London-based organisations.

The Type 23 frigate, which is affiliated to its namesake borough, transited through Tower Bridge at 3.30pm for the start of a six-day regional engagement visit.

HMS Westminster under Tower Bridge

HMS Westminster under Tower Bridge

HMS Westminster and her Lynx

HMS Westminster and her Lynx

Unfortunately her passage coincided with a wintry storm and very dark conditions.

The ship’s commanding officer, Captain Hugh Beard, will pay a visit to the Lord Mayor of Westminster and host invited guests and dignitaries on board for a reception and capability demonstration. On Sunday, March 17, members of her ship’s company will parade at the service at Westminster Abbey.

The ship recently received the Frigates Efficiency Award, presented by Rear Admiral Jess (ACNS Support) at the end of January, much to her crew’s delight following an action packed 2012 of anti-piracy patrols, drugs busting, Gulf patrols and mid-Atlantic tasking. The ship is one of the Royal Navy’s 19 highly capable multi-role frigates and destroyers – together with their embarked helicopters and Royal Marines Units – which are the workhorses of the Fleet, providing a highly-trained input to anti-piracy, counter-narcotics and anti-terrorism operations around the world.

Later this year, the ship will be assigned to the UK’s maritime quick-reaction force, the Response Force Task Group, deploying on an exercise to the Mediterranean called Cougar 13. From the autumn, she will deploy to the Middle East region.

HMS Westminster was built by Swan Hunter Shipbuilders on the Tyne, launched by Lady Livesay on February 9, 1992, and accepted into service at the end of 1993. She is the eighth ship to bear the name.

HMS Westminster-HMS Belfast

HMS Westminster-HMS Belfast

South Bank of the Thames

South Bank of the Thames

Former Visteon workers protest against Ford over pensions

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On the 13 March a number of former Visteon workers marched on Parliament in protest against the actions of the company’s former owners Ford, who they believe are not honouring pension schemes. The date marked the fourth anniversary of Visteon going into administration.

The car components firm had been in business since taking over some Ford operations in 2000. The former employees claim the value of their pensions dropped substantially when Ford transferred their retirement funds to the care of Visteon. The union Unite began legal action against Ford over the issue in the High Court in January 2011. Former worker John Elvins said: “We only transferred on the basis of the promises that Ford were making to us. We’re asking Ford to uphold these promises. I’ve lost nearly 40% of my pension that I was told I would get on retirement. The effect of it is that after 40 years, and working for seven years at Visteon, I’ve ended up with a 26-year pension.”

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Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Bethan Jenkins (seen speaking above) said: “Hundreds of Welsh workers have lost significant sums of money after being misled in the most callous way. They continue to wait for Visteon and Ford to own up to their responsibilities and pay the £350m deficit that they owe.The issue will not go away until workers have secured a fair settlement, and the sooner that happens, the better.”

Ford says it views the claim as being without merit, and will defend its position vigorously.

Other speakers as the rally arrived at Westminster included MPs Nick de Bois and Geraint Davies who are pictured below:

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London Southend Airport enjoys its busiest year EVER

Southend's first new terminal

Southend’s first new terminal

Southend's first new terminal frontage

Southend’s first new terminal frontage

More than 700,000 people have now travelled through the redeveloped airport

As London Southend Airport approaches its first birthday as a regenerated regional airport, it is also celebrating another milestone – its busiest year ever.

721,661 passengers used London Southend Airport in the year to the end of February 2013. That beats the previous record of 692,000 passengers using the airport over a 12 month period which was set back in 1967, when it was the third busiest airport in the UK (second only to Heathrow and Manchester).

London Southend Airport Managing Director Alastair Welch says “We designed our new facilities to be ‘simply easier’ and the whole team continues to work hard to ensure we deliver on our very special commitments to passengers – that they should wait no more than 4 minutes to go through security and that, on arrival with hand baggage, they are on the rail station platform within 15 minutes of leaving the aircraft. It is clearly this unique service that means more and more passengers are choosing London’s newest airport – as was reflected when we recently rated highest in easyJet’s Customer Satisfaction Survey across all its European airports.”

Over £100 million has been invested in London Southend Airport since it was acquired by the Stobart Group in 2008, with more than 500 new jobs created on site. New facilities include a train station on the London Liverpool Street (just 53 minutes into the heart of the City), an Air Traffic Control Tower, terminal building, runway extension, radar and a Holiday Inn hotel.

easyJet started flying from London Southend on 2 April 2012 and now operates services to Amsterdam, Alicante, Barcelona, Belfast, Faro, Geneva, Ibiza, Jersey, Malaga, Mallorca and Venice – flights to Edinburgh start in May, with flights to Berlin, Krakow and Newquay starting in June. Aer Lingus Regional, operated by Aer Arann, has three daily return services between London Southend and Dublin, where travellers are able to take advantage of transatlantic connections to New York, Boston, Chicago and Orlando.

Hugh Aitken, easyJet’s UK Commercial Manager said “We’re absolutely delighted that this first year of operations has been a record breaking one at London Southend Airport. Our aim at easyJet is to provide our customers from Southend and beyond, with easy, affordable services, delivering outstanding value and customer service. We’re doing exactly that and over 700,000 passengers who have travelled to and from London Southend Airport agree. The airport’s success is testament to the hard work and commitment of the Southend team and we look forward to further record setting years ahead.”

Simon Fagan, Aer Arann’s Chief Commercial Officer said “We at Aer Lingus Regional are delighted to have contributed to Southend airport’s busiest year. We will be celebrating a year at the airport this May at which point we will have flown over 50,000 people on the route .With our improved summer schedule, starting 31 March, London based passengers can now catch the train from Central London to make our morning flight and also connect to the US, availing of pre-clearance in Dublin to save time at their US destination. The schedule now allows Irish based travellers complete a day return to London’s newest hub, London Southend.”

Almost one year since the easyJet flights started London Southend Airport continues to develop – work on a £10 million extension to the terminal is on schedule for the new Arrivals area to be open in June 2013, when a 4th easyJet aircraft arrives to be based at the airport. This extension is to ensure those high standards of service passengers currently enjoy are not compromised as passenger numbers grow towards 2 million per year by 2020. The extension is also enabling 300 new, local jobs – these will arise from the increase in Southend based aircraft over time which will result in a variety of additional operational and service roles.

The project will be completed just before Christmas 2013. Alastair Welch says “We want to make sure that we continue to deliver our distinctive level of customer service in Southend and this extension ensures that we can continue to deliver those high standards as the airport grows.”

More about London Southend Airport at http://www.southendairport.com