Dambusters Commemoration 15-16 May 2013

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On the night of 16/17 May 1943 nineteen specially modified Avro Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron Royal Air Force departed Scampton in Lincolnshire bound for the Ruhr Valley deep in the heart of Germany. Targets for the night were the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams using the Barnes Wallis ‘bouncing bomb’ with the intention of striking a blow at the industrial production of the area. The attack – titled Operation Chastise – caught the imagination of the British public which had hitherto had little in the way of positive news through the early war years, and also proved the effectiveness of precision attacks against valuable targets. 617 Squadron was specially formed for the raid and would forever be known as The Dambusters, with their motto becoming ‘Après moi le déluge’  French for  ‘After me, the flood’.

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The seventieth anniversary of the raid would see a number of commemorative events involving the current RAF 617 Squadron and its Panavia Tornado GR4 jet bombers, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Avro Lancaster and a number of locations linked to the history of the event. Whilst the ‘bouncing bomb’ – more correctly a mine – was tested in locations such as Chesil Beach, Dorset and Reculver, near Margate, Kent, the bomber crews practiced their attack approach for the dams using most famously the twin-towered dams of the Derwent Valley in Derbyshire.  For the anniversary events this would be the location for the most visually dynamic; a flypast at low level over the Ladybower Reservoir by the BBMF Lancaster and a pair of 617 Squadron’s Tornado jets, both of which had been specially painted with their tails depicting the breaching of the dams. Getting photographs of the aircraft involved climbing the valley walls to around 400m – but was well worth the effort!

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On the 15 May the BBMF Lancaster flew over Woodhall Spa and the memorials positioned there:

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Battle of the Atlantic and Arctic Convoy Commemorations – 9 May

The Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, is being commemorated in a series of events marking the 70th anniversary of the climax of the battle, May 1943, when Germany’s submarine fleet suffered heavy losses in the Atlantic. Over the course of the battle, thousands of merchant ships and tens of thousands of lives were lost. Three Royal Navy warships arrived in London before a special evensong service at St Paul’s. HMS Illustrious docked on the Thames at Greenwich on Wednesday, following the arrival of HMS Blyth and HMS Edinburgh, the latter going alongside museum ship HMS Belfast. Organisers have planned fly-pasts, memorial services and parades to honour those who lost their lives.

HMS Edinburgh alongside  HMS Belfast

HMS Edinburgh alongside HMS Belfast

 

On 9 May at 19:00 BST, a flypast took place over Greenwich and ‘Lusty’ and followed the Thames to overfly IWM ship HMS Belfast. The Royal Navy Historic Flight’s Swordfish LS326 – which operated from Biggin Hill – led a Navy Lynx, two Sea Kings and a Merlin in atrocious conditions.

Navy flypast approaching HMS Belfast

Navy flypast approaching HMS Belfast

Navy flypast approaching Tower Bridge

Navy flypast approaching Tower Bridge

Navy flypast over London

Navy flypast over London

A surprise addition (to myself anyway) was a tail-end Charlie in the form of  Plane Sailing’s Catalina from IWM Duxford – a highly appropriate addition.

Plane Sailing's Catalina overhead HMS Belfast

Plane Sailing’s Catalina overhead HMS Belfast

Belfast is a veteran of the Arctic Convoys and was also a focal point on the day for events commemorating the relationship between the Allies and Russia. Titled Victory Day London, a gala performance by The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra in The Hay’s Galleria commemorated the extraordinary contribution made by British and Russian sailors in the treacherous Convoys of 1941-1945.

Orchestra in the Hay's Galleria

Orchestra in the Hay’s Galleria

Veterans sharing stories

Veterans sharing stories

This special, free to attend concert featured one of the world’s great orchestras – conducted by Benjamin Pope – playing popular classics, culminating with the epic Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture accompanied by live ‘cannons’ from HMS Belfast.

Belfast's part in the orchestration

Belfast’s part in the orchestration

 

The delegation of Russian veterans visiting London includes: Yuri Kopytov and Georgiy Evtyukov from Arkhangelsk; Dmitry Dubman, Valentin Soldatov, Alexander Lochagin, Vladimir Pozhornyakov, Boris Davydov and Nikolai Imchuk from Moscow. Eugene Kasevin, founder of Victory Day London, said: “We urge the continuity of the remembrance of the important historical role of the Arctic Convoys in the Second World War, so that the present and future generations know about the joint struggle of the Russian and the British people against the fascist invaders, and remember the courage and heroism of their ancestors.”

Abingdon Air & Country Show – 5 May 2013

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Held in aid of the Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust the volunteer-run Abingdon show provided a fun day out for the family and enthusiast alike, and benefited from some better weather than has been the case for many shows over recent years. Here are some highlights:

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Will Hilton and the SWIP Twister in which he would make his public display debut later in the day.

Five years ago Will, now 19, was an Air Cadet at the show directing cars. The youngster approached Twister pilot Pete Wells at that show and told him that it was his ambition to become a display pilot. With the help of Pete, Alan Cassidy and his own determination he has turned that ambition into reality.

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Rod Dean made his 2013 display debut at Abingdon in Bulldog XX543, having retired from displaying warbirds and classic jets.

ImagePeter Vacher’s Mk1 Hurricane was a star of the warbird content:

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The Breitling Wingwalkers team made their 2013 UK show debut at the Abingdon Air & Country Show having returned from their tour to Australia.

ImageAces High’s Dakota:

ImageThe above is but a small snapshot of the events in the air, with many more on the ground. The small team led by Neil Porter deserve much praise for their extreme efforts in bringing the show together each year. Look out for it in 2014.