Two Lancasters arrive at Biggin Hill – 14 August 2014

Having received their PDA that morning the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster and two Spitfires plus the Canadian Lancaster headed south from RAF Coningsby bound for their public display debut at ‘Airbourne’ – the Eastbourne Airshow. Their plan after their slot was to land on at Biggin Hill in Kent, which would be their base for the weekend. With a large group of enthusiasts, media and dignitaries waiting patiently at Biggin most thoughts turned to the weather. The airport was hit by a lightning storm and heavy rain which, if widespread, would have left the crews with no option but to put down safely somewhere short of their destinations.

Thankfully the weather proved to be sporadic enough for them to find a way through to Eastbourne and thence to arrive at Biggin and the expectant reception committee. Hopefully the weather won’t play such a part in the rest of the tour and that all the planned show and flypast commitments can be met without hitch.

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Biggin Hill Festival of Flight and Red Arrows 50th Display Season Anniversary – 14 June 2014

Having passed over Buckingham Palace as part of the Queen’s Birthday Flypast (see below) the Red Arrows went on to land at ‘London’ Biggin Hill Airport in preparation for their part in the Festival of Flight, a welcome return of a public airshow at this historic ex-RAF airfield. Limited to 15,000 advance purchased tickets – all sold – the day saw three sections of display flying interspersed with ground attractions, culminating in an evening display by the Reds. Upon completion of their display the team were joined by Paul Bonhomme in the Old Flying Machine Company’s Spitfire IX MH434, once owned and flown so perfectly by the late, great Ray Hanna. Ray used to close the old Biggin Hill Air Fairs with inimitable displays in the Spitfire and was also a member of the first Red Arrows team of 1965, taking the position as Red 1 the following year.

The following is a photographic overview of the day.

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The Red Arrows being introduced to the audience and receiving, and giving, a number of awards:

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(Large scale flying models!)

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Musical Salute to The Few – Biggin Hill – 17 August 2013

Biggin Hill is possibly the most famous of Battle of Britain airfields so was ideally suited to host an event to commemorate the battles that took place in the skies above the south east of England in 1940. Organised by Synergy Events Ltd and the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar and making use of the latter’s aircraft, the event was to be a blend of air displays, live music, big-screen visuals and narration. The detailed choreographing was a feat in itself, but the weather forecast would clearly add an unknown quantity into the equation. As it transpired the event was hit by strong winds and rain, but both the organisers and crews and also the viewing public held out stoically to the end – very fitting given the events being remembered.

Backed by music provided by the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and narration by actor Martin Shaw, the programme included a number of singing and dance entertainment acts. The images here cover the event as it approached its crescendo via the height of the Battle. As Martin Shaw described actual events from 1940 in detail and film footage of the era was displayed on the big screen a Hurricane and two Spitfires ‘scrambled’ to intercept the raiding Luftwaffe (with the Nord version of the Bf108 playing three-dimensional support to the swarms of Heinkel 111s and other machinery depicted on the screen). The weather was very close to limits for the display which may not have gone ahead had not the pilots been so familiar with their ‘home’ airport.

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As dusk fell and the weather worsened, the band continued to play in the ‘proms’ style to the waving flags of the public.

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Towards its finale Fiona Howell sang proms favourites ‘I Vow to Thee My Country’ and ‘Jerusalem’, and the band encored with ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ whilst the crowd bobbed up and down as per the Last Night of the Proms – clearly still enjoying themselves as the rain continued to stair-rod down. Perseverance personified!

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