Soapbox Derby – Billericay, Essex – 1 May 2017

A section of London Road in Billericay with a slight gradient was closed off to traffic to allow for a soapbox derby, whereby home-made carts raced down the course powered purely by gravity and a push from the start ramp. The course included two jumps and a chicane. Local businesses and schools were among the teams taking part. The event was run by the Rotary Club of Billericay to raise funds for charity.

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‘Poppies:Wave’ opened on Barge Pier – Shoeburyness, Essex – 11 April 2017

‘Poppies: Wave’ is one of two sections of the ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ art installation originally displayed at the Tower of London in 2014 which is being taken on tour around the UK. The artist of the work – Paul Cummins – opened the Wave section today on Barge Pier in Shoeburyness, Essex, within view of Southend and its longer pier. Barge Pier – formally Garrison Pier – is on the MoD-owned foreshore close to Gunners Park which has Great War history. The Shoebury Garrison was a training school for the Royal Garrison Artillery and the Royal Field Artillery, where new weapons were tested – work which continues today. Poppies: Wave will be on view to the public until 25 June 2017. Barge Pier itself is classified as an unsafe structure so will not be accessible, but viewing structures have been erected to allow raised viewing above the seawalls. Parking is available near to the Coastguard station, with a sign-posted walk.

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RNLI Boxing Day Dip – Southend-on-Sea, Essex – 26 December 2016

Swimmers braved the cold waters of the Thames Estuary to raise funds for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution charity in this traditional winter ‘dip’. They weren’t put off by the chilling water temperature which was measured to be 6.1 degrees C, nor the equally bitter bright but fresh blustery weather. The entry fee (paid to the RNLI) included a reviving hot drink and mince pie on leaving the water. Many swimmers sported festive garb or fancy dress, whilst the RNLI attended to ensure their safety. More sensible visitors took advantage of the conditions to walk the pier and beaches – wearing far more suitable attire.

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Southend Shakedown – Bank Holiday Monday 6 April 2015

Whilst the rest of the UK enjoyed hot sunny weather a bank of heavy cloud covered the east coast, creating pretty grim conditions for the ‘Shakedown’. Seen as the first chance for many bikers to get out after the winter, groups gather at locations such as the Ace Cafe in London before heading for Southend seafront. The event attracts bikes and bikers of all shapes and sizes, as the following illustrates:

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‘Cathedrals Express’ from Southend to Bath – 7 March 2015

Seen here early in the morning running along the Thames Estuary coastline near Chalkwell station, Essex, is the ‘Cathedrals Express’ steam train during its journey from Southend to Bath and Bristol. The trip was initially hauled by this LNER B1 locomotive number 61306 ‘Mayflower’  to West London, at which point 34067 ‘Tangmere’  took over, taking the train onto Bath and Bristol. The B1s were designed as mixed traffic locomotives capable of hauling express passenger trains as well as freight traffic. As powerful, go anywhere engines, the B1s worked across most of the UK rail network from East Anglia to Scotland.

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61306 was built in 1948 by the North British Locomotive Company, as Works No. 26207. Though built to an LNER design, it was delivered after nationalisation to British Railways(BR).
Initially 61306 was allocated to Hull Botanic Gardens Depot (shed code 53B, Kingston upon Hull) until June 1959, when it was transferred to nearby Hull Dairycoates Depot (53A). There it remained until June 1967, when it was transferred to Low Moor Depot (56F, Bradford) before being withdrawn in September 1967. 61306 was privately purchased for preservation at Steamtown in Carnforth. There it was painted into the LNER Apple Green Livery and given the number 1306 and the name ‘Mayflower’. 1306 would have been its allocated running number had LNER not been nationalised (most ex-LNER BR numbers being the LNER 1946 numbers prefixed with a six). The name ‘Mayflower’ came from a scrapped BR-built Thompson B1, numbered 61379.
In 1978 1306 moved to the Great Central Railway in Leicestershire where it remained until 1989, when it was taken out of service for a ten-year overhaul. For this it was initially moved back to Hull Dairycoates but the sale of that site resulted in a move to the Nene Valley Railway. Finally in 2006 it moved to Boden Rail Engineering Ltd at Washwood Heath to undergo a full overhaul.
In 2014 61306 was sold by the Boden family to David Buck and is currently based at the North Norfolk Railway.
‘Mayflower’ is one of two preserved Thompson B1s, the other being LNER-built No. (6)1264

South Essex Armed Forces Day Event – Barleylands Farm – 22 June 2014

Following on from the success of the 2013 event at Rayleigh the South Essex AFD team went on to organise a larger such show in grounds of Barleylands Farm near Billericay, Essex. The surrounding open fields allowed for full air displays rather than the previous flypasts, and these included a full nine aircraft appearance by the Great War Display Team – fittingly operating from the WWI aerodrome of Stow Maries – and the first three-ship display by the Gnats Display Team with yellow schemed G-MOUR as the latest addition.

Ground attractions included the IMPS motorcycle team, Blue Falcons gymnasts, army demonstrations, dog agility, cadet bands and singers (Charlotte Meldrum pictured) and comedians. The following is a photographic round-up of the 2014 event, which will hopefully be repeated in years to come.

Armed Forces Day – Rayleigh and Southend – 29 June 2013

Armed Forces Day is an annual event celebrated in late June to commemorate the service of men and women in the British Armed Forces. Formerly known as Veterans’ Day, it was first observed in 2006 when plans were announced in February of that year by then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, who said the aim was to ensure the contribution of veterans was never forgotten. The day is marked across the UK by local ceremonies and the presentation of medals to living ex-servicemen and women. The date of 27 June was chosen as it came the day after the anniversary of the first investiture of the Victoria Cross, in Hyde Park, London in 1857. Its name was changed to Armed Forces Day in 2009, and each year the number of events and their size have increased with 2013 being particularly well presented, with many areas including a whole week of remembrance activities.

This report focuses on two such events in Essex on Saturday 29 June, one in the High Street of Southend-on-Sea – titled the ‘Big Brew Up’ – and another in the King George V Playing Fields in Rayleigh. The Southend event began with a parade of veterans, cadets and current servicemen marching towards Victoria Circus which provided the centre-point for that town’s activities.

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An open-air service and remembrance speeches was accompanied by marched ‘colours’ and tributes. Further events during the day included appearances by the Bombshell Babes and other wartime-era musical acts, whilst the High Street was filled with appropriate charity stalls and entertainers.

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The Rayleigh venue also offered a day of performances by musical acts, bands and other entertainment acts, plus a number of flypasts. A parachute jump by the Tigers Parachute Display Team was followed by a number of passes by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s recently restored Spitfire LFXVIe TE311 flown by Andy Millikin.

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Later in the day a single fast pass by Tornado GR.4 ZA398 of II (AC) Squadron RAF – which carries the special 100th anniversary paint scheme on its tail of ‘Shiny Two’ – woke up the local residents! Flown by pilot Sqn. Ldr. Scott Williams and back-seater Phil Todhunter, the flypast was especially significant for the people of Rayleigh who lost local boy Sqn. Ldr. Sam Bailey in a collision of two Tornado aircraft over the Moray Firth in 2012.

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Essex can be rightfully proud of its contribution to the country’s commemorations for Armed Forces Day 2013, and long may it continue.