Battle of Britain Memorial Flight & RAF Today Report

Saturday 15th May 2010

A special event was held at the Imperial War Museum Duxford on 15 May to showcase the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and the RAF of today, as well as commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the battle after which the Flight are named. The Cambridgeshire airfield is the perfect location for such an event due to its history as a major station for defensive operations during the Battle of Britain, and is also synonymous with the entry into service of the world renowned Spitfire, with 19 Squadron being the first to take them on strength at Duxford in August 1938.

Phil Whalley reports from the first of many events to mark the Battle of Britain 70th Anniversary. All photos by the author.

Although not billed as an airshow as such, the day would clearly see many movements, not least being arrivals and practices for Sunday's Spring show. The BBMF themselves had of course to transit to Duxford, and early visitors to the show were granted the very special sight of no less than four Hurricanes in formation, with two Spitfires also in close attendance. The Hurricanes had been taking part in an air-to-air photo-shoot en-route, the resulting photos of which will be sold to raise funds towards the new bomber crew memorial to be erected in London. The Flight's two Hurricanes LF363 and PZ865 were joined by Peter Vacher's R4118 and HAC's Z5140. Once on the ground these and the Flight's Dakota and Chipmunks were positioned into a compound to which the public had full access, with no barriers. Members of the air and ground crew were on hand to chat and answer questions, including the new OC BBMF Sqn. Ldr. Ian Smith. With re-enactors occasionally posing by the fighters, and the visiting veterans taking the chance to revisit their steeds from the wartime battles, this really was a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

Continuing the theme, yet representing the current RAF, both of the 2010 Tucano display aircraft were parked out on the flightline. Each has a different scheme based on wartime Spitfires, with carefully researched colours and codes. They were joined by both display Hawks, which wear the striking new 2010 scheme, the gestation of which we have been following on the UKAR forum. Those involved deserve much credit for bringing these to the airshow table. Later in the day, the chance arrival of Historic Flying Ltd's two seat Spitfire Mk IXT rounded off the special schemes rather nicely, having only recently been repainted to represent a Duxford based 19 Squadron machine of the Battle of Britain era.

The Black Cats' two Lynx helicopters and Anna Walker in The Fighter Collection's Harvard were two items that practiced during the day, and Jonathan Whaley in Miss Demeanour was another arrival. Using the 'hangar base', the site of the hangar bombed by 'Jerry' for the film Battle of Britain, the Band of the Royal Air Force College performed throughout the day, and, along with the Queen's Colour Squadron, took part in the afternoon's 'Sunset Ceremony'. Wing Commander Bob Foster took the salute, whilst a Hurricane and Spitfire of the BBMF carried out a split-V manoeuvre behind. A fitting end to a most enjoyable and thought provoking day.