Cosby Victory Show Report

Saturday 6th - Sunday 7th September 2014

Celebrating its ninth birthday in 2014, the Cosby Victory Show was held, as ever, on the first weekend of September. Celebrating the 70th anniversaries of D-Day and the Battle of Arnhem, 2014's presence as a dedicated all-round WWII commemoration event was as strong as it has ever been.

Tom Jones reports from the picturesque Leicestershire countryside.

Cosby, like Duxford's Flying Legends, is one of those shows that never seems to lose sight of their identity or what they're selling. It's billed as "...the largest World War II extravaganza in the UK", and from the moment one walks through the gate, their focus becomes apparent. It's also one of the few places that truly immerses the spectator in the event. There were re-enactors and historic vehicles everywhere, and their attention to detail was staggering, right down to tiny pieces of jewellery.

The flying display, formed mostly of warbirds, is very much a highlight in a varied and refreshing day, but not the main premise of the event itself.

A notable participant this year, as it was last year, was the Dutch B-25 Mitchell. There are few shows this small that can draw from international participation, so credit must go to the organisers. That said, the B-25 which was advertised to close the show in the late afternoon, actually appeared on Sunday nearly two hours before the flying was scheduled to start. One can only assume that the car parks located underneath the display datum still being active led to a display that was rather truncated and considerably further away using a completely different axis.

As a result what could have been an aircraft with a tremendous amount of presence at such a small venue, was actually a lukewarm display into the sun, with photography beyond useless and the public feeling very non-committal about what should have been a star act. It's understood that things on the day change, and safety is of course paramount, but the main gripe would be that those on the crowd line received little to no warning from the commentary about the change.

Speaking of commentary, Ken Ellis was yet again present this year with his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things historic. His style of commentary worked well with the event's atmosphere, and though some of his jokes and one-liners became repetitive (I heard the same joke three times on the Sunday), the public was kept, for the most part, duly informed of what was going on and intrigued in the displays.

The flying display itself featured a varied line-up of warbirds and included, amongst others, Peter Vacher's Hurricane Mk I, of which the future remains unknown pending its sale, Maurice Hammond's beautiful P-51D Mustang "Janie", a rare formation of a Messerschmitt Me 108 (or, more accurately, a Nord 1002) and a Bucker Bu 181 Bestmann, and Spitfire Mk IXT "The Grace Spitfire" which was particularly relevant to the show's D-Day celebration considering the fact that ML407 is credited with the first enemy aircraft shot down on D-Day, indeed it's a shame that this fact was not mentioned during the commentary.

With an Easterly-facing crowd line, the flying display was scheduled to start in the mid-afternoon just as the sun moved into position, and in the warm September sunlight the flying was nothing short of sublime. Though the schedule scarcely stuck to that published in the programme, the commentary generally kept the crowd well-informed of what was happening.

A notable segment came from both R4118 (Vacher's Hurricane) and the Grace Spitfire. They spent some time in formation providing some eloquent top-side passes, before breaking off into their own respective displays. It was great to see time given not only to a formation display but also to each aircraft's solo routine. When comparing this to shows such as those at Duxford, where there is an extensive segment with multiple aircraft but few opportunities for individual aircraft to perform in their own right, the difference is stark.

Concluding the flying in the B-25's absence was an unadvertised appearance from Peter Teichman's P-51D Mustang "Jumpin Jaques", dropping in on the way back to North Weald from a display in Ireland. Playing the machine very much as a musical instrument, I couldn't help but notice how lucky we are in the UK to have such charismatic and historic machines in numbers enough to be able fill a display slot at literally the last minute.

At £15 for adults on the gate, £3 for a small programme, and with little queuing for entry or on the crowd line, Cosby is the perfect venue for a relaxed and varied day out. The organisers must be given credit for their undertaking, and will hopefully be able to build upon the successes and lessons of this year as they progress into their tenth anniversary in 2015.