Cosby Victory Show Report

Sunday 30th August 2015

It its ten years of existence, the "Victory Show" at Cosby, on the outskirts of Leicester, has gone from strength to strength. Despite its increased popularity in recent years, the little venue at Foxlands Farm has managed to retain a sense of intimacy. With a strong participation list pencilled, and modestly-priced tickets available on the day; could the little event pull magic out of the bag once again in 2015?

Tom Jones reports from Foxlands Farm in Leicestershire.

Held once again on the first weekend in September, the Victory Show had lots to offer fans of not only WWII aviation, but also Second World War historic machines as a whole - lending itself to a completely different take on what might be considered a traditional airshow. Indeed, it's one of the few shows where the flying commences in the afternoon, yet one does not run out of things to see and do in the morning; comparing and contrasting this with Duxford shows, or even Old Warden, when one must wait hours for the flying to start without anywhere near as much to do in the morning. We recognise that Duxford has its fantastic museum, and Old Warden has its wonderful hangars open, but the way in which the Victory Show includes the flying as just one element in a whole day of different activities is a refreshing change.

As a truly immersive event, upon walking through the gate it once again felt like walking onto the set of Band of Brothers. A plethora of trenches filled with re-enactors, period structures, weapons, and vehicles; the attention to detail and historical accuracy is truly astonishing. There is no event where one can be surrounded by history in quite the same way that the Victory Show manages. As an example, even the thin rope separating the displays and the public walkways was styled (and painted) as barbed wire in most places. Of course, with such a level of historical accuracy and diversity, it's a photographer's dream. Being able to spend as much or as little time as one likes taking photographs - in the company of knowledgeable re-enactors happy to talk about everything and anything - it's been some time since I last went to a show where the morning hours without flying evaporated so quickly.

A huge selling point of the event is the re-enactment land battle. This somehow sounds understated until one considers that it actually involves some 50 machines - ranging from motorbikes to tanks (and everything in between); and hundreds of re-enactors in a cleverly-choreographed and well-executed set piece.

This year successfully combined an airborne element to the land battle, with Historic Flying's Hispano Buchon representing a Bf-109 in support of Axis troops, and Will Greenwood's Yak-3 "seeing it off" in support of the Allies. The timing of the air element to the land battle was immaculate and must have been a huge feat of organisation; to say nothing of the number of vehicles and re-enactors involved on the ground below. The highest credit must go to the organisers for putting on an authentic and - very importantly - educational display.

The only criticism of the Yak-3 and Buchon's appearance is that they did not appear in the flying display proper. Flying as part of the land battle meant the sun was in the wrong position; making photography of these machines at that time of day rather difficult. The flying itself got under way at 2:45 - a bit later than previous years if memory serves; however by that time the sun was in the perfect position and once again, on the Sunday at least, the weather was golden.

New this year, the flying display was split into two halves with a 45 minute break in the middle to allow a sterile car park under the display datum to be opened for those wanting to leave. The organisers successfully split the flying display into two broad segments, the first an "American" segment, followed by a "British" segment. Of course, there was a lot of miscellany in between, such as the Trig Team and the Bucker Jungmeister.

Maurice Hammond's P-51D Mustang "Marinell" was scheduled to appear at the show, but how nice a surprise it was that her immaculate sister P-51D "Janie" also decided to join in. The pair of Hardwick warbirds - in the hands of Rob Davies and Maurice Hammond respectively - took to the air and disappeared whilst the Jungmeister gave a typically spirited routine, before they returned on the wings of the Dutch B-25 Mitchell.

The B-25's appearance should not be overlooked. A big twin-engined bomber flown from the Netherlands to the UK just for the small Victory Show (as it was last year) was an excellent move on the part of the organisers; as was the unique formation of a B-25 flanked by two P-51s - a sight not seen in the UK for some time. Following a formation break, the B-25 then performed a solo display, and the P51s a pairs display; allowing us to appreciate each aircraft in their own right.

Following hot on the heels of the P-51s, B-17G Flying Fortress 'Sally B' joined the display, and it was probably the best-flown display seen from her for some time. A great many passes presenting the aircraft at every angle (to say nothing of a topside pass trailing smoke) led to the bomber having a great amount of presence at the small venue.

After the break to allow the sterile car parks to open, the immaculate Bristol Blenheim and Peter Vacher's Hurricane took off to perform their own formation display. Given the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain, having a Hurricane MkI and a Blenheim MkI in formation was very appropriate - and wonderful to see. Once again, each aircraft broke into a solo display. John Romain flying the Blenheim has been one of the warbird stars of 2015. A graceful, photographer-friendly display of a truly unique aircraft; its attendance and routine was little short of sublime.

However, the star of the show for many was Air Leasing Ltd's recently restored Seafire LF Mk.III. Having made its first post-restoration flight in June this year, the machine has only made a handful of appearances since. Praise must go to the organisers for securing what is currently one of the UK's most sought-after warbirds. The Seafire itself has had a rather broad service history, and PP972 wears the colour scheme of 880 Sqn of the Fleet Air Arm - as flown by Commander Mike Crosley off HMS Implacable. Flown immaculately by Dave Puleston, both in formation with Nick Grace in Spitfire ML407, and in a solo segment, it was without doubt one of the warbird highlights of the year.

Criticisms of the show were minor, though still present. The "programme", for want of a better word, was a very reasonable £3, but the information it gave was lacking. There were aircraft listed that were not in attendance, and aircraft in attendance that were not listed. More frustratingly, however, there was no schedule of what was flying when - save for an inaccurate timetable affixed to the commentary booth window. It was impossible to know when exactly a particular item was flying. As has been noted on UKAR at other shows before, the Cosby organisers had Ken Ellis providing the commentary - a man infamous for not keeping audiences in the know. It was much the same at Cosby, and in fact the commentary (on the Sunday at least) was completely inaudible at the northern end of the site - something noticed by many visitors, which led to a sense of unawareness throughout.

Disappointingly for those on the Sunday, the Vulcan's nose wheel troubles meant that it was sadly cancelled at last minute from the show. There was much vocal disappointment in the crowd when rumour spread. However, I do feel the show could have advertised the cancellation better given that it was arguably the star act for members of the public. As far as I am aware, there was nothing on the show's website regarding the cancellation beforehand - and a lot of the public got themselves caught out.

That said; the fact that the Vulcan's cancellation appeared to be forgotten once the show got underway is perhaps a testament to just how enjoyable and relaxed a day it was. At £17.50 on the gate with very little queuing both in traffic or at the ticket stands, the event can be considered by all to be a success once again. The closest comparison I can make to a Cosby show is a sort of hybrid between all of the best elements of Duxford, Old Warden and Bovington's Tank Fest combined.

Anyone looking for a relaxed, educational and historic weekend to neatly round off their airshow season could do a lot worse than Cosby.