Cosby 'Victory Show'
Saturday 4th September - Sunday 5th September 2021
The Victory Show is an event that carries a reputation amongst the airshow enthusiast community, especially among photographers. It is renowned as a venue which brings the visitor close to warbirds operating from a grass strip, and one which yields topside views like no other. Following the organiser's announcement that the 2021 show would be the last, Nigel Watson travelled to Leicestershire for this last chance to see Cosby's festival of living military history.
reports from Foxlands Farm. Photography by the UKAR Staff Team.
The Victory Show is far more than an airshow. In fact, the flying displays are only a part of a World War II re-enactment weekend which covers an extensive area of Foxlands Farm, and which features hundreds of reenactors, scores of military vehicles, and paraphernalia of the period. The showground, covering both open fields and woodland, was filled with living dioramas; from field hospital to officer's club and from the front line of battle to the Home Guard. The attention to detail was astonishing. The experience on the whole was truly immersive and hugely educational.
Perhaps the centrepiece of the event is the Land Battle, a 30 minute recreation of a World War II battle, featuring troops, tanks, lots of guns and some very loud and fiery pyrotechnics. This year the Battle of Falaise Pocket was featured, a decisive engagement in the Battle of Normandy, and the large crowd gathered on grass banking surrounding the battle arena were treated to a spectacle of theatre as the American forces advanced on the German army until they, inevitably, crumbled.
The transition from ground to air is swift, giving the visitor a few minutes at most to relocate from the battle arena at one end of the showground, to the prime position for viewing the flying display at the other. The morning had, at times, felt like it had been spent on a movie set. It seemed without doubt that theatre in the air was going to raise the excitement in the crowd even further.
The reality is, that while still superb in parts, the restrictions placed on flying displays by this show's geography somewhat restrict what the flying display can deliver in airshow terms. An L shaped flying display area, bounded by 'no go' areas, forces a curved display axis, and precludes conventional aerobatic displays along a conventional axis, so there would be no battle set pieces in the air and no dogfights, as maybe a visitor to a re-enactment weekend may have expected.
However, working within these restrictions, the show does deliver a unique experience for the aviation enthusiast. The farm's grass strip is close to the crowd line, where the spectator feels right next to the action when warbirds are operating from the field. This is great for warbirds in general, but having three large aircraft operate in such an intimate environment was a rare treat. Two Dakotas, Aero Legends 'Pegasus' and the dripping-with-character 'Drag-em-oot' with its splendidly grizzled paintwork, and Catalina 'Miss Pick Up' provided true spectacle.
The display sequences themselves, in most cases, consisted of a sequence of curved passes around the L shaped display line. For the vast majority of the flying display, that was topside pass after topside pass. This of course is a perfect presentation for many an aviation photographer, and although distances and grey weather made it somewhat challenging on Saturday there is no doubt that the photographic opportunities afforded by this show were outstanding. It is also fair to note that topside after topside with very little variation can become rather repetitive for many spectators. Neither was there a display commentary audible from the crowdline, leaving some of the public to wonder what was going on and what they were looking at.
The participation list for The Victory Show's flying display certainly whet the appetite on the run up to the event. The promise of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Lancaster arcing round the display line was a mouth-watering prospect. Sadly, the 'Lanc' remained grounded at Duxford having not yet returned to operations following its service, and it was replaced in the flying display by the BBMF's Spitfire Vb, AB910 on Saturday and Dakota ZA947 on Sunday. Topside views of BBMF Spitfires are rare, and a welcome sight. Spitfires and Hurricanes dominated the Saturday flying display, with four Spitfires and two Hurricanes taking part. Notable among the Spitfires was the new restoration of Mark IVb MH415, looking every bit the authentic aeroplane that it is. The unique two-seat Buchon 'Red 11' was joined by MH415, Grace Spitfire ML407 and Hurricane Mark I P2902 just as the sun finally broke through for some beautiful formation work to close Saturday's display. There had been six no-shows from 17 listed participants, through a combination of circumstances, which was a shame. On Sunday, there were to be no such issues, with almost a full programme presented in sunlit blue skies. The Ultimate Fighters team of P-47 'Nellie B', Buchon 'White 9', TF-51D 'Contrary Mary' and Spitfire Mark Vc EE602 looked superb in perfect conditions.
Complementing the flying displays, the show afforded the opportunity to get close to aircraft on the ground, with a flightline walk available for an extra charge of £5. Aimed more at the curious spectator than the photographer, there were no restrictions on how close to the aircraft visitors were allowed. On Saturday evening there was a separately ticketed evening and night shoot, organised by the experts at Threshold.aero, which offered a perfect opportunity for those wishing to make a weekend of it.
The Victory Show is an event unlike any other. Their aim is to be the largest World War II re-enactment weekend in the UK. Its attraction is not just in its size, nor that it has a two and half hour flying display. The atmosphere that is created by the care and attention to detail of all that take part is remarkable, and the visitor feels drawn in to the whole occasion. There is a huge amount to see and do. The attendance felt very healthy indeed, yet it never felt overcrowded. If in fact this was the last edition of this special event, it will be sorely missed. On behalf of all at UK Airshow Review, we genuinely hope the organisers have a change of heart, and that The Victory Show may live on into 2022 and beyond.