Sunday, 25 March 2012

Just Jane at East Kirkby March 2012 & Pathfinders' 70th Anniversary Dinner

I know I don’t blog very often but I just had to blog about our fabulous day out on Saturday at East Kirkby, Lincolnshire This wonderful Museum holds one of the rarest aircraft, an Avro Lancaster Bomber, known as Just Jane and what a beautiful old thing she is.

We attended the Special Access Photography Event in order to get up close to Just Jane. We took mum and dad with us. The weekend coincided with Mother's Day and Mum and Dad's 62nd Wedding Anniversary. Those of you who have read my previous blog “I’m so proud of my Dad” will understand why we took dad with us. He was Mid-Upper Gunner in the Pathfinder Force of Bomber Command in a Lancaster and completed 2 tours and went on 47 missions and I'm so very proud of him.

I cannot thank the Museum enough for organising such a fantastic day which ran like clockwork. The re-enactors who acted out various scenarios of “bombing up” were incredible.

I don't think we were supposed to take pics of the bombs being carried  and it certainly wouldn't have been that easy in wartime! 

The re-enactors really gave you a taster of what it was like in the 40’s and when they donned their flying gear, complete with gas mask and parachute I had visions of my dad at the tender age of 19 going off on a bombing mission when nightfall came. It was extremely emotional.

The crew bus which brought the Lancaster Crew to their plane

Indeed, as nightfall descended the Lancaster fired up her magnificent 4 Merlin engines. It was a tear-jerking moment to see and hear the unmistakable sound of the Lancaster.

When she taxied towards us  it was truly incredible. I thought my heart would burst with pride.

I was so moved and couldn't stem the tears that coursed down my face and I knew at that moment I had to hug my dad. I could see he had tears in his eyes too as did mum who said dad was gripping her hand so tight, she thought it would break. Just Jane then stopped at the end of the runway and revved up her engines and that is an experience I will never forget and neither will the hundred or so of us that experienced it!

When her engines were turned off after a few minutes, there was a silence like no other, which is when we all burst into a spontaneous round of applause.

I must say that if it hadn't have been for the wonderful world of Twitter I would never have met Sean Taylor (@Lancasterman) and Andrew Panton (@NX611_Pilot). If you read the history of East Kirkby Museum you'll see the Panton family connection  These two lovely guys along with all the other people behind the scenes at East Kirkby Museum really made the day a success and my thanks go to them and all the wonderful re-enactors who were truly awesome and added real atmosphere to the event. Sean asked me on Twitter to make sure I made myself known to him when we arrived as he wanted to meet dad. Sean is so passionate about Bomber Command as you will see from reading his tweets and what he doesn't know about the Lancaster isn't worth knowing.

Sean and Dad. You can see the turret where dad used to sit above

Dad standing beneath his beloved Lancaster
This was Dad's Mid-upper gunner position in the Turret

Here are just some of the links of the awesome pics which came through my Twitter stream after the event. These are the "hardcore" photographers' pics and you can certainly see the difference to our amateur pics. I'm gutted we missed getting a pic of the 7 crew as we took a comfort break but some of the pics in these links really give you a feel of what it was like to go out on a bombing mission.

What better way to finish my blog is to tell you briefly about my night out with the Pathfinders. By coincidence just a week after this photography event was the 70th Anniversary Dinner of the formation of the Pathfinders at RAF Wyton. Dad went to it alone last year but this year he had the opportunity to invite a guest. After mum declined, he asked me and I jumped at the chance.

What a fantastic night it was and oh boy can those RAF people drink! It was a truly humbling experience being in the company of 18 Pathfinders. RAF Wyton, the home of the Pathfinders, is so very proud of them all, as am I. The speeches were very moving in the respect and reverence shown to the original Pathfinders for whom this event was held. 

The next event we will be attending will be the Dedication and Unveiling of The Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park on 28th June. to honour the 55,573 men of Bomber Command who lost their lives in World War II. This has been a long time coming to truly honour those brave souls.