Another Sunday, another airshow, there seems to be a pattern emerging to my spare time! You may know by now that my lesser half is a big aviation aficionado and as the lovely supportive girlfriend that I am, I have been dragged along to many a museum and recently expo’s and airshow’s. Thankfully I found that I could actually find enjoyment in these past times, mainly through my love of nose art (my other blog is http://www.artonthenose.com ) and my affiliation with decades gone by. I’m not quite as enamoured as he is but I always try to find the sparkle in any situation. It is also great for the young ones, I do like to mix our fun outings with an excuse to teach them something and increase their (slowly) growing interest in the past.
So Sunday gone found us once again passing a herd (group?) of Llamas as we entered the hallowed ground of Shuttleworth Airfield for their Military Air Pagent. After parking we had a serious walk to where the actual action was held due to the extensive number of visitors (many drawn by the Vulcan in one of her last shows of her flying career). Finally entering the grounds we were transported back in time by the many historic devotees walking around in vintage clothing and military uniform. I loved the lady who was sporting perfectly aligned seamed stockings and it left me feeling I should have gone to the trouble of a couple of victory curls. Sarah’s Do Wop Do’s was also in attendance giving vintage hair demonstrations
The Living History area was a great way for all the family to see what life was really like for a World War I soldier. I loved looking inside the tents with the display of trinkets and coats, the vintage motorcycle and best of all the WW I replica tank. Unfortunately the organisers wouldn’t allow the tank to drive down the run way but the volunteer was very interactive with the children, handing out bullet casings (my son is amassing a serious collection) and explaining the use of homing pigeons as mail men during the war. The tank was probably the closest I got to any nose art on the day with its ‘all seeing eye’.
Having looked around the Shuttleworth Collection housed in the hangers on our last visit we skipped that part and instead took a walk around the perimeter to look at the First World War aircraft and then onto the stalls which included the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, the RSPB and some independent sellers. Unfortunately these were mainly the same sellers as last time and mostly included aircraft photographic postcards, second-hand aircraft models and aviation literature. We bought the kids some blow up Vulcan’s to get them interested before she took to the skies then proceeded to partake in my lovingly prepared picnic (after trekking back to the car that is).
Once lunch was consumed we once again returned to the main field and found ourselves our own little area of grass, parking ourselves close to the possibly asthmatic commentator with a good view-point for the lesser half to get his (as always) amazing shots. We then prepared ourselves for what was for many (if not all) the highlight of the day…Vulcan XH558! She took to her ‘stage’ with an elegance and grace usually reserved for a Prima ballerina. The crowd was overawed and enthralled, barely a sound was heard apart from the cacophony of power coming from the tin triangle. Thanks to their blow up versions the children were quite invested in seeing the Vulcan fly and happily participated in the ‘Vulcan Wave’ during her first fly past. To hear more about this amazing warbird please visit http://artonthenose.com/2015/07/06/come-on-feel-the-noise-a-farewell-tribute-to-vulcan-xh558/
What followed was a selection of aircraft dancing through the clouds to the sound of Merlin engines mingled with the shutters of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of photographic kit.
This display included Hanger 11’s magnificent Spitfire (or splitfire as my stepdaughter very cutely calls it) and as the commentator said “There’s something incredibly poetic about a Spitfire in flight no matter how many times you’ve seen it” . Due to the wind once the Spitfire had displayed its magnificent power it was planning to return to its home at North Weald, however a little after it had left the sky above us it returned with the commentator quipping “looks like he changed his mind, he must like it here at Shuttleworth”.
Also impressing the crowds was Team Aerostars who were displaying two of their six Yak-50’s. This acrobatic display was expertly executed in part by Aerostar 5, pilot Phil Ansell who I later had the opportunity to chat with about the Shuttleworth Airshows – “I’ve been coming here for 20-25 years. It’s just how an airshow should be. There are very few events where you can interact with the public and hear what they think and if you’ve done well”. Not only had he done very well in his flight but he was also a very pleasant and amiable gentleman who was kind enough to spare some of his down time with his family to give me an insight into why the pilots like coming to Shuttleworth. Ansell has been a member of the team since 2000 and although he’s now Deputy Leader he has been the teams longest-serving and most succesful leader. He has had an extensive aviation career as a flying instructor, commercial pilot and training captain. I was really pleased to get the opportunity to speak with him (thanks to the other half who pointed him out).
I have to mention the historic paring of the Sea Hurricane and the Sea Fire which was very poignant as they havent been seem flying together for decades, I loved the commentators very poetic line “A Merlin in concert with a Griffon” when describing the sound of the different engines.
A special mention must also be made to the SVAS volunteers who are instrumental in the day running without a glitch, every once in a while you see men in white jump suits towing aircraft down to the run way. Without these people giving up their time Shuttleworth would be hard pressed to deliver such a well orchestrated day.
As the children were getting a little antsy off we went for a little leisurely wander, leaving behind the photographer and true aviation aficionado. The children were drawn by the cuddly toys on display at the RSPB stand and we came away with a bag bulging with books, magazines and a bug box after signing them up to their Wildlife Explorers club (for a monthly donation).
Unfortunately due to the wind conditions they were unable to fly the Edwardian aircraft which I would have loved to have seen. They day ended as planned with a very poignant and emotional homage to all the men and women who fought for us and often who ultimately died for us. Not just from WW I and II but from all the wars which have gone before. The commentator began the moving and impassioned finale by reciting the fourth stanza of Robert Laurance Binyon‘s well-known historic poem ‘For the Fallen’ :
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them”
Then to the deafening silence of hundreds of people a Provost flew over the airfield dropping thousands of beautiful bright red poppy petals, it was an amazing sight, one which will stay with me always. The lasting thoughts of the crowd were with all that’s been lost for all we have gained and the words of the commentator in our hearts and minds as he recited the Kohima Epitaph :
“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”
All in all it was a very emotional but fun day out with lots of opportunities to learn, not just for the children but for adults alike. Thank you Shuttleworth for another great airshow.