Military History Tours On Tour - Bomber Command (RAAF in the UK) 13 July 2015
An early start from Bedford as we have quite a distance to travel today and a number of important visits to make. Our first stop was RAF Syerston in Lincolnshire, an operational base, where we were treated to a cup of tea in the Tower overlooking the runway and then, in our coach, escorted around the perimeter and across the actual runway. We were able to see the layout as it was during the war and the areas for the Lancasters adjacent to the main runway.
This was an excellent visit and we felt privileged to be able to visit an active base with an RAF officer as escort. Leaving Syerston we headed to RAF Waddington where we hoped we would be allowed to enter the site, but there was a special security alert due to the Prime Minister being at Conisby and heading towards Waddington and for that reason we could not be admitted to the Base.
Unperturbed we headed to RAF Conisby where we were taken through the hanger, where the Lancaster was being repaired following a fire in one or its engines last week. Gordon, one of the excellent guides escorted us through the main hanger and gave an excellent dissertation of all the planes and work going on in the hangar.
East Kirby was our next visit where we saw the Lancaster in the open and could get some really good photos before it was refuelled and taken back into the hangar waiting for its role next weekend.
Here at East Kirby the Lancaster can take people around the airstrip but does not take off as yet. There is still work being carried out to ensure it is airworthy. At the present time one can get into the WW2 flying gear and be taken around the strip in various roles, eg rear gunner etc, as though one was about to go on a mission. On speaking to the engineer I was told that it would be able to fly within 2 to 3 years. This then would be the 2nd flying Lancaster in the UK.
A big day for us as we finished at East Kirby at 1700 and then made our way to our hotel at Woodhall Spa, The Petwood Hotel. This hotel was in fact the Officers Mess for the crews of the Dam Buster raid led by Guy Gibson and on that raid Guy Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery and leadership. The Hotel itself is a beautiful Manor House set in acres of manicured gardens.
At dinner tonight we were fortunate to meet members of the 106 Squadron who were here for a squadron reunion. Mostly family but there were 3 members of the original squadron and 2 are shown in the photos within this report, Mervyn Jones, Wireless Operator, with his wife Frances and Rear Gunner Ron Needle.
Ron was shot down after D Day on a raid to Munich and after sustaining injuries to the Lancaster, the pilot headed home but the altimeter was playing up and due to this the plane crashed into a forest. All the crew were killed except Ron and another chap. Ron was badly injured with a broken leg and other major injuries. He woke up after the impact, heard a church bell ringing and started to crawl in that direction. The bell ringer headed out towards the crash site, saw Ron and took him hospital. Ron and the Bell Ringer have remained friends ever since. Ron has written a book, Saved by the Bell.
Another big day tomorrow as we wind our way yet further north towards York.