Allied Air Forces Memorial Day Elvington

Jan Leeming

Shoreham 2007

Shoreham Airshow 2007
Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.

 

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

ALLIED AIR FORCES MEMORIAL DAY - Elvington

Date: 4th September 2016

I am proud to be a Vice President of the Allied Air Forces Museum at Elvington near York.  This came about because of my work on research and the making of a documentary about the Free French Squadron Leader René Mouchotte.

René himself was never based at Elvington because it operated as a Bomber base during WW2 but I met and became friends with the Museum Director on my return trip from Paris after filming with René's sister in 2011 - she had just celebrated her 100th Birthday.  Ian Reed, Director of the Museum was very helpful in obtaining Pathe News film of René who, along with Squadron Ldr. Jack Charles, shot down the 1000th Enemy Plane - it was inconclusive as to who fired the first shot so the two shared the sweepstake prize.  Their was also a Ball at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London to celebrate the event - and I presume everyone donated Ration coupons.  Ian also found film of this occasion - which added considerably to the huge amount of research material I unearthed on René.

So back to my being a Vice President of the Museum - I do what I can but live a 5 hours drive away.  However one date which is sacrosanct is the Annual Allied Air Forces Memorial Service which takes place in the huge hangar on the airfield.  The service is held under the wings of a massive Halifax - one of only a very few in existence - and it is called The Drum Service.  When in battle and without an altar, regiments would pile the regimental drums together to form a focal point for worship.

This year was particularly special because it marked the 31st Annual Allied Air Forces Memorial Day and commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.  Our President Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton took the salute and headed an impressive list of guests from Air Forces including France, the Netherlands, Poland etc.

The service has been growing in Stature over the last few years and the raprochement between the French Air Force and ourselves is also growing exponentially.  Held in such auspicious surroundings, the ceremony is very moving with the presentation of regimental banners etc.

It is also a public open day and there is much to see.  Elvington has remained 'intact' with all its various Nissen huts now given over to different exhibitions such as one devoted to Amy Johnson, another to the 'father of winged flight' - Sir George Carey, and one showing rear gun turrets - just looking at them makes me feel claustrophic and I'm filled with admiration for those who occupied these 'death traps' in the Bomber.  The space was so restricted the gunner couldn't wear a parachute and in case of evacuation had to clamber out of the turret and don the appropriate 'shute.  He was also very much a 'sitting target'.

The Control Tower is still there and you can press a button and hear a commentary much as it would have been in WW2.  Another hut is devoted to the French Mess - where models sport the French uniform and tables are covered in authentic French magazines of the time.

There's nearly always a surprise with a flypast - one year it was the Vulcan and this year the Museum surpassed itself by getting a flypast by the Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) and a little later by a Spitfire and Hurricane.  I've attended the Battle of Britain Memorial Day at Capel-le-Ferne every year since 2007 and though we are supposed to have the BBMF flypast, there's only been one year in which all three were functional together or were not defeated by the weather - so it was a joy to see all three albeit not in formation together.

ALLIED AIR FORCES MEMORIAL DAY - Elvington

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