End Of Battle Gala Dinner Raf Club

Jan Leeming

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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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Date: 31st October 2011

Again this year I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Gala Dinner which is held annually to celebrate the ending of the Battle of Britain (July 10th - 31st October 1940).

It’s a lovely affair with most of our remaining Veterans in attendance. We have very few left any more - there are around 70 worldwide and only 19 left in the UK. It is an honour to be in the company of these lovely men who were so young when they took to the skies to defend our country. So many were killed on their first sortie and most of them were in their late teens and early twenties like Geoffrey Wellum about whom the Docudrama ‘First Light’ was made. Geoffrey was regarded as an Air Ace at the tender age of 19 and his book makes superb reading - although I found the film rather disappointing and don't feel it did justice to Geoffrey's excellent book.

Last year, being the 70th Anniversary of the Battle, there were some superb Auction prizes and wonderful bits of memorabilia in the Silent Auction. I wondered how they would manage this year but again there were many interesting prizes on offer and I’m afraid I succumbed and put in a bid for a few items as well as having previously bought some raffle tickets for the Mini which I featured way back in July when attending the BOB Memorial Day Service and Celebration at Capel-le-Ferne.  I can't tell you yet but next year's prize is likely to be something many would 'kill for'.

At the function, there was a model of The Wing - the learning centre which it is hoped will soon be built at Capel. It was impressive and as the name denotes will be in the shape of the Wing of a Spitfire. I wish I could win the lottery and I’d give them the £3million needed for the Centre.

Patron of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust his HRH Prince Michael. Of course he was in attendance last year being the 70th Anniversary so I was pleasantly surprised to see him again this year. He is a very conscientious patron and comes to many of the functions. He is also a most charming gentleman whom I have had the pleasure of meeting many times over the years.

After the dinner we repaired to the Lounge Bar and there met up with many from the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators (GAPAN) who’d been having their annual bash at the Guildhall. My lovely friend John Romain was there and also several other folk I have met over the years because of my involvement with many facets of the Aviation world and its Charities. I’m not used to late nights any more but finally climbed into bed at 3.00 am - needless to say I felt very fragile the next day and though it was a gorgeous day in London and I really should have taken advantage of being there to go and do something useful like attend the Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition, I opted to get on the train and come home. Needless to say, I slept like a log on Friday.

Here’s a photo of me with the delightful Geoffrey Wellum and wearing a Gina Fratini dress which must be at least 25 years old. (I call this my 'Gone with the Wind' dress.  It is black velvet, nipped in at the waist with a full skirt and I love it.  I’ve had to downsize my home and wardrobe twice in the last ten years but some of my classic clothes,  I’ve held on to and am so glad I did.

Photo taken by Barry Duffield - a great friend to the Trust.


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