Sunday, 28 September 2014

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, RAF Coningsby 2014

Got home from a breathtaking afternoon at RAF Coningsby watching the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. This was my first time seeing the flight close-up and was at the suggestion of my Uncle who had two members tickets for the event. It was certainly packed out, and for anyone thinking of buying a subscription and going, it's a wise move to take along some folding chairs and cold drinks. There's a fair bit of waiting around as the aircraft are prepared, and like we did it's good to pick a spot and stick to it.

The hangar area had plenty of stalls selling merchandise of different sorts, plus some interesting charitable ones - such as the campaign to restore a Mosquito to flying condition. I took full advantage to buy a few art prints and get them signed by Sgt Pilot Eric Quinney who flew one of the Lancasters in the 1955 Dambusters film.

The photos probably don't do the flight justice. The Spitfires did a number of 'crosses' and other stunts before climaxing in Victory Rolls. However, the noise as the planes roared overhead in the 'big' formation (two Spitfires, two Hurricanes, the Dakota and the Lancaster) made the hairs stand up on my neck. Unbelievable stuff, and apparently the only time each year you'll get to see this happen.

Do yourself a favour, buy a membership (it's cheap) and get along to next year's!!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

National Museum of Ireland - Military Collection.

Last weekend myself and my partner had the good fortune to visit Dublin to see some friends. I'd been on a number of occasions previously, but hadn't considered a trip to the Museum situated at the Collins Barracks site. Thankfully these days many parts of Dublin City Centre which were once a mission to walk to are now connected by a tram system and you can buy a three day travel pass for just 20 Euros.

It's surprising to most that the National Museum even has a military collection, as it's not exactly well promoted through the official website and naturally most of the tourists seem more inclined toward Celtic art, traditional music (and Guiness perhaps). The Collins Barracks site itself is a fantastic feature and was quite central to the British military occupation prior to Independence when it was called The Royal Barracks. I'd just mention that it's good for a family visit because it also houses the Decorative Arts collection and has a nice cafeteria to boot.

A significant part is given over to the 1916 Rising, and anyone who's visiting Dublin with that particular theme in mind should definitely drop by the museum. It has some of the Mauser rifles that were smuggled into Howth and were used during the struggle (the one owned by Irish Revolutionary leader Thomas Clarke is featured below) along with many other original and interesting items. My favourite however was a fantastic artillery piece captured during the Anglo-Sikh War (again pictured below). There's also an Anti-Aircraft Gun, some items from the Irish Guards and their involvement in the Arnhem Campaign plus some displays dedicated to the development of the Irish Defence Forces.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Victory Show, Cosby, Leicestershire 2014

Last weekend saw myself, my partner and my uncle venturing off to the Victory Show. Last time I went was a couple of years ago, and I'd been itching to get back there again. The turnout seemed very good (perhaps due to the anniversary of Arnhem and D-Day) and the weather couldn't have been better - I even got a touch of sunburn!

First stop was the trade stalls, and I could feel the strong urge to spend well over my set budget within five minutes. A vast array of deactivated weapons got me considering a few additions to the collection. In the end my partner stepped in with some well timed financial advice. But it didn't prevent me coming away with a lovely German Civilian Gas Mask in issue box and some Home Guard shoulder titles for a display I'm planning.

Next came a walk around the Arnhem re-enactors site. Really impressive stuff. Most were dug into the tree line overlooking a field, complete with slit trenches, radio sets etc. We then went to view the vehicles which included some awe inspiring half-tracks, a T34, a Panzer III and a StuG (above). It was also good to stand and chat to some of the people from the re-enactors groups, of which there was a huge array. I took a great photo of my girlfriend stood with three SS Panzergrenadier officers who looked the absolute business! Unfortunately she wouldn't let me post the picture up on the internet!

Finally special praise was reserved for the Air Show. The B25 Mitchell was marvellous as it banked and circled around. But the outstanding moment for me was watching the P51 Mustang. The guy flew low over the crowd several times before looping over and putting it into a steep dive - just so the engines gave out that slight whine - then vroom!! banking away again. I was just rooted to the spot! Absolutely immense day out and one I'd definitely recommend to others.