Easter Saturday and Monday saw the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre’s inaugural cockpit event take place. Sadly the heavy snow falls and freezing weather that had hit many parts of the country had a bearing on the number of cockpits finally attending, with the owners of a Lightning F.53 and Shackleton T.4 cockpit cancelling at short notice. However Richard Scarborough’s excellent Lightning F.6 cockpit (from XS932) was available for inspection and a most welcome attendee. Also open for tours was the resident Canberra B.6 cockpit, airworthy WWII combat veteran Dakota Drag ‘em oot and via a gantry, the cockpit of Lancaster Just Jane. Flying in to join the Monday event was bright yellow MT-03 Gyroplane G-CFKA.
Performing three Lancaster taxy runs on Saturday was Flt Lt Mike Leckey, Keith Brenchley and Sean Taylor. As Just Jane passed by, I am quite sure many visitors would have taken a moment to remember the appalling losses suffered by Bomber Command during its March 1944 raid on Nuremburg, the Saturday marking the 69th anniversary of the attack. Monday’s taxy run was carried out by Flt Lt Mike Chatterton, assisted on-board once again by Keith and Sean. For more on the raid, see HERE.
Visiting the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre on Easter Saturday, whilst on a tour from France, was a large group of residents from the Mailley-le-Camp area. Eager to commemorate the aircraft crashes in their area on a night of heavy losses for Bomber Command, the group were also due to visit the Elvington Air Museum near York.
On the night of 3/4 May 1944, the French village of Mailley-le-Camp experienced a night of heavy bombing in preparation for Operation OVERLORD, the Allied invasion of Normandy. 346 Lancasters from 1 and 5 Groups, Bomber Command, and two Pathfinder Mosquitoes attacked the German military camp situated near the village on what was expected to have been a relatively straight forward operation. Although the target housing a Panzer training camp and transport depot was accurately marked, communications difficulties and some initial confusion led to a delay in the Bomber Command Main Force attacking, during which Luftwaffe night fighters intercepted the bomber force. Subsequently, 1500 tons of bombs were dropped on the camp, causing considerable damage to over 150 buildings, ammunition stores and amongst the 100 vehicles destroyed were 37 valuable tanks. However 42 Lancasters - some 11.6% of the attacking force - were shot down - accounting for close to 300 personnel. No French civilians were killed in the bombing, although there were a small number of casualties when one of the shot down Lancasters crashed on to a house.
RAF East Kirkby based 57 and 630 Squadrons provided a total of 25 Lancasters to the attacking force. One aircraft from 57 Sqn, B.III ND468 DX-M Failed to Return with the loss of its crew: Pilot F/O Rendal A.W. Scrivener (age 20), Navigator F/O Norman Smith (age 26), Wireless Operator Sgt Frederick Searle (age 21), Flight Engineer Sgt George Norton (age 21), Bomb Aimer Flt Sgt Henry Peckett (age 20), Mid Upper Gunner Flt Sgt Thomas Clayton (age 23), Rear Gunner Flt Sgt James Morey (age 22).
A small number of radio controlled models were displayed in the breaks between the Lancaster taxy runs on Monday, and bringing the inaugural event to a close was a spirited and skilful display by Air Marshall Cliff Spink in Spitfire Mk.XVI TD248, operating from its base at Humberside Airport.
Considering the freezing weather over the weekend, the two days of the event were fairly well attended and the centre should be encouraged to consider a repeat of this welcome addition to their calendar in 2014.