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© 2007-2010 The Spitfire Society and respective copyright holders.
Reg. Charity No: 299033


Form 700    No. 50   Spring 2007



From the Chairman

In Memoriam

Jan Linzel Part II

My National Service in the RAF

Lancaster Navigator

Remembrance Sunday

Junior Members' Science Museum Visit

Christmas Lunch

Aircraft Safari USA

Committee News



From the Chairman

This is the first Newsletter for 2007 so it gives me the opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the Committee and all the Helpers for the fantastic support and commitment that I received throughout 2006.

Last year, the weather was not very kind to us for the earlier Air Shows but improved vastly, allowing Eastern Region to enjoy a very successful year.  Our Christmas Lunch was again a very enjoyable occasion.  Alan and his staff at The Squadron looked after us very well indeed:  Many thanks to Alan and his crew!

We were all delighted to have Alex Henshaw and Norman Lyons as our guests.  The success and future of The Spitfire Society was toasted with a glass of Bollinger, many thanks again to Alex.  As if that were not enough, Alex also presented us with a superb Gerald Coulson framed print.  We hope that it will be our Raffle Prize at the “Flying Legends” Air Show at Duxford next July.

Last November had its sad side as well, firstly, when we heard that Harry Griffiths, the Executive Chairman of The Spitfire Society had passed away.  We were later to learn that our former and very enthusiastic Chairman, Philip Insley had died.  A tribute to Philip appears later in this Newsletter.

The loss of Harry Griffiths will affect The Spitfire Society in its entirety.  It is now up to the larger Regions, and we are one, to offer all the support that they can.  Eastern Region will certainly co-operate in every possible way.

After many years of dedicated service on our Committee our Webmaster, John Fitzgerald, has found it necessary to resign due to an increased work-load and family commitment.  I would like to thank John very much and wish him good health and prosperity.  We are though very pleased to welcome two young people to our Committee:  Gerard Crutchley who is to become our new Webmaster, and Robert Schofield who will assist with Events.  We are also pleased to report that former Committee Member Paul Plummer has rejoined us and will particularly look after the interests of Members in Norfolk and Suffolk.  Welcome Paul!

There remains now for me to hope that you will all enjoy excellent health and very best wishes for 2007.

David Williams

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In Memoriam

Harry Griffiths

On the 28th of November 2006 the Chairman of the Spitfire Society, Mr. Harry Griffiths died.

Harry was a popular Chairman whose commonsense 'hands on' approach to the job endeared him to all who came into contact with him. If you had a problem he would help find a solution and would far rather get involved in things personally than delegate, this despite the inevitable march of advancing years. Indeed, few people would be likely to have suspected that Harry was in his nineties, as everything about him suggested a man very much younger.  

Leading the Spitfire Society into the Twenty first century, Harry occupied a unique position in the story of the world's most famous combat aircraft since he was the last surviving member of the original design team working under R.J. Mitchell. Those were exciting times for a young Harry Griffiths and he would, typically, get involved himself at the cutting edge whenever possible, a good example of this being the laboratory testing of the first pressurised Spitfire cockpit in which Harry was the Guinea pig. Harry was working at the forefront of Spitfire development throughout the aircraft's history, and post war was involved with Supermarine's jet aircraft programmes, finally leaving the company in 1960. Along with a lifelong interest and expertise in the field of metallurgy, Harry also developed a great love for etymology and, the study of the English Language, his knowledge of which was legendary. Harry was a Chairman who very much understood the importance of the Regions to the Spitfire Society and with his passing we lose not just a fine leader but a good friend. The Eastern Region Membership and Committee extend our sympathy to Harry's family for their sad loss.


Philip E Insley

We regret to announce that former Eastern Region Chairman Philip Insley died in Norwich after a battle with cancer on the 27th of November 2006.

The following paragraphs were written by Philip for Regional Newsletter No. 9 August 1993 to introduce himself to Eastern Region Members.

Philip Insley was born in Birmingham at Castle Bromwich in 1944 and both his parents worked at Castle Bromwich Aeroplane Factory before and during the War, his Mother in the Drawing Office, his Father as Assistant Manager at the Flight Shed to which, as a young child, Philip was frequently taken.  His interest in Spitfires and Castle Bromwich was furthered in later years by contacts with his Father’s former colleagues and by the collection of a large number of photographs and records from Castle Bromwich.

An Architect by profession Philip was a Conservation and Design Officer, holding positions in Canterbury, Coventry and Shrewsbury before arriving at Norwich City Hall in 1990, where he dealt with the conservation of historic buildings in the City. He retired in June 2005 at the age of 61.

Philip joined The Spitfire Society as a Life Member in 1984 and was co-opted onto the Eastern Region Committee as Norfolk Representative in Summer 1992.  After the death of our first Chairman Pat Butler in May 1993, Philip was elected Regional Chairman in 1994.  He was an excellent Chairman and will perhaps be best remembered by the work he did with Committee Member Ron Gould and the Arnold Scheme Stearman Association to set up an annual “Members’ Day” which was held at the Shuttleworth Collection in those days and enjoyed by Members from virtually every part of our Society.

His death is a great loss to the Spitfire Society.

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Jan Linzel 

Part II

If you have not read Part I, you can find it here:

Part I

In the winter 1940/1941 the KLM had a course in Amsterdam for Navigator 2nd class, which I followed and did my examination in March 1941. Then all courses were forbidden by the Germans.

In July 1941 I went with four fellows to Brussels. In the night we crossed the border, we almost ran into a German patrol. From Brussels we went into occupied France through zones interdite, to the demarcation line which we crossed in the night. We were arrested by the Vichy police but got away with the help of a policeman who was very anti-German. Finally we made it to Soler, west of Perpignan near the Spanish border. We landed in a Dutch camp which was very bad and some blokes were already more than a year there. The ones who tried to get through to Spain were all caught and put in Mitander concentration camp. The distances were too big and the Seguridad Spanish Gestapo was everywhere, thick as flies.

I saw no point in staying there and decided to return to Holland. One of the others went with me but their colleague stayed because the Gestapo was very much looking for them. The trouble was, we had no contacts and in the railway station of Lons de Saunier we were arrested. Luckily the police were completely in the underground movement and they put us in an hotel and arranged a crossing over the demarcation line. With about two dozen French people, some women, we walked at night about twenty miles in the rain and pitch black night. Crossed three rivers. We had to undress, put our things in to the rain coat and waded up to our chests through the cold current. We managed to cross the French/Belgium and the Belgium/Dutch border without trouble and I arrived home again. Lost quite a few pounds though. Over this journey I could write a book. I was in the underground movement again and we also started an underground paper. As we did this with only five people and took every possible precaution, it was never discovered by the Gestapo till the end of the war. In the winter 1941/1942, which was very severe and there was not much to eat and very little fire for a stove, I followed a forbidden course for Navigator 1st class. I did not finish the course because I left the country in April 1942 again. The Gestapo were looking for me and I had to disappear.  The underground had a good route to Switzerland. I took three Jews with me and with false papers we managed Switzerland in two days. Over this journey I could write many pages.

At the Swiss border we were caught by the Swiss and put in prison in Pottenbruy. The Swiss were friendly. There was a whole crowd of people in the prison, mostly French and a few Dutch Jews, nice blokes. After two days we went to a prison in Bern and after that six weeks in a prison near Lake Mort. Then I was six weeks in a hotel near Geneva and then put into a labour camp. We were there with about 120 Dutch men and had to drain a marsh. As the Dutch authorities wanted to do everything legally it was difficult to get further. From August 1942 I worked in the Dutch consulate in Zurich, where I made a lot of friends and had a lot of fun. I even went skiing. I gave up with the legal way, which never would work!

Beginning January 1943 with another Dutchman I crossed the border at Geneva and walked 50 km during the night to Auncey, where we had an address. From here we went after a few days to Prepping. Here we had an address and a Basque farmer took us first by train and then seven hours walking in the Pyrenees. In the middle of the night we arrived at a small farm. There were already 18 Frenchmen and we joined them with two more Dutch men. All the time people were on guard in case of German patrols. Next night they took us across the Pyrenees.

We split up in three separate groups and walked all night. During the day we slept in the undergrowth. The next night we were walking across the terrain by compass. The road was dangerous as there were patrols of the Spanish police. That night I had trouble with my left leg and I was holding up the group. I managed to convince the others, after a lot of protests, that it was better for me to walk along the road instead of holding up the group and, by five o'clock in the morning I arrived in the little town of Banjolas.  I was pooped. In the square was a large hotel "Hotel Mundial" and I went in. A sleepy old porter wrote my name in the register and the number of my false passport. He took me by lift several floors higher and I got a very luxurious room where I took a bath and went to bed. The next day I awoke about eleven o'clock and wondered where I was for a moment then, with a shock, I remembered and dressed quickly, rushed downstairs and there were two Spanish ladies in black dresses sitting near a charcoal fire. They laughed when they saw me and with a bit of French made clear that not everything was "Kosher" with me. They took me to the dining room, where a big meal was served for me. That was terrific, for I had not eaten for days.

I had to go to Barcelona. I had to go by the 4 o'clock train from Gerona and by bus. I was not allowed to pay the hotel. They gave me the exact fare for the train and I had only to say "Express Barcelona" at the ticket office. They didn't expect any control by Seguridad. Everyone getting on the bus had his or her papers checked. The owner of the hotel gave me a ticket for the bus and when I entered the police looked the other way. In the train to Barcelona there was control and I was arrested. They put me in Barcelona prison. About this prison I can write pages. I was bought free by the Vice Consul, who was a Spaniard and only spoke Spanish and French. He paid 200 pesetas and a big box of cigars. He seemed to know the Seguridad people well.

By night train I went to Madrid and arrived at around noon at the Embassy.  Handed over 144 micro photos which I had taken as courier from Switzerland. I got something to eat and a railway ticket to Cadiz, where I arrived the next day, to take a Spanish boat to South America, which went via Curacao where I intended to leave the ship. The police chief, who told me he would die for Hitler and Spain found something wrong with my papers and I was not allowed on the ship which left without me. The police chief told me that I was not allowed to stay in Cadiz and also that I was not allowed to leave Cadiz. Typical Spanish. I thought to hell with it, and took the night train to Madrid. I was arrested on the train and landed in the dungeons of the Seguridad. That was underneath a beautiful palace they occupied at the "Puerto del Sol" Not nice and full of bugs. The Embassy discovered I was there and they got me out of it and I was put in a hotel. A lot of things happened in Madrid, but that is a story in itself. Finally on the 27th May I left for Lisbon and further on 6th June with the first night flight of the K.L.M. to Bristol. About a week before, the Germans had shot down an aircraft (with among others Lesley Howard)

We had breakfast in Bristol airport and then were taken to London under guard. When I saw the balloons over London I was awfully pleased:  I had reached my goal, England!

After a week at "Patriotic School" I was handed over to the Dutch. Over this episode I also can write half a book, but finally I joined "Allied L Squadron" in a big flat building Abbey Lodge, Park Road, Regents Park. I had to learn English and I was kitted out here. On the sixth of September I was posted to R.A.F. Cranwell. Two days later I was sent to Caistor Airfield (South of Grimsby). Here I had a refresher course on Miles Master 11s and after four weeks sent back to Cranwell College. They told me I had to do a course in an AFU and as all courses were full I could go on indefinite leave. I said that I did not want to go on indefinite leave as that was not what I had come over for. So I stayed at the college. It was nice. I had a nice room a batman and followed all kind of lectures. But I wanted to fly. I talked to the Flying Wing Adjutant F.Lt. Bowen who was also billeted in the college. He said he would show me to the Wing Co. Next morning the Wing Co said "You cannot fly here" I said "Why not? You have so many aircraft here." Bowen said, "Old Weddup in maintenance is always  looking for a pilot to test aircraft, it's just the job for him" Wing Co said  "O.K. go to Weddup and test bloody aircraft, and buzz off." I was flying a lot, followed lectures and did a lot of hours in the Link trainer. I was great friends with Bowen and often played squash with him. But I was only a Sergeant pilot, I said to Bowen "I want a Commission" He said "You'll have to see the Wing Co, he has the forms in the drawer of his desk" Next morning I was shown in, "What does he want now?"  I said "I want a commission."  "We cannot give you a commission - we hardly know you! " "Well you've got the forms in your drawer, why cannot I try?" He threw the forms on the desk and said, "0.K. here are the forms and buzz off" Three weeks later I was Pilot Officer.

They had Spitfires there as well. They were training a crowd of Turks. I told Bowen that it was about time I started flying on Spits. Next morning he showed me in at the Wing Co's again. "Oh hell, there he is again, what does he want this time?" "He wants to fly Spits" said Bowen, "he cannot fly Spits here!" said Wing Co, I said "Why not?  There are plenty of Spitfires here and the bloody Turks are flying them" The Wing Co said "O.K. go and fly the bloody Spits, now clear off and I don't want to see you again, ever."

That afternoon I was solo on Spit. Mark1;  you had to pump up the undercarriage.  So when I was not flying for Old Weddup I was flying Spits. Then the Spitfire Course went to Dumfries for gunnery. I went with them of course. I could do so as I was still on indefinite leave. I did air to air and air to ground and in the middles of the course there came a telegram, that I had to return to Cranwell immediately. It turned out I was posted to AFU in Turnhill. When they saw my log book they said "What the hell are you doing here?"

I was 14 days at Turnhill and then went to the satellite station Condover. After finishing the course I was posted to Eshott, Northumberland between Alnwick and Morpeth. O.T.U. Then to satellite Boulmer for gunnery and from there to T.U.U. at Tealing 6 miles north of Dundee. Here we were on Spit 5Bs and also were air defence, which was of course a dead loss those days in Scotland. Three scrambles. I volunteered for rocket course in Kinnell. On 25th July I was posted to G.S.U. in Thruxton and on 3rd August to No.33 Squadron at Selsey Bill.

Part III

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My National Service in The Royal Air Force

by George Morgan

It was in December 1943 that I volunteered for Air Crew in the RAF. I passed my medical examination and was told I'd be called up in Feb. '44. I was posted to Padgate in Cheshire. I was there about six weeks, and during that time I did a lot of Square Bashing, learning how to use a rifle, a Sten gun and side arms. From there I was posted to an American air base at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, where I was put on Aircraft Inspection and taught what to look for when a 'plane was being serviced. I was there about six months.


I was then posted to Nottingham to a much smaller air base where I was to report for Flying Instruction. My first encounter with a plane was the Tiger Moth . After a few instructions and a short flight we were put into the cockpit of a Spitfire to familiarise cockpit layout, learning all the controls. Then came taxiing and after that solo flight, but before this I found that something was going wrong with my eyes. They would mist up. I'd give them a slight rub and my eyesight was back to normal. Come the day of my solo flight, I taxied out to the runway and took off. No sooner had I got in the air when I turned round and came back. My instructor asked me what was wrong and I told him. I was sent for an eye examination and ended up having to wear glasses. My short flying days were over.

I was then posted to Staffordshire to an A.I.D. base, 'Aircraft Inspection Dept'. This was like a supermarket for aircraft parts. Orders would come in from all over the place and our job was to inspect these parts before they were sent out. I was finally released from the RAF in 1947. I am now a member of The Spitfire Society and have been for nearly twenty years, and enjoy every minute of it.

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Lancaster Navigator,

W/0. John Lee

Part I

Interviewed by Peter Wesson


John Lee's aviation career began with basic training on Tiger Moths. He recalls:

"We did twelve hours pilot training then, you see, when you joined up it wasn't for anything specific, it was called a PNB scheme:  Pilot, Navigator, Bomb‑aimer, and it was up to them what they needed, you know, if they were short of pilots they'd have pilots, or if they wanted navigators - anyway, that's how it worked.  'The first place I went to after joining up was St. Johns Wood, right opposite London Zoo; luxury flats they were, beautiful you know, all glass and mirrors and polished floors, I thought "this is the life!"  Anyway, we weren't there long, we did a bit of Square‑bashing, and we used to go into the zoo ‑ although of course they'd evacuated the animals - for our inoculations.

After that there was a bit of a log‑jam, so we were posted to Ludlow. We got off at the station, we had all our flying kit and everything, and we marched for about three miles and we got to a field and looked out ‑ and this was in November - Bell Tents! "Surely not," I said, "not the RAF, Bell Tents?" It was! We were building the camp, digging ditches. Hell of a shock that was, after the luxury flats! Anyway, we were there for quite a while before we were posted to Aber­ystwyth, that's where we did the initial training. We used to go into the University, along the Prom, for lessons and that type of thing. The next place I went to was Desford,for pilot training on Tiger  Moths‑ that was great fun. And then from there we went to Heaton Park in Manchester, where we all assembled and they started calling out names for Pilots, Navigators, Bomb‑aimers.  Of course we all wanted to be Pilots because they were the Rock‑stars of 1940 you know. But no, I didn't make the Pilots, I'd done quite well at Navigation, and so I was a Navigator.

Then we went up to Scotland and caught the 'Aquitania' and went across to New York, and from there to Moncton, New Brunswick, which was a holding unit."

Following a three‑day train journey across the magnificent Canadian countryside John arrived at Brandon, Winnipeg, and was from there bussed to No.1 Central Navigation School at Rivers.

"That's where the real navigation training started." He continues, "We were flying Ansons. It was winter when we arrived there, very cold, snow everywhere. But it was quite hilarious, we had horses on the station and we used to go riding - mind you, I never liked horses, never trusted them, only horses under a bonnet, you know. Anyway, we used to go skiing behind the horses but they were half‑wild, I think they were Indian ponies or something. They didn't like me, they always used to throw me off, anyway."

What were John's memories of the Avro Anson?

"Well, very good for what they were, you know, they were good old work-horses and reliable. But very cold; there was a pipe came out near the navigation table and that was supposed to be warm air. But it was cold air and all it did was blow your papers up and down, so we used to plug it off. But they were very good.

We used to get time off, odd weekends in Winnipeg‑ that was a nice little place, and did quite a bit of skating on the river, that was fantastic. After we finished the course we were given a fortnight's leave, so my pals' and I went down to Toronto and then on to New York. I don't know if you've ever heard of the Stage‑Door Canteen during the war? It was a place in New York where the stars from Hollywood used to come and entertain the boys, it was quite good, that.  And then a family with the Red Cross took the two of us in and we stayed with this family for two or three days, just outside New York. It was lovely. He'd been over to England in the First World War, had us up half the night singing First World War songs!

Anyway, we reported back eventually. We went back to Moncton, New Brunswick, and we came back on the 'Ille de France', nothing like the boat we went out in, it was a bit of an old tramp‑steamer I think. And of course this time there were U‑Boats about and we weren't escorted at all. 'It was alright going out with the Aquitania', because that was faster than the U‑Boats, but this thing coming back wasn't.  I don't think we would have gone faster than a rowing boat! Anyway, we finished up in Scotland, and then came down to Harrogate, another Holding Unit. From there we went to Northern Ireland and once more we were doing Navigational Training with Ansons. We used to fly down this way (near Llandovery) a lot, down to Tregaron and used to do practice bombing in the Carmarthen Bay, that was our place for dropping bombs - well, they were dummy bombs of course! And sometimes up to Scotland, the islands round there. We still didn't have a crew at this time, it was all different pilots and what have you."

John was based at Bishops Court Airfield in Northern Ireland for about five weeks, during which time he recalls that it rained every day and they were constantly "Up to our eyes in mud!"


The next part of John's odyssey took him to 28 OTU at RAF Wymeswold in Leicestershire:

"When we got there they put us all in this big hanger:  there were pilots, navigators and bomb‑aimers, gunners and engineers, and the C.0. came along and said "Right, find yourselves a crew." Anyway, we're looking round and this chap comes up to me, he wasn't very tall, he was a Scotsman, and he says "Have you got a crew?" and I said "No, still looking," he said "Well, how do you feel about coming with Me then?" so I said "Fine, but be prepared for me to lose you a few times won't you?" and he replied "Yes, well you be prepared for a few bumpy landings too!" I'll never forget that."

The pilot's name was 'Sandy' Taylor, from Inverarie. Wireless Operator Bob Knight was also from Scotland, and went on to become a close friend of John's.  Aged nineteen, Mid‑upper Gunner Roy Gilson coincidentally came from John's hometown of Castleford in Yorkshire. The Flight Engineer and the Bomb‑aimer came from Glasgow and Canada respectively, and the Rear Gunner ,a big, stocky man of around forty called 'Nobby' was from Sheffield

"He proved to be the best signing we ever made, because he was like a father, you know.  He'd make sure that we all got up in time to go on parade, because I was never very good at getting up in the morning ‑ I still aren't  ‑ that sort of thing. He was with us all the time. And so we were crewed‑up then, that's when we started working together.

At Wymeswold, in Wellingtons. They were a beautiful plane to fly, the pilot loved them. When we came in to land after a trip I could still keep writing on my log, no bother. It was a bit different later on, but we used to get on well with the Wellingtons.  I remember one trip I did, I was walking along somewhere near the runway there when an officer came up and said "What are you doing?", I said "Nothing, I've got nothing on today," he said "There's a crew just going off on a trip, go with them." 

Not best pleased about the idea, John nonetheless did as he was told, and the bomber was soon crossing the west coast, heading out to sea .It soon became clear that the Navigator was in trouble, as John asked: 

“Where's your turning point then?" The Navigator replied "I don't know, there's some land over there," 'I said "Yes, that's Ireland, don't go there, give him (the Pilot) a reciprocal course," so we gave him a reciprocal course to turn around and come back. And in the meantime, as we were coming back, the pilot had trouble with one of the engines, and he said "The engine's overheating," or something, I thought "Oh, great, I'm a spare Bod here as well," there was a bit of superstition there, we didn't like flying with another crew. Anyway, he said "I'm going to have to feather this engine," and asked where was the nearest place to get down. 'Well we were over Wales by this time and I've got my ears and eyes open and I'm watching the map with the Navigator, and we worked out a course to a 'drome. When we got there we called up, but we couldn't get permission to land, there was no‑one there.' By now the Wellington was losing altitude, and they decided to make their way to an American airbase just a little further on. 'So we called up, and they said "OK, come on in Buddy." But we couldn't get the wheels down then because the engine that he'd feathered was the generator that operated the hydraulics on the wheels. So he said "Right, crash positions, I'm going to have to make a belly landing."  'So everybody got down behind the bulkheads, and we came in and he said "Right, I'm landing now‑ brace yourselves," and next thing there was a big bump, dust and muck flying about all over the place, and eventually it stopped. We used to do 'Abandon Aircraft' drill, getting out of a bent (you know, a damaged plane); I bet we got out of that plane far quicker than we ever did in practice! "

With no injuries apart from a cut finger to the Rear‑Gunner, this was an adventure that John could have done without, and he vowed never to fly with another crew again if he could help it, though this was not to be the last landing incident.

Next stop was a Conversion Unit near Doncaster, where the crew finally got to grips with the mighty Avro Lancaster. John recalls it being rather daunting to move onto these huge aircraft from the smaller and much lower Wellingtons, and that the Lanc's were not the best examples, being rather worn‑out. As part of the conversion onto the Avro bomber, part of the routine was to carry out 'Circuits and Landings, which led to the following incident: 

"Next day we were on Circuits and Landings again but what they were doing, they'd decided to dig a trench down the side of the runway; they were going to fit pipes for a new thing that was coming out for fog dispersal. They used to light it up, warm air would then lift the fog so you could land in foggy weather, which was great because this station at Doncaster was also an emergency station - you know, you could be diverted there. In fact, we were diverted there one night, but that was later on. 'Anyway, we'd done a few landings and Sandy comes in again to land and he caught a cross‑wind and drifted a bit and he dropped one wheel in this trench. When he came to the end of the ditch, that smashed the wheel, the plane spun round - oh, the propellers were all broken and stuff flying everywhere!"

John laughs as he recalls the incident and of the pilot's apprehension at having to explain the accident to the C.O.

From here it was onto Op's; 5th February 1945, Waltham nr. Grimsby with 100 Squadron .

Part II can be found here:

Part II

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Remembrance Sunday 2006

Once again the Annual Remembrance Day Service at the North Weald Airfield Memorial was blessed with bright sunshine and blue skies as a large congregation gathered to pay their respects. Many wreathes were laid including that of The Spitfire Society, which was laid by former Eastern Region Chairman and 241 Sqn. Pilot Dennis Nichols. The Minister for the Act of Remembrance was the Reverend H.R.M. Harries MBE, former Assistant Chaplain‑in‑Chief of the Royal Air Force.

The 2006 Service, hosted by North Weald Parish Council, marked the 90th anniversary of this historic airfield and the sacrifices made by those who served there. Prior to the service a special salute was made by a P51 Mustang which roared up from the airfield, wheeling and soaring in the sunlight in tribute to The Fallen. Thank you to The Royal British Legion and to Eric Horwood for assistance with the Spitfire Society wreath.

Prior to Remembrance Sunday, on Friday the 10th November, Regional Member Squadron Leader lan Blair DFM appeared on television on the Paul O'Grady Show talking about the significance of Remembrance Day and why it is so important that we wear our poppy with pride.

lan spoke about being a young man of just twenty when he first fired his guns in anger, of the friends and colleagues that he lost, and said that the youngsters of today should remember that “Freedom is hard won". It was a heartfelt and emotive interview, which will have touched the hearts and thoughts of millions of viewers across the nation.

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Junior Members' Science Museum Visit 2006

October 2006 saw the Spitfire Society's Junior Membership gathered to view the special exhibition dedicated to the Spitfire and it's Chief Designer R.J.Mitchell at the Science Museum in London. The day began with a talk from our Chairman Mr. Harry Griffiths who for nine years worked alongside R.J.Mitchell as part of the team responsible for the design of the Spitfire. Harry began by outlining the early life of Mr. Mitchell and his astonishing rise to the position of Chief Designer at Supermarine aged just twenty‑five, and how R.J. honed his skill for creating sleek, fast aircraft with successes in the world‑famous Schneider Trophy air‑races of the 20s and 30's (of which Harry himself remembers watching the 1929 race from a barge in the middle of the course!).

Moving on to talk about the development requirements of the new fighter, such as finding accommodation for the wheels, guns and ammunition within the thin elliptical wing with it's special multi‑layered box‑section main spar, Harry recalled the quote that "The only straight line on a Spitfire is the aerial‑mast," which he says may not be quite accurate, but is not far off it and is what helps make the aeroplane look so special.

Harry then went on to talk about the progression of the aeroplane through it's many different marks and the various ways in which the speed was gradually increased, including, at Harry's suggestion, the addition and removal of split‑peas to simulated dome headed rivets to a test aircraft in order to ascertain any difference in speed to an aircraft built with flush‑headed rivets, which turned out to be an astonishing twenty‑two mph.

Following Harry's superb talk the party made it's way to the second floor where, alongside an impressive slate sculpture of R.J.Mitchell, Spitfire Mk.22 PK664 is displayed in it's component parts of wings, fuselage, empennage, engine, nose, and guns, giving the viewer a unique insight into the composition and construction of the aeroplane. Nearby, display cases house a variety of wonderful items relating to the Spitfire including personal items once owned by R.J.Mitchell, the tunic worn by Flt. Sgt. George 'Grumpy' Unwin DFM, the flying log‑book of Gp. Cpt. Hugh 'Cocky' Dundas DSO DFC, a special section on Mitchell's successor, the brilliant Joseph Smith, and a host of other treasures all supplemented by video shows.

After lunch we were treated to a guided tour by museum staff‑member Rob Skitmore of the main Aircraft Hall, home to many wonders including Alcock and Brown's Vickers Vimy, Amy Johnson's DH Moth, Hurricane L 1592, Spitfire la. P9444, Supermarine S6.B, and the Schneider Air‑races Trophy. At all times Harry Griffiths was on‑hand to talk about the exhibits and answer questions. The day was attended by a goodly proportion of our Junior Members who enjoyed a splendid visit and will in years to come be able to tell their own children that they spent a day in the company of one of the design team of the worlds most famous fighter aeroplane. The Juniors were each presented with a special 'Goodie‑bag', and given the opportunity to enter a competition for a signed book.  Also in attendance was former Coastal Command Pilot Sqn. Ldr. Len Dixon. Len has flown a wide variety of aircraft, and I took the opportunity to ask him what his favourite types were, to which he replied that the Lockheed Neptune was his preferred multi‑engined machine, for twins the Mosquito, and for a single motor the Spitfire, of which he flew the Mk.XVI.

As well as our Chairman, from HQ came Alyson Long, who organised the visit, photographer Mike Bayliss, and our new Hon. Treasurer Richard Brown with his wife and grandson.  Eastern Region Committee was represented by David Williams, Peter Wesson, and Regional Photographer Eric Horwood.  Well done to Alyson Long for organising a superb visit for our Junior Members which I am sure they will long remember.

This review of the visit to the Science Museum was written before our Chairman Mr. Harry Griffiths passed away. Few of us on the visit were aware of how unwell Harry was, as he went through the day with energy and enthusiasm, illustrating so well Harry's selflessness, stoicism and determination.

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Christmas Lunch 2006

The Eastern region Helpers' Christmas Lunch at North Weald's 'The Squadron' was once again a great success, with nearly forty people in attendance. We were delighted to have with us a fine contingent of former wartime pilots including lan Blair, Peter Cunningham, Ron Gould, Bert Harman, Norman Lyons, Dennis Nichols, Len Stillwell, David Williams, and our Special Guest, Spitfire Society Vice-chairman Mr. Alex Henshaw MBE who very kindly and generously donated a beautiful signed and framed limited edition print of a Spitfire to us.

Inevitably there was a note of solemnity in the air, as the event took place just days after the sad loss of not one but two highly esteemed figures from the Spitfire Society, our Chairman Harry Griffiths, and former Eastern Region Chairman Philip Insley. I am sure that the thoughts of all of those present were often with the relatives and loved ones of Harry and Philip. However, the show must go on, and everyone enjoyed what was a most convivial occasion. As with previous years, the table looked delightfully festive and the food and service were faultless, due to the hard work of the ladies at The Squadron, to whom we offer our thanks. Thanks also to Alan Crouchman, and especially to David Williams who once again organised the day for us.

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Aircraft Safari U.S.A.

by Jason Amiss

On my recent holiday to Arizona in the USA, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit two very interesting aircraft museums, these being the Commemorative Air Force Museum at Falcon Field, Phoenix, and the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tuscon; incorporated in with this museum is the chance to visit the Davis Monthan Air force Base, famously known for it's desert bone yard, but more of that later...

The Commemorative Air Force museum was formed in 1957 by a group of Texas aviators who were dismayed to see so many WW11 combat 'planes gradually being destroyed, so they obtained a few aircraft and began to put on small shows and displays for the public. By 1963 they made the decision to collect every type of American WWII combat aeroplane including heavy/medium bombers as well as Navy dive/torpedo bombers. By 1972 this task was completed and the collection currently consists of over 145 aircraft, of which over one‑hundred are flyable at any given time. On the day of my visit I was very fortunate to be at the museum when the CAF's B.17 'Sentimental Journey' returned from being away on a two‑month tour of the U.S. air show circuit' and seeing it arrive in the bright blue desert sky was an incredible sight, one which 1 will long remember. After the B.17 had taxied in, it was opened up to the public and I had a great time clambering through the fully restored interior of the aircraft. The museum itself is very small, but has a lovely collection of static exhibits such as the T.6, C.45, F.4 Phantom, B.25 Mitchell, AFS2 Guardian, Mig 15, Mig 21, A.26 Invader, SE5.a, a Schweizer glider and, in flying condition, the B.17 and Mitsubishi Zero.

The PIMA Air and Space Museum in Tuscon exhibits over 275 aircraft, and is apparently the largest museum collection of aircraft in the world (obviously I cannot list all the 'planes in this article, but I do have the official list which I would gladly copy and pass on to anyone who is interested). On the morning of my visit I was fortunate enough to be able to tour the restoration facilities, as I had previously corresponded by E‑mail with the Restoration Manager who kindly invited me before I arrived on the day. Their main projects at present are the full restoration of an A.20 Havoc, Alpha jet, B.26 Marauder, B.36j Convair Peacemaker, Blenheim Mk.IV, Curtis Owl, P.51 Mustang, Martin Mariner, Seasprite, and of some interest to our members a Hawker Hurricane, which has just been completed in the markings of 257 Sqn. It has no serial number as it is composed of several different airframes, the majority coming from an aircraft built at Fort William, Canada, in 1942 which crashed into a lake in St. Johns, Quebec.

Incorporated within this museum is the 390th Bombardment Museum. This separate hanger was built completely by volunteers and ex‑members of 390, and contains a fully restored B.17 and hundreds of artifacts relating to the group. The museum is staffed by members of the group, and I was extremely privileged to spend half an hour chatting with them over a cup of coffee. The 390th operated from Framlingham in Suffolk, and their combat records in brief are; 300 Op's, 19,000 tons of bombs dropped, 179 aircraft lost, 378 EA destroyed, 78 probable, two Unit Citations, and six Battle Streamers.

After lunch, I took the guided coach tour over to the Davis Monthan Airforce base which includes the famous 'Desert Boneyard'. The base is an A10/OA10 Warthog Training Facility, and as you spend time here you become quite used to seeing the rather unusual sight of pairs of A1Os chasing each other across the desert sky almost continuously all day. As you pull into the base itself, you are greeted by the incredible sight of row upon row of aircraft as far as the eye can see. The collection consists of over 5,000 aircraft of all varieties, including helicopters. Our tour guide informed us that they have the fourth largest air force in the world at this site alone, with a value of nearly sixty‑billion dollars-worth of aircraft. The facility consists of three main sections; 1) Aircraft which will be returned to service, 2) Aircraft to be used for parts, and, 3) Aircraft to be sold for scrap metal. The main reason for the location of the site is the low rainfall and humidity in the desert and the hard ground which negates the need for tarmac or concrete stands. The aircraft are inspected and cleaned, covered with paper, and sprayed with 'Spraylat' to reflect sunlight and protect sensitive instruments, and provided they are inspected regularly they can stay out there indefinitely.

Unfortunately, as you may have noticed, I had no sighting of a Spitfire on my visits; I am informed that static/museum‑worthy examples are hard to come by in the USA, so at least we can say that's something we do better than our friends across the pond.

I hope that my experiences have been of some interest and if anyone would like more information on the places visited, please contact me at: jasonamiss@spitfiresociety.org.uk


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Committee News

Regional Webmaster John Fitzgerald has for the last few years done an excellent job of running the Eastern Region Website.  Refreshed at regular intervals with new and interesting material, the Website has been a constant delight to anyone with an interest in aviation, and the Spitfire in particular. That John should have been able to maintain such a professional looking site whilst suffering a serious long-term illness is tribute to his dedication. The good news is that John's health problems are in remission and that he is now able to once again devote himself to fulltime work and his family. Unfortunately this does not allow time for running the Website, and so John has now left the Eastern Region Committee and closed the Website. John has been a highly valued member of our Committee who will be greatly missed. We would like to thank him for his input over the years and for his fine work running our Website. Best wishes for the future, John, and if you are able to make it to the Sales Stand at air shows or any of our other get-togethers we will always be very pleased to see you.

As one door closes two others open and we are delighted to announce that Regional Members Gerard Crutchley and Robert Schofield have joined the Committee. Both Bob and Gerard have become familiar faces on air show days assisting on the Sales Stand, and did sterling service at the last Duxford Spitfire Day helping to look after the static aircraft exhibits. Gerard has offered to take up the reins of organising a new Regional Website, and Bob will be looking at organising events and visits, two very worthwhile jobs indeed. We thank both gentlemen for volunteering their time and bid them a hearty welcome on board.

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Form 700 is produced by Peter Wesson and Dennis Nichols. Photographs by Peter Wesson, Eric Horwood & Jason Amiss.