I knew that today could well be a long one indeed and I was correct in my first thoughts, a long day indeed it was which had us arriving at our hotel in Bedford at 2145. But first, the day and where we went and what we saw. Leaving our hotel at 0830 was interrupted as I nearly forgot to return my key and while the coach waited I returned the key. Most keys these days are the plastic cards that swipe you into your room, but in keeping with old traditions Petwood Hotel still has the key attached to a brass plate with the respective room number etched in to the plate, so, must not forget to return the key!
Our first stop was to the new Bomber Command Heritage Centre that has been established on high ground overlooking Lincoln and from where you can view the famous Lincoln Cathedral high up on the high ground across the valley. Returning Bombers used the Cathedral as a landmark that enabled them to find their airfield safely and in many books written by crews they mention how the sight of the Cathedral meant, home at last. The centre has been well planned over a few acres with trees planted for each of the Bases that were located in Lincolnshire and on each plaque it depicted the losses from those Bases. Around the Spire within the Peace Garden are panels with all the names of those who served in Bomber Command. There were many school children there and guides were taking them through the various interactive displays which they seemed to be enjoying.
After our time at the Memorial we headed through Lincoln to RAF Scampton where we had an appointment to visit the base from where the Dambuster Raid departed from. As an operational base we had to pre-register a few months ago for approval to visit. Met at the gate by our guide we proceeded through the base and out onto the tarmac where the original hangars still stand and are in fact the home of the Red Arrow Aerobatic Team. We were here 2 hours and given a guided tour of the museum and Guy Gibsonís office from where he commanded 617 Squadron. Part of our briefing and tour included significant details of the raid. An excellent visit.
Our next move was to Newak Museum which over the last few years has been expanding due to the number of aircraft they have on display and what they have coming to them in the future. Interesting aircraft that we hadnít seen elsewhere were the 2 Russian MIG fighters, they looked straight out of the Top Gun Movie. Our last 2 stops of the day were a visit to East Kirkby Museum, where they have one of the famous Lancaster Bombers and then on to Downham Market where Grahamís Father-in-Law served as a navigator aboard Lancasters. He had wanted to have a beer in the same hotel that his Father-in-Law used to drink during the War and we all did just that in the Swan Hotel. A big day and we arrived into our hotel at 2100 hours for a late dinner.