We awoke this morning in Wolverhampton to an overcast day with the likelihood of showers and as we headed towards Cosford where we were to visit the IWM RAF Cosford Museum the clouds ahead of us took on a very dark grey indeed. Maybe a wet day ahead.
We arrived just before opening and made our way to the cafeteria where we met Frank who was to guide us through the Conservation Centre and the many halls where the planes on display are waiting. At the Conservation Centre it is now not possible to walk through the area where the work is going on but we were able to view the area from the viewing platform while Frank gave us a rundown on the projects in hand.
There are many jobs being undertaken but the 3 that were of most interest to us was the work restoring the Wellington, the Handley Page Hampben and of course the Dornier 17. Unfortunately, the decision has been taken to not fully rebuild the Dornier as the 70 plus years that it laid under the sand and water in the Channel has left it in a very poor state and it will be displayed as it was the day they retrieved it from its grave out there. It has be cleaned though and the 2 tonnes of sand cleared completely out of the frames. The Wellington is at present receiving the outer skin being sewn on and the Hampden is at the stage of its first undercoat.
We were escorted first to the experimental hangar where we saw many prototypes of famous and current planes including the Harrier Jump Jet, the Mirage and others that were built as prototypes but development did not proceed whether due to technical or political issues. The next hangar we viewed was the Second World War hangar where we saw a full display of German aircraft that had only recently been brought up from RAF Hendon. A very good display and good to see them there with a bit of space around them to enable a closer inspection and Frank allowed us to go over the rope to get up real close. The Spitfire, Hurricane, Lincoln Bomber, an update from the famous Lancaster and many others from those times were there to see. We thanked Frank for his time with us and then were cast adrift to continue our inspection of the Museum in our own time.
A quick lunch in the Museum and away we went heading further north towards York but first we had a 1600 appointment at the Memorial Garden at RAF Snaith. This was to be our biggest day on the road and we arrived at Snaith at 1604 to be met by Peter Gulliver of the RAF 51 Squadron History Society and Philip Winter, Reporter from the Goole Times and Selby Times. Peter is the Secretary of the Society and part of the team who now look after the Garden and Philip was there to do a story about our visit for the local Press and he interviewed a few of our group including Frank Harrington whose father, Pat, flew out of Waddington during the War.
Peter took us through the gate into the Garden and explained the layout which has memorial plates with the crews who failed to return on one side of the Garden and on the other, memorial plates for those who survived the war but have since passed on. There are many stories within this Garden including the fate of some who survived after parachuting out of their stricken aircraft but were subsequently murdered and this group included one who was part of the Great Escape but was recaptured and executed. 51 Sqn operated out of Snaith from October 1942 to April 1945 and were flying Halifax aircraft. Their casualties in that time were very high but they shall be remembered by those who maintain the Garden and those who are fortunate to visit it. We were fortunate that Renee, President of the Society, was able to meet us as on the way she had a nail in one of her car tyres which delayed her. After conducting a small Service, where Peter laid a Poppy, we said our farewells and moved on to York.