We left York at 0800 not knowing that we were driving into a day of Magic Moments. The day started as most on the Tour when we visited Holme on Spalding Moor to firstly pay our respects in conducting a small Service to remember those lost flying from Holme on Spalding Moor from both 458 RAAF Sqn and 76 RAF Sqn.
After our Service we entered the showroom that displays Joe Rotherham's business products, beautiful fireplaces and proceeded to a back corridor where Joe has developed a picture museum of the Squadrons who had served here. When Joe was demolishing some of the old buildings he came upon may photos, paper clippings and other information associated with those Squadrons who had served here and instead of dumping it all he prepared 58 Story panels and mounted them on the wall. This is history on a wall.
Our next stop was RAF Binbrook, the home of 460 Sqn RAAF. This famous Sqn dropped more tonnage of bombs onto enemy positions during the War than any other. Casualties were also high, the most for any Sqn. We made our way to the airfield, which has been closed and the actual runways have been dug out and used for road base, however the old hangars are still there and being used as part of this Industrial Estate. At the airfield, adjacent to the hangars there is a small patch of ground that has been kept as a Memorial to the Sqn. We made our way to the actual Memorial for we were there to conduct a Service of Remembrance for Sqn Leader Eric Utz DFC and Bar.
Eric was Kathie's uncle and he was lost on the infamous raid on Nuremburg on 30th of March 1944. On this raid 96 aircraft failed to return. This meant that 545 men were lost in the one raid, the worst nightly loss of the whole War. All in his crew did not perish and his Navigator, Ron McCleary was badly wounded in the initial assault by a night fighter and it is believed the crew threw him out of the plane as they knew he wouldn't survive the trip back to England. The plane flew on its way but exploded killing all left on board. After being repatriated from the POW Camp, Ron wrote a heartfelt letter to Eric's mother detailing what had happened. James took us through the action and Kathie read McCleary's letter.
At the Memorial we proceeded with our Service and Kathie laid a wreath in Remembrance, we then said the Ode, played the Last Post, had a minutes silence before playing reveille but halfway through the tune there was a fly past of a formation of Euro Fighters. A fitting addition to our Service. We then left the area but firstly we were fortunate to meet Daren who managers the Industrial Estate and he took us down to see the General Headquarters Building and briefed us on the other buildings that are still standing. We thanked him and headed into the village to the Plough for lunch.
The Plough was one of the 2 Pubs in the village frequented by the men posted to RAF Binbrook and after we arrived we met a local couple from nearby Nettleham, Wendy and James Brown who often come to the Pub following a walk over the local fields. They were happy we were there to remember those who had been lost and James relived the times as a young lad that he had visited the area. We said goodbye to them, finished our lunch and headed off towards Conisby.
On our way we found and called in to see the Chainholm Radar Tower a Stenigot This Radar Tower was most important in the defence of the UK during the Battle of Britain as in enabled the RAAF to direct their effort to the areas where the Germans were seen approaching. One of the least known reasons for the success of the fighters. Sarah was really happy that we could visit the site as she has a real interest in radar and other radio equipment being trained as an operator in her time in the Army.
As we proceeded towards Conisby we saw the Lancaster in the distance flying towards its home. We arrived, met David Grindrod, who was our guide for our visit and proceeded into the hangar. But first we were able to go outside near the tarmac to view up close the arrival of the Lancaster. What a win, our timing was perfect that we were able to be here as she arrived. We spoke to the crew as they disembarked and then headed back into the hangar for our visit. We were told the Lancaster will take off in an hour so we were able to be guided through the hangar and had a full briefing by Dave on the Dakota, Hurricane and Spitfire before returning to the tarmac to see the Lancaster take to the sky again, a wonderful site which in itself was very moving seeing this 70 year old bomber in the air again. How fortunate were we to be here 2 days after it had come back from a major overhaul.
We had spoken to the Navigator and told him we were to stay at the Petwood Hotel, the Officers Mess of the Dam Busters and that is where we next arrived. We settled in and were sitting out in the garden when a roar was heard and the Lancaster arrived at treetop level to fly over us, an incredible moment and a fitting end to what was an extraordinary day.