Battlefield History Tours

Battlefield History Tours
Incorporating History and Heritage tours

On Tour - Rail in the UK Tour 3 July 2023


We said goodbye to York as we started our long trek south, but first we will drop in to RAF Coningsby to check on the work there preparing the Lancaster to take place in a couple of airshows. A nice day, but a little windy but allowed a nice shot of the river there as we headed out past the walled city. We had an uneventful run south and had a break at Blyth Services around 90 minutes south of York before we pressed on.

We were heading for Woodhall Spa and the Petwood Hotel that was used by the Dam Busters when preparing for their famous raid. As we passed RAF College Cranwell, Royal Airforce Training College, we paused to take in the beautiful Headquarters and the Special Gates that are World Heritage Listed. RAF College Cranwell was the world's first Air Academy and today, it continues to select and train the new generation of RAF Officers. Sir Hugh Trenchard (first Chief of the Air Staff) established the RAF College at RAF Cranwell on 5 January 1920. This assisted with the consolidation of the RAF's position as a single and independent service.

Pushing on, we found a nice country Pub for lunch. The Coach and Horses was recently purchased but the young couple and we gad to be the first daytime customers that they had, and the food was excellent. The Bomber Command Tour will return to this pub for a Ploughman's Lunch on the 10 July 2023. Following lunch, we continued to RAF Coningsby Heritage Centre, the Home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight where we were escorted into the main hangar for a conducted tour of the history of the Centre and how they had acquired their heritage planes, including the famous Lancaster and Spitfires. But there were also 2 special Hurricanes, the last one built and one that had flown in the Battle of Britain. An interesting story was told to us by the guide who then showed a photo to back the story. On a windy day, before taking off groundcrew would sit on the tail while the Spitfire taxied to the starting spot and when there the pilot would put his hand up through the cabin which was the signal for the "tail holder" to get off and then away the plane would go.

This day the pilot started to taxi, and the wind started and a young WAAF, Margaret Horton, was nearby and sat on the tail. She waited until the signal came, but it didn’t, and the pilot gunned the motor and took off. Margaret put her hands around the tail and hung as the plane went up into the air. While hanging on, she was moving the rudder which made the plane wobble. The pilot thought there was something wrong with the plane and circled around telling the tower that he was landing, he was told, yes there is something wrong, you have a passenger on the tail!! He landed safely and when the plane slowed down, Margaret jumped off with no injuries. The photo was a reenactment for the press of the day as there was not a photo of the actual incident as all were trying to get her down safely.

An excellent visit and while in the hangar there was a huge rainstorm that we heard battering on the roof of the hangar. Next stop was our accommodation for tonight, The Petwood Hotel. Tomorrow, we push on to Norwich for more adventures. After completing this piece, I decided to go downstairs to walk the beautiful gardens. In fact, I did not get far as the group that were there saw me and rushed up to greet me as in around 2014, I had met them and took our group to their celebration at their old airfield museum, not far from here. All remembered me from then and manny of the wives of the fellows gave me a cuddle for returning to visit again. Quite moving actually and we will be dining with them this evening.

Graham Fleeton.


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