The special days keep rolling out. Surely this programme with its surprises that pop up daily sets it above many other tours. This is just not a tour around the UK to visit some installations where the RAF and RAAF had operated from during the War, but a tour that is flexible enough to do the set itinerary but to be able to respond to opportunities.
Today was one of those days where we were able to enjoy our set programme where we visited the Shuttleworth Collection but also were able to visit the area where the airships had been housed, Tempsford Church, Tempsford secret airfield and then the Thurleigh Airfield where the US 306th Bombardment Group had operated from. Following this big day we made our way to Bedford for a well deserved drink before dinner.
On the way to our programmed visit we passed by the huge hangers where the fixed air balloons R101 and R102 were kept and operated from. The hangers are huge and thankfully are being restored. The airships are no longer but at least the hangers are to be kept.
The Shuttleworth Collection is a private collection and has some of the oldest planes, that still fly, in the world. All planes in the collection are taken to the air from time to time but the static displays are very good to view. Many of those planes will be flown at Duxford tomorrow. There are a couple of specials here, one the Storch that is a plane that Rommel uses during his campaigns in the Desert. This plane has a very low stalling speed and can therefore land on a very small space and was used to rescue Mussolini from his mountain prison. The other is the De Havilland passenger plane that used to ply across the English Channel in the 30's and was used extensively by the Australian Flying Doctor Service.
We had lunch at the Shuttleworth Collection and then headed to Tempsford where we again visited the Church and met the Minister. It was a pity that we were not aware that the veterans' service had been moved forward a week otherwise we would have attended. Margaret the Minister remembered the visit last year and again thanked us for attending. We left the Church and sort the location of the airfield, which was where the SOE Agents were flown from into their operations in occupied Europe. There is a small chapel within the Church dedicated to those who failed to return.
John Sutherland had wanted to visit an operational base from where the Americans had operated. Following some research I was able to find that there was such an airfield at Thurleigh, north of Bedford, where the 306th Bombardment Group had operated in their B17 Bombers. We headed towards the old airfield, wondering what we would find. It seemed that the airfield had been turned into a Technological Park as well as a raceway for fast cars. As we arrived there was a practice taking place on the strip. We talked our way into the aerodrome area and made our way around the perimeter track to an excellent museum that was operated by Ralph Franklin and his wife on behalf of the 306th Bomb Group Association. They were very happy to receive our group and we spent an hour viewing the collection, bade him farewell and headed back to our hotel in Bedford. Early start tomorrow as we head to Duxford for the Flying Legends Air Show.