Past Branch Visits Reports 2011/2012

Past Branch Visits Reports

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Wattisham Flying Station – Wednesday 18th April 2012

Forty six Branch members together with partners and friends were superbly entertained at RAF Wattisham on Wednesday 18th April 2012. An introductory briefing on the station’s current roles and responsibilities was followed by a hangar visit where the Apache helicopter’s impressive capability was explained in detail. After an excellent curry lunch in the Officers’ Mess the party was given a briefing on B Flight No 22 Squadron’s SAR operations and the day concluded with a visit to the station’s newly refurbished Heritage Museum, including the restored 111 Squadron ‘Blackjack’ Hunter and the recently arrived Phantom gate guardian from RAF Brampton.

RAF Museum Cosford – 9th May 2011

For their 31st Branch visit, 53 branch members and friends went to the National Cold War Exhibition and the Michael Beetham Conservation Centre at the RAF Museum Cosford.

The Royal Air Force Museum at Cosford opened in 1979. Shortly after this the British Airways Collection was added. It houses one of the largest collections of aircraft, engines and missiles in the UK – some of them examples which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world – arranged in separate themed collections, and much else besides.

The National Cold War Exhibition was opened in a massive new building, itself the winner of many awards, by the Princess Royal accompanied by Lady Thatcher in 2007. Costing £15 million and helped by grants from the European Regional Development Fund, the National Lottery and local authorities, the striking glass and steel structure is large enough to hold a Belfast transport, all three V-Bombers and seventeen other aircraft, some suspended by cables from the roof, and enabled most of Cosford’s aircraft to be put under cover for the first time.

This magnificent exhibition traces the evolution of the Cold War from Churchill’s famous Iron Curtain speech towards the end of WWII to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The two spectacular triangular structures, connected by an overhead walkway, reflect the opposing ideologies of the West and the Warsaw Pact. Besides aircraft there are other iconic items from that era, a Trabant, a VW Beetle and a Mini for example, and an Opel Senator saloon specially modified for espionage, as well as stands dealing with submarines and armoured vehicles. Critical aspects in the Cold War – the Cuban Missile Crisis, Berlin as a flashpoint, the anti-missile protests and much more – are also featured.

The Michael Beetham Conservation Centre opened in 2002 – Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Michael Beetham was Chief of Air Staff from 1977 to 1982 and is Chairman of the museum trustees. The MBCC restores aircraft and artefacts for the two RAF museums at Hendon and Cosford and was previously at RAF Cardington, which we visited in 1998. It is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave – aircraft currently being restored include a WW1 Sopwith Dolphin, a Spitfire 19, the only surviving Hampden and a Vickers Wellington, as well as an air-sea rescue launch.

Mike Hawkins FRAeS

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