Friday, 9 July 2010

Last of the few

We've had a car this week, a very nippy (and unbelievably economical) Citroen C3. It's compact, comfy and incredibly easy to drive. Getting back behind the wheel of our Toyota Verso the other day was like driving a tank. And another thing the C3's got is the perfect windscreen for spotting 'planes.

Lincolnshire is famous for two things: cabbages (as well as sprouts and spuds and other veg.) and the RAF. Ok, there are other things too like Tennyson (Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do or die, Into the valley of death rode the six hundred...) Lincoln Cathedral and Skegness, but it's not called 'Bomber County' for nothing. During the Second World War there were more active airfields in Lincolnshire (49) than in any other county; the famous 617 'Dambusters' flew from Scampton, just north of Lincoln, which is home now to the Red Arrows. And just up the road from us lies one of the most active military airfields and home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight: RAF Coningsby.

Now I'm no 'plane spotter. Seriously, there are some guys there (and they all seem to be men) with special walkie-talkies things tuned in to the control tower and lenses longer than, well... you get the picture. But now and again I like seeing my taxes being spent as well as watching a free air-display, and you can usually rely on Coningsby for that. Charlie likes it too. So a car with a retractable roof and extra-large windscreen was ideal. Mind you, these planes sometimes get a bit too close for comfort.

Having watched through the perimeter fence, I decided it was time to get up close and personal. As Coningsby is home to the RAF's squadron of WW2 historic aircraft (one of two remaining Lancasters, five Spitfires, two Hurricanes and a Dakota) members of the public can get onto the base (or at least, part of it) and be taken on a guided tour by a man with swagger stick and waxed moustache. You think I'm joking, don't you?

Anyway, if you're in the area it's worth a visit. And it's free. Well, the guided tour isn't; but it's worth a fiver to get this close to part of our island's history...

As Churchill memorably put it, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few..." This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the Battle fought between 10th July and 31st October 1940, and there are displays by the BBMF up and down the country. So if you don't live near Lincolnshire, it doesn't matter. The last of the few will come to you.

Lest we forget.
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