A very busy, full day as we left Bedford and headed north into Lincoln. We left Bedford, in the rain, headed west then north as we were heading for Syerston airfield. This is an operational airfield and we had arranged to be met at the security gate by an officer who would be our escort while on the base. This support is not available to many and we felt honoured to be allowed to visit the area where so many of our men had served.
Our pilot officer met us and boarded our coach to first take us around the perimeter track and then down the runway. We were able to see where the Lancasters had been sitting prior to being called forward into jump off positions. Those who had a direct connection with the airfield due to family operating from there during the war were taken into the control tower and given a full briefing re the activities conducted at Syerston all those years ago.
Gathering again, we headed back to our coach, said farewell to our escort and continued on our way. We headed into Lincoln and the coach climbed up the hill that has the Cathedral on the summit where our people were dropped near one of the original gates to the old city and they proceeded into the city area for lunch.
All thought the visit to the cathedral very interesting and following our lunch we proceeded to Coningsby where we were given a tour of the large hanger that houses the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. They have the Lancaster, a Hurricane, DC3 and 6 Spitfires. There were 7137 Lancasters made and ˝ were lost. 30 of them did over 30 missions and a small number did over 100 missions, a remarkable plane indeed. There were various model of the Spitfire, Marl 1 to Mark 24. It the flight they have Mark 5s, Mark 9s and a Mark 19. As they progressed and the engines developed with greater power, the number of blades on the propeller increased up to 5 blades for the later models.
Due to their wheels being closer together than the Hurricanes, they were a poor at taxying and many times required someone sitting on the tail to keep from tipping up. One fellow put a WAAF on the tail and when he reached the runway took off with her still there. As he lifted off he felt the plane had something wrong as it was not responding so he circled and landed. He was shocked to see the girl, ashened face, still sitting on the tail. She had hung onto the tailfin and the pressure had kept her there. Both survived the war!
We left Coningsby and then visited the East Kirkby Museum where there is another Lancaster that doesn’t fly, at present though they are working on that, but takes people for a taxy around the airfield. The Chapel has a memorial board with the 891 men lost from that airfield. After a wonderful visit, we headed on to the Officer’s Mess of the Dambusters, now Petwood Hotel, for our night’s stay. Tomorrow, we head further north to York