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"The Chairman From Hell Gives One to the Adjutant!"

2nd March 2004 - A memento for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with thanks on behalf of the lifeboat crews.

RAF Coningsby
 

Flight Lieutenat Jack Hawkins RAFR, Adjutant, receives the photographic memento on behalf of the BBMF from RNLI Branch Chairman Tom Field "on behalf of the lifeboat crews" in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight hangar at RAF Coningsby on Tuesday 2nd March 2004

Flight Lieutenant Jack Hawkins RAFR, Adjutant, receives the photographic memento on behalf of the BBMF from RNLI Branch Chairman Tom Field "on behalf of the lifeboat crews" in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight hangar at RAF Coningsby on Tuesday 2nd March 2004


The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight have become regular supporters of our 24 Hour Sponsored Sailing Race organised and run by Lakeside Sailing Club, at Ferry Meadows. For a few years now it has become natural for the start of the race to be followed immediately by something of a hush as everyone strains their ears to be the first to detect the unmistakable, growing sound of approaching Rolls Royce Merlin engines. The spirit of Sir Frederick Henry Royce, born at Alwalton, the village next to the lake upon which our race is sailed and the resting place of his ashes, must revel in that sound which no-one can hear without speaking his name. History tells that he was a man who worked hard in pursuit of excellence, and, though he is said to have never flown in an aeroplane, he would no doubt have appreciated, as we do, the professional dedication of the RAF crews who fly the engines made years after his death by the company that bore his name.

The impeccable timing of these masters of the skies, made possible only by the great commitment and professionalism of the crews, has become one of our local legends - when the Adjutant rings to confirm final arrangements a couple of days before the event he will typically say "Just confirming, 15:01 hours Saturday" and that is what they mean. They do not mean 15:00 nor 15:02, and certainly not "about three o'clock"! Their standards of personal performance bring to mind the levels of professional achievement to which the members of our lifeboat crews strive - only the best will do!

Surely, the spirit and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice which was shown by the young airmen who flew these aircraft in darker times over a half century ago has something in common with the selfless service to others, usually strangers whom they do not even know, shown by our lifeboat crews. It seems entirely fitting that supporters of the RNLI should share their admiration and gratitude for the lifeboat crews of today with similar thoughts and feelings for those RAF aircrew of the past. Though they fight their battles in different environments and against different elements, they all put themselves very much "in harm's way" for the sake of others. Perhaps the spirit of the lifeboat crews, which we experience in our own times and nearer to home, will assist us to make sure that "...at the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them."

Paul Young's photograph that was framed for the presentation - copies available at the Nene Digital website

Paul Young's photograph that was framed for the presentation - copies available at
Nene Digital's website

And so it was, then, that our excited little party, after months of preparation and fixing of dates, set out from Orton for Coningsby, via Elton. The Press Officer, the Race Officer and the Chairman From Hell wove their way through deepest Lincolnshire carrying the all important photograph, taken at the start of last year's race by professional photographer Paul Young of Nene Digital and given to the RNLI Branch for this purpose. Well, the Race Officer reckoned he knew the way and said it would take an hour, the Press Officer is a sceptical old soul and made them all allow a good two hours and the Chairman was content when they arrived just nicely, a few minutes before time!

The party were received by Flight Lieutenant Jack Hawkins RAFR, Adjutant to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The Commanding Officer was away on resettlement leave preparing for his retirement after several years as the Flight's CO and a quarter of a century flying fighter aircraft with them. We wished the Flight well for the future with their new CO - not so new to them as he has been flying Spitfires for them for five years. The old CO found his way to Lakeside in a Spitfire and whilst wishing him well in his retirement we look forward to seeing his replacement over our waters. Our team were shown around the hangar by Flt Lt Hawkins for whom we have particularly close feelings for, as Adjutant to the Flight, it is he more than anyone who "sends them to us" each year and he is the voice and humanity of the Flight that we deal with personally each year. Questions were answered, stories were told, feelings shared and all manner of explanations were given as we studied the finest flight of vintage WWII aircraft on the face of the earth! These aircraft and the aircrews who flew and fly them are held in the highest of regard by millions of people all over the world, not least in Germany where so many aircrew fought against them with all their skill and courage and must have felt the same human emotions and fears as did the RAF crews. It was a privilege for us to see the aircraft, to see the work progressing in preparation for this year's season of flying appearances and to learn perhaps a little more of what it might have felt like to fly these wonderful machines from a man who knows so much of what it is all about. Again as we ended our visit, we were in the debt of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

The day after the visit, the Press Officer received official notification from Strike Command HQ at High Wycombe that a Spitfire will be visiting us again this year .....at "about" 15:01 hours Saturday, June 19th, if we know anything about them!. We now know from the expert how they do it - the impeccable timing that is! When asked how it was achieved in these aircraft which still only carry their original flying systems, Flt Lt Hawkins said, almost amazed that we should wonder, "They do have throttles you know!". Apart from that the pilots have the assistance of a folded up paper map, a wrist watch and the "Mark 1 Eyeball" which can be pointed out of the cockpit windows to look for landmarks! As the Adjutant said, it is easy in the Lancaster and perhaps the Dakota DC3 - the pilot has a colleague, called the navigator, doing the map and eyeball stuff for him while he flies the aircraft. But, those fighter pilots, in the Spitfires and Hurricane, are doing it all on their own and no doubt feeling something of a culture shock at the weekends after spending the week at their "day job", flying Tornados and the like!

On behalf of the lifeboat crews, thank you to all our friends at the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight who make their own special magic work for us!

The Adjutant and the Chairman in front of the Lancaster as it was being prepared for flying in a couple of weeks as the new season of appearances approaches for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

The Adjutant and the Chairman in front of the Lancaster as it was being prepared for flying in a couple of weeks as the new season of appearances approaches for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.