Posts Tagged ‘Bomber Command’

Official opening of International Bomber Command Centre

April 12, 2018

To coincide with 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force today saw the official opening of International Bomber Command Centre.

Veterans of Bomber Command were invited from all over the world. Some like the Poles and other Europeans, had escaped with their lives from occupied Europe to then put their lives on the line to serve in Bomber Command to help defeat Nazi Germany and liberate Europe from German occupation.

Invited they came, from as far afield as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Australian government met the expenses of their veterans who came. Three hundred veterans, the youngest 92 the oldest 100.

Military personnel too, from US, Canada and Australia milling around.

The surrounding roads were closed, causing a long diversion.

Parking in an adjacent field, even for the veterans. Those in wheelchairs somehow managing not to get stuck in the mud.

A guard of honour mounted by RAF personnel, all in dress uniform, bedecked with their medals.

Once in the marquee, reserved for veterans only, would you like sir tea or coffee, from an airman.

Wandering around, the site shrouded in mist, the trees on the site vanished in mist, not even possible to see the South Common, let alone Lincoln Cathedral the other side of the valley.

The site has special significance. It overlooks Lincoln, it overlooks Lincoln Cathedral. A spire that is the tallest war memorial in the country, the height the width of a Lancaster wing span. For the airmen who flew on a bombing raid, Lincoln Cathedral was the last sight of what they called home, on return if they made it back, the first sight they saw. Many did not make it back. Their names, over 57,000, their names are cut in the panels. They may not have made it back, but they live on in spirit, with their laser cut names. The average age of the aircrew, 23 years old.

Also on site the Chadwick Centre named after Sir Roy Chadwick who designed both the Lancaster and the Vulcan.

The Chadwich Centre houses an interactive museum, in conjunction with Lincoln University, a digital archive, which is hoped to go on-line in the summer.

Between the Chadwick Centre and the Memorial Spire, a path alongside are tablets with a dedications to those who lost their lives.

All too soon, everyone was herded out of the warmth of the marquee, where lunch was to be served later, out into the misty cold, for the opening ceremony.

And cold it was. Survival blankets had to be handed out to keep people warm.

An address by someone from the Lottery, who provided some of the funding (the majority was donated by the public), Lord Howe defence minister in the Lords and Nicky Barr chief executive of IBCC whose hard work, plus her army of volunteers, has made everything possible.

There was to have been a Lancaster flypast, but to the disappointment of everyone, not possible.

No official bigwig, Royal Family or RAF Top Brass. Instead, which was a nice touch, the veterans cut the ribbon. A long ribbon unravelled across where the veterans were sat, scissors handed out, and the ribbon cut.

The Last Post, then everyone, no one sure what to do, headed back to warmth. The opening ceremony had not finished, there was more music, drama, but the cold was too much.

In the open reception area of the Chadwick Centre, on sale books, tea, coffee, craft beer.

At the entrance, complimentary copies of Lincolnshire Life featuring IBCC.

Back in the marquee lunch served for the veterans their guests had to make do with the various food stalls parked outside. A choice of burger, burger or burger, one stall had noodles, and another cakes.

The lunch, three sausages one assumes Lincolnshire sausages, served on a bed of potatoes, carrots and peas. The serving staff volunteers from a local college catering school.

BBC Look North excellent live coverage in the evening by Peter Levy and the Look North team, a pity about the crass comments from the weatherman which were uncalled for, and unfortunate cut short by five minutes by a party political broadcast.

One of life’s ironies, as the opening took place, high level meetings in London, the US and across Europe on whether or not to bomb Syria for its use of chemical weapons on civililians.

In the evening a concert.

On Saturday, world premier of the digitally remastered Dambusters.

Evening Thursday 24 May 2018, RAF 100 Centenary Concert in Lincoln Cathedral will also mark 75th Anniversary of the Dambusters Raid.

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Cappuccino at International Bomber Command Centre

February 11, 2018

Last visits to the International Bomber Command Centre were a couple of weeks ago when not yet open to the public, press day and a preview for veterans, I was curious what it was like now open to the public, what better way to find out than to drop in for a cappuccino.

Sunday roast dinner at the Butcher and Beast at Heighington, then on to the International Bomber Command Centre for a cappuccino.

I was pleasantly surprised on arrival to find how many cars parked in the car park, almost full.

Shocked to find have to pay £3 to park. This was a planning condition imposed by the local council. The money will go to the centre, but only I assume after covering the cost of the parking machines.

How to access by public transport I do not know.

There needs to be access from South Common, otherwise quite a trek if on foot.

Speaking with the Director, previous weekend, the first weekend open to the public,  was even busier, I think she said 1100 visitors.

Excellent news, as they need visitor numbers to make the centre viable and provide cash flow.

On entering the open plan reception area, I noticed cabinets arranged corralling a central area, books on sale, souvenirs, including bags of coffee and tea.

The range of books quite limited. I assume not long open, hopefully a wider selection in the near future.

My cappuccino, too hot, weak and insipid. Classic mistake to serve piping hot.

The coffee served, Bomber Command blend, is a blend from Brazil, supplied by Stokes, exclusive to IBCC.

The Bomber Command beans are on sale, but already ground. For freshness, beans have to be whole, ground on demand. Also essential when supply beans, the roast date, best by or use by is meaningless.

Information on the bag about a Bomber Command pilot from Brazil, but nothing about the beans, where sourced from in Brazil, Q grade, not even if Arabica or heaven forbid Robusta.

Also on sale Bomber Command tea, again exclusive to IBCC supplied by Stokes. Disappointingly, in tea bags, not loose leaf tea.

Veterans preview International Bomber Command Centre

January 19, 2018

Excluding a couple of days ago, my last visit to International Bomber Command Centre last summer, muddy approach, portakabins, diggers, trucks, shell of a building, hard hat, steel-tipped boots, hi-vis vests for access.

Today, a loose gravel approach to the finished building.

Not yet officially open, today was to give the veterans a glimpse.

Inside, an open plan reception.

As pass through the entrance, a bust of Roy Chadwick, the man who designed the Avro Lancaster, the four-engine heavy bomber on which the RAF relied for its bombing raids.

Roy Chadwick also designed the Vulcan, a V-bomber powered by jet engines.

An auditorium houses a large screen, static and interactive displays, a timeline showing a bombing raid and a separate screen with a four part depiction of all aspects of aerial warfare.

Bombing started with bombs being dropped from airships. It was thought that air warfare would lead to fewer casualties, fewer causalities than trench warfare.

At the end of the First World War, Germany was in ruins, the victors exacted a very heavy price, even though warned by Keynes not to.

The result was the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Second World War.

Have no lessons been learnt? Is 2008 our 1929? The Wall Street Crash led to the Great Depression, rise of Fascism across Europe, the Second World War. Banking crisis in 2008, economic crisis, geo-political crisis, the economy has not recovered, a rise of Fascism across Europe, Fascist governments in Poland, Hungary and now Spain and Austria, Angela Merkel fears holding an election for fear Fascists will gain more seats, Greece occupied by the EU, the country destroyed to serve as a punishment for the Greeks daring to challenge the EU, banks used instead of tanks. UK threatened with punishment for leaving to serve as a warning to others, even though it will harm Europe and turn southern Europe into a wasteland.

The bombing of Guernica by Franco and Spanish Fascists woke the world to total destruction of a city.

At first Britain was poorly prepared for war, war production was ramped up, bombing raids were not accurate, change targets to cities,  would hit something, terrorise and demoralise the civilian population.

Around the perimeter of the auditorium a timeline of a bombing raid.

Static displays of playing cards, flying boots, a lamp.

The playing cards, on each card, hand written account of a bombing raid.

Interactive with actors playing the part recounting first hand accounts. These narrations collected from first hand accounts. A race against time to collect these stories, as already a third of those who contributed are sadly no longer with us.

Dominating the room a large display.

On the large screen, bombing targets lit up. At first I thought, not many, that was until I noticed a scrolling bar. What was being shown was nightly raids, night by night.

A warning, a film was to be shown, almost like warning of an air raid.

Was this a warning to evacuate the room? Maybe.

Too loud.

Then I could see why so loud, when an Avro Lancaster took off, then the bombs dropped, then a building on fire, then footage from the air of the destroyed buildings, presumably taken by the Germans, then the lost people wandering the streets.

Quite an emotive experience watching the screen.

Upstairs, on the first floor, a gallery with more display panels.

Themes covered the impact on civilians, war production in the factories, French Resistance.

And not forgetting Knight of the Skies, one of the Lincoln Knights who now keeps watch.

A gathering of eighty-nine veterans of Bomber Command, their guests, staff and volunteers, crew of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

I regret not chatting with the veterans, as this will probably be the last time they will all be gathered together. They included the last survivor of the Dambusters Raid, a prisoner of war from Stalag 13.

A good spread of food laid on, but many missed out. This was not due to failure of the catering. It was unfortunate that a lot of greedy people, piled their plates high, then left uneaten. More food was served later, no one went hungry.

The dining room was packed. When open, will be serving a special blend of coffee for the centre, but not today as it would have taken too long to serve coffee from an espresso machine.  It was though a pity the coffee beans were not on sale, as will be when the Centre opens to the public, as would probably have sold out. There will also be a special blend of tea. Both supplied by Stokes.

The site is in two parts. The Chadwick Building and the Memorial Spire surrounded by concentric rusting steel panels into which have been cut the names of those who died.

The path connecting the two, has stone tablets with more details of some who died.

Either side of the path, trees have been planted to represent each of the airfield. A plaque by each tree records the squadrons based there and the number who died.

The site looks across the Witham Valley to Lincoln Cathedral the other side.

Why Lincoln? Lincolnshire was known as Bomber County.

The Centre is not only a visitor centre, it will also be a research centre with archive material.

The Centre tells the story from all sides, the crew on the ground, the aircrew, and the Germans who were bombed.

What is the point some may say.

Syria. Look what Assad has done to Syria, bombed-out buildings, the only way he can retain control of Syria is to kill his own people, aided and abetted by Vladimir Putin.

Yemen. Corrupt House of Saud carrying out genocide in Yemen, weapons supplied courtesy of British arms companies.

Press preview International Bomber Command Centre

January 17, 2018

My last visit to International Bomber Command Centre, muddy approach, shell of a building, hard hat, steel-tipped boots, hi-vis vests for access.

Today, a loose gravel approach to the finished building.

Not yet officially open, today was to give the media a glimpse.

Walking in, after passing through an open plan reception, a large auditorium, large screen, various interactive and static displays.

The interactive displays, students dressed the part, speaking what it was like, based upon recorded first hand accounts.

The interactive displays in the prison cells in the old Victorian Prison in Lincoln Castle give an idea of what to expect.

For the Centre, to collect these first hand accounts, was literally a race against time.

Since the first hand accounts were collected, of people in their nineties, a third of those who gave these first hand accounts are sadly no longer with us.

The static displays, a pair of flying boots, a lamp, playing cards.

The playing cards, on each card, hand written account of a bombing raid.

Dominating the room a large display.

On the large screen, bombing targets lit up. At first I thought, not many, that was until I noticed a scrolling bar. What was being shown was nightly raids, night by night.

A warning, a film was to be shown, almost like warning of an air raid.

Was this a warning to evacuate the room? Maybe.

Too loud.

Then I could see why so loud, when an Avro Lancaster took off, then the bombs dropped, then a building on fire, then footage from the air of the destroyed buildings, presumably taken by the Germans, then the lost people wandering the streets.

I was privileged to be able to watch this in a room on my own, well almost on my own, a BBC film crew and one veteran of WWII Bomber Command.

The impact would not have been the same in a room full of people.

To describe as emotional would be an understatement.

I later congratulated the Centre Director Nicky Barr and said she should she be very proud of what she has created.

She said that even though she had created, the first time she watched, it was a very emotive experience.

There are other smaller rooms, including dining room, with coffee, San Remo espresso machine and associated kitchen.

Not today, but when up and running, will be serving a special blend of coffee and tea created for the Centre by Stokes. They will also have on sale bags of the coffee and tea.

The Centre is not only a visitor centre, it will also be a research centre with archive material.

The Centre tells the story from all sides, the crew on the ground, the aircrew, and the Germans who were bombed.

What is the point some may say.

Syria. Look what Assad has done to Syria, bombed-out buildings, the only way he can retain control of Syria is to kill his own people, aided and abetted by Vladimir Putin.

Yemen. Corrupt House of Saud carrying out genocide in Yemen, weapons supplied courtesy of British arms companies.

International Bomber Command Centre

September 4, 2017

I have had two previous visits to the IBCC Memorial Spire, but this was the first time I had access to the centre.  A hard hat area. A guided tour courtesy of the contractors and the director.

The building is complete, or almost complete on the outside, but a lot of work to do on the inside.

All materials wherever possible have been sourced locally.

A number of separate and distinct areas.

Videos where airmen in their own words will tell their stories. This will be very much like what can be found at the Victorian Prison in Lincoln Castle.

A large screen.  This will tell the story of the airmen, but also what it was like on the ground.

An area for school projects.

A restaurant and coffee shop.

These days too many are opening coffee shops and serving awful coffee.

Stokes will supply the coffee, hopefully better coffee than their undrinkable house blend.

Stokes will provide training, but training does not make a barista. Only working with a skilled barista.

I have qualms re the use as a corporate venue.

Too many places are now being hijacked as corporate venues.

Were business to pay its fair share of tax, were corporate tax dodging to be dealt with, there would be more than sufficient public funding for culture.

What was lacking, or at least not mentioned, an archive and artefacts.

We then had a wander to the Spire and the Memorial Wall.

The names of the airman who died serving in Bomber Command during WWII are laser cut into the panels.

Knight of the Skies

April 23, 2017

Last year, cows started appearing all over Guildford. In Brighton it was snow dogs. In Lincoln it is Knights.

Bomber Command Memorial is rarely open, as work is still ongoing. Today was one of those special days when open.

Today a very special visitor, Knight of The Skies, kitted out as aircrew in WWII Bomber Command.

Designer of Knight of the Skies Rosie Ablewhite could not be present. Had she been, I would have complimented her on her interpretation.

I will not describe, other than to mention the sword, look carefully and will see it is the Spire, look again, and will see it is the same as the wingspan of an Avro Lancaster.

The sword is covered in corten steel, same material as the Spire and the concentric Memorial Walls.

Knight of the Skies is signed by the sole surviving member of the Dambusters Raid.

Knight of the Skies will move. He will be found at the top of Steep Hill, in Castle Hill, outside Lincoln Castle where he will be part of the Knights Trail.

Lincoln Knights’ Trail – 36 knights across Lincoln city centre – to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln and the sealing of the Charter of the Forest.

According to Professor David Carpenter:

The Battle of Lincoln, one of the most decisive in English history, meant that England would be ruled by the Angevin, not the Capetian dynasty.

The Knights in Lincoln, cows in Guildford, snow dogs in Brighton, are part of a much larger project, Wild in Art.

St George’s Day at Bomber Command Memorial Spire

April 23, 2017

When I last visited Bomber Command Memorial Spire, it was an unpleasant cold March afternoon. Today, by pleasant contrast, although a chill in the air in the morning, a pleasant warm sunny afternoon, especially if got out of the wind.

Daffodils were still in flower. The variety I learnt, a very pale yellow, almost white, is Lady of Lincolnshire.

There are areas of grass intended to be regularly cut, others are of rough grass. I would strongly recommend, the rough areas, sow wild flower seeds and manage as a traditional hay meadow. Allow the grass to grow tall, wait until seeded then mow some time late June. It may even be possible to find a farmer who will be interested in the hay. Then once the hay cut and removed, mow regular, but not short. Ideally once cut for hay, graze animals, rare breeds

There needs to be access to the South Common. If not open access, then a fence or a wall, with a gate, that leads direct down from the Spire, where a path runs along and a path or steps leading down into the common, all it would require are steps leading down to the path.

Today we were honoured with Knight of the Skies, one of a series of Knights dotted around Lincoln. He will then, I was told, move to Castle Hill, top of Steep Hill, outside Lincoln Castle, where he will form part of the Knights Trail.

Bomber Command Memorial was due to officially open in September. That date has now been put back to next year, when it will coincide with 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force.

Bomber Command Memorial

March 19, 2017

Bomber Command Memorial, at the top of Canwick Hill, overlooks South Common, with stunning views across the Witham Valley, over Lincoln, and on a  clear day, as today, over the Trent Valley.

The site is quite eerie, consisting of a central spire, which represents two wings of a Lancaster Bomber, and concentric walls.

The spire and the walls are made of rusting iron, or maybe steel, I assume to represent Lincoln once the city of heavy industry, with foundries, sadly long gone, skilled jobs replaced by low paid temporary McShit jobs.

The spire, not apparent until close up, is hollow.

The walls, are covered in names, cut into the walls both sides, the names of airman who died during World War Two. I was told 56,000, though I did not count.

Not yet open to the public. Today was an Open Day. I was an invited guest.

Also on site and as yet unfinished International Bomber Command Centre and a wooden shed.

Inside the shed, a long table half way down one side, with half a dozen veterans signing books and limited edition prints and answering questions.

One end serving tea and coffee, the other end a few books for sale.

Signed limited edition prints of paintings by one of the veterans.

I was surprised by the number of people there.

Everything run by volunteers, all pleasant and helpful, with two exceptions.

A man thrust a bucket in my face and more or less demanded I put in some money. I had no money, I expected an empty site.

Whilst looking at one of the books, I was told they are for sale not for looking at. He then bragged to an associate that he worked in a charity shop where he tells customers that books are for sale not for looking at.

One thing is needed, and hopefully there will be, when the site is officially open, a way up from South Common, otherwise a long trek round.

There needs to be path and steps leading up from South Common to the Memorial. Then if on the Common, can walk up, or, if at the Memorial and a pleasant day can combine with a walk on the Common.

Children’s experience of the Bombing War

January 25, 2017

In the interwar years, the theory was, all out war, total war. Destroy the cities, destroy the factories, destroy the workers, kill the means of production, destroy morale and the will to go on.

Aerial bombing may have had impact on Arab tribes, possibly because the experience was alien to them

Off the scale was kill millions, wipe out the cities.

Whilst this may be possible today, with the exception of Guernica, which even horrifies today, and Dresden, it was not possible.

Analysis of aerial footage, showed only about five percent of the targets were hit, and from British experience, it was known it was possible to recover very quickly, even when factories were damaged.

Each bomber produced had on average a lifetime of fourteen operational sorties. How best to make use of limited resources?

It was decided to change tack, destroy the housing, an easier target to hit. If the workers had nowhere to live, they would be demoralised.

But again, what basis was there for this?

It was decided to carry out a survey of children, what was their experience of bombing, the 1942 British bombing survey.

Two cities were chosen, Birmingham and Hull. The children were asked to write essays, the essays were then analysed to see what understanding could be drawn from those essays.

The children aged 10 to 12 years old, were asked to write an essay What Happened to Me and What I Did in the Air Raids.

Mrs Ingram got an incendiary bomb in her back bedroom and my father and brother put it out.

…there was a little bang and my brother said that he would have to go out as it was a firebomb and he would have to put it out. While he was putting it out a bomb dropped and blew him inside the shelter again.

When we got into the house there wasn’t half a mess. I started to tidy up and then I lighted [sic] the fire and made my mother and the two other children a nice hot cup of tea.

I was glad that I could do something to help, for there was a lady who came into our shelter who was very frightened. She had a little child of one and a half years. The lady was trembling, I took the little baby, and every time a bomb came down I threw a pillow over myself and the little girl, who was called Sheila. She kept crying but at last I hushed her to sleep.

What these essays showed was the children were coping, the families were coping. They show  the normality, life went on, a bomb may have dropped, put it right with a nice cup of tea.

Dad may be working during the day, on fire watch at night. If injured, he came home, was patched up by Mum and went straight back out again.

Brother helped put out the fires.

Mum looked after the household possessions, tidied and cleaned up the house after a bombing raid.

Sister helped Mum keep order, looked after the little ones, made a nice hot cup of tea.

They coped.

They saw after the initial horror of the bombing raids, the city was not destroyed, they could cope, life went, you kept on smiling. You may be afraid, but that was normal to be afraid.

If the intention was to reduce productivity capacity, or destroy morale, it failed.

This then questioned the effectiveness of bombing German cities.

It also raises question of why the policy of evacuating children from the cities to the countryside.  No only were they able to cope, they actually provided a support mechanism for the family.

And we know, when children were evacuated, they very quickly returned home.

A fatalistic attitude, if we are going to die, we may as well all die together.

We see this today in Syria. Assad does not control the countryside. The only way he controls the cities is by reducing to rubble.

And Assad does not cow the people. When they are finally forced to leave, they are still defiant, the children are defiant. The children even go on-line and record their experiences to let the world know.

The only main difference between Syria and WWII, is that WWII, very clearly defined roles between men and women, whereas in the north of Syria there are very effective Kurdish all-women fighting units.

A future research project, ask the children from  Aleppo to write an essay  What Happened to Me and What I Did in the Bombing Raids.

An excellent talk by Dr James Greenhalgh, senior lecturer, at University of Lincoln Riseholme Campus.

Dr James Greenhalgh is author of a forthcoming book on this topic.

Filming of documentary on bombing raid

December 30, 2016

Filming of a documentary of a World War Two Bomber Command bombing raid from the viewpoint of a Lancaster crew.

Interviews with veterans, film footage of raid.

The film, title not yet known, may be crowdfunded, possible available as DVD and streamed on vimeo.

A taster will be posted on vimeo and youtube.

Filmmaker Andrew Panton.