On behalf of your President and Committee I wish you and your families a Very Happy Christmas and let us hope 2021 sees the end of the Virus and these dreadful lock downs. It would be lovely to meet in the Portivo again. Your committee has been meeting monthly virtually using ‘Zoom’. Whilst it is not the same as in person, it does enable us to keep the Branch working.
Lorraine does the admin bits; Sally continues to work tirelessly as our Branch Welfare Officer; Chris guards the Branch money; and John regularly attends events where he can display our Standard. Alas the Social Events Co-ordinator has not been able to function this year.
I was proud to lay a wreath on behalf of our Branch at the Gloucester War Memorial on Sunday 8th November. It was an unofficial and very low-key Remembrance event and I was accompanied by John with our Standard. Richard Graham MP made an unscheduled appearance to lay a wreath as did 20 others, including a wreath from RAF Brize Norton.
Alas in Gloucestershire we no longer have RAF bases except for RAF Fairford, now inhabited by the USAF. We should remember the flying done by the B-52s, aircraft that are destined for a service life of 70 years. Last August six B-52s from RAF Fairford flew over all the NATO countries in Europe.
The RAFA Dedication is: -
“In friendship and in service one to another, we are pledged to keep alive the memory of those of all Nations who died in the Royal Air Force and in the Air Forces of the Commonwealth. In their name we give ourselves to this noble cause. Proudly and thankfully we will remember them.”
With this in mind I thought it would be of interest to reflect and remember 12 remarkable aviators.
The first must be Daedalus. In modern military terms he would be an artificer. He designed and constructed wings and flew over some Greek Islands on the way to Sicily. The Goddess Athena was much impressed and awarded him wings. I am sure we are aware that RAF wings depict feathers. Sadly, his son Icarus was the victim of probably the first air accident.
My choice for second would be John Stringfellow, who in 1848 achieved the first powered flight with a steam powered monoplane at Chard, near my birthplace.
RFC Lieutenant Leefe Robinson VC was born in India and in September 1916 flying an adapted BE2c biplane at 11,500ft shot down a German airship.
Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, where would our holidays have been without the jet engine? Remember in May 1941 the first flight of a jet aircraft (Gloster E.28/39) was from what is now the M5 south of Gloucester.
Olympic Gold Medal winner, Pilot Officer William Meade Lindsley Fiske was the first American pilot to lose his life in combat during the Second Would War in August 1940.
In September 1940, Flight Lieutenant Robert Coventry was the pilot of a Blenheim bomber that crashed in a field in Quedgeley, he stayed at the controls to avoid hitting the School.
ATA pilot Ann Wood who flew a Spitfire under the Severn Bridge at high tide in Spring 1943. She had less than 30ft headroom.
In May 1945, Squadron Leader Gerald Anthony de Souza lead a flight of 8 Liberators from Salboni in India to attack Japanese troops in Rangoon, some 2000-mile round trip. SqnLdr de Souza was the only Indian to command an RAF Flight. The starboard outer engine caught fire, followed by the inner failing, bombs were jettisoned and the aircraft ditched. Amongst those lost was Wing Commander James Nicholson who in August 1940 became the only Battle of Britain pilot to win the VC.
Pilot Ex RN Lieutenant Commander Peter Twiss in a Fairey Delta 2 was the first to exceed 1000mph when he increased the world speed record by over 300mph to 1132mph in March 1956.
Wing Commander Nikki Thomas became the first ever female commander of an RAF Tornado Bomber Squadron when she took over No 12 (Bomber) Squadron in January 2015.
Very best wishes,
Chairman RAFA Gloucester Branch