Sunday, 17 August 2014

Historic Lancasters' tandem flight takes place in Lincolnshire



Historic Lancasters' tandem flight takes place in Lincolnshire

Well here I am again, having survived a second week at the Temple of Mammon (I'd love to write this blog as a full-time job but would struggle to make it pay, I'm afraid!), with the exciting vintage news of the moment - the arrival of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Avro Lancaster in Britain!  The only other airworthy example in the world after the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's City Of Lincoln, C-GVRA Vera (or FM213, the Mynarski Memorial Lancaster) has joined its sister in the UK for a month-long series of displays - the first time two Lancasters will have been in the air together for over 50 years.

As reported earlier in the year Vera was flown across the Atlantic Ocean in stages before landing at RAF Coningsby, the home of the BBMF and its Lanc.  Having undergone various post-flight checks and practice formations, it has now begun being displayed around the country in the company of the British example

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Following a departure display for the press at Coningsby (with the planned flyover of Lincoln Cathedral on the 13th sadly postponed because of bad weather) the Lancs spent this weekend at Airbourne, the Eastbourne International Airshow in Sussex, plus several other displays around the south-east.  Over the next month they will appear at various events around the country, including Duxford, Shoreham and Goodwood - plus two special invitation-only events at Humberside International Airport in Kirmington, Lincolnshire.  I'm also delighted to note that, as I'd hoped, the pair will go to the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre where a third powered Lancaster - Just Jane - is based and perform a fly-past while Jane does a taxi run.  What an image that will be, I'm sure!

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A full list of the planned displays is available on the CWHM's website - I hope there's one near you?  Clacton's probably my nearest, although it's on a weekday so I'm unlikely to make it ;(.  Perhaps Duxford, we shall have to see.  Or I could just camp out in my parents' garden since the flippin' things flew over them yesterday(!), no doubt on the way back from one of the Kent shows.

At any rate, the press is rightly making a big thing out of this once-in-a-lifetime event and there is bound to be more coverage as the month goes on.  It really is quite an amazing sight to see these two four-engined monsters in the air together, made all the more poignant by the thought of how much they represent - the 125,000 pilots who flew in RAF Bomber Command during World War Two and the 55,000 who did not return, plus the 7,300 Avro Lancasters that were built between 1942 and 1945 of which only 17 survive today.  It is a fitting homage to all these men and machines that these two aircraft should fly together again, as the veterans' comments prove.  I hope in their appearances around the country they will inspire and enthral onlookers and remind each generation of the sacrifices their vanished comrades made, and that this will not be the last time two or more Lancasters are seen in the air together at one time.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Now at work, rest and play

Golly gosh, I'd forgotten just how time-consuming a full working week can be!  Still, here we are again, what?  The first week of a new job is under my belt and now I've got some time to sit down and write a few lines of this and that - all that has been leading up to this week just gone.

The week previous - that is, two weeks ago now - I spent some time nosing around my local branches of Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and BHS hoping to score some bargain items for m'wardrobe in the summer sales.  I was not disappointed, either, as Debenhams' sale was in full swing (they don't seem to call it the Blue Cross Sale any more, unless they're saving that for Christmas/January?) and I picked up two smashing pairs of cotton trousers that will go well with the majority of my jackets for a casual summer look.  Most importantly, Debenhams' men's trousers go up to a 34" inside leg - perfect for the long of limb such as myself!

Maine New England Navy twill chinos, £12 from £20 at Debenhams
(**sold out**)

The navy blue is a nice, muted colour - giving off an almost workmanlike vibe - but the terracotta twill is my absolute favourite, adding a welcome and different dash of colour to my outfits.

Maine New England Terracotta twill chinos, £10 from £20 at
Debenhams

Marks and BHS had less on offer (and M&S wonders why its year-on-year clothing sales keep taking a battering - definitely a "could do better" on the men's clothing selection, at least) but I was still able to score this beautiful "Autograph" knitted silk tie for a frankly unbelievable £4 (it was actually still marked up at £7.50 on the ticket - I do like pleasant surprises!).

It actually goes quite well with the terracotta trews, don't you think?  It's wonderful to the touch, of course, and knots well too - something that's not always a given with knitted ties, I've found.

Saturday last found me in Rayleigh for the town's first ever Antique & Vintage Street Market, run by the same people who put on the local Runnymede Vintage, Antique and Retro Fairs that I have been to many times in the past and enjoyed, as has been mentioned on this very blog.  Alas I can't see this street market becoming a regular one as it was really very poorly done with barely half a dozen stalls in the high street (which had not been closed as I was expecting), largely selling stuff that would have better been described as bric-a-brac.  There were supposedly more stalls around the corner outside the local auction house (Stacey's, occasional star of Antiques Road Trip and Bargain Hunt) but we - mother, sister and I - we so disappointed we didn't bother with that but instead hit the charity shops.  There I was able to pick up a nice T.M. Lewin shirt for £3.50 and an interesting CD for £1.

Twenty-four songs from The Radio Rhythm Club, a name I'd never come across before but actually that of a B.B.C. programme broadcast during the Second World War.  The Radio Rhythm Sextet was led by a young Welsh clarinetist called Harry Parry(!) who greatly admired American bandleader Benny Goodman, to the point where he emulated him with his own group of top British instrumentalists of the time.  Sadly Harry Parry died in 1956 at the age of 44; The Radio Rhythm Club and Sextet seem to have been lost to the mists of time, since I can't seem to find out much about them.  The Benny Goodman influence is obvious (but just with a soupçon of British smoothness) and it maybe this overt similarity, plus changing musical tastes after the war, that ensured The Radio Rhythm's obscurity.

Still, after all that, I'm glad I bought the CD as it certainly does bubble along.  I do like the Benny Goodman sound anyway and was only recently thinking about finding some more 1940s music, so this ticks the boxes.  Have a Boogi to this:



What else has happened?  Oh yes, I marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War on the 4th August with a single candle and the "lights out" motif, as did most of the country I think.  The B.B.C.'s coverage was rather good, I thought - slightly reserved rather than overdone and all the better for it.

This was the same candle that I burned (we were all given one) at my granddad's
funeral back in 1997. 
I'd never lit it since but it somehow seemed right to use it on the anniversary of WW1

Well, that's all for now, I think.  There's going to be a bit of disorder around here for a little while longer as I continue to settle back into a 5-day working week and get comfortable in the new job but as long as I can post at least once every weekend I'll be happy - and hopefully you, my readers, will be too!  I've already got posts planned featuring the two surviving Lancaster bombers flying together for the first time in 50 years, plus a 61-year-old woman driving a 110-year-old car across Australia!  In the meantime I do still enjoy reading your blogs when I get the chance - usually now a special treat after work! - and I hope you'll continue to stick with mine during this transition.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Keeping cool in the 30s

Serving me well on my 30th birthday last year
While I (and, I suspect, many others) have been enduring the heat of a glorious British summer as this country continues to swelter in temperatures consistently in the high twenties (centigrade) - and sometimes uncomfortably into the 30s - I find my mind turning to more casual, lightweight vintage fashions for the chap.

My go-to wardrobe staple in warmer weather is my trusty and well-worn brown linen suit, purchased from Primark (as a two-piece; alas neither of my local branches had the waistcoat in stock!) and which has served me well for what must be coming up to eight years now.  Paired with a linen or cotton shirt, a cravat, brown leather shoes and Panama hat, such an ensemble has helped to keep me cool through various summers while giving me a semblance of vintage style in what have been some lean times.

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The light-coloured, lightweight suit has long been the standard outfit for gentlemen during the hotter months and such a look is still my ultimate goal - although with my lemonade budget it may yet be some time before I reach it!  Fortunately, as has been noted before, menswear has by and large changed little over 100 years so it is still possible to approximate a certain decade's look using some high street items.  For example, I have several pairs of cream cotton trousers (chinos, as they are known today) acquired over the years that I like to mix with the linen jacket, or a navy blue single-breasted blazer - the latter of which is one of my favourite current outfits.  Again in the longer term I would dearly love a proper brass-buttoned double-breasted number as sported by Bertie Wooster and Captain Hastings.


Further inspiration for ideal summer wear is drawn from my Pinterest board Gentlemanly Attire, where light suits and Twenties & Thirties styles are dotted throughout.

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A spiffing illustration of a couple of Jazz Age summer suits, double- and single-breasted with peak lapels, finished off with some topping hats and - of course! - co-respondent shoes.  Here's an actual example from 1931, too:

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Brioni S/S '12
As I've mentioned before the only problem with white, cream or off-white suits - at least in my experience in Britain - is the danger of being likened to Michael Jackson, Martin Bell or The Man From Del Monte by those who haven't been exposed to their wider use and for whom standard summer attire consists of shorts and flip-flops.  Still, that hasn't put me off and nor should it you.

The peak of today's white-suited sartorialism comes courtesy of high-end names like Brioni and Polo by Ralph Lauren - clothing that I fear will forever remain aspirational to the likes of me(!):

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Ralph Lauren S/S '13
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Ralph Lauren S/S '12

Of course white isn't the only cool, summer colour.  Linen doesn't always have to be white, cream or beige.  Blues and browns look just as good.

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Lightweight clothing is, after all, more about the weight of the fabric than the colour and even a suit in a lighter wool fabric - say, 8oz or so - can have cooling properties. 

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Boating blazers are another summer option that can come in a bewildering array of colours.  Some tend to be more gaudy than others so it can be a matter of personal taste what colours you prefer, if any. 

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Jasper Conran navy college stripe blazer
£49.50 @ Debenhams
Jasper Conran navy narrow stripe blazer
£29.70 @ Debenhams (currently sold out)












One of the best places I have found for decent boating blazers in recent years is Debenhams, whose Jasper Conran concession usually has a couple of styles each year.  Their current stock includes two rather fetching blues and I can attest to their quality, having tried couple on in my local branch last weekend.  Alas sizes are limited and my humble purse cannot quite stretch even to sale prices, so I've yet to own one of these beauties.

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Finally I want to touch upon the more casual vintage summer look - an area that I freely admit to having little knowledge of.  In the back of my mind I feel sure I have seen pictures at some time of men in the 1930s (including Noël Coward, Fred Astaire et al.) wearing open-necked short-sleeved shirts while at the beach or on holiday.  Yet my most recent researches can throw up precious little imagery or information beyond the usual sporting [tennis] wear, such as that in my 1940s Fashion Sourcebook.  Certainly this is an aspect of vintage menswear that deserves further investigation, as it would be nice to get a more casual Thirties look before I wilt in the next heatwave.

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On the subject of tennis shirts, my parting offering comes courtesy of Miss Rayne's Vintage Chic blog, which I have followed for some time and which Google happened to throw up as a result during my searching.  This knitted tennis shirt from the 1930s looks a pip, doesn't it?  I've tried getting mater to have a bash at it but she remains firmly unconvinced, not least because we can't work out from the pattern whether the needle size is correct, which needles to cast on with and what wool to use - any suggestions?

There, then, are my thoughts and desires on what the vintage-loving chap can wear to survive global warming.  As it's forecast to remain warm for at least another month (and in the long term get warmer still if climate change scientists are to be believed) I hope to be able to employ some of these smashing styles.  I'd love to know what you think, and what you're doing to keep cool!  Anyone for Pimms?!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Amelia Earhart mystery – 1937 photograph could be clue to her fate

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Amelia Earhart mystery – 1937 photograph could be clue to her fate 

Back in June of 2013 I blogged about the news of the latest evidence pointing to the popular theory regarding the disappearance of noted aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her co-pilot Fred Noonan during their attempted around-the-world flight in 1937.  This theory has it that Earhart and Noonan missed their scheduled refuelling stop at the tiny (< 1 mile square) Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean and flew on in their twin-engined Lockheed Electra until forced to come down on one of a group of then-uninhabited atolls known as the Phoenix Islands - probably the larger Gardner Island (now known as Nikumaroro).

This hypothesis is by no means a recent one - Gardner Island was identified as a potential emergency landing ground almost immediately after the Electra's disappearance and reconnaissance flights were made over the atoll during the initial two-week official search, with pilots noting "signs of recent habitation" but no "answering wave from possible inhabitants" when they zoomed low over the rocks.  Later private searches including around the Phoenix Islands produced no evidence of pilots or machine and their ultimate fate has been the subject of investigations and conspiracy theories for three-quarters of a century.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHER) - a non-profit organisation founded in 1985 for "aviation archaeology and historic preservation" - have been pursuing the Gardner Island theory for several years now, culminating in last year's expedition to Nikumaroro where sonar scans of the surrounding sea bed threw up an odd shadow 600ft below the waves that could be the remains of the Electra.

Piece of metal may offer clue to disappearance of Amelia Earhart's plane

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Now TIGHER are following up another lead with the discovery of a previously unknown photograph (which can be seen in the original Miami Herald article) of Earhart's Lockheed Electra at Miami Municipal Airport on the 1st June 1937, shortly before take-off for the next stint of the journey to Puerto Rico.  In it, a detail not seen in any other photo of the time - a sheet of metal covering what would previously have been a window.  More intriguingly, no record of this repair exists among all the documentation linked to Earhart's flight.

Among the many artefacts that TIGHAR have brought back from Nikumaroro - which include a 1930s-style woman's shoe (similar to ones worn by Earhart), bearings & tools, metal zips and pieces of Plexiglas almost identical in shape and design to that used on the Electra - is a section of aluminium panel bearing 1930s construction techniques.  It is this piece of metal that researchers are now closely comparing to a computer-enhanced blow-up of this never-before-seen image in the hope that they can match the rivet patterns and so prove beyond doubt that Earhart and Noonan did not crash into the Pacific Ocean but did indeed make it to Gardner Island, where they may have even survived for a time before succumbing to starvation and exposure.

If it can be proved that the aluminium panel seen in this new picture matches the piece recovered from Nikumaroro then it must surely settle beyond doubt one of the most enduring mysteries in aviation history - one that has remained unsolved for 77 years.  While this would not be the first bit of tangible evidence suggesting the Electra landed on Gardner Island, and with the Pacific Ocean ditch still a possibility, if the rivet patterns do match it will - taken with the other items found - be as conclusive as possible proof that the last resting place of Amelia Earhart, one of the greatest women pilots of the 20th century, has been found.  I for one certainly look forward to finding out!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Eyes on the prize

More time than I would have liked has passed since my last post - for various reasons, some of which will become apparent as they take the form of this entry.  I've still got a few exciting posts planned for the next few weeks, including the latest twist in the 77-year-old mystery of Amelia Earhart's disappearance and the 75 years since the first appearance of Batman, but in the meantime I feel a post letting you know what I've been up to in the last couple of weeks is a good idea.

You may have noticed that I tend to disappear from the blogosphere for a week or so at the beginning of each month - this is when I help a friend and [ex-]colleague out with the new(ish) business that he's helping to get going, and which has constituted my "working life" for the last 3 years as I've slowly recovered from the attentions of various doctors.  Alas I think even my friend would agree that starting a new company can be a painfully long and drawn out (and often unsuccessful) process so I've been spending an equal amount of time searching for a longer term guaranteed full-time job, especially now those same doctors are practically giving "get a job" as medical advice and there are bills to be paid (not to mention the obvious social and mental benefits of gainful employment).

Well dear reader, I've got one!  The plans for earning a living as a blogger/freelance writer with an online vintage shop will have to be put on hold indefinitely (!) as I return instead to my "career bread-and-butter" - research analysis.  I received the offer yesterday and start on the 4th August, which at least gives me time to get everything in order and prepare myself for my first proper full-time job in 3 years.  Wish me luck!

A casual office, sadly, so not much of this. 
I'll have to be more creative in my work attire,
at least for the first few weeks...(!)
What this means for Eclectic Ephemera is, of course, the introduction of a proper posting schedule - most likely along the lines of one or two posts at the weekend (and maybe the odd one mid-week if I can find the time).  I feel sure this will work out well in the long run, as I know many of you work to a regular timetable in order to fit blogging around a normal 9-5 job.  I mean, Norton Of Morton sticks to a Saturday at 4'o'clock and he's just won Best Vintage Blog at the 2014 National Vintage Awards, so this could be just the thing, by Jove!  Rest assured that whatever happens I've no intention of going anywhere and I continue to look forward to reading your blogs and your continued patronage to Eclectic Ephemera.

Timeless/verging on retro, or dangerously postmodern/
looking like an architect...?  Either way, they're sitting
in a drawer in two pieces now.
In other news, I visit the local optician next Friday for my biennial eye test and - whatever the result - a new pair of spectacles.  This is on account of my existing glasses breaking in a boring yet bizarre fashion  (a gentle application of hand to brow during a giggling fit at the latest edition of The Chap proved too much for a pair of specs that must have been at least 6 years old and metal fatigue finally claimed them - right across the nose bridge but at a point where it was impossible to repair them).  It could not have happened at a worse moment (although it was bound to at some point) - the afternoon before my first job interview last Wednesday!  A frantic dash to the optician only confirmed that they were indeed beyond help, with a two day wait to have my current lenses fitted to new frames.  Fortunately I still had an ancient pair of specs from a previous prescription that have been pressed into service once again, although after six years of smaller, lighter glasses these are frustratingly over-sized and heavy.

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One step closer to this...
I made my appointment while I was there - somewhat presciently it was almost two years since my last test anyway (and a reminder card popped through the letterbox a day later) - and had a look at the frames on offer.  I was pleased to see that my local optician has finally jumped on the "vintage" bandwagon by offering a selection of retro frames but disappointed to note that the selection took up all of two display columns, out of the 40-odd in the place.  Tucked out of the way, with two laminated "Vintage" and "Retro" signs wedged above them, the majority of specs were either 1960s NHS/Austin Powers/Michael Caine or nondescript 1980s/'90s styles.  I hummed and aaahed over some pairs that were either the same as my old ones or the rounder tortoiseshell style that I've fancied for a while now, before finally making my decision.  The ones I've picked are round but not too large and in a dark tortoiseshell.  Not too dark either, as the two caterpillars that have set up home above my eyes make black/heavy-framed glasses a no-no, but these are thin enough that I ought to be able to get away with it.

I'll maybe try and debut them on here next weekend, after which I'll be looking forward - through new spectacles - to a new job and a fresh start this summer.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The man who lives in 1946



The man who lives in 1946

Most of you will remember - and some of you have even blogged about - the programme Time Warp Wives, which first aired in the U.K. on Channel 4 back in 2008.  Currently on YouTube here, it featured some well-known faces in vintage circles including Joanne Massey (aka Lola Lamour) and Miss L Fire's Sammi Sadler (plus, for a few seconds around the 22-23 minute mark, our own dear Tupney!).  It garnered a lot of praise from all quarters for showing four truly vintage devotees in quite a positive light, something fairly unusual for the majority of such "real-life documentaries" these days - especially those of the fourth channel!

It's perhaps for this reason that I tend to shy away from featuring any such programming on my blog (TWW predating Eclectic Ephemera by a year) and why my first reaction to this short little clip on the B.B.C. Magazine website was one of mild suspicion.  I needn't have worried, though, as this video for the Beeb's Real Time series has turned out to be a jolly pleasant insight into one vintage chap's immersion in the past.

Indeed, Ben Sansum's story struck a chord with my own experiences - and I suspect many others' - of growing up and into vintage.  The "funny boy at school" with the "strange interests", the fascination with all aspects of a favoured period - it's all very much as it was (and is) for me.  Whether I will ever be as dedicated to my chosen era as Mr Sansum I couldn't say.  Certainly he, the Time Warp Wives and others like them give us something to admire and possibly aspire to but I have written in the past about my own attitude to the vintage lifestyle and I'm not sure I would - or could - live entirely like it was the 1920s or '30s.    

Having said that I do esteem - and envy (I want his house)! - those who do choose to live their lives in such a fashion and it pleases me no end to see them enjoying and appreciating their lifestyle as well as keeping the memory of these eras alive.  I'm glad to see the Beeb eschewed a [smarmy] voiceover and allowed Mr Sansum to quite eloquently explain in his own words his reasons and feelings regarding his vintage lifestyle.

For those of you outside the U.K. or without access to the B.B.C.'s online content, below is a similar interview with Mr Sansum carried out 3 years ago by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (in English).

Friday, 27 June 2014

Chocks away at the South Essex Armed Forces Day

Since 2009 there has been a special Armed Forces Day in Britain, with events held around the country to honour the men and women of the British armed forces past and present.  While not an official national holiday it certainly seems to have become an annual event, observed nationwide usually in the last week of June (to coincide with the anniversary of the first ever Victoria Cross).

Chances are there's an event or three near you (if you're UK-based), be it a simple town centre march-past or a weekend of packed commemorations.  Both of the above are occurring locally to me this weekend (28th/29th) but it is an earlier experience that will form the basis for this post today.

One of the biggest events - THE biggest, in fact, according the promotional material - in Essex took place last weekend at my local showground, Barleylands in Billericay.  I first became aware of the event as long ago as February, when the tickets began going on sale, and bought my entry there and then.  (This didn't stop TicketWeb and/or the Royal Mail trying to thwart me by losing my ticket - cue much frantic 'phone-calling in the week leading up to it and the last-minute sending of a replacement e-Ticket... only to find they were being sold on the gate after all!).  One thing in particular had ensured my attendance - the Great War Display Team would be making an appearance (OK, so the Spitfire and Hurricane attracted me too, of course)!

Three fields to the east of the car park were nothing to write
home about.  The field to the south and the green marker were
the places to be.
Come the day itself I availed myself of the free bus service and found myself at the Barleylands ground shortly after 11'o'clock.  I really had no idea what to expect from the day, having never been to an Armed Forces Day event before, but I kept my hopes suppressed following my previous less-than-positive experience a couple of years ago.  As it turned out it was probably for the best, for the overall layout could best be described as your standard funfair with a bit of militaria tacked on.  In one corner of a field there was a very interesting display of military vehicles - of which more momentarily.  But then one had to walk through three fields of the usual merry-go-rounds, shooting galleries and ice cream vans, past a music stage empty and audience-less save for a fat man in jeans and a short-sleeved shirt who was belting out (admittedly in good voice) 1950s Rock'n'Roll numbers, just to get to the display area - which was encircled by innumerable burger vans (which at £4 for the cheapest burger-in-a-bun were a prime example of playing to a captive audience) and sunglasses sales tents.

I did a couple of circuits just to make sure I didn't miss anything, stopped for a cup of tea and my own lunch and then headed back to the first field where I - very happily as it turned out - spent the rest of the day.  Why happily?  Well, that one field was worth the £10 price of admission in my book.


To start with, there was a Spitfire sitting bang in the middle of it!  Although only a static replica (built over 20 years by a father and son team, using an old airframe and various parts) it was still beautiful to behold.  It was possible to get quite close to it (for £2 one could look - but not sit - inside the cockpit) and having not been so near a Spit for quite some time I'd forgotten just how big an aircraft it is.

Around the perimeter of this field (and the small adjacent one) were the majority of the military vehicles (and armed forces', associations' and charities' stands).  Two of the more interesting vehicles were a 1942 Cadillac staff car and 1950s Austin Champ jeep.

At one end was a group of Second World War re-enactors, representing the 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment and complete with Jeep and tents, while at the other end was the fascinating display of the Great War Society.  Despite having only enough room for two pitches their re-enactment was striking in its simplicity and gave a good idea of conditions for, in this case, an RFC officer and a cavalry veterinarian.  The RFC johnnie was done up to the nines splendidly - complete with swagger stick, a beautiful pipe (with equally lovely-smelling tobacco) wind-up gramophone playing music hall numbers and a framed photo of Lady Edith!

Who parked that German staff car there?!
He recognised in me a fellow Chap (I think it might have been my cravat!) and we had a good long chat (he both in and out of character!) about the re-enactment scene, the centenary and my particular interest in the period and late 19th/early 20th century socio-cultural history in general.  If you're reading this, Trevor, good show!

The cavalry vet also had a few handsome displays on show in the form of three pack mules, representing the equine aspect of the First World War.  These three imposing beasts happily stood for being stroked and petted and were really quite beautiful animals.  When you think of mules you might think of little donkeys and suchlike, but these three fellows were proper American-bred - such as the type that was used in the Great War to carry and pull all manner of things from provisions to artillery pieces - and stood an impressive 15-16 hands high!  Very docile they were, though, and one in particular was only too pleased to pose.

Turn, aaand... smile for the camera!

At around 1:30pm the Hurricane suddenly appeared, announcing its arrival by roaring overhead.  Here I found myself in a fortunate position, quite literally, away from the crowds and main display area on the perimeter of the public area - and right next to the field over which the Hurri was flying!  I was one of maybe only half a dozen people who found this sweet spot and it was like having your own personal airshow!  Even with my ancient, worse-than-a-smartphone digital camera I was able to get some half-decent shots, although they don't show the wonderful proximity of this and later displays.


Suitably buoyed I hung around the same patch of grass sitting and enjoying the glorious June weather (and ruing not having brought a fold-up chair - the lack of seating except around the main display area being another nuisance) until 2:30, when looking to the eastern horizon this stirring sight met my gaze:


What happened for the next twenty minutes I won't forget in a hurry.  The last time I saw First World War 'planes (replicas) in the air was nearly 20 years ago, at the nearby North Weald Aerodrome with my dad, when there were only two or three airworthy examples.  Back then they flew so high and far away that it was really impossible to make them out clearly, let alone get a sense of speed and immediacy.  Added to that they did a mock bombing raid that meant they were hundreds of yards the other side of the 'drome.  Well, there were no such problems this time!

British and American SE5as
Sopwith Triplane
Junkers CL.1
Fokker and Sopwith Triplanes
BE2c and Sopwith Triplane

I literally didn't know where to look next.  The Great War Display Team (for 'twas they) put on one hell of a show.  They must have choreographed it with military precision but it all looked so "natural" that my heart was in my mouth more than once.  It was likely the closest I'll ever get to seeing a proper dogfight.  I must have taken over 100 photos in those twenty minutes and it was a struggle to pick out which ones to feature in this post.  Considering I was just pointing and shooting with a fifteen year old 5x zoom camera I'm delighted how few of them I had to delete (I must admit to being a trifle embarrassed when I noticed nearby two young teenage girls both with proper professional-looking zoom lens cameras - oh for the day when I can afford a new box brownie!).

What with them and the GWS my existing passion for the Great War - and particularly the air war - was enhanced even more and I've now made it my mission to get to the original Stow Maries WWI aerodrome in mid-Essex, the restoration of which I wrote about in an earlier blog post and at which the Great War Display Team sometimes appears.  Perhaps an August birthday treat...?


The afternoon was topped off in style at 4'o'clock when the Spitfire turned up and proceeded to wheel and bank over our heads for the next 15 minutes.  By that time I was aching, suntanned and a bit hungry so as the Spit disappeared to the west I hopped back on the bus and was home in time for tea, feeling well satisfied with the day and with renewed appreciation of the armed forces from all eras.

**Are you going to an Armed Forces Day event this weekend?  Let me know in the comments below and I'll look forward to reading any subsequent posts!**

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