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This is an experimental "blog", intended to encourage the exchange of news and views between TECT members. If you would like to join the Ops Room discussion, please e-mail me and I can then add you to our list of participants.

Another Memorable Weekend

BriefingPosted by Anthony Knight Mon, June 19, 2017 18:47:41

The Typhoon Memorial weekend took place from June 17/18th this year, rather later than usual, and coincide with French parliamentary elections, so some of the usual official attendees and some of the Mairies were otherwise occupied. However, we had an excellent visit, despite the heat – the temperature was over 30°, the Sun brilliant and the skies cloudless.

I had suggested that we might first meet for a cooling drink at our hotel on the Friday evening. A very smooth and quiet crossing from Portsmouth brought us to familiar Normandy roads and we were soon established near Caen. There we met, for the first time, one of our newest members, Bernard Gardiner and his grandson Matt (a Virgin Atlantic 747 pilot). Bernard joined 193 Squadron in October 1944 and was not involved in the Normandy campaign so the weekends' activities were new to him. Bernard and Matt came from Jersey, flying first to Dinard then driving to Caen.

On the Saturday morning there was a small ceremony at the Henry Tallala plaque outside Airan where Piers Tallala, nephew of Henry, with his two young sons was joined by our Chaplain, Jim Charles, TECT Members and representatives of the local community, including the Bree family who had been responsible for the original monument at Henry's crash site on their farm. Passing traffic posed a small problem until that was solved by the local National Assembly député simply standing in the middle of the road until the ceremony was finished. As the weather was good we were able to walk across the adjacent field to the original monument, situated in quiet spot beneath trees. On all of our visits to Normandy I have been struck by the contrast between the peaceful and beautiful locations of so many crash sites, thinking of what the areas must have been like in June-August 1944. We then all moved to Airan, where we were welcomed to a generous vin d'honneur in the Mairie. As there were pictures of aircraft on the walls, including Henry Talalla's Typhoon, we decided to present the mayor with a “Two Typhoons” print which was signed then and there by Bernard Gardiner. The Hawker Typhoon in the picture was flown by Denys Gillam, Bernard's former commanding officer in 146 Wing.

After a relaxing lunch-break we set off for Ste Croix-sur-mer, the site of ALG B3, home of 146 Wing. There we were met by the mayor, M.Gerlet. After a brief commemoration ceremony he invited us back to the Mairie in the village for refreshment. There we learned of his great interest in researching and commemorating the contribution of all the forces that passed through the commune in 1944, including those who built the B3 airfield, and we heard some of the stories about the dangerous times immediately after D-Day.

Our evening was spent at an excellent restaurant in Caen where we met this year's RAF party from Coningsby. There were a few familiar faces but also one who had joined 3 Squadron only three days before. It was good to renew old friendships and to make new ones.

At Noyers Bocage on Sunday morning we were greeted by an impressive parade of “Anciens Combattants” with their banners and we were welcomed to the church for the ecumenical mass. Our chaplain, Jim Charles, assisted the local priest and preached an excellent sermon, both in English and in French. It was getting very hot, so we walked slowly to the Typhoon Memorial where a small crowd had gathered. The ceremony followed the usual pattern, although there were 6 national anthems to be played and 6 flags to be raised by the RAF personnel because there were representatives from the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia. Bernard was our wreath-layer, as many Typhoon veterans have been before. The speech by the mayor included expressions of sympathy and solidarity following the recent events in Manchester and in London.
Another short but hot walk took us to the school yard in Noyers Bocage (the town hall was in use for the elections) where we enjoyed yet another vin d'honneur.

It was, as usual, a memorable weekend. If you have never attended the event you will never know the genuine gratitude of the Normandy people for the work and sacrifices of the Typhoon pilots and crews and you will have missed some very generous hospitality. Come with us next year.



Small Step or Giant Leap?

BriefingPosted by Anthony Knight Thu, November 17, 2016 17:18:18
Saturday October 29th 2016 may be remembered as a significant date in the history of the Hawker Typhoon.
Your Secretary has been in touch with three Typhoon restoration projects recently. One, at the Jet Age Museum, Staverton we know well. There a cockpit section and other Typhoon parts are being expertly restored to static display condition. Two other projects aim to restore Typhoons to flying condition. One of those is in Canada, the other is in Britain. The British team are beginning to restore RB396, using fuselage parts recovered from Holland as the nucleus of the aircraft.
TECT was invited to join in the public launch of the RB396 project at Goodwood, formerly RAF Westhampnett, from where the first Typhoon operational sorties were flown in 1942. Four of our veterans, David Ince, Derek Lovell, George Wood and Bernard Gardiner agreed to attend the event. Unfortunately, Bernard was prevented, at the last minute, from flying in from Jersey as he had planned.
Once we had pushed a Spitfire and a Mustang out into the open we began to set up in the Hangar, normally the base of the Boultbee Academy where people can learn to fly Spitfires! Various Typhoon components were assembled in the centre of the hangar while other displays, including the TECT stall, were set up around the side walls. Our stand had leaflets and cards to give out to visitors and "Two Typhoons" prints to sell, together with a number of copies of David Ince's book "Brotherhood of the Skies". We also were able to show Typhoon videos during the day.
Approximately 150 guests arrived and were soon inspecting the various exhibits. A team from Belgium had brought two Sabre engine cylinder blocks, complete with working sleeve-valve gear and they were mounted on the engine bearers of RB396. Many visitors were seen turning the wheel which drove the sleeve-valves, marvelling at the complex movement of the sleeves.
There was to be a silent auction to raise funds for the project. TECT had donated a framed copy of the "Two Typhoons" print which was eagerly bid for.
Sam Worthington-Leese, who is training himself to become the pilot of the restored Typhoon, welcomed guests, introduced the other members of the team and described the objectives of the project. Particularly exciting was the news that one or more restorable Sabre engines might soon be available to the project.
Our veterans were then assembled behind a table and began a busy period of signing books, prints and other memorabilia and answering many questions about the Typhoon. Great interest was displayed by all of the visitors, especially Callum, a young boy whose great-grandfather had been a Typhoon armourer. Callum, as a homework assignment, had produced an A2-sized Typhoon mosaic. That was soon inspected and signed by the veterans.
It was a great event and a significant step forward. One day we may be able to reproduce the "Two Typhoons" image in real life, perhaps over Goodwood.

Normandy and Britanny 2016

BriefingPosted by Anthony Knight Mon, June 20, 2016 14:03:56
The Memorial weekend, 11/12 June, was a great success. Peter Roper and his family from Canada had rented a chateau at Fontenay-sur-Mer and very generously invited us to a garden party on the Saturday. There we met the group of 6 officers from RAF Coningsby and enjoyed the chateau gardens, complete with millpond and loudly-croaking frogs. A fine lunch was then served in the chateau where we were entertained by Peter's son-in-law, an amateur drummer, and James Gibb, brother of our Treasurer Amy, who was our trumpeter.
In the evening we gathered again, for yet another meal, at a restaurant in the centre of Caen. Access was made very difficult because many roads had been closed for a charitywalk/run. The sat-nav in the car worked overtime to get us to the restaurant.

The Rev Bill Johnston was our chaplain this year. Bill is a friend of George Wood and had been in Britanny with us last year when George received his Legion d'Honneur medal. On the Sunday morning we gathered at Noyers Bocage church, finding our way round the improvements being made to the square in front of the church. James (trumpet) and Mary (organ) played before the service and Bill assisted the local priest and preached a sermon which was then repeated in French by the priest.

After the service, led by the standard-bearers of the "anciennes combattants" we went to the Typhoon Memorial where we remembered not only those who had died in the Battle of Normandy but also those veterans who had passed away since we last met.

Later that afternoon, Mary and I set off for Roscoff in Britanny. We had so liked the area when we visited last year for George Wood's investiture that we decided to return for a short holiday. Our plan was to visit the Maritime Museum in Carantec to see George's medal. It was closed and not due to open until the Summer, a week later. Arrangements were then made at the Town Hall to get access to the museum during the afternoon. We then went for a walk on the beach. To our amazement we met Pascal Messager, a director of the museum and George's friend. Arrangements were soon made for a visit to the museum, where we saw the medal on display with other memorabilia and we learned more about the wonderful story of the "Réseau Sibiril", the resistance network that had cared for George and had built the boat in which he eventually escaped back to England, the last of 16 such boats that had successfully carried 152 people to safety across the Channel!



RAF Club Presentation

BriefingPosted by Anthony Knight Mon, June 20, 2016 12:50:38
On Saturday 4th June your Secretary joined forces with Peter Roper, Typhoon veteran from Canada, to deliver a presentation at the RAF club in London. After our Chairman, Alex Wood, had welcomed the guests I spoke about the design, development and early operation of the Typhoon and its Napier Sabre engine. Then, after a refreshment break, Peter spoke about his experiences of flying the Typhoon. He gave a memorable account of being shot down, in Denys Gillam's aircraft, on D+1 and his subsequent experiences as a badly wounded prisoner. It was those events that eventually brought about the creation of ASAVN and the continuing memorial activities in Normandy. We had a good, attentive audience, filling the room.
In the evening I was priveleged to be invited to join Peter and his large family group for a memorable dinner at the club.



Typhoon School Success

BriefingPosted by Anthony Knight Tue, March 08, 2016 21:55:08
Well done, Coopers Edge School, Brockworth! As described on the News page of the TECT Website, the school recently won a British Museum competition. Schools had to select and to research an historical object, then present their research to demonstrate their understanding of the significance and history of the object.
Coopers Edge School, situated in Typhoon Way, on the very spot where Hawker Typhoons were built by the Gloster Aircraft Company, decided to focus on the Typhoon. Their research was aided by two veterans of the Gloster factory, Peggy and Phyllis, both of whom had worked, often in freezing cold conditions (how the children enjoyed that element of the story), using their nimble fingers to assemble thousands of bolts and rivets. The children were also able to examine the Jet Age Museum's Typhoon restoration project and to work with large-scale drawings and cut-away pictures of the Typhoon.
I have written to the Head Teacher of the school to congratulate the school and the children on their imaginative and thoughtful project. I have also suggested that TECT would be happy to assist the school should they wish to learn more about "their" local aeroplane.

An internet YouTube search for "Coopers Edge School" will produce links to both the school's own video of the project and to the British Museum film.

Legion d'Honneur!

BriefingPosted by Anthony Knight Sat, November 21, 2015 21:49:51

Last year the President of France, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, announced that France would present the Legion d'Honneur award to surviving veterans of the Battle of Normandy. Since then I have been trying to obtain the awards for our Typhoon veterans in the face of unexplained delays and bureaucracy. Letters to MPs and Ministers of State and a debate in the Commons produced reassuring promises, but it was not until the beginning of October that any medals became available.

We were delighted to be able to assemble 6 Hawker Typhoon veteran pilots and one Bomber Command Lancaster veteran together with a large groups of family members and friends at the Jet Age Museum (JAM), Staverton, Gloucestershire on Thursday Oct.29th. Staverton is close to where the Typhoons were manufactured by the Gloster Aircraft Company and JAM has a Typhoon restoration project.. There would have been 8 Typhoon veterans but one, the Rev George Wood from Rustington, had decided to do things differently - see later and another, Percy Beake (himself a Battle of Britain veteran), had already received his medal.

It was very fortunate that the Headquarters of the Allied Rapid Reaction Task Force was nearby, at Imjin Barracks, and that it is currently commanded by a French officer, General Ducret, who was able to make the presentations. The General and a number of his senior staff, resplendent in their best uniforms, made a great impression on the crowd that was somehow fitted into the museum's display hall alongside the partially-restored Hawker Typhoon cockpit section. It was wonderful to see the veterans, all in excellent form, being honoured and to hear the very sincere congratulations offered by General Ducret.

The TECT President is the Commanding Officer of RAF Coningsby, where the Eurofighter Typhoons are based, so, despite the very bad weather in Gloucestershire, we were delighted to receive news that a Typhoon was taxying at Coningsby. A short while later we all moved outside, in the rain, and with a great roar the Coningsby Typhoon flew down the Staverton Instrument Landing approach beam, emerged from the clouds and swept over the museum in salute- wonderful!

That was a very special day, but my duties as TECT Secretary had only just begun.

My wife and I left Staverton, heading back to our home in Sussex in the car to pick up two friends and then drove to Portsmouth to catch the overnight ferry to Brittany. We were going to witness the presentation of the Legion d'Honneur to our friend and TECT Member, the Rev.George Wood.

In September 1943 George had been flying a Westland Whirlwind, attacking Morlaix airfield in Brittany, when his aircraft was hit by flak and exploded. George was trapped in the cockpit and could only pray for release. Suddenly he was outside, watching the remains of his cockpit crashing below him. After a very risky escape through a minefield, George eventually hid in a barn, where he was discovered by members of the local Resistance movement. The local network gave George a false identity and papers and he stayed in Carantec, near Roscoff, while a small boat was built, in 11 days, in a local shipyard. On October 30th 1943, exactly 72 years ago, George set sail with a number of French refugees, and eventually reached Plymouth. He rejoined his Squadron (263) which was then converting to Typhoons. He then flew Typhoons throughout the Normandy campaign. After the war George was ordained as a minister in the Church of England and served for some years in South Africa.

When he heard of the Legion d'Honneur award, George resolved to go to Brittany, despite being 93 years old and partially blind, to present his medal to the people of Carantec who had cared for him and helped him to escape. George and his story are well-known in Brittany, so it was no surprise that large numbers of people gathered wherever we went. George was taken flying, by the Morlaix Flying Club, over the airfield that he had attacked and the route of his escape. We followed George's escape route on the ground, hearing of the heroism of the local people who risked certain death to help him. On the Saturday a huge parade with banners, including some from the Royal British Legion, marched to the Carantec war memorial where George and I laid a wreath to commemorate his former comrades, Whirlwind and Typhoon pilots. In the local assembly hall (part of the Maritime Museum), with George's small boat on display, George was presented with his medal, to the great delight of the large audience.
After Mass in the church on Sunday morning, where George's story was told again, we lunched at a sea-side restaurant. News had got round and people gathered outside. One small boy came in, his eyes like saucers, asking to meet George who greeted him warmly. Then the boy said that his name was Pierre. George had been "Pierre" during his time in Carantec, so there was an immediate bond!
After lunch we returned to the Maritime Museum where George formally presented his Legion d'Honneur medal to his Carantec friends.

So ended a very special long weekend. I was exhausted, especially after a 4-hour drive back to the ferry and I could only imagine how George and the other veterans must have felt. However, our route passed Noyers Bocage, so, by the car headlights, we were able to pay our respects at the Typhoon Memorial and to lay a spray of poppies in memory of Georges' comrades. It was a great privilege to have been involved in the two events and a great relief that we had any medals to present!







Goodwood Again

BriefingPosted by Anthony Knight Tue, September 15, 2015 23:26:43
What an amazing day! There was heavy rain overnight, then strong winds followed by a dull, wet morning with low mist over the Downs. Not apparently a good day for the Battle of Britain commemoration at Goodwood. We set off for what us is usually a 20-minute drive to the airfield, only to become part of the biggest traffic jam ever seen in West Sussex. The scheduled time for the flypast to begin was fast approaching and we were stationary, about 2 miles away. Then we heard that the event had been postponed until 1400hrs. That gave just enough time for the weather to improve and for us to park the car, wade through the fresh mud and then to find a vantage point overlooking runway 24. There was a huge crowd eagerly watching as a seemingly endless parade of Spitfires and Hurricanes, with one Blenheim, took off into bright sunshine and perfect visibility. The roar of Merlins and Griffons was continuous for over half an hour. Some 40 aircraft took part. One, Prince Harry's, was grounded and another Spitfire suffered a partial engine failure on take off but managed to get away at a second attempt.
This was a truly memorable event, extending over much of Southern England. It was good to be there.





TECT and Goodwood

BriefingPosted by Anthony Knight Sun, September 13, 2015 22:47:55
An enjoyable day at the Goodwood Revival today was made even better by the amazing gathering of Hurricanes and Spitfires, over 20 in all, that we were able to walk around and examine closely. Better still was the commemorative Battle of Britain flypast, consisting of 11 Spitfires and one Hurricane, led, of course, by the TECT President, Group Captain Jez Attridge. He was closely pursued, in impeccable formation, by Duncan Mason, who had been "our" pilot for the memorable Spitfire flypast at Noyers Bocage.
If you want to see all of these aircraft and many more, go to Goodwood at Midday on Tuesday 15th September when 30-40 Hurricanes, Spitfires, Mustangs, Blenheim, Anson and other warbirds will depart en masse for flypasts over key Battle of Britain sites.
We hope that someone would remember that it was because of the heavy Typhoons at what was Westhampnett aerodrome that the perimeter track had to be tarmaced in 1943, giving us the wonderful motor-racing circuit that was the other reason for going to Goodwood today!

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