The first show at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford was the Duxford VE Day Anniversary Airshow which was commemorating the 70th Anniversary of VE Day. Victory in Europe day is a public holiday that is celebrated on the 8th May and marks the formal acceptance by the Allied Forces, the surrender of Nazi Germany and its armed forces. The show featured a huge variety of aircraft types that represented the different stages of aviation developments throughout the both world wars as well as a celebration of victory. I attended the show on the Sunday where the weather was relatively gloomy throughout the day but massively improved near the end of the day.
The static display was rather small but did include a Fairchild UC-61K Argus Mk. 3, a type used during the Second World War as a light transport aircraft. The Fighter Collection’s Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat and a Westland Gazelle AH Mk. 1 from the Army Air Corps were also outside for a closer look. It was also great to see the Imperial War Museum’s Handley Page Victor B.1A out in the open.
The show was opened by a trio of aircraft from the First World War era including the Duxford based Nieuport 17 Replica owned by Rob Gauld-Galliers, the Shuttleworth Collection’s Bristol F.2B Fighter and the World War One Aviation Heritage Trust’s RAF B.E.2E Replica which was making its first appearance at Duxford. The Nieuport performed some impressive solo manoeuvres whilst the others flew some sedate formation flypasts.
Victory over Japan Day or VJ Day is another celebrated holiday that marks the surrender of Japan at the end of the Second World War on the 15th August. This occasion was marked with a trio of fighters from the Fighter Collection that represented types used in the pacific including the Grumman FM-2 Wildcat, the Curtiss P-40F Kittyhawk Mk. II and the Goodyear FG-1D Corsair. Where they flew together for a single pass before performing their own solo routines. In the background, multiple other warbirds were taking off as part of a special formation to commemorate VE Day with the Wildcat and Kittyhawk joining them whilst the Corsair displayed whilst the formation took shape.
The commemorative formation was led by the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Sally B” which was also celebrating its 40th year on the UK airshow circuit and being based at Duxford as well as the 70th Anniversary since being rolled of the production line in 1945. Flanking the American bomber was the previously seen Grumman FM-2 Wildcat and Curtiss P-40F Kittyhawk Mk. II on one wing and a trio of North American P-51D Mustangs on the other. Following closely was another formation of larger aircraft including Plane Sailing’s Canadian Vickers PBV-1A Canso A, Aces High’s Douglas C-47A Skytrain and a Beechcraft Expeditor 3NM owned by Phil Dinnington. Once the formations had passed and split up to land, the Mustangs put on an exciting display and featured the Old Flying Machine Company’s “Ferocious Frankie”, the Fighter Collection’s “Miss Velma” and the Norwegian Spitfire Foundation’s “Sharkmouth” making its debut appearance in it new Royal Air Force colour scheme having displayed in the UK before as “Old Crow”. The VE and VJ segments were closed by the Flying Fortress in a highly emotive display.
The jet age really came into play at the end of the war and was represented by the immaculate Gloster Meteor T.7 from the Classic Air Force which despite the grim conditions put on a very graceful and smooth display.
Civilian flying was also on up after the war ended and we were treated to a segment featuring two Duxford residents, the Aircraft Restoration Company’s De Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver AL Mk. 1 which performed some sweeping passes whilst the LeVier Cosmic Wind “Ballerina” put on an aerobatic display.
Another of the major wartime themes for the 2015 season was the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain which was briefly touched upon with a very impressive selection of displays. The segment was opened by a solo display by the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Hurricane Mk. XIIA which was debuting its new scheme to represent an aircraft of No. 303 (Polish) Squadron. Next was probably the most anticipated debut of the show, the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Bristol Blenheim Mk. I displaying for the first time since 2003 after a landing accident. The nose of this aircraft was at one point converted into an electric car before being restored. This Battle of Britain icon was joined by a pair of Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IAs in a stunning formation display.
Some former military aircraft from the interwar period were also featured in the flying programme with the familiar Gloster Gladiator Mk. I from the Shuttleworth Collection and the debut of Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Fury Mk. I. The two biplane fighters flew in formation before putting on some great individual routines.
Civilian developments during the interwar years were also featured with a variety of aircraft used for executive transport and racing. This was presented with a unique formation led by the Fighter Collection’s Beechcraft D-17S Staggerwing alongside a pair of Spartan 7W Executives from Little Gransden and the striking Travel Air Type R Mystery Ship Replica with the latter three aircraft appearing at Duxford for the first time. The Staggerwing and Executives then flew a sedate series of flypasts before the Mystery Ship performed a dynamic solo routine.
An aerobatic interlude was then provided with an amazingly dynamic and energetic routine by The Matadors with their pair of strikingly coloured XtremeAir XA41s which was made more impressive due to a light shower occurring mid-display.
A pair of often overlooked vintage transport aircraft then took to the skies in the form of the Duxford based De Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide leading the Classic Air Force’s Avro Anson T.21 in a graceful formation display. Both these types of aircraft were heavily used during the Second World War in a support capacity for a variety of operations.
We then came to a sad moment with one of the final search and rescue demonstrations from a Westland Sea King HAR Mk. 3A of the Royal Air Force with the type being withdrawn from service in July and will be missed greatly as the Sea Kings have supported many of the shows at Duxford.
Having performed in the commemorative flypasts earlier during the show, it was great that Plane Sailing’s Canadian Vickers PBV-1A Canso A displayed yet again with a great solo routine whilst representing both the Royal Air Force Coastal Command and the United States Army Air Force Air Sea Rescue efforts.
Next up was an unusual pairing of warbirds, demonstrating the overlooked role that the Soviet Union played in the surrender of Nazi Germany and its armed forces. Representing the German Force’s was Peter Holloway’s Fieseler Fi-156A-1 Storch which demonstrated its extraordinary handling characteristics whilst the Duxford based Yakovlev Yak 3M flew some wonderful fast passes.
Some other Army Co-operation types like the Storch were also displayed with Jeanne Frazer’s Piper J-3C-65 Cub and Mark Miller’s Auster J/1 Autocrat who also put on good demonstrations of their handling capabilities.
With the weather finally clearing with some blue skies and sunshine we turned to some aircraft from the modern armed forces in order to celebrate victory.
Kicking things of was some assets from the modern Army Air Corps with a two Agusta-Westland WAH-64D Apache AH Mk. 1s making their debut appearance as a pair for the 2015 season. Despite the lack of pyrotechnics, the duo of attack helicopters put on a very dynamic demonstration of their capabilities as well as the roles they perform on the battlefield.
Turning to the Royal Air Force with plenty of noise was the incredible display by the Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4 with a number of new manoeuvres for this season. The jet was also sporting a specially painted tail that commemorates the centenary of No. 29 Squadron which this Typhoon currently operates under.
It was down to the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, The Red Arrows to close the show with an immaculate performance with their nine BAe Hawk T.1As which was the perfect conclusion to the day’s commemorations and celebrations.
I feel the show was a massive success despite the murky conditions throughout the day with some incredible themed displays with the VE and VJ Day commemorations being the main highlights of the days. It was also great to see the UK debuts of the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Bristol Blenheim Mk. I and the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hawker Fury Mk. I and the performances by the modern Army Air Corps and Royal Air Force were absolutely top class. Having attended the May shows at Duxford for the last four years, I will definitely be attending next year for whatever theme the organizers decide to commemorate. Roll on 2016.
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