Lovely morning to wake up to the view of the small lake, ideal weather for our visit to the Allied Air Forces Memorial & Yorkshire Air Museum
. Ron, our host, had kindly agreed to drop us off at the museum which is just a couple of miles away from the Hundred Oaks Caravan Site
in Elvington. He was ready bang on time and we were soon on our way in his Range Rover, how lucky we are! Ron’s a really nice bloke, very friendly, has obviously worked very hard all his life and is now reaping his well deserved rewards.
The air museum was excellent, lovely atmosphere and you could really get a feel for what it was like in these places during WW2 when Elvington was a very active heavy bomber base. The main reason I had wanted to visit this place was because I knew from previous research that it housed one of only two Handley Page Halifax heavy bombers, the other one being in Canada I believe.
My stepfather, Eric Dunton, had been in the RAF during WW2 and had been a rear gunner (Tail End Charlie) in a Halifax, quite how he survived I cannot really imagine. At that time the average life expectancy for a rear gunner was two weeks but somehow he did survive many missions over enemy territory, a miracle really.
Unfortunately as luck would have it the Air Gunner section of the museum was closed for renovations but several other exhibits showed me the things I really wanted to see. I was frankly shocked and quite emotional when I saw for real a rear gun turret from a heavy bomber. The conditions, the exposure and the sheer terror these men must have experienced really shook me. They were alone in the turret, surrounded really by just a glass bubble in freezing temperatures with four machine guns for company which were fed ammunition by belts further forward in the tail. I honestly cannot imagine how these men managed to do what they did, truly humbling.
The Halifax Heavy Bomber
was everything I had hoped it would be. It was staggering to learn that on the production lines where they were built at the peak of production there was one plane PER HOUR coming off the production line, such was the attrition rate of planes and air crew. This rate of loss really puts modern day warfare into perspective, again I was shocked.
There were many fascinating aspects to the exhibits, we particularly enjoyed the control tower and seeing the living conditions of the air crew. It’s extraordinary to realise that these men might be being shot at and killed over enemy territory at one moment and then several hours later, if they had been lucky, they might be back in an English village in the village pub, mentally how do you live like that?
A really unexpected bonus towards the end of our visit was a wooden contraption in a corner of one of the huts, I thought I knew what it was and I was right. It was the original wooden “catapult" that Barnes Wallace had used for his tests with ball bearings in a water tank when he was inventing and designing the “bouncing bomb" used during the famous WW2 Dambusters raid. Just brilliant to see an artefact like that survive with all the history that it essentially created.
This place really has been well worth the visit, it was excellent. Ron picked us up and we were soon back at the site for a leisurely late afternoon and evening. Nice walk up into the village of Newton Upon Derwent. Made a few new discoveries about the motorhome, a couple of features I didn’t even know existed but all good!