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EXCLUSIVE: Biggest gathering of Spitfires and Hurricanes for decades planned for RAF Northolt

To mark its centenary and the 75th anniversary of the Battle Of Britain, planners at the base in West End Road, Ruislip, want a fitting tribute and an event worthy of the double celebration.

‘The biggest gathering of Spitfires and Hurricanes since the 1950s’ is planned for RAF Northolt next summer.

To mark its centenary and the 75th anniversary of the Battle Of Britain, planners at the base in West End Road, Ruislip, want a fitting tribute and an event worthy of the double celebration.

Squadron Leader Richard Willis, in charge of heritage, said although planning is at an early stage and nothing was definite yet, the intent was clear, and September 6 has been pencilled in.

“It is part of RAF Northolt’s centenary celebrations. However, the date is also the 75th anniversary of the Battle Of Britain, and RAF Northolt is the last flying Battle Of Britain station,” he said.

“The aim is for this to be the largest gathering of Spitfires and Hurricanes since the 1950s.

“Once arrangements are confirmed it will be publicised and our community partners, residents’ associations and so on will be informed and included.”

The Central Band of the RAF performing at the open day in June 2014.
 

The trick will be for RAF organisers to persuade as many owners of the precious, iconic aircraft as possible to take part, then to marshall them into a ground display and flypast.

A commemoration featuring the ever popular fighters with their familiar engine roar would be certain to draw vast crowds and attract huge interest in historic aviation circles.

RAF Northolt was in the eye of the Battle Of Britain storm, part of Number 11 Group that waged aerial combat in the skies over southern England.

The Polish 303 Squadron covered itself in glory, and its annual commemoration ceremony takes place on Saturday, September 13 at noon at the Polish War Memorial in West End Road, and the public is welcome to attend.

The battle itself was controlled from RAF Uxbridge, from the deep bunker that is now a museum and heritage centre.

The lower floor was badly damaged in the torrential rain and flash flooding of Monday, July 28 , and the bunker has been closed ever since, but clean up operations are almost complete and there are tentative plans for a heritage weekend this month.

“We hope it will reopen for Saturday, September 13 and that is what we are working towards,” said Mr Willis.

“There is some remedial work to be done but it is quite small scale. The ‘ops room’ itself is pretty OK. “Give it a few months and anybody who knows the bunker will not see any difference”.

Despite the optimism, the bunker was flooded throughout as gallons of rain water poured down the main staircase in some of the worst flooding ever seen in the area. The upper floor museum, however, was unaffected.

Carpets had to be removed and a few items of memorabilia – fortunately not the most precious, according to Mr Willis – were lost.

The water had to be pumped out and the whole building dehumidified, but the original clean air system that allowed RAF personnel to work sealed into the chamber 60ft underground, came into its own, and there is no lingering damp smell.

And a silver lining to the cloudburst is that removal of the carpeting revealed some original paintwork.

Other events in RAF Northolt’s special year next year will include a Freedom Of The Borough march, planned for Monday, June 22, when The Queen’s Colour Squadron and Central Band of the RAF will parade along Uxbridge High Street to a reception at the civic centre, and the popular open day, confirmed for Saturday, June 13.

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