EX VC PRIDE
EX VC Pride was a planned visit to the Victoria Cross Museum and South Yorkshire Air Museum. We all met up at 8 SQN ENG on the morning of the event where a quick roll call was taken and the transport quickly filled.
Departure left on schedule at 09:00, beginning the short journey to Doncaster Victoria Cross Museum. On arrival we were greeted by a burly looking Staff Sergeant complete with pace stick stomping towards the transport, first thought was uh oh what did we do wrong, then quickly realised he was there to greet us and show us to a waiting area.
Once all had sat down, a very enthusiastic gentleman named Gary Stapleton began an initial briefing by explaining there was a lot excitement around the place, as Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey had the night before become the latest servicemen to receive the Victoria Cross. Mr Stapleton told us how a lot of the staff had been up into the wee small hours preparing for the new VC winner to be added to the Museum. We also learned of the VC winner attached to 8 SQN, Captain Ferdinand Maurice Felix West who lost his leg whilst engaged by 7 German fighter aircraft. Although severely injured he was able to complete his mission identifying enemy positions. Whilst skilfully flying his aircraft he allowed his observer to open fire on the enemy aircraft making them flee. He then managed to land his aircraft and reported his findings to command before seeking medical attention.
Mr Stapleton passed around a few items of kit used during World War 1 including a rare silk map and an Enfield rifle items most of us would never have had the opportunity to handle. This was just a taster of what we would see later. At this point we were split into two groups the first group would begin the tour of the museum whilst the other group indulged in the hospitality laid on by the staff in the museum café. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff that knocked up a large amount of bacon and eggs rolls and cups of tea and coffee that were a welcome pit stop. While in the café it was noticed we had our very own Winston Churchill.
The tour began with a mock up German submarine, a very enthusiastic RAF Regiment gunner Veteran explained the history behind all the exhibits and the bravery shown by serviceman in retrieving the items.
We then transited to the next room which was an impressive sight, it was a mock up of a trench system which led into a large room with battle footage projected onto a wall featuring newspaper reports and a large union jack, in the background audio system played sound as if during an air raid or artillery bombardment. The surrounding wall was full of display cabinets again filled of British/ French/German weapons from mortars to trench fighting tools.
The next room we visited was a mock up of the cold war era forward operating set up. The Staff Sergeant who had greeted us earlier gave us a briefing about the kind of operations that went on during the cold war, how barns etc were used as forward command structures. He briefed us about various weapon systems and communications gear employed by the British during this time. We learned about the progression of weapons systems employed and how we eventually ended up with the SA 80. This was definitely a learning curve for everybody, as we discovered, we were the first nation to use the M16 rifle for jungle warfare before it was adopted by the Americans.
The next room visited was a modern war room featuring mines and bomb disposal kit, there was a lot of interest in this display as we got hands on the various weapon systems and personal protection suits worn by bomb disposal. Some got the chance to put the suit on.
This concluded the tour, we all gathered at the entrance where we had an 8 SQN print to present to the museum which was signed by all who attended.
At present the VC Museum is still building some further exhibits and a mock up of the Somme Battle field as a memorial garden. Once complete this museum will be fantastic and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone planning a Forced Development day. We then left on schedule and made our way to the next venue. It was a short hop of 4 miles to the South Yorkshire Air Museum. This visit was a less structured affair. The group were free to bomb burst and take in the displays at their own leisure. The museum contained displays of vintage aircraft and vehicles, there was a large Falkland’s war exhibition that had a lot of pictures and literature on various battles, as well as aircraft that took part in the liberation of the island.
Other displays contained models of aircraft a little more familiar.
As we viewed the displays most of the group found something that they could relate to; whether it was an aircraft they had worked on or something they had heard about and were fond of. The younger servicemen amongst us got the chance to see aircraft up-close that had long gone out of service before they joined up.
Having spent an hour and a half enjoying and learning about aircraft and vehicles in the museum, we then left on schedule for our planned late lunch.
After being fed and watered we then started out journey back to RAF Waddington arriving at 16:30. After a day being filled with information most will admit they learned something new and certainly had more of an appreciation of this country’s gallant heroes and outstanding aircraft and equipment that make Great Britain great.