Ex MAPLE PAST
On a windy morning on Thursday 23rd October, 12 members of V(Army Co-operation) Squadron visited Newark Air Museum.
Museum volunteer Mick Coombes provided an in-depth guided tour of the aircraft on display that the Squadron had used during its history and the attendees prepared briefs on the different aircraft to be viewed.
Firstly, Mick introduced the party to the Air Museum as a whole, and the first aircraft of the day, the Gloster Meteor. LCpl Denchai gave a short brief on the Meteor, the first jet fighter to fly in the RAF. This served for forty years from 1944, eventually leaving service in the 1980s as a target tug. It had no ejection seat, as opening the canopy during an emergency would have decapitated the pilot.
The party migrated inside into Hall 1 to view the de Havilland Vampire, used by V(AC) Sqn in Germany in 1951 as a frontline fighter. Cpl Murphy gave a brief on the Vampire. This had less longevity than the Meteor, becoming a pilot trainer from 1953 until it retired from the RAF in 1966.
Adjacent to the Vampire was the de Havilland Venom which V(AC) Sqn were re-equipped with after using the Vampire for only a couple of years. The Venom, which was primarily used as a fighter-bomber, was in service until 1962. Cpl Ratcliffe gave an informative brief on the airframe, followed by more detail from Mick, who described the use of fences on the wings to counter the swept wing construction. Fences are also used on Russian MiGs to prevent air from moving down the wing causing instability.
Departing Hall 1, Mick showed the group the 1,000lb V1 doodlebug. He explained that one of the better techniques to destroy these in mid-air was for the Hawker Tempest to fly next to the V1 and use the aircraft’s wing to tip the V1 gently until it fell out of its original trajectory. Shooting the V1 down from behind generally caused the aircraft to suffer damage in the blast.
Before heading to see the Gloster Javelin in Hall 2, Mick introduced the English Electric Canberra which was used as a trainer for Javelin Navigators, as it shared its equipment with the Javelin. The Canberra was employed in Afghanistan until 2006 as an aerial reconnaissance platform. Some of the group clambered into the tight cockpit through a hatch on the underbelly to experience the hardship its pilots would have endured. In Hall 2, LCpl Turner briefed on the famed Gloster Javelin, the last aircraft to bear the Gloster name. The delta-winged Javelin replaced the Meteor in Germany and flew until retiring in 1968.
The best was yet to come, and the group moved outside to view the museum’s final V(AC) Sqn airframe: the English Electric Lightning, which replaced the Javelin. Another of these aircraft now sits outside the Squadron HQ at RAF Waddington, so it was a real treat finally to learn about this icon of the unit. Cpl Scowcroft gave the final brief. The Lightning served V(AC) Sqn as an interceptor at RAF Binbrook from 1965 until 1987 when the squadron was re-equipped with Tornado F3s. Uniquely, the Lightning had two engines stacked on top of each other, so if one engine failed, the airframe could still land without the stability of the aircraft being affected.
Finally, Mick briefed the group on the Avro Vulcan, at RAF Waddington from 1957 – 1982. Mick squeezed the entire group into the cockpit, four at a time. This was especially resonant for the group as they had recently viewed the final majestic flypast from the last active Vulcan.
From the museum, a hearty lunch was enjoyed at the Castle Rock pub, The Fox & Crown in Newark followed by a quick, tragically curtailed visit to the Spotlight Gallery at Newark Town Hall Museum, showcasing a selection of locally embroidered postcards copying postcards from WW1.