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North Oxfordshire and Cotswolds Area Report Autumn 2010.

Having been invited by the IMPS to join them in celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation, Tobin and his two daughters took their Morris down to Ramsgate to see off “the little ships”. The following day they took the Morris on a ferry bound for Dunkirk to join in the celebrations. Considering the amount of bomb damage done to the city by the British in the latter part of the war, Tobin reports that the locals gave the British visitors a very friendly reception with lots of V signs and thumbs up. The tour lasted for a week during which time they travelled to Wormhoudt where the massacre of the Norfolks took place and attended numerous presentations, dinners and receptions. Probably the highlight was seeing the little ships arrive in Dunkirk which Tobin says brought a lump to his throat. He is already looking forwards to the next one in five years time.

Eight vehicles from the Area travelled down to Trucks and Troops at Beaulieu. Unfortunately Julian’s Fordson developed a fault around Didcot but undeterred Julian and family completed the journey without it (although I am not quite sure how they managed that). On the plus side the 101 Land Rover belonging to Phil Baskerville won a plaque for best post war medium vehicle which pleased him immensely.

One of the best organised events that I have attended was the “Route To Victory” which was put on by the Kennet Area of the MVT. The organisers had put together a marvellous brochure (giving some of the history of the Area and of the Airborne operations of the 21st Army Group) and organised some outstanding road runs to locations of historic interest such as the training Area for the airborne assault upon the Merville battery. Although the weather was a little variable over the weekend I still managed to get a slight tan (although only on one arm). Only a few members of our Area managed to make this event which was a real shame as it was one of the highlights of the year and not too far to get to. I do hope that after the organisers have had a suitable rest that they will repeat this event.

Another marvellous event (which sadly almost certainly will never be repeated) was the “Heritage Day” put on by the US Air Force at Fairford. The base is being wound down and currently has only 50 US personnel left on site which will be reduced to zero by the end of the year. Just over 30 MV’s were in attendance, but the USAF brought in two F15’s and a KC135 while the RAF brought a Tornado, a Harrier, a Eurofighter which was complimented with a privately owned Hurricane.

On arrival, about half of the vehicles were lined up inside a hangar to form a display alongside the local historical groups. We went outside for a closer examination of the aircraft and had a good climb over the KC135. The Aircrew encouraged us to sit in the pilots seats and play with the controls which was all great fun. They also encouraged the visitors to get out and walk along the wings the reason for which I am still uncertain. When we returned to the hangar I found the US Airforce Chaplain Brian Hochhalter intrigued by my Chaplains Jeep. I went over for a chat with him and he asked if he could sit in it. As he did so a USAF photographer found the opportunity too good to miss and started snapping away. I have given many people rides in the Jeep, including a WW2 Chaplain’s driver, but this is the first time I have had a serving military Chaplain sit in it. He certainly seemed to enjoy himself.

As the day drew to an end and the visitors started leaving, all of the fighter aircraft were refuelled in preparation to leave. A few of us hung on and were rewarded with the site and noise of having the two f15’s, the Harrier, Eurofighter, Hurricane fly off one after another. I was thrilled at how close we could stand to them as they warmed up and as we looked around to an otherwise nearly empty airfield it felt very much like a private air show.

Although it was a great day I could not help but feel rather sad that this base was being closed. Saying that the base can be reactivated in 24 to 48 hours if the need arises, so who knows what the future might bring.

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