One of the duties which I am delighted to perform for the Trust is the vehicle verification service. The majority of these are Jeeps which after WW1 trucks (of course) are one of my favourite vehicles and I am always happy to talk about them with the owners. The most recent Jeep which I verified has a chassis number dating to March 1942 which must make it the oldest Jeep which I have examined. The owner, John Evans purchased it in 1960 for the princely sum of £65 and then took it on a five week excursion through France, Greece and into Yugoslavia. John showed me a photograph of it taken in the 1960’s with an upright piano strapped in the back. While driving through Sheffield they played “Ride of the Valkyries” only to be advised that it might have been better to purchase a radio. The Jeep has been laid up on his drive for the best part of 40 years and he and his Brother have now returned it to a superb condition and hope that we will see it out and about later this year.
The highlight so far for this year was the road run organised by Area Secretary Tony king. Tony heralded it as the “Spring into action road run”, while I felt a better description was the “Mystery Tour”. Whatever it should be titled it really was a super day out and I have written a separate report on it which should appear elsewhere in this issue.
At the March meeting Bill King delivered another one of his superb talks this time on the history of the 9th Tactical Air Force of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). Unlike the USAAF 8th Air Force we don’t seem to know much about the history of the 9th but Bill remedied that explaining the organisation and aeroplanes of the 9th and backed it up with a superb slideshow. The primary purpose of a Tactical Air Force is to bomb strategic sites in support of an advancing ground force as opposed to bombing the enemy production and supply centres. Interestingly, as D-Day approached the 9th grew to 5,000 aircraft and 200,000 personnel which exceeded even that of the mighty 8th. Bill explained the various aircraft operated by the 9th and the Northrop P61 Black Widow attracted most curiosity from the area members. Built as a twin engine, twin boom night-fighter with a remote turret it is a rather ungainly looking machine. It is believed that there are just four survivors, three of which are in the USA and one in China. A few weeks after this talk took place I was lucky enough to be in Washington DC and while visiting the National Air and Space museum in Virginia I came across one of these rare survivors. It really is a very unusual machine and I would recommend the museum to anybody if they happen to be in that part of the world.
There have been several vehicle changes recently. We say goodbye to yet another Jeep as Reg sells of his only to replace it with a far more comfortable Humber staff car, already restored and in RAF markings. It must be catching as Area Secretary Tony King has also purchased a car, this time a Vauxhall J14 of 1939 vintage. James Durly sold off his Jeep a couple of years ago only to replace it with a GMC with a workshop body which he has now sold on to Tom so that will stay within the Area. James has moved on from military vehicles for the time being to imported American classic cars, but I am sure that we will see him about this year.
In March we had an Area outing to the Household cavalry museum. This was arranged by Mike Middleton who served with the Regiment during his National Service during which he drove Ferrets and Saracens. On arrival everyone was provided with coffee and a warm welcome. After a quick Health and Safety talk a Corporal of Horse (there being no Sergeants in the Regiment) spoke about the problems they had encountered with IED’s in Afghanistan. Following this there was a tour of the barracks where we were shown the memorials to the fallen and a tree which had been brought back as a sapling by an Officer during the First World War. Apparently it was the only living thing left on the battlefield at Loos following a bombardment. Quite a poignant memorial. After this there was a tour of the vehicles within the motorised section (which included two recently returned wolfhounds still in their desert paint scheme) and the stables for the ceremonial horses. The horses were all very well behaved and are apparently very fond of peppermints which with the permission of their custodian some members supplied. Lunch was provided within the soldiers dining room after which the NCO’s mess was visited where the Regimental trophies and silverware could be seen. The final part of the tour allowed members to try on some parts of ceremonial armour and modern kit much to the amusement of all. One member who shall remain nameless (but who is apparently a very good drummer) really looked very professional indeed, although from his wife’s comments she disagreed with this view. It was an excellent day out and our thanks go to Mike for organising it all.

All the best

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