Terry Luckhurst organised 2015 Reunion. It was held at the Petwood Hotel, Woodhall Spa over a 3-night (weekday) period Tuesday 20th to Thursday 22 October to enable the best possible visit to RAF BBMF.
The hotel flies the RAF Ensign in recognition of its important support during the 2nd World War. The hotel provided an Officers’ Mess, initially for 97 Squadron and 619 Squadron in 1942 and then 617 “Dam Buster” Squadron in 1943. The “Dam Busters” small bar remains unchanged from 1943.
Most of the attendees arrived on the Wednesday, the day prior to the Reunion Dinner, but some had arrived earlier to take advantage of visiting the Lincolnshire Heritage Centre to view Lancaster NX311 ‘Just Jane’ when it was taxiing (this Lancaster is not airworthy). However, the Centre is open every day of the week and therefore the later arrivals were able to visit and see the exhibits on the site.
There are many artefacts from the Second World War around the side of the hangar, including a Barnes Wallis Bouncing Bomb. Elsewhere on the airfield there is a DC3 Dakota and the original wartime buildings have been used to display scenes that are reminiscent of their use during the war.
We were able to visit the BBMF and were privileged to have a conducted ‘centre aisle’ guided tour of the facility. The aircraft are maintained by RAF technicians. The tour lasted about 2 hours and our guide provided us with a very detailed description of each aircraft, which included various marks of Hurricane and Spitfire and of course the legendary airworthy Lancaster bomber (one of only 2 Lancaster bombers flying today) .
Lancaster PA474 ‘Thumper’ had recently had an engine fire and was about to have an air test before its scheduled winter servicing to prepare the aircraft for next year’s display programme.
On the final day, we assembled in the bar before reunion dinner and swapped stories of where we had been and what we had seen during our stay. Terry had kindly acted as ‘Pathfinder’ so that members could find all the local attractions and had arranged the guided tours of the BBMF mentioned earlier.
After the meal, Terry had arranged for us to participate in the Dambuster raids on one of the dams in Germany (well not Germany but a model of a dam in the corner of the room). The mission was somewhat complicated and so he provided a mission brief, much on the lines of what pilots received before a raid! The photograph below shows him briefing the ladies on their role in the mission. Note the screen behind showing the target.
The aircraft were made of balsa wood and powered by an elastic band. Having taken off for the raid they were attacked by Messerschmitt 109s and Focke-Wulf 190s (thrown by the aforementioned ladies). Now it was time to bomb the dams. As this was not possible using the model aircraft, Terry had set up a model of the dam which the teams used to test their skill at shooting a plastic ball up against the dam wall.
All too soon it was time to leave on the following morning when we persuaded the hotel receptionist to take a photograph of the assembled throng.