19 Signal Regiment Events
Wellesbourne Airfield, Vulcan Bombers, Museum and Cockpit visits – all in a day’s work
In spite of illness, of which more later, 35 members including their wives, partners and invited guests, took their places at our reunion dinner at the Warwick Hilton Hotel on Saturday, September 5th. Earlier in the day 25 members had boarded one of Mr Johnson’s very smart coaches for the short drive to Wellesbourne Airfield where we were met by Damaris Tapp a smartly dressed lady, part of in RAF ground crew overalls bearing the arm badge of the ‘XM655 Maintenance & Preservation Society’.
The systems on Vulcan bomber XM655 were powered up for us and operation of the various controls, lights and the bomb bay doors were demonstrated. We saw seven replica 1,000Ib bombs in a cradle in the bomb bay – three cradles and 21 bombs could be carried – just as they were when the airfield at Port Stanley was raided.
We were told about the various nuclear weapons that could also be carried: the first weapons completely filled the bomb bay whilst the last weapons to come into service were little larger than the 1,000lb bombs. Three of these could be carried and each had 15 times the power of the bombs dropped on Japan in WW2. We were also told a little of XM 655; it had been bought by a private buyer and flown to Wellesbourne but was taken over by the council (who owned the airfield), after a dispute over storage payments. It sat abandoned, vandalised and deteriorating for ten years until XM655 MAPS was formed. They brought it up to a standard; it can now undertake high speed taxi runs – which it does on Father’s Day (in June) each year.
For more information, and another photograph of our visit.see, Vulcan
Our group then split into two, half going to the nearby Wellesbourne Wartime Museum whilst Damaris took parties of four for cockpit visits. There she told us, amongst many other facts, that because it was designed by Messrs AV Roe, manufacturers of the Lancaster, there were unexpected similarities between these two legendary aircraft. The Wartime Museum displays are normally on view in the underground emergency wartime control bunker but unfortunately the tanking had failed, the bunker had flooded and the displays moved elsewhere.
The displays on the surface included a Russian Yakovlev Yak-52 trainer aircraft, a De Haviland Vampire and a ‘Goblin’jet engine. Some of the displays were unusual in that they had been uncovered by a local aviation archaeology group. Among the exhibits was a DTN table and Creed printer. We then returned to the coach to visit Hanbury Hall, a National Trust house and gardens near Droitwich. After a short talk about the various owners we partook of light lunches in the Servants Hall before visiting the various rooms and gardens individually. A large board with ‘Rules for Servants’ in the Servants Hall aroused some interest and amusement.
Unfortunately during the trip one of our number was taken ill and was unable to leave the coach to visit the Vulcan. He was admitted to hospital, looked after very well and recovered sufficiently to be released the following Wednesday.
Dinner, anniversaries and more
Before dinner Pat Soward welcomed all, particularly Calvert and Debbie Peters who had recently returned to the UK from Australia, Mrs Georgianna Jayne, daughter of Mr Alan Lewis and Mr Bill Naismith who had accompanied Mr Frank Smith on the long drive from Dundee.
Apologies had been received from others, including Paul and Kelly Austin. Paul & Kelly were to be in New York celebrating their 20th wedding (China) anniversary. The Chairman handed round a ‘Hope you have a Happy Anniversary’ card for all to sign and a handsome teapot to Ray Cank, Kelly’s father, with the request that it be passed on to them on their return home.
A few days before the reunion Bernard Strange, Major (Retired) had fallen and sadly died on September 19th. Pearl, his widow, was staunchly supported during this time by their two sons and her sister. Bernard was very popular with those members of the 19 SRA who had served with him at RAF Seletar and he presided over those at the ‘Seletar table’ at reunions in avuncular manner. He was an active, popular and hard-working member of the association who will be sorely missed.