Archive for May, 2009

Festival fund-raising

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Wounded servicemen and women are set to gain a major boost from Southend Festival of the Air 2009.

An organisation called Help for Heroes – which supports those wounded while serving their country – has been chosen as the Festival’s official charity.

Badged official collectors will circulate among the seafront crowds at the Festival on Sunday 24th May and Monday 25th May.

There will also be a special stall selling memorabilia and promoting the work of Help for Heroes.

  • Help for Heroes was launched in October 2007 to help members of the Armed Forces injured in the course of serving their country.
  • It was borne out of an immense respect for the courage, humour and professionalism of the men and women of the Armed Forces who put their lives in danger, on a regular basis, on our behalf
  • Help for Heroes has raised, on average, over £1 million per month to help our wounded – a total of more than £12 million committed or designated
  • The majority of the money raised has been allocated for building much needed rehabilitation facilities.
  • Much of this money comes from fundraising events organised by people across the country
  • Help for Heroes supports other service charities, and aims to supplement the available facilities and care so those in rehabilitation get the very best facilities and treatment in order to recover from their injuries and rebuild their careers.
  • It benefits members of the Royal Navy, Army and RAF
  • More details are available from

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Executive Councillor for Enterprise, Tourism and Regeneration, Councillor John Lamb says: “We are very pleased that Help for Heroes is the official charity for Southend Festival of the Air 2009.”

At all our previous Airshows we have always had an immense amount of loyal help from members the of the armed services, both airborne and on the ground, so we are delighted to try to give a little bit back by helping a charity which supports their wounded colleagues.

“We hope that as many people as possible will dig deep into their pockets and give as much as they can to this very worthy cause.”

Check out the latest details of Southend Festival of the Air 2009 on

Last Chance to Book for the Airbourne Ball

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

The first ever Airbourne Lift-Off Dinner takes place on 30 May and fans of the World’s biggest FREE seafront airshow are being encouraged to book quickly for the last remaining tickets.The Chatsworth Hotel will host a special Airbourne dinner evening on Saturday 30 May to celebrate the lead-up to the annual Eastbourne event, with proceeds to go towards the fighting fund to support Eastbourne Airshow.

With the final batch of tickets now available, airshow enthusiasts have only a couple of weeks to book their place at the packed evening, which will include an airshow-themed menu, Rat Pack entertainment from singer Tom Fitzpatrick, engaging guest speaker Group Captain Gordon Bruce and the opportunity to bid for exclusive RAF memorabilia in an after-dinner auction.

Director of Tourism for Eastbourne Borough Council, Norman Kinnish said “The Airbourne launch dinner is a great opportunity for airshow fans to really show their support for the 2009 event and enjoy an evening to remember. Guests can certainly look forward to an impressive evening and with tickets almost sold out; this really is the last chance to enjoy an exclusive dose of Airbourne action before the airshow in August.”

Organised by the Lions Hotel, owner Sheikh Abid Gulzar, is the first Eastbourne businessman to pledge his support for Airbourne, which returns to the town from 13-16 August this year.

Proceeds from the evening will be donated to Airbourne 2009 and contribute to the fighting fund to save the event’s future.

Tickets for the Airbourne lift-off dinner cost £40 per person and are available to book now, online from E-shop as well as from the Tourist Information Centre and Chatsworth Hotel. Guests can look forward to a scrumptious 5-course dinner, including themed courses such as ‘A fine display team’ for starters and ‘the final fly past’ for the finishing course of English and Continental Cheeses.

For more information on Airbourne visit or telephone 0871 663 0031

French Veterans Mark Anniversary of Squadron Formation at RAF Elvington

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Five veterans of the unique French Squadron’s that operated out of the WWII Bomber Command Station of RAF Elvington made a pilgrimage back to the former airbase, now the Yorkshire Air Museum & Allied Air Forces Memorial, to mark the 65th Anniversary of the formation of their Squadrons. These Squadrons were formed around the remnants of the French Air Force, under the name of Groupes Lourds (Heavy Groups), flying near obsolete Leo 45 aircraft in missions alongside allied forces in North Africa against the Nazi Afrika Korps. Under the RAF designation of 346 Guyenne Squadron and 347 Tunisie Squadron, they were officially formed on 16th May and 20th June 1944 respectively.The visiting veterans, whose ages range from a ‘youthful’ 87 to a grand 91, have recently all taken part in the production of a French film documentary about their lives and loves in York and on the operations over Europe conducted from RAF Elvington. It will not be lost on many people that it is also the 65th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, one of the greatest operations in military history, but what is often overlooked is the vital role played by the two French Squadrons of Bomber Command in this strike for liberty and victory.

346 Squadron was immediately drawn into the invasion operations and it’s first missions were on the night of 1st/2nd June 1944 in a raid on the strategically vital radar installations at Ferme d’Urville on the Normandy coast. This mission, involving aircraft from other Squadrons and locations, was led by Group Captain Leonard Cheshire (617 Squadron). Then on the night of 5th/6th June, 346 was involved in raids against the heavy German Gun Battery just outside the small fishing port at Grandcamp Maisy, on the western tip of what was designated as ‘Omaha’ Beach, for the landings. Operations also took place against the railway marshalling yards at Caen and St. Lo. One of the veterans attending, Louis Hervelin, 87, took part in these missions.

The success of these operations was crucial to the overall outcome of the battle ahead, but the anguish that those first French crews must have gone through in bombing their own homeland is revealed in the documentary, overcome by their determination to ‘kick the Nazi enemy out of their beloved homeland’.

346 Squadron was augmented by the formation of 347 Tunisie Squadron on 20th June, and from this point they together took the war to the Ruhr, known ironically as the ‘Happy Valley’ because of the immense danger from flak and fighter intervention, and the German industrial heartland.

Ian Reed, Museum Director, said, “These young men, far away from their homes and their families had the unenviable task of often bombing their own country, and 50% never made it home. They were brave men and well known throughout York. Their stories in this new film are exceptionally heart-warming, especially about the English people and we are pleased to welcome them “back to base” once again”.

All of these veterans are united in their admiration in respect for the way they were welcomed and received in England, despite the language barriers, being treated as one of the family in the network of homes operated by Friends of the French Volunteers, when taking leave in places as diverse as London, Leeds or Lossiemouth. Locally, they learned to enjoy the unique atmosphere of the English pubs and the dance halls in York and the surrounding area. This exuberance in the face of the hostility of the times amazed them, as public dancing had almost ceased in France from the onset of the war.

They were impressed by the spirit and organisation of the British people and the way the old and the young, all pulled together in one united objective, all focused around the major figure of the time, Winston Churchill. Something else they had never encountered were the WAAF’s, and other branches of the women’s services, and the many and varied roles they took part in maintaining aircraft and keeping the bases running efficiently. This they found simply incredible.

What is very important to these survivors is what they refer to as the English Hommage and the ceremonies that are organized each year to pay tribute to those that did not return. Louis Hervelin recalls the services in York that he has attended: “At the commemorative service in York that I have been to several times, four Officers of the Royal Air Force take the Book (of Remembrance), and show it to the congregation, and then they turn the page. It is called The Turning of the Page and then they put it back in its place. That is a real memory, it gets you right here! When the English clergyman explained to me, when I saw the names of my chums – they are all there! I left in tears.”

Similarly, Pierre Patalano notes, with a tear in his eye: “In Elvington (York) in the village there is a War Memorial dedicated to the French. Every year, the schoolchildren keep a day (Remembrance Sunday) to visit the Memorial … that’s all! What else can be added?!”

The veterans who took part in the trip to Elvington are:

Group Guyenne:

Louis Hervelin – 87. Radio Operator / Air Gunner. 32 missions. Took part in raids on Grandcamp Maisy Caen and St. Lo.

Lucien Mallia – 88. Air Gunner. 23 missions. Survived from aircraft being shot down on night of 3rd/4th March 1945 when in ‘Operation Gisella’, German fighters lay in wait above air bases as the bombers returned. Lucien’s Halifax was shot at on approach to Elvington, but was able to divert to Croft where attacked again but made crash landing. The Luftwaffe JU88 that initially attacked this Halifax over Elvington crashed nearby, making another strike at the airfield, becoming the last German aircraft to crash on British soil.

Group Tunisie:

André Guédez – 88. Air Gunner, 23 missions.

Pierre Patalno – 88. Air Gunner. 29 missions.

Hervé Vigny – 91. Air Gunner. 35 missions.

Of these veterans, two have not been back to Elvington since the end of the war – Pierre Patalano and Hervé Vigny. Both were overwhelmed by the experience.

Louis Hervelin and André Guédez have not visited since 13th September 1996, but Lucien Mallia is a more regular visitor, who has attended the Remembrance Day services over the past few years.

During the visit to the Yorkshire Air Museum, the veterans had the opportunity to go inside the unique restored Halifax bomber, the only complete example in the world and see their former crew positions, recalling many memories. They toured the Museum and the many exhibits housed in original wartime buildings, including the Control Tower and French Officers Mess display. They were also shown for the first time, the documentary that they have all contributed to.

The trip culminated with a Civic Reception with the Lord Mayor of York and the High Sherriff at the Mansion House, York.

In Bomber Command, losses were one in two. The French Squadrons themselves lost 216, comprising of 41 crews plus those killed on training, exercise and bomb loading. After hostilities had ceased, and patrolling missions ended, these two French Squadrons left Elvington in October 1945, for Bordeaux, Mérignac, with their Halifax bombers, to form the basis of the new, and current, French Air Force.

Sky high delights and fabulous fun at your feet

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Excitement is mounting for the sensational Southend Festival of the Air 2009 on Sunday 24th May and Bank Holiday Monday 25th May.The finishing touches are now being added to the tremendous two-day event which offers enthralling spectacles in the air and on the ground. Both days feature fabulous flying displays starring the World Famous Red Arrows – and much much more besides.

Festival flying is set for take off at 1.50pm on Sunday 24th May when a terrific selection of aircraft roars above Southend seafront. First off the ground will be the Sar Role Demo, Mustang, B25 Mitchell, Royal Navy Black Cats Helicopter Display and the Team Guinot Wing Walkers.

From 3pm, the well-loved Battle of Britain Memorial Flight gives us a rare glimpse of our airborne heritage. These historic planes will be followed by the Matadors, Apache Helo, Hawk, Tutor and Gnat Pair.

Then the matchless Red Arrows take centre stage at 4pm performing a daring new display sequence for their first UK performance of the season.

Afterwards, the Swift Team and Typhoon will be put through their paces, before the day’s proceedings culminate in a magnificent parachute display from the RAF Falcons at 5pm.

On Monday 25th May the displays are due to begin at 2.30pm with the Swift Team and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Then the Red Arrows return with their head-turning, jaw-dropping manoeuvres to wow the crowds at 3pm, followed by the Royal Navy Black Cats Helicopter Display and the Wing Walkers.

From 4pm the Tutor, Mustang, B25 Mitchell, Gnat Pair and Matadors take flight. The finishing displays at Southend Festival of the Air 2009 at 5pm include the Apache Helo, Hawk, Typhoon and the RAF Falcons.

Throughout both days there will be a dazzling variety of ground entertainment with activities for all members of the family to see, enjoy and take part in. On offer will be: giant inflatables, flight simulators and a full arena programme throughout both afternoons. Entertainments include the Royal Marines Unarmed Combat, a fitness challenge where civilians take on the armed forces in the “Survival of the Fittest”, acrobats, singers, stilt walkers, dancers and even a robot!

Attractions along the seafront include: the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Town Show, a Charities Marquee, the RAF Town Show the Red Arrows Village and Meet the Pilots area, the Army Town Show and Music Roadshows from Southend Radio on Sunday and Essex FM on Monday. Hungry Festival goers will find refreshments to suit all tastes offered by the international range of cuisine from the catering concessions.

Councillor John Lamb, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Executive Councillor for Enterprise, Tourism & Regeneration says: “Southend Festival of the Air 2009 is an unmissable extravaganza of entertainment and activities to captivate the whole family. We have thrilling aerobatic treats and ground-level delights where people can actually meet some of the pilots, test their nerve in flight simulators, see planes at close range, challenge their fitness against members of the armed forces, and experience a massive variety of other attractions.”

PLEASE NOTE: Flying programme times may vary. Check out the latest details of Southend Festival of the Air 2009 on