Archive for December, 2016

The French Airman who Fell out of the Sky on Christmas Eve 1944

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Leroy Elvington

As the “Big Day” approaches, it is perhaps worth bearing in mind that 70 years ago those involved in World War II did not stop for Christmas. However, for one French airman, flying from RAF Elvington with one of the two unique French Squadrons of RAF Bomber Command, Christmas Spirit was to turn into a miracle – of sorts.

24 year old André Guédez, with 6 other crew-mates of their Halifax bomber “L for Love”, was looking forward to going on well-earned evening leave to celebrate Christmas Eve in York with their girl-friends, when suddenly – “All Leave Cancelled” was announced.

Somewhat disheartened and unable to tell their girl friends that they could no longer meet, they began preparations for an urgent mission over Germany to try to help support the Allied defence against the surprise German attacks, known later as “The Battle of the Bulge”.

They took off from Elvington at 11:31am on Christmas Eve 1944 in their huge, lumbering, Halifax 4-engined bomber, MZ489 L8-L, “L for Love”, with other members of 347 “Tunisie” French squadron aircraft, with André in the mid-upper gunner position. After almost 4 hours flying in the freezing, foggy conditions they were above Essen Mülheim, location of the huge Krupps armaments factory. Almost immediately “L for Love” was hit by anti aircraft fire in the notoriously highly defended Ruhr Valley, known as “Happy Valley” by the airmen. Probably the most heavily defended area ever created.

As André recalls:

“The Ruhr sky was, at that time, the most explosive place in the world. The Germans had more than 30,000 anti aircraft batteries around their factories and towns. It was the industrial heart of the 3rd Reich, even though it was tottering at that time. On each incursion, especially at night, we were floodlit like in a parade, with continuous fire from anti-aircraft guns. We knew one in two aircraft might not come back, and until that day, I had been lucky”.

André remembers that the first shell hit the inner port engine. “It was quickly on fire, but we still had three engines. The second shell cut the aircraft controls. This time, it was lost.”

No parachute – nearly!

“The pilot and the co-pilot gave us the order to jump. I then disconnected the heating of my suit and my oxygen mask. At 6000m high, the temperature was –50 degrees C and the oxygen is very rare. In a few minutes I knew I would be unconscious.”

In his signature gesture of bravado, André had thrown his parachute into a corner. He discovered with horror a huge hole in the fuselage and initially thought his precious parachute has been blown away. But he found it, and had just enough time to fasten the parachute before he began to lose consciousness – just at the same moment as another explosion rocked the aircraft with a direct hit on another engine.

“I was scared, paralysed by the cold and the lack of oxygen. The Flight Engineer who was behind me pushed me out of the hatch into the open air. I must have opened my parachute instinctively, because the next second I was unconscious and don’t remember anything!

He thus fell the 18,000 feet to earth amidst all the screaming engines, guns firing and explosions and remembers nothing until he woke up sometime later. He was lying on desk in an office with an injured face and back. The first thing he noticed was that those around him were speaking German, so André knew he was a prisoner. But somehow he had survived.

“Opening my eyes, I saw kids with noses pasted to a window looking at me. An old German soldier, a poor guy who had been called-up, was looking after me.”

André’s first thoughts were for his English girlfriend waiting for him in York and how he could let her know he wouldn’t be able to meet her in town that night: “We really were in clover at the station (RAF Elvington), cherished and pampered, and I said to myself the dream was over and there would be no Christmas that night by the fireplace.”

This was not a good time to be a captured airman. “At that time the Germans were furious against the Allied airmen. The terrible bombings in Dresden, which caused the death of 45,000 people, were considered war crimes”.

They threw him into a civilian prison on the night of 24th December and later he found his Flight Engineer, Sgt. François Duran, who had survived as well. “We were happy to see each other again. The day after, we were sent to an interrogation centre. We had a really hard time when a Wehrmacht Officer, threatened us”. As France was “German Occupied territory”, French airmen & soldiers fighting with the Allies were considered as traitors, and André learnt afterwards that they were the only two survivors out of the seven man crew of Elvington’s Halifax ‘L for Love’. The others were shot as they parachuted to Earth or killed when the aircraft crashed in the outskirts of Düsseldorf at Wersten im Brücherbach.

Prisoner in Germany.

André spent four and a half months as a prisoner in Germany and during that time André remembers being marched through the devastated German towns and cities.

“We were eventually sent to a camp near Munich. Hitler had the crazy idea of setting up a prison of war camp in the Bavarian Alps. The Americans released us on 29th April 1945.”

Amazingly, André and François also survived one of the Great Marches, as the Nazi’s moved prisoners of war away from the Russian front in the winter of early 1945. For 67 years, André and François Duran telephoned each other every 24th December to remember the close friends they had lost that tragic night. Francois died in 2012.

After the war André continued in the French Air Force eventually becoming a Colonel. His youngest daughter Genevieve Monneris and his grandson Thomas Lesgoirres made several documentaries about the French Squadrons at Elvington, and in particular, a documentary about André’s wartime experiences won the prestigious IWM London Film Festival in 2012. Her book “The French Squadrons” was released in 2016.

Ian Reed, Director of the Allied Air Forces Memorial & Yorkshire Air Museum which is based on the former airfield, commented: “As each year passes, there are fewer and fewer veterans of the famous French Squadrons, and indeed all those of RAF Bomber Command, left with us. It is an honour to know him today and we are thankful that André Guédez is still going strong as we remember his incredible story, and give our thanks that because of people like him, Europe has seen the longest period of peace in modern history. We must never forget”

New playground inspired by Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier to be built at the Fleet Air Arm Museum

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Fleet Air Arm Museum logo

Funding of £74,350 has been secured to transform the entrance to The National Museum of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm Museum (FAAM) with an exciting new playground inspired by the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth, one of the new aircraft carriers due to enter Royal Navy service in 2017.

Aircraft from the Fleet Air Arm are routinely deployed on carriers and the launch of two new Queen Elizabeth Class ships presents an exciting opportunity for both visitors and the local Royal Navy community to engage with the museum, its collection and story.

The project will significantly alter visitor’s first impressions of the Fleet Air Arm Museum and introduce the inspirational story of Royal Navy aviation in a novel, attractive and engaging way.

The funding issued by the Viridor Credits Environmental Company, is sourced from The Landfill Communities Fund, an innovative tax credit scheme enabling landfill operators to contribute money to organisations to benefit a wide range of community and environmental projects in the vicinity of landfill sites.

Gareth Williams, Funded Projects Manager at Viridor Credits Environmental Company said: “The Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton is an important part of aviation heritage in the South West, and the new play area will enhance its status as a local attraction for visitors and local families alike.”

Marc Farrance, General Manager at the Fleet Air Arm Museum (FAAM) added: “We are delighted to secure this funding stream from Viridor Credits. This is a great opportunity for the museum to develop its visitor experience as we tell the ongoing story of naval aviation heritage. 2017 is set to be the year of the Carrier programme and the world will be transfixed by the scale of these vessels. We hope to be able to capture a little bit of that excitement here!”

The museum’s aim is to carry the theme of the new Queen Elizabeth Class playground throughout the entire site. This work will also set the foundation for other potential future funding bids and a larger development plan for the future. Plans for a crowdfunding campaign to assist will be announced early in 2017.

Thunderbirds are go at the Royal International Air Tattoo 2017

Monday, December 12th, 2016

Thunderbirds at RIAT

PLANS to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the US Air Force at next summer’s Royal International Air Tattoo were given a huge boost this week following the announcement that one of the world’s most popular display teams will make a rare trip across the Atlantic to take part.

The Thunderbirds’ performance at the Air Tattoo, which takes place on July 14-16, will be the team’s only UK appearance next year and will be part of the airshow’s official tribute to mark the US Air Force’s 70th anniversary. As well as seeing a range of operational and historic US Air Force aircraft in the air and on the ground, Air Tattoo visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the key role the air arm plays in a range of international coalitions and partnerships.

Formed in 1953, the team is renowned as much for its choreographed pre-flight ground routine – performed with pinpoint accuracy – as it is for its stunning aerial displays.

Flying six F-16 Fighting Falcons, elite pilots from the US Air Force will perform a mix of formation flying and solo routines that highlight the maximum capabilities of the USAF’s frontline, multi-role fighter jet. The team, which is based at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, has only appeared at the Air Tattoo once before – in 2007.

Air Tattoo Chief Executive Andy Armstrong said the announcement of the Thunderbirds’ participation demonstrated the incredibly strong bond that exists with the US Air Force.

He said: “The history – and success – of the Air Tattoo is inextricably linked to the US Air Force, on whose base the event takes place each year. I am pleased that we’ll have the opportunity next summer to mark their 70th anniversary.”

Special reduced-price Air Tattoo ‘Super Earlybird’ tickets are available until January 31, priced from £29. Under-16s go free. For details, visit or call 01285 713456.

2017 Events at Newark Air Museum

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Newark Air Museum Aeroboot

4 March, 2017 – Indoor Aeroboot / Aerojumble Table Top Sale
48 sellers tables all hosted inside Display Hangar 2 amongst the aircraft at the museum site in eastern Nottinghamshire. {Special discount admission rates apply, open to everyone to attend.}

20 & 21 May, 2017 – Hastings & Shackleton 40th Anniversary Weekend
Two day event to commemorate 40 years since these iconic aircraft arrived at the museum; this will also involve the Lincolnshire’s Lancaster Association. {Normal admission rates apply}

17 & 18 June, 2017 – Cockpit-Fest & Aeroboot
This annual gathering provides the perfect opportunity for the public to view a diverse range of visiting aircraft cockpits {Normal admission rates apply}

12 & 13 August, 2017 – 1940’s Weekend
A follow-up event from the successful 2015 Victory Days weekend, with an American focus to reflect their operations from RAF Balderton {Normal admission rates apply}

14 October, 2017 – Indoor Aeroboot / Aerojumble aviation & avionic sale
48 sellers tables all hosted inside Display Hangar 2 amongst the aircraft at the museum site in eastern Nottinghamshire. {Special discount admission rates apply, open to everyone to attend.}

For further details visit:

Northrop Grumman Supports Centenary Programme to Transform Royal Air Force Museum, London

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

RAF Museum London

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has entered into a sponsor partnership with the Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum to support the museum’s RAF Centenary Programme that will transform its London site as part of the Royal Air Force’s centenary celebrations in 2018.

The museum’s plans include a series of new permanent exhibitions which will open in the summer of 2018. Northrop Grumman will be a themed sponsor in the new Now & the Future exhibition area with a particular emphasis on air intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and unmanned aircraft systems. The Now & the Future exhibit area will enable visitors to understand the story of the RAF from its earliest years in the First World War to its global role today.

“The RAF Museum plays an important role in ensuring the RAF’s story endures and inspires future generations,” said Andrew Tyler, chief executive, Northrop Grumman Europe. “Through our partnership with the museum we have an exciting opportunity to play our part in educating and informing visitors about the technology innovations of today and the future, and encourage a deeper interest in aeronautics among all age groups.”

The multi-million pound development programme will transform the London site through investment in new exhibitions, improved education and volunteering opportunities, and landscaping that will emphasise the site’s importance as a heritage airfield. It will improve the visitor experience, extend the museum’s reach to new audiences and create a lasting legacy to mark the Centenary. The museum has received substantial funding from Heritage Lottery Fund grants as well as public and corporate benefactors. It needs just under £7m to reach its target.

“The Trustees of the RAF Museum would like to take this opportunity to thank Northrop Grumman for their generous support. The museum is committed to sharing the story of the women and men of the Royal Air Force and we are looking forward to redeveloping the site to make it more engaging and accessible for future generations,” said Karen Whitting, director of public programmes, RAF Museum.

The RAF Museum was established in 1968 as a legacy of the RAF’s 50th anniversary. It opened its London site at Hendon in 1972. The museum is a National Museum and a registered charity and welcomes approximately 700,000 visitors a year.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide. Please visit for more information.

Newark Restoration Updates

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Newark Air Museum Monospar

The winter restoration work at Newark Air Museum is refocusing onto two of the long-term in-depth restoration projects at the museum’s site in eastern Nottinghamshire.

In the on-site workshop work continues on the North American Harvard II B, 42-12417 (Dutch AF B-163 and RCAF FE930). At the present time work is focused on the rear fuselage and cockpit areas of the airframe; with some additional panel repair work being undertaken on one of the wings.

Elsewhere on site, work is also ongoing on the General Aircraft Monospar VH-UTH. Now that much of the internal work on the cockpit and fuselage areas has been completed the aircraft has been taken off the trestles. This has also allowed work to be started on the application of the fabric to the underside of the fuselage.

Take a flight with Santa!

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Sleigh Ride at RAF Museum

For the Christmas period, up to and including 31st December, our 4D theatres will be taking on a Christmas theme.

Dates: Saturday 3rd Dec – Saturday 31st December
Tickets: £5 (£16 discount for families)

The 4D “Sleigh Ride” experience takes you to Christmas Eve where Santa is making last minute preparations for the big night.

But when disaster hits, it only leaves a stuffy reindeer and a brave but clumsy elf to take the reins. Will this unlikely duo be able to save Christmas by putting their differences aside?

Find out by taking a making a magical journey across a starry Christmas-tide sky.

Available from 3 December at the Royal Air Force Museum London until December 31.

Cost £5 for a single ticket : £16 for a family ticket.

Sleigh Ride 4D is suitable for all.

Tickets may be purchased at the Museum shop, Main Entrance or 4D Theatre itself.

Check out the trailer: