This is the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. A good many people will have been at an event where these fantastic planes will have made an appearance, sometimes just as a flypast of one, sometimes the iconic "set of three" - Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire. However they appear, they always serve as a reminder to stop and think just how much is owed to the ladies and gents of not only the RAF but of all the forces, working to keep our shores safe during conflicts.
The BBMF are based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, and their history began on 11th July 1957 when the "Historic Aircraft Flight" was formed and made it's first appearances with three Spitfires. In February 1958 the flight was renamed "The Battle of Britain Flight" and in March that year it was rehomed at North Weald in Essex. The North Weald stay proved to be a short one however and just a couple of months later the Flight was on the move again - this time up to Martlesham in Suffolk. Further moves around East Anglia followed over the next few years, and by the early 1960's the Flight was housed at RAF Coltishall in Norfolk with four aircraft - 1 Hurricane and 3 Spitfires. On 1st June 1969 the name "Battle of Britain Memorial Flight" was officially adopted. More planes were added - first a second airworthy Hurricane, and then, possibly more significantly, in late 1973 - Lancaster PA474 was officially transferred to the Flight from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. In March 1976 the Lancaster - and the Flight's other aircraft - returned to Lincolnshire to another new home - Coningsby, where they have been housed ever since.
Only 1 member of Aircrew is permanently assigned to the Flight - Squadron Leader Dunc Mason, Officer Commanding RAF BBMF. The rest of the pilots, navigators etc volunteer to serve with the flight and give up their weekends in order to carry out flying duties. In the week they are flying Typhoons, Hercules and other fully operational aircraft - at the weekends it's Hurricanes, Spitfires, a Douglas Dakota or the Lancaster. The majority of the groundcrew also volunteer to be part of the BBMF, and working hours can be irregular to say the least - particularly during the display season! This year a member of BBMF groundcrew volunteered to participate in the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, also.
Next time you see the BBMF, remember those who lost their lives flying these amazing aircraft, and think just how much we owe to them.
"The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
Winston Churchill - August 20th, 1940.