Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with a Dakota, two Spitfires and Hurricanes

So you might ask yourself, what a chef in the Royal Air Force is doing being part of the Battle of Britain Memorial flight? As a chef, I can volunteer to help out shows as part of the PR (public relations) team, primarily as I am based at RAF Coningsby. But as you have now been posted, and you can still stay on the team as long as you can.

Every year you need to complete an exam on the aircraft, speak to the public about them, make yourself available for some of the shows and other events throughout the season. You visit care homes to see the veterans and attend schools to talk to the children about all the RAF does and what went before them. Or to be on hand, under the tent at Air Shows to meet aircraft enthusiasts, the general public and inspire future generations to hopefully go on and be part of the Royal Air Force or the military as a whole.

The Battle of Britain Memorial flight, known as the BBMF, commemorates all those who have lost their lives whilst serving in the Royal Air Force, or its previous as the Royal Flying Corps in all the conflicts from 1914 until the present day. In most cases, those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice were volunteers who willingly signed up to the risks, and perhaps they would have asked in return for an understanding of what they did. And the hardships and trials they faced to be remembered.
The RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s fleet of World War II aircraft present are preserved in flying conditions like a living salute to the many, and the BBMF’s motto is “lest we forget” says it all.

The BBMG was inaugurated on 11 July 1957 at Biggin Hill in Kent as the RAF Historical Aircraft Flight. The flight initially consisted of three Spitfires and the RAF’s last airworthy Hurricane and was quickly renamed the ‘Battle of Britain’ flight.

In 1969, to reflect its wider commemorative role, the flight became the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The BBMF had only one Spitfire and one Hurricane on its strength. Now, as a museum, without walls. It maintains twelve historic aircraft, irreplaceable aircraft in airworthy condition; Avro Lancaster, a C, 47 Dakota, six Spitfires, two Hurricanes, and two De Havilland Chipmunks training aircraft.

The BBMF is a regular RAF unit maintained by service personnel and funded by the Ministry of Defence. Those who served with the flight feel extremely privileged to work and fly the BBMF collection of historic aircraft, all precious artefacts of the RAF and the nation’s aviation history.

The display season runs typically from the beginning of May to the end of September each year. And with the pre-season work up flying crews taking place in April, culminating in the public display approval or PDA being sought from each pilot from the Air Officer Commanding number one group. All the aircraft will regularly fly during the display season, and its aircraft and crews deploy away routinely on display duties. Meanwhile, routine servicing and rectification work also takes place in the BBMF flights hangar.

The BBMF is tasked to fly over 100 displays, approx 300 to 400 flypast events of all shapes and sizes during each air display season. This generates yearly approx 1000 individual aircraft appearances. Each year, the display programme takes careful and extensive planning, and each sortie involves several events to maximise the opportunities within the limited flying hours available. The flying hours are imposed to ensure the aircraft’s long-term preservation and maintain the airworthy condition of the flight’s twelve historic aircraft. The BBMF engineering team’s responsibility consists of thirty RAF engineering tradespeople headed up by the flight senior engineering officer. The team coordinates the aircraft servicing programmes during the winter maintenance period and through the display season to ensure that the correct number of aircraft are available to meet the display commitments.

The BBMF engineers, who make up a relatively small team, have all volunteered for duties on the flight and serve a nominal three-to-five-year tour of duty. A small team of full-time service technicians with a long experience in servicing these historic aircraft provides invaluable knowledge.

Today, the BBMF historic aircraft is perhaps the most careful in the world. Maintained to a much higher standard than was possible during World War II, preserving these priceless pieces of our national heritage is planned on a long-term basis. The ultimate aim is to keep the aircraft flying forever.

Hawker Hurricane

The BBMF aircraft fleet consists of 12 air-worthy aircraft. Some of the BBMF aircraft have remarkable wartime history of their own, and the most defied the odds to be flying examples of the kind.

The Avro Lancaster PA474 is one of only two of these iconic four-engine heavy bombers still airworthy in the world to fly memorial to the men of Bomber Command, especially to the 55,573, who gave their lives during World War Two.

The C 47 Dakota represents the dogged work of the UK military transport aircraft and crews. The flight six Spitfires range from a 1940 Spitfire right through to the 1945 reconnaissance PR Mark nines.

The flight also proudly holds in its strength two Hawker hurricanes, of the 1944 vintage, including the last hurricane ever built. PS865. The last of the many. Finally, the BBMF has two De Havalent chipmunk T10 training aircraft, making up the full complement.

There are only two full-time pilots on the strength of the BBMF, the officer commanding, a Squadron Leader and the Operations Officer, a Flight Lieutenant. All other BBMF aircrew are volunteers with primary duties in the wider RAF as pilots on the A400M Atlas, E3D sentry, to name a few, but who fly BBMF aircraft, mainly in their own time a considerable commitment.

RAF fighter pilots fly the BBMF Spitfire and hurricanes, usually flying the F35 or Typhoons. There typically are five fighter pilots on the team. One of these is the Officer Commanding OC. And the next OC serves as a volunteer for four years to gain the required experience before taking command.

Spitfire Mark two AP7350 was built in 1940 and it was the 14th of the 11,939 Spitfire constructed the Castle Bromitch Shadow factory.

On 25 October 1940, whilst being flown by Polish pilot Ludwik Martel, P7350 was shot by a German Bf109. A cannon shell punched a large hole in the port wing. Despite his injuries, wounded by shrapnel in the left side of his body and legs, Martel, in pain and fighting to stay conscious, managed to fly the aircraft down through 16,000 feet of thick cloud, landing in a field near Hastings. The making of the movie ‘Battle of Britain’ saw Spitfire P7350 emerge from 20 years of dormancy when it was selected to fly in the film. After filming was complete, P7350 was allocated to the Battle of Britain Flight. It was flown to the flight’s base at Coltishall by Squadron Leader Tim Mills on 5 November 1968. This famous old Spitfire has served with the BBMF ever since. She is the only airworthy Spitfire from the Battle of Britain, a much-admired survivor and precious artefact of British aviation history and the RAF’s wartime heritage.

Facebook Pagelike Widget