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Battle of Britain 70th Anniversary Fun Day

Sunday 12th September 2010 sees the Battle of Britain 70th Anniversary Fun Day at North Weald Airfield.

For more information see the Epping Forest District Council website.

John Freeborn obituary

Sadly the death of Wing Commander John Freeborn has been announced. Read the obituary in the Yorkshire Post.

I first got to know John Freeborn, in 2003, through a visitor to the North Weald Airfield Museum. The visitor’s cousin, Roy Smith, had been a neighbour of John’s when they both lived in Spain. I got in touch with Roy and invited him and John to our house in North Weald where my wife and I were living at that time.

As we settled down in the lounge I asked John if he had ever been to North Weald before. His answer was an emphatic “never”. He had blanked it out until recently. The difficult question then was, did he want to visit North Weald Parish Churchyard. Roy said yes. This was one of the most emotional days I can remember. There was Roy, my wife and I, with John looking at the grave of Hulton–Harrop, the man he shot down, on instruction from his Flight Leader. On the Battle of Barking Creek page there is a photograph of John looking at the grave, taken by my wife, Elaine.

I think this visit, along with visits to the Museum and the Squadron Club, where he received warm welcomes, gave John closure.

We became good friends of John’s and he visited our house again and was invited to become an Honorary Member of the Museum.

Memorably, whenever we went to Australia to visit our daughter, which we did about every nine months, we would send John a postcard. He always replied, thanking us, with a two page hand written letter.

Bill Aitken

Chipmunks and forced landings - Gp. Capt. Peter Moore

"I first took to the air at RAF North Weald in August 1963. While the jets had long gone, there was still a small RAF presence that included No 614 Volunteer Gliding School of the Air Cadets.

Somewhere around mid-1964, the regular RAF withdrew but the VGS remained for a short while longer, until it was relocated to RAF Debden. North Weald continued to be listed as an emergency diversion airfield until a few years later - probably 1967/68, after which it disappeared from RAF publications.

In the summer of 1968, when the army occupied the base for a short period, I escorted another RAF Chipmunk that was making a forced landing on the airfield. That aircraft had run short of oil and North Weald was a far better alternative than a farmer's field. The army were less than welcoming, but eventually another Chipmunk arrived with a supply of oil from our base at RAF Manston and the three aircraft set off for home. The pilot of the Chipmunk that ran out of oil went on to be a senior captain flying the A330 with Dragonair and I ended up commanding RAF Cranwell.

I believe that 614 VGS still exists at MOD Wethersfield and, no doubt, has a history that covers its happy times at North Weald."

Peter Moore, July 2010

North Weald Airfield History replies:
Many thanks to Peter Moore for getting in touch. If anyone has further stories about the No 614 Volunteer Gliding School, or North Weald in general, please let us know.

"The Battle of Britain" film remembered

BBC Radio 4's "The Film Programme" on 2nd October 2009 included a short feature about the making of the 1969 film, "The Battle of Britain". This interesting 12 minute piece featured interviews with 2 of the technical crew - Robin Brown, a camera assistant, and chief stunt pilot, Connie Edwards - as well as illustrative clips from the film.

Visit The Film Programme website to find out more.

13th September 2009 - Spirit of North Weald Community Day Fly-in

Join us for The Spirit of North Weald Community Day Fly-in at North Weald Airfield on Sunday 13th September 2009

Spirit of North Weald promotional poster.

Spirit of North Weald programme information.

Featuring F16 Fighters of 132 Wing Royal Norwegian Air Force, flying in from their base at Bodø, north of the Arctic Circle. Returning to the Wing's Second World War (WWII) home, to commemorate the 65th Anniversary of the "birth of today’s Norwegian Air Force" and celebrate their close bond with the local community since 1942.

This is the first of a proposed series of annual fly-ins at the airfield, leading up to the 2012 Olympics and, hopefully, featuring each year at least one of the six nations whose squadrons flew from RAF North Weald. [See notes below].

It is fitting that the first of these nations is Norway, whose young pilots flew from North Weald for more than 2 years during WWII and were welcomed into the hearts and homes of the local community. Norwegian Air Force Chief of Air Staff, Major General Stein Erik Nodeland, Brigadier Per-egi Rygg the Commander of 132 Wing and 5 Norwegian veterans who flew from here in WWII will represent them; along with the Mayor and community representatives from the City of Bodø.
Aimed at raising funds for the RAFA’s Wings Appeal this community partnership event will not be a formal air display as such, but a wide variety of aircraft reflecting the airfield's long and epic history will be on display, alongside the F16s and displays by various aviation/military groups and organizations.

Many of North Weald's regular visitors, including aircraft from the RAF’s 72 (Reserve) Squadron who have links with the airfield and its people going back many years, are expected to fly in on the day, providing a unique opportunity for people to experience at close quarters the sights and sounds of a wide variety of aircraft, from bi-plane to supersonic fighter.

The airfield will be open to the public and visiting aircraft from 9am. With a dedicated "village green" area set aside for more traditional community-based activities, displays and children’s amusements open from 11am, it promises to be an enjoyable day, with something to interest all the family.

There will be no aircraft landing fees, but visiting pilots are reminded that it is essential to PPR on 01992 524510 before setting out and be aware that there will be no aircraft movements allowed during departure/Fly-bys of the F16s.

Draft programme for Norwegian visit to North Weald
Friday 11th September
1pm: Target arrival time for RNorAF Fan Jet Falcon and two F16 aircraft (subject to operational circumstances), veterans and Norwegian civic party.
Sunday 13th September
9am: Airfield opens to public and visiting aircraft.
10.30: Wreath laying at Norwegian Stone/Airfield Memorial
11am: Airfield “Village Green Community Area” opens – Fly-bys begin.
1pm: 'Our Norwegian Friends – a bond of friendship between two communities’.
2.30–3.30pm: Preparation - Departure and Fly–bys of F16s and Fan Jet Falcon
5pm: Community Area closes
7pm: Airfield closes

• Flying has taken place on North Weald's still very active airfield since 1916; with more than 50 units from seven nations [UK, USA, Norway, New Zealand, Canada, Czechoslovakia and Poland] operating from RAF North Weald - prior to the station's closure in 1964.

• On June 19th 2007, the 55th anniversary of the unveiling of North Weald's Norwegian Memorial stone and the day of the unveiling of Bodo Air Station's new Spitfire Gate Guardian; a symbolic bonding between the communities of Bodø and North Weald was initiated.

An example of the close friendship between the people of our two nations, forged in war and thriving in peace, it is a symbolic reminder of the long standing links both communities have with the Royal Norwegian Air Force, past and present; Including an active airfield, one the WWII home of 132 [Norwegian] Wing and the other a major NATO base; the home of today’s 132 Wing with their F16 fighters.

• 'Olympics 2012 is about people of all nations bonding together at one place, where symbolically conflict and politics are put aside’.

With the 2012 Olympics taking place in London and the Athletes' Village and main events venues being sited only a short distance from its community, North Weald Basset Parish Council have proposed that the opportunity should be taken to instigate a community partnership project which would aim to strengthen and where necessary rekindle links with the people of the nations whose squadrons were stationed at RAF North Weald.

Reflecting on the past but principally highlighting the role of today’s young people, represented by those taking part in the next Olympics, who are as vital to ensuring our continued global well-being as their forbearers who flew from North Weald more than 60 years ago.

The intention is to launch the project at the North Weald Airfield Community Open Day and Fly-in being held at the still very active airfield on Sunday 13th September.

To read more about the Royal Norwegian Airforce go to the Royal Norwegian Airforce website, and to the Bodø Main Airbase website.

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