It always feels like the UK airshow season is around the corner when Sywell Aviation Museum is officially opened for the year, an event traditionally held on the Saturday of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. Greg Marsh reports on the day’s happenings.
A dedicated cadre of volunteers wonderfully maintains the Sywell Aviation Museum, with new exhibitions having often been opened in recent years – indeed the museum was awarded the People’s Choice Award for Best Museum of 2013 by Northamptonshire Heritage Awards. The large national collections are, naturally, an important part of our aviation heritage, but we should not overlook the smaller collections, for they often contain rare and unusual artefacts as well as many moving personal stories and recollections.
As always Peter Teichman provided a display, in one of his Hangar 11 Collection warbirds, to open proceedings in style. This year he brought his superb Hawker Hurricane IIB ‘Pegs’ for a typically lyrical showing. Arriving directly into slot, the Hurribomber’s routine nicely coincided with some welcome blue skies and sunshine amidst the scattered cloud that prevailed for much of the day.
On landing Peter parked up close to the crowd barrier and earned himself a well-deserved round of applause. Certainly a cracking display to start my, and many other’s, airshow year in fine fashion!
It was also appropriate that a Hawker fighter take pride of place, as the museum’s own Hawker Hunter F2, called ‘Heidi’, celebrates her 60th birthday this year!
The museum was officially opened by Chairman Andy Shemans before thanking Peter for his wonderful display and presenting him with a gift as a token of their appreciation – a number of cannon shells for his Spitfire Mk.IX restoration project. Further activities saw the unveiling of a cap that had been found in the wreckage of a United States Army Air Force B-17 that collided with the Daventry radio mast in late 1944. The boy who located it at the time had since donated a number of exhibits to the museum but tragically died last year and at the ceremony his son very kindly presented it to the Sywell Museum in his honour. Yet another artefact with a very personal story attached inducted into the museum.
Also, there was a moving re-dedication of the Sywell Airfield Memorial following a small rememberance service. The airfield was opened in 1928 and, during the Second World War, was used as a training and maintenance base.
Although not linked to the event itself, the Great War Display Team had earmarked the Saturday and Sunday of Easter to hold a series of practice sorties at Sywell. Of course, the team is in great demand with this year being the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. Unfortunately, Sunday’s inclement weather forecast forced the team to wisely cancel that day’s practices. However, Saturday’s conditions allowed three fine rehearsals throughout the afternoon. With the full nine-ship complement of B.E.2C, Sopwith Triplane, three S.E.5as, two Junkers CL.1s and a pair of Fokker Dr.1s, the sky was filled with noise and action. I’ve long been impressed by the team’s well-choreographed dogfights, but this year they have really nailed it!
As always a trip to this delightful aerodrome is a joy and I heartily recommend anyone in the area to sample this relaxed event next year. The museum and its volunteers certainly work hard to produce a fantastic event, which has been reflected in the accompanying photographs.
We’ll be back at Sywell on Sunday 17 August for the bi-annual airshow. It’s already shaping up extremely well and I look forward to seeing what else is announced over the coming months.
The Sywell Aviation Museum is open from Easter Saturday to the end of September every Saturday, Sunday and also on Bank Holidays between 1030 and 1630. Entrance is free of charge but donations are most welcome. For more information, please visit the museum website.
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