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Area 4's 'Evening with the Admiral' at RNAS Yeovilton

Area Rep | Published on 9/17/2019

Area 4's 'Evening with the Admiral' at RNAS Yeovilton was another great photo opportunity.

It's always surprising where our cars take us, especially when we get to be 'behind the scenes' or to meet special people. Our 'Evening with the Admiral' created both such opportunities. AMOC, along with the local Rotary Club, were invited to a private tour of the Navy Wings (the Fly Navy Heritage Trust) hangar at RNAS Yeovilton, hosted by Rear Admiral Ian Tibbitt CBE, the Trust's Vice Chairman, and Commodore Jock Alexander OBE, its Chief Executive.

After the necessary formalities of security checking us into the operational Naval Air Station, our group of 7 cars was escorted around the perimeter road to the far side of the (operational) airfield. A treat awaited us. Rather than simply park up and commence our hangar tour, we were invited to have photographs with a Hawker Sea Fury, one of two flying examples operated by the Trust. Our photographer, Louise Evans, guided us with military precision to ensure that our cars looked their best, both individually and in the mandatory group shots. We hope that one of those shots might one day make the cover of AM Quarterly,... watch that space!

The work of the Royal Navy carried on around us!

Once inside, we were welcomed by Jock who explained the role of the Trust and invited anyone not already a member to join (see here). Our group was then led by Katie Campbell, the Trust’s Display Manager, on an enthralling tour of the exhibits. Katie really brought the work of the Trust to life, explaining not only the mechanical and historical aspects, but also the human side. Her passion for the work and the exhibits, especially her beloved Fairey Swordfish (2 of them in the hangar) really shone through and was addictive. Anyone who has seen the film 'Sink the Bismarck' will know something of the old 'Stringbag's' impeccable service history that also includes the Battle of Taranto, which was the world’s first major carrier-launched air strike and became not only the blueprint for success that the Japanese copied for their attack on Pearl Harbor*, but also the model on which all aircraft carrier operations have since been developed.

* Note American spelling of their naval base

Above: Katie talks Swordfish to (L:R) Charles Scott and Anthony & Barbara King as others peer into the open cockpit

Our tour included a detailed inspection of the last flying Sea Vixen, recently made even more famous by its emergency landing at Yeovilton in 2017 (it's on You Tube). The aircraft came to the Trust with many container loads of uncatalogued spares. The sheer volume of stuff almost makes that a blessing in disguise, albeit a real help when a repair on this scale is added to the need for routine maintenance.

Above: The Sea Vixen's distinctive shape is rather disguised by this ultra wide-angle shot (that manages to squeeze it all in)!

Likewise it's navigator's cockpit and instruments (below):

A McDonnell Douglas Phantom, Hawker Sea Harrier FA2, Chipmunk, Westland Wasp helicopter and two Sea Furies (one single seat and one twin seat), plus numerous tools, crates, spare engines, etc. meant that we had plenty to look at and to talk about. Sadly, too much to take in for one evening's visit. Perhaps they'll have us back again... I think we behaved ourselves!

Above: Hawker Sea Harrier

The rear view of another Fairey Swordfish also captures a Sea Fury (left) and Chipmunk (right)

In fact Katie suggested we should return on a cold windy February evening dressed in macs, galoshes and woolly jumpers. She would then open the hanger doors to let in the bad weather, hand us all tin mugs of cocoa and switch on the projector to watch Sink the Bismarck as she proceeded to throw buckets of ice cold water over us. We might then get the tiniest idea of what it was like to serve in the North Atlantic in open bridges and cockpits in 1941. That was a sobering thought to take with us as we trundled home in our cosy, heated and leather-clad luxury GT cars!

Louise directs Royston Piper's V8 Vantage into line

John Gardner and his V8, a colourful contrast to the Sea Fury

Charles Scott's DB7 Vantage Volante in a very British colour

The author's DB9 GT 'Bond Edition' (a suitably Naval connection?)

Mike Jones and his DB7 Vantage GT

Martin Jaehme's DB9

Our thanks go to all of the Navy Wings team who planned the event and looked after us so well. Also to retired officer and active Area 4 member, Anthony King, who set things up from our end and added his senior Royal Navy engineering expertise to the presentation for our group.

(Photos - cars by Anthony King, others by Andrew & Gillian Fawkes)

Above photo c/o Louise Evans of Navy Wings taken in front of a Fairey Swordfish in its famous 'Sink the Bismarck' livery.

L-R: Linda & Charles Scott, Anthony & Barbara King, Andrew & Gillian Fawkes, Mike Jones, Katie Campbell (Fly Navy), Martin Jaehme, Royston Piper & John Wood, John & Julie Gardner and Richard Jaehme.