A profusion of plane enthusiasts and the general public converged on the runway at East Kirkby Aviation Heritage Centre last Sunday to see the first rendezvous in 60 years of three Avro Lancaster Bomber warplanes.
The Three Lancasters event at East Kirkby was the meet-up of the Centre’s own Lancaster, “Just Jane”, with the BBMF’s Lancaster “Thumper” and “Vera”, the Lancaster belonging to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum based in Hamilton, Ontario.
After the first meeting of the three Avro ‘sisters’ was cancelled, all the stops were pulled out this time to ensure that the 5,000 people who had booked tickets succeeded in seeing the spectacular sight of the aircraft together, and nobody was disappointed.
The awe-inspiring sight of the three planes so close to each other, plus the tumult of 12 Merlin engines fired in unison was enough to make the crowd go wild; a cornucopia of camera-flashes and cheers.
This star event of the day was preceded by a variety of amusements: there were vintage cars to gaze at; various aeroplane components to sit in; and a Harrier simulator for those who wished to get a feel for careering through the skies at 600 miles an hour. There were tours in the Queen Mary of the airfield; band music from the 1940s; and some even took the chance to dress in 1940s-style attire.
The crowds were utterly copious too, proving the event was a splendid success. And people had certainly come far to experience this spectacular affair: many came from all over the UK and beyond.
The day was an opulent explosion of wartime culture, topped off with an unparalleled display unlikely to be repeated again (except on this Sunday). The excited expectancy for the spectacle of the Lancasters meeting mounted as the hours went on; sombrely mirroring the suspense felt by the people left behind as the Lancasters left to complete their wartime missions, with the dread that they may never come back.
In fact, the event was seen as a testament to those who had lost their lives, including the owner of East Kirkby’s eldest brother, Christopher Panton, who was shot down and killed over Nuremberg in 1944.
And it was undoubtedly a superb and very suitable tribute; commemorating not only the society of the time but also the sacrifices of those in Bomber Command, and too in all of the armed forces, in one of the most unique and extraordinary ways possible.