Our Kings of the skies in demand

The two Lancaster bombers in the skies above Coningsby
The two Lancaster bombers in the skies above Coningsby

The crowds might not have been as deep on the grass verge that lines the road which runs alongside RAF Coningsby.

A few hundred feet away and inside the base – on the other side of a wire fence - the line-up of veterans and local dignitaries was definitely a lot smaller.

There weren’t as many expensive cameras on view either.

Still, history was made in the skies above RAF Coningsby last Wednesday when ‘Thumper’ and ‘Vera’ were united for the first time in five decades.

‘Thumper’ is the name of the BBMF’s Lancaster bomber. ‘Vera’ the Canadian counterpart.

They are the world’s only two remaining airworthy Lancasters.

Seeing them take off at together was a sight those present will never forget.

For people like Sam Fletcher, it was a waiting game.

He’d turned up the previous Friday along with hundreds of others when the Canadian Lancaster touched down at a wet and windy Coningsby following a 3,700 cross-Atlantic journey.

Unfortunately, bad weather kept the BBMF bomber firmly on the ground.

Sam, who had travelled from Norfolk, returned five days later and braved the notorious A17 again, just to witness history being made.

He explained: “A lot of people were saying today would be a case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show.

“Well, they weren’t here. It was fantastic seeing the two planes flying together for the first time.”

Paul Roberts, aged 67, was one of many visitors who lined that fence outside the RAF base.

He admitted: “It’s been a long wait but well worth it.

“My grandad flew in Lancasters in the war and he’d have given anything to see this today.

“Unfortunately, he passed away a couple of years ago.

“Still, hearing the roar of the engines really made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

“I’ve travelled from Yorkshire for this. I’d have come a lot further, though.

“It’s history and we probably won’t see the like again.”

Stan Inston, a flight engineer on Lancaster bombers in 419 squadron during World War Two, was among the well-wishers.

He said: “I wouldn’t have believed this was possible. There has been talk of getting them together for years and now it has come true.”

The previous Friday, the skies were dark. The proud veterans - medals illuminating the gloom - were pelted by stinging rain.

It had only been just possible to make out the Canadian aircraft as it broke through the leaden clouds following an epic journey.

Last Wednesday, the skies were a lot clearer.

Mind you, not everything went to plan. There was a brief 30 minute delay - this time for high winds.

Fears of another ‘no-show’ quickly disappeared and when the two iconic bombers took off, there were cheers - and tears.

Enthusiasts Ann and Mike Carr were disappointed they’d been on holiday for the Canadian aircraft’s arrival.

Their smiles last Wednesday said it all. “Absolutely amazing,” was Mike’s verdict.

After take-off, it wasn’t long before the two aircraft were soaring over the skies above Horncastle and Woodhall Spa.

People rushed to catch a glimpse. Craig Leyland, deputy leader of East Lindsey District Council, was one of countless people who photographed the event.

“It was a fantastic sight,” he said, “something we’ll probably never see again.”

The two aircraft will be on view at more than 60 air displays over the coming six weeks before the Canadian aircraft will leave Coningsby for the last time and head for home....weather permitting of course. Some displays - like East Kirkby - have already sold out.

Everyone wants to catch a glimpse of ‘Thumper’ and ‘Vera’ - the two ‘kings’ of the skies.