The Lancaster operated by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight conducted a commemorative sortie over Belgium and the Netherlands this week, which is a rare opportunity to see the aircraft operate overseas.
The Lancaster Bomber played an important part in the Liberation of the Continent, and the flight was able to serve as a commemoration of Operation Manna which saw the Lancaster used in a humanitarian capacity, delivering food and supplies to those in need in the Netherlands.
Despite a challenging 24 hours in the lead up to the commemorative sortie, the outstanding team of engineers on the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight worked tirelessly to ensure a fault that was discovered on the aircraft was rectified and the sortie was able to take place as planned, with only a minor delay to the start time.
The sortie itself was 5 hours and 10 minutes in length, with Flt Lt Paul “Ernie” Wise and Flt Lt Jamie “JJ” Jackson flying the Lancaster, supported by Navigators Flt Lt Neil Whitehead and Flt Lt Chris Stradling and Flight Engineer MACR Dave Stinton. The Bomber aircrew were also joined on board by two of the Flight’s engineers who were ready to support should the aircraft need to land for fuel overseas. Flt Lt Chris Stradling, who has joined the flight this year as a Navigator, said;
“As the newest Aircrew member of the Flight, I am immensely proud to have been selected to represent the Flight and the RAF on the upcoming remembrance sortie over Holland and Belgium. To be able to participate in the sortie to remember those of Bomber Command who lost their lives over Holland and Belgium is a huge privilege. Whilst flying and operating the BBMF aircraft overseas presents a new challenge, the help, guidance and advice we have received from our foreign counterparts has helped enormously with the planning.”
To make the sortie possible, the BBMF Operations Team worked closely with event organisers across Belgium and the Netherlands to gain the information required to make such a significant event happen, keeping organisers up to date along the way with timings and any changes to the programme, especially in the crucial 24 hours prior to the flight commencing.
Speaking after the sortie, Bomber Pilot Flt Lt Ernie Wise added;
“To have the opportunity to fly one of only two airworthy Lancaster Bombers remaining is a privilege, but to be able to retrace the steps of wartime Bomber Command crews over Belgium and the Netherlands is a real honour. What the Lancaster represents and signifies to the public is overwhelming. This was my first time operating the Lancaster over Belgium and the Netherlands, and an event that I have been eagerly awaiting. The generosity and support of the host nations is not lost on the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and events like this strengthen our bond through the commemoration and celebration of those Bomber Command crews, their sacrifices, and successes that place us where we are today. Lest We Forget”
Photographs courtesy of AS1 Tom Jarvis;