Due to Covid-19 restrictions all indoor U3A meetings in person are currently suspended until further notice

We meet at Exning Road Club on the first Monday of the month at 10.30am.


Firstly, I am delighted to say that I am now sharing the running of Wings, Wheels & Water with Steve Garner.

We are still holding our monthly meetings at 10.30 am on the first Monday of the month. The difference now is that the meetings are on Zoom. They still consist of a presentation followed by discussion and coffee – you just have to make your own coffee, sorry.

For each month’s topic please follow the link to the updated programme for February to July. There may be alterations in this programme, depending on what the professionals freely call ‘operational considerations.’

Presentation for 3rd May 2021

The RAF ‘V’ Bomber force and the Avro Vulcan

Avro_Vulcan_for_WWW_Group After the war, as the east – west split developed, air forces around the world began to design jet bombers capable of delivering the new Atomic Bombs, which had first been used against Japan at the end of World War II.

Britain’s contribution was a trio of four-engine jet aircraft, given names starting with ‘V’: in the order they came into service, the Vickers Valiant, Avro Vulcan, and Handley Page Victor. Together they formed the United Kingdom’s Strategic Nuclear Strike Force, and were deployed until 1968. After that they continued in traditional bomber roles and served in various conflicts, most notably, the Vulcan’s record-breaking bombing mission of the Falkland Islands in 1982.

While the Valiant and Victor have passed into history, the Vulcan remains a fascination to aircraft buffs, and several are preserved in museums around this country, although none are in flying condition at present. We will look at the science and technology involved, the political and strategic demands of the time and the romance of a special design.

In addition, we do hope that you will take part in some of the additional activities that we may suggest, in the months ahead. The first opportunity for you comes as a result primarily of Niddy’s delightful piece on her day at East Kirkby Airfield, home of Just Jane, one of only three operational Lancaster bombers in the world.

To support Niddy’s piece, below are contributions from Steve about his visits to Uxbridge, and my contribution from a week’s holiday in Norfolk, home of many WWII airfields as well as the very special Langham Dome.

Where have you visited?

Technology is all around us, all the time, but we often do not recognise it or its importance to the lives we lead. The photos below show more possibilities

FROM LEFT: Steam engine on the Poppy line: Amphibian at Hunstanton: Fairground Ride, Hunstanton: Beach reclamation at Wells

Poppy Line engine Amphibian at Hunstanton Fairground ride Hunstanton Beach Reclamation at Wells

Each of the above could be the starting point for a fascinating investigation into an element that features in Wings, Wheels & Water.


What have you seen during your visits?

I have seen: The Battle of Britain Bunker Exhibition and Visitor Centre – Steve Garner

Exhibition View During the late 1980s and early 1990s I studied, part time, at Brunel University, in Uxbridge, west London. My weekly trip to the university took me past large gates at the entrance to RAF Uxbridge. Little did I know of the buildings and history that lay Exhibition Plaque behind those gates. More recently, members of my family moved to Uxbridge and I began to visit the area socially. It was on one of those visits in the summer of 2019 that I discovered that RAF Uxbridge no longer existed, and was being replaced by housing developments. A walk around this apparently residential area however revealed Dowding Park, and the Battle of Britain Bunker Exhibition and Visitor Centre, which opened up an aspect of history that had been previously unknown to me.
If you click on Battle Of Britain Bunker Exhibition it will take you to an illustrated article I have written. I hope you find this informative and perhaps it may tempt you to visit the area when time and circumstances permit, and also visit their website, where you will find videos to watch during this period of lockdown.

I have seen LANGHAM DOME - Tim Young

Langham Dome is one feature of RAF Langham, a very large and fascinating Coastal Command base during WWII. Langham Dome The dome is a training feature for gunners to be trained for ground to air shooting and is a very early, and basic form of digital interactive experience.

Over the last six years it has been restored and made into a fascinating museum.

Recruits practising Films were projected onto the inside of the dome and gunners sat at a ‘gun’, aiming at the aircraft passing on the film. Here are recruits practising during WWII.

Target towed by aircraft Following training in the dome, trainees went outside to use live ammunition to shoot at targets towed by aircraft, piloted by very brave pilots – several were shot down by inaccurate fire from trainees.

Coastal Command described itself as ‘the Cinderella Service’, compared with fighter and Bomber Commands. However, there were a number of Coastal Command airfields in North Norfolk, dedicated to training and to protecting shipping in the North Sea. In pursuit of these aims, the airfield was home to a wide range of single and twin engined aircraft.

SilverSpitfire mkix Langham Dome has recently erected the Silver Spitfire MkIX shown here.

It is dedicated to Richard Younghusband, a pilot at RAF Langham who was killed during a gunnery training exercise. When I asked what the connection was between Langham and the Spitfire, I was told that there was none really although there had been a few Spitfires at Langham between 1942 and 1945. However, it is an excellent advertising ploy and very good PR!

Inside the dome is a fascinating display of the airfield and example of the men, and women who served here. It also shows how a tiny, sleepy village became very much involved in the war.

Much of the airfield remains, although mostly in use by a well-known chicken rearing company. The control tower also remains but in a very dilapidated condition. It is possible to work over much of the original runways and the taxi tracks, where one can feel some connection with the thousands of young men and women who were here during the war, and their countrymen who lived in the village and worked on the airfield.

The gun used for practice A target film The photographs show the gun used for practice and a target film – this is actually a British Wellington bomber.


September 2020 MY MORNING WITH JUST JANE - Niddy Walpole

In the New Year of 2020 I had booked my cottage for a break in April but then Lockdown happened! I postponed it until after the schools had returned in September. Many places I had earmarked were in fact shut and horrors of horrors everything had to be pre-booked and paid for! I know - but it's a holiday.

The cottage was one of the best I had stayed in and was mid-way between RAF Coningsby and East Kirby airfield which is the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre and surprise, surprise lovely weather too.

I couldn't on line, get the Battle of Britain Museum at Coningsby, so I booked East Kirby. Most National Trusts were shut when I wanted them but East Kirby was open the Tuesday 15th September which is the Commemorative day for the Battle of Britain. The site is owned by Fred and Harold Panton who bought and have built up this site in memory of their older brother Christopher, who was shot down. Five other crew members died too that night 30th March 1944 in their Halifax bomber on a Nuremberg raid. Nuremberg was an industrial city and so a target.

The Mosquite I wasn't given a time slot but I opted for early morning, with an outing to Horncastle in the afternoon. This was known for its Antique shops but I found most were shut. Was that due to Covid? Only a few people were at the airfield at 10am so I had plenty of time for exhibits, including crash pieces which have been found by the Lincolnshire Aircraft Recovery Group. There were many logbooks and details, all archived for detailed research, and a Mosquito NF11HJ711 which was now after 40 years of rebuilding by one man, Tony, and with no financial backing either, it was ready to taxi down the runway in the afternoon. (I should have stayed.)

Just Jane Lancaster I chatted to one lady whose husband had opted to be in Just Jane for the taxi. It was to be at 11am! The Avro Lancaster was designed by Roy Chadwick and built by A.V.Roe (hence Avro). Not many survive but this one is privately owned and housed here “the City of Sheffield” NX611. Another is at Coningsby "the City of Lincoln" PA474. By 1945 there were 56 Bomber Command Squadrons flying this very successful heavy bomber. They carried a single Grand Slam bomb( 22000kg) which was designed to penetrate concrete, exploding beneath and causing an earthquake effect. It looked awesome on the runway! Post war, the Lancaster was used in Operation Manna to drop food to the starving Dutch and return troops from the Far East.

My interest in planes, trains and fast cars has been around for years but mainly for keeping my two sons occupied. We always did something for them in the morning and something for us in the afternoon, such as an historic building or "oh no, not another garden centre!". Now back home I belong to the RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath Enthusiasts group to try to learn the new planes about these days.

Then came the tannoy announcement "5 minutes to go!!". The visitors who had paid £450 for this taxi journey onboard Just Jane were having their safety briefing before boarding. I would have loved that but that was too pricey for me. Everyone started to move forward and jostle for the best views. The artwork on the fuselage means things - see the picture.

There would have been a crew of 7= pilot, navigator, flight engineer, wireless operator, mid-upper gunner, bomb aimer and the automatic pilot which everyone called George. Comfort was the last consideration for these young men. They worked in cramped conditions and temperatures often fell below freezing. If they were hit escape was difficult, especially with full kit on. The two escape hatches were 1) under the bomb aimer's compartment in the nose and 2) under the main fuselage door - which was risky in that you might hit the tail of the plane. A third unlikely option was described as a crash exit but it was too small when men had their full kit on.

I counted a handful going on board, one was in the front gun turret, one in the rear, two in the centre turret waving to their wives. There were two pilots, Mike Chatterton and Rick Groombridge, doing their countdown checklist. There was a lone fireman with fire extinguisher and also a new fire truck just down by the grass airstrip. Then with a cough and a splutter, a puff of smoke, the first righthand side engine roared into life. Then number two, then three, then number four. The ground and my eardrums were vibrating! All four Merlin engines were alive and kicking. They say don't stand at the back of the plane, it's a bit breezy. Then she slowly moved forward off the tarmac, onto the grass and stopped. ("Is that it?" I said to myself, "for £450??".) But no, the engines were taken to full throttle just as she would if taking off, then back down again as she moved down the grass strip. Then the engines again to full throttle, really exciting.

She taxied back and stopped in front of the restaurant tables. What an exciting £8 senior ticket! - I shall come again, hopefully more exhibits open and I might pay £50, which wasn't online at the time. You can for this sum have a talk and go onboard the static Lancaster.

Dambuster Memorial There is so much to see in this area of attractive Lincolnshire Wolds. The Dambuster memorial in Woodhall Spa, with the excellent Petwood Hotel nearby. The Bluebell Inn where the pilots have signed the wall and of course those National Trust sites currently closed. Bluebell Inn


For Reports and pictures see our Facebook page.

Tim Young 01638 612216;

Steve Garner 01638 660786;

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