Nigel, our resident wordsmith had this to say about our last meeting:
The Guest Speaker at our April meeting was Keith Thomas, and very good he was too.
He is one of a half dozen presenters for the General Aviation Safety Council who tour the country giving presentations and advice to private pilots in order to reduce the number of mishaps which occur each year, ranging from controlled air space infringements to serious loss of control of the aircraft by a pilot, too often leading to the death of the occupants.
Keith's audience at the WNAS contained only a couple of pilots yet he managed to explain his mission to us with authority and good humour. Thus, all of us went home much the wiser and potentially safer pilots and or even passengers in light aeroplanes. Thank you, Keith.
For details of our May and future meetings, please visit our website: www.westnorfolkaviationsociety.org.uk or just come along to the Bowls Club in Mundford at 7:15 on May 7th. You'll be made most welcome.
This month’s aeronautical spectacular began at Steve and Jean de Roeck’s palace in Saham Toney where a very welcome feast was enjoyed by an extremely encouraging representation of the WNAS membership. This event was a warm-up to the unveiling of a long awaited exhibition of the on-going construction of two replica WWI aircraft in the Watton workshop belonging to society member Roger Burrows. This modest master craftsman has spared nothing in his quest for perfection using the same production methods of the period: wood, fabric and a minimum of metal. A 5/8 scale ‘Isaacs’ Hawker Fury and a 7/8 scale ‘Royal Aircraft Factory’ SE5A are well on the way to completion with no extra help other than from the encouragement of an understanding family. The atmosphere in the ‘hanger’ was electric; the outpouring of enthusiasm from the crew could be felt; camaraderie abounded; nostalgia took over with reminiscences of a time gone by, and, fortunately, with none of the fear.
Many thanks go to Roger and also to the unseen caterers in both departments who helped make the day such a wonderful success.
We all look forward, someday soon perhaps, if we’re lucky enough, to be invited to the maiden flights of this magnificent man in his flying machines.
The scheduled meeting of the WNAS was convened as usual at the Mundford Bowls Club on Tuesday 5th of February. There was no guest speaker on this occasion but, some 30 members gathered at the event with the expectation of participating in a DIY forum designed to provide, and/or, impart information on aeronautical matters. All the interrogative pronouns were out in force: what, where, when and who, seemed to be the order of the evening but, for some, the whys and the hows were in short supply. A director might have been useful; someone to delegate whether a shy-one or a showman should take the floor. But, without the anecdotal prowess of those who had the courage to speak and, the participation by our hosts, Len and Val, the evening would have been a far less jolly affair.
An additional attraction to the evening’s entertainment was Dennis’ Display: Once discarded wartime rubbish is now regarded as treasure and it was exhibited here with pride; recoveries included sections of heavy duty communication cables, and a cast iron pot containing HV transformer and circuitry for the ignition of the FIDO petrol burners. These dual purpose devices could provide runway lighting with fog dispersal properties. Are there signs of the emergence of an aviation museum on the horizon?
Next month, we look forward to a visit to the workshop of WNAS member Roger B, an unassuming gentleman whose apparent shyness overshadows his technical ability; he builds large scale WW1 fighter planes for his personal transport.
It was with the member’s considerable disappointment that Bob Kirkham’s sudden health problem prevented him from delivering his maiden speech to the members on Tuesday 15th at the Mundford Bowls Club. Bob has been honing his talk for the last two years and misfortune has many times intervened. The society wishes him an early recovery and we look forward to his prompt return to the parade ground.
Undaunted as usual, the club rallied to the disappointment and with the help from cheer leaders, Chairman Chris and Secretary David, a party spirit soon resumed.
At the previous meeting our resident graphics designer had been detailed to create a selection of images suitable for a club logo. These were displayed and the club voted for the most suitable.
There was hearty approval for the club secretary’s suggestion that, in troubled times when we are speakerless, we should consider running a forum in which any member having an aeronautical query could ask the rest of the assembly for a solution.
It was announced that in February something special was happening………? And in March the club is organising a visit to Roger's workshop where he is building another vintage replica biplane.
The meeting ended with the usual bowls club bounty and a well-received video of the intricacies of the Lockheed SR-71 "Blackbird” (courtesy of YouTube).
Whenever a club holds an annual general meeting it is quite common to assume that the event will be received with less enthusiasm than normal but, not on this occasion; our members enjoyed an evening in the spirit of what would normally be regarded as a party, with food and liquor being supplied by our host and hostess at the Mundford Bowls Club. Entertainment was provided by a comedy double act comprising the Chairman, Chris Halliday, and the proxy secretary, David Allen.
A motion to re-elect all current officers was proposed and seconded. To confirm solidarity, the chairman light-heartedly bestowed upon the worthy, hand crafted medals he had constructed himself from non-negotiable UK currency.
Our technical officer, proposed the introduction of a logo to help others identify our organisation; this could be used as a transfer to emblazon various garments we might wish to adorn. The motion was carried and a member, a graphics designer, agreed to undertake the assignment.
Our treasurer reported that we had a healthy set of accounts and it was agreed by all that the current annual club subscription of £10 per member should stand for the coming year. It would appear that this is not a deterrent to prospective recruits especially when the buffet each month is all inclusive. There is no restriction on membership and it’s particularly nice to welcome a growing number of lady members and, lady speakers too.
After the meeting ended the rest of the evening was devoted to a video presentation, courtesy of Fred and projectionist Andrew. This was entitled ‘The Gimli Glider'. This aeroplane turned out to be a Canadian B767 airliner which ran out of fuel at 40,000ft and managed to land without loss of life on a disused airstrip actively being used for car racing events. The air accident report claimed that it was not pilot error or an aircraft fault but a situation brought about by lack of training i.e. an administration blunder; confusion over whether the fuel was measured in gallons or litres. Steve de Rouke, long standing member and retired airline pilot, then took the floor and spoke of similar experiences he had encountered himself.
At the end of the evening the secretary thanked the chairman for executing his duties so well and in return the chairman thanked the secretary for having been responsible for ‘holding the club together’ during the last twenty five years. In recognition of this David was presented with his favourite tipple, a bottle of Dalwhinnie malt whiskey together with a little light reading material; 12kgs worth of vintage aviation history.
Chris went on to thank our charming hosts, Val and Len, for their contribution and participation throughout the year and, likewise, were presented with tokens of our gratitude.
Once again Fred Miller stood, nay sat, in the firing line of an audience at the Mundford Bowls Club where the West Norfolk Aviation Society held its Tuesday meeting on 6th November. Fred, who is not only a relatively new member to the club he has also aspired to the rank of group technician and has rescued many previous would-be speakers encountering problems with their own support equipment. On this occasion, however, Fred demonstrated how he had been able to take his technical ability to a limit that few in the audience could have imaged. Gone are the days of Airfix and Keil Kraft aeroplane modelling, gone are the days of balsawood, balsa cement and tissue paper; here was an insight into the technology surrounding the next generation aeroplane modeller; in a nutshell: 3D printing. Fred has been able to construct various aeroplane sections using an apparatus with an extruder nozzle which draws a molten plastic thread onto a horizontal surface. Further deposits are created on a succession of planes in the vertical direction. The continuing process eventually creates a three dimensional body which can be solid or hollow. Although he is capable of writing a computer programme which controls the printer Fred has used proprietary software to construct his first aeroplane model: an eighth scale model of a pre-war Boeing Stearman biplane which incorporates an electric simulation of a seven-cylinder air-cooled radial engine. Piece parts were on display at the meeting.
Sometimes one gets the impression that a few diehard members of the society prefer to receive talks about the real thing and models are only bodies that move along catwalks. Well, Fred certainly expelled any such notion with this audience.
The meeting ended with a nosh-up, courtesy of our favourite caterers, Val and Len.
More info at www.westnorfolkaviationsociety.org.uk
On Tuesday 6th of October, in the cosy confines of the Mundford Bowls Club, the West Norfolk Aviation Society proudly presented, for the first time in the history of the club, a lady speaker who captivated her mostly male audience. This elegant and eloquent lady, Jocelyn C. Blakey, gave a brief but intensive insight into the life of her brave and adventurous father, Roger Maw, who, being the son of a gentleman farmer, expected to follow in his father’s footsteps until, that is, he was cajoled into joining the Special Reserve Air Force in 1927 by a wing commander from the nearby base at Waddington. Jocelyn described her father modestly but it was clear that he was a man of exceptional character with a natural flying ability and a good eye for strategy. He earned much respect from his colleagues through a waggish sense of humour and an incredible practical and innovative ability. He was credited with designing and building the famous vaulting-horse in Stalag Luft 111 which, apart from being used by prisoners of war to keep fit, also served as camouflage whilst escapees tunnelled beneath it.
Not entirely unscathed Roger survived the war and returned to farming at his cherished Lincolnshire village home. Together with his records and his family’s subsequent forage for further information Jocelyn published a book in 2014 defining more fully the extent of Roger’s talents and achievements. The book is entitled ‘Wapitis Wellingtons and Binderband’
There’s an interesting sequel to this story, but hardly competitive: our esteemed club secretary, David Allen, was recently dining at a hostelry in Feltwell the landlord of which being Chris Samuels a one-time member of our society. Chris renamed his inn, The Wellington, to commemorate the aeroplane’s activity at RAF Feltwell during WW2. Wing Commander Roger Maw DFC flew many missions in Wellingtons; as did our late president, Wing Commander Ken Wallis (James Bond’s stunt double in the film ‘You Only Live Twice’). Chris was a past pupil at Methwold High School and David was a past teacher at the same school; the former introduced the latter to another diner, her name: Jocelyn Blakey.
On Tuesday 4th September at the Mundford Bowls Club the WNAS played host to a presentation from a double act: two pilot instructors from Mid Anglia Microlights. The first of the two, Pat, dealt with administration, the history, the development and the procurement of their aircraft. The fleet they have is comprised of two types, The Flexwing weightshift P&M GT450 and the 3-Axis Ikarus C-42. The former can be likened to a sophisticated hang glider driven by an 80hp engine, the latter is a small conventional monoplane with a basic joystick control. Both devices are weight, pay load and power-restricted and are therefore exempt from much of the CAA red tape and, in consequence, the cost of learning to fly is much reduced. Also, a flying license thus procured is valid to fly some more conventional machines. The second speaker, Gary, and partner in the enterprise, manages the maintenance and the safety of the aircraft. He also manages the safety and the syllabus of his students: what, when, and who should fly and to where? More about these chaps and their machines can be found at: http://www.mamicrolight.co.uk/
August’s meeting of the society came in the form of a visit by members to a local crash site. Just off to the west of the A1065 on the road between Mundford and Brandon is the location and memorial of this tragic event. Our member, Simon Booth takes up the story below:
Visit To The Mundford Lancaster HK773 Memorial
Back in the heat soaked days of August, a small but dedicated group of the society's members met under leaden skies in readiness to be escorted up to the Lancaster crash site by Rod Billen - the local memorial custodian. Fortunately the predicted thunder storms held off and once at the crash site Rod delivered a very informative talk detailing the events leading up to the crash and the subsequent efforts made to remember those that lost their lives with the creation of the permanent memorial. With the skies continuing to darken, the assembled party returned to Mundford Church, where a brief inspection was made of another small memorial plaque before retiring to the ‘The Crown Hotel’ for much needed refreshments.
A further visit to the site is being arranged again by Rod Billen. This will be in the form of a memorial walk from Mundford Cricket Club on Sunday 11th November (exact timing TBC)
He also said that he is prepared to drive anyone unable to complete the walk.
Also check this out: https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/193683/ and an article published in the magazine ‘Speak-Up’ Summer 2007
On 7th June Steve de Roeck, once again, returned as speaker at the West Norfolk Aviation Society and delivered a compelling talk about a hero of his, Noel Pemberton-Billing (1881-1948). This man’s eclectic achievements wowed many of us at the meeting and, in his day, could have or, should have been a role model to aviators, soldiers, inventors, philanthropists, publishers and politicians. To include here even a few of his accomplishments would be detrimental to all those we could not fit in the space available; even our dearly departed society president, Ken Wallace, would have struggled to keep pace with the achievements of PB; on one occasion it was alleged that he won a bet with Frederick Handley-Page that he could learn to fly in one day.
Steve has received much acclaim for his photographic skills and it is no surprise that he should revere this man so highly, especially since PB patented a pocket camera in 1934 which he called the Compass. It was this invention he was most proud of, weighing less than eight ounces and, had specifications not much different from those of today. In the year of his death in 1948 he created a miniature spy camera called the Phantom; one of these was sold in 2001 for £120,000.
During the second half of the evening Steve presented some of his own creations: photographs illustrating flying versions of WW1 and WW2 aircraft taken at different venues around the world. Such is the sophistication of his equipment that we were able to identify the pilot of a Lancaster flying over a mile high.
The meeting at the Mundford Bowls Club was not without the customary banter and not without the customary fare generously supplied by our congenial hosts, Len and Val.
The society gave a warm welcome to Essex boy Andy Phipps who is an officer in the USAF Fire Service at Lakenheath; his presentation was no less fascinating than Peter’s but delivered in the rapid staccato style that we associate with the American military speakers who have graced our platform before.
Andy had not ventured far into his talk before his audience realised the extent to which he and his colleagues were expected to execute their duties: removing the charred remains of corpses from burning aircraft and to the opposite extreme: delivering a new-born baby, on one occasion, to a lady passenger on a paralysed aircraft.
He went on to describe the functions of a multitude of tools with which he had to be familiar: from the different types of domestic extinguishers to rapid response fire engines, the diverse variety of aircraft construction materials, the idiosyncrasies of which require a specialist approach for fear of worsening an already delicate operation.
Andy’s delivery was punctuated with humour and he was quick to appreciate the rejoinder from his audience. Like all good comedians his strength was in his modesty and he didn’t hesitate to draw attention to the fact that his stature wasn’t representative of today’s stereotype fireman.
Once again we thank Val and Len for their hospitality at the Mundford Bowls Club.
West Norfolk Aviation Society secretary, David Allen, gave a glowing introduction to our part-time president and author, Peter Gunn, who helped establish the society in the early ‘90s. He made a welcome appearance and talked to us about his sixth and most recent publication ‘Aviation Landmarks in Norfolk and Suffolk’.
Peter delivered his presentation in the soothing and cultured Scottish accent with which we have since learned to associate him. The book could be likened to a travelogue or tourist guide to the sightings of, not only the current and extinct airfields in the counties but it also delves into the wartime stories linked to other landmarks like country houses, churches, grave yards and village pubs. During both wars these places have all helped to contribute historical evidence to a tragic but sometimes romantic past.
We do forgive Peter for the confession he gives for his poor attendance but he does live a little distant and he also struggles to keep pace with the deadline for his forthcoming epics.
A recent addition to the society, the unassuming Roger Burrows, was next to give us a talk. On his first visit to our venue, at the Mundford Bowls Club, he was asked by a nosey official what were his personal interests in the society and his response was: ‘Well, I make aeroplanes’; in a tone that was almost an apology. We can be pretty sure that almost everybody in the club has made a Keil Kraft or Airfix model at some time in their lives but Roger’s retort was: ‘No, I make scale models, almost full size’. The nosey official was flabbergasted and took immediate steps to engage Roger as a future speaker; the future, on this occasion, turned out to be Tuesday 6th of this month.
To embelish his talk he brought along with him a comprehensive set of slides depicting a multitude of projects and their various stages of construction. He also brought a collection of piece parts which included ribs, spars, longerons and frames.
From an apprentice in his father’s furniture workshop to master craftsman this gentleman took the initiative and ventured along a career course most of us humble enthusiasts would have died for. Roger’s expertise has not gone unnoticed elsewhere; he is well known among media figures for restoring their broken Stearmans and Tiger Moths. On the stocks at the moment is his own 7/10 scale SE5 WW1 fighter biplane. He has very kindly invited the society to visit his workshop in the summer for a special viewing of work in progress. Without being too presumptuous, one day perhaps, we may even be invited to a flight demonstration. Who needs Duxford!
Thanks again to Len and Val, stewards of the Bowls Club, for their hospitality.