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2013 UK Airshows : FEATURE

Musical Salute to the Few, London Biggin Hill Airport - 17th August

Saturday 17th August will see the skies over Biggin Hill play host to Spitfires and Hurricanes in a unique salute to the ‘Few’ with music from the Central Band of the Royal Air Force. Alongside them will be singers, actors, special effect and big screens showing still and video archive footage. At the heart of action will be the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, now established as one of the leading collections of historic Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. Photography by Mike Rivett/Fotomotion and Paul Johnson/Flightline UK or as credited.

The ‘Musical Salute to the Few’ will mark the first time an open air concert has been held at the historic Biggin Hill airfield. It is the third is series of Musical Salutes organised by Synergy Events, the previous events being held at National Trust Chartwell and Loseley Park near Guildford. 2013 sees Musical Salute support two charities; the RAF Benevolent Fund and the Chartwell Cancer Trust.

The concert will be narrated by Martin Shaw, star of BBC’s Judge Deed and also a keen aviator and enjoys flying his Second World War Piper L4 Cub. Martin has also recently made two aviation documentaries for the television; “Dambusters Declassified” and “Operation Jericho.” Joining Martin on stage will be over 150 performers from the Central Band of the Royal Air Force as well as musical theatre company West End Kids, Actors, Soprano Fiona Howell and the RAF at War Living History Group.

For a ‘Salute to the Few’ there can be no more evocative location than Biggin Hill. The airfield was first used in 1917 by the Royal Flying Corps for wireless experiments. Soon after the Bristol Fighters of 141 Squadron moved in.

However it was the advent of the Second World War in which Biggin Hill became key to the defence of the United Kingdom as a sector station for RAF Fighter Command. Overall, Biggin Hill based fighter squadrons claiming 1400 enemy aircraft for the loss of 453 aircrew. Biggin Hill itself was a target for bombing raids causing extensive damage and loss of life. Post war, Biggin Hill remained a fighter station seeing the first generation of jet fighters such as the Meteor and Hunter until 1958. The RAF remained at Biggin Hill though until 1992 when officer selection moved to RAFC Cranwell.

However flying continued at Biggin Hill in civilian hands and today it is a thriving and very important Business Airport for London.

Today, Spitfire and Hurricanes are very much still part of Biggin Hill life thanks to the creation of the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar which will be at the centre of activities on the 17th August. Established in July 2011 it is dedicated to the operation and maintenance of these precious piece of aviation heritage. Joe Hurst sums up the feelings of all at the hangar – “The only thing that beats the satisfaction of seeing a restored aircraft flying again for the first time is giving a guided tour to a RAF Veteran. It’s what we are here for”. At the Press Launch for the concert on the 22nd March, Maurice Maisey who flew with 41 squadron visited the hangar to be reunited with the Spitfire.

Founding aircraft of the hangar was Supermarine Spitfire IX TA805 “Spirit of Kent” which ears the marking of 234 Squadron. Sharing the spotlight with the Spitfire is Hawker Hurricane I AE997 which wears the personal markings of Douglas Bader when he commanded 242 (Canadian) Squadron during the Battle.

These two aircraft with be joined by further Spitfires from the Heritage Hangar plus the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with a further Spitfire, Hurricane and the Avro Lancaster bomber. Playing the part of the Luftwaffe will be a Messerschmitt Bf108 Taifun.

The ‘Musical Salute to the Few’ will undoubtedly be a unique and memorable event commemorating the sacrifice and incredible achievements of the Royal Air Force during 1940 at Biggin Hill. For more information and to buy tickets, please visit the Synergy Events website.

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