As we progress along our journey, it is important to look back at the historical significance of the locations we have passed so far. There is plenty more history to these locations than what is written below, but hopefully it inspires some further interest and research!
East Kirkby (Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre)
Unfortunately the weather hindered us from getting a picture of our aircraft next to ‘Just Jane’ the Lancaster at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Site – for that would have really highlighted the size our our little Eurofox on its massive challenge!
The former RAF East Kirkby fully opened on 20 August 1943 as a Bomber Command Station and finally closed operations in December 1958. Over the years it was home to a number of RAF, RAAF and USAF squadrons including:
- 57 Squadron – operating the Lancaster/Lincoln
- 630 Squadron – an expansion of 57 Squadron, operating the Lancaster
Capel-le-Ferne (Battle of Britain Memorial above the White Cliffs)
Unfortunately due to weather and our altered schedule we did not pass over Capel-le-Ferne, but as you can see from the tracker page we were fairly nearby. This national memorial site had a part to play in both world wars: airships moored there from 1914 – 1918 and in 1941 the site hosted a gun battery.
RAF Tangmere (Tangmere Military Aviation Museum)
Founded in 1917 used primarily for training by the Royal Flying Corps and USAAF until 1925. In 1926, 43 Squadron operated the Gloster Gamecocks from RAF Tangmere. In the build up to the second world war, Hawker Furies, Gloster Gladiators and Hawker Hurricanes operated out of Tangmere. Tangmere was realised for its dominant position to defend the south coast and the station was used by the RAF Special Duty Service.
Once again due to the weather, we had to route down to the East of France and therefore did not overfly Saumur, however it is definitely one to mention! 617 Sqn, formed especially for the Dambusters raid, was used for the duration of the second world war as a precision-bombing unit. 617 Sqn bombarded Saumur Tunnel in France on the night 8th-9th June. It was a hurried attack due to intelligence that the Germans would use the tunnels to move a Panzer unit to the Normandy battlefield. Once again, the attack was a success and contributed to the successful Normandy invasion.
Lyon Bron, the international airport we know today was formerly established for that purpose in 1924. After the Battle of France in 1940, the Vichy French Air Force stationed Potez 630 heavy fighters at the airport. However in November 1942 Nazi forces took control of the airport and seized military aircraft held there.The German Luftwaffe proceeded to use the airfield from 1943 until it was heavily attacked in April 1944 by the USAF.
Toulon and Cannes
Operation Dragoon was conducted between August 15 and September 14 in 1944. A series of landings took place between Touson and Cannes with allied forces working in order to recapture the southern coast of France. Strategically this provided access to two badly needed ports for landing supplies: Marseille and Toulon.
Formerly inaugurated by Mussolini in 1928 as a civilian airport. It was heavily damaged during WW2 and now is used predominantly by flying club activities, tourisitc flights and air taxis.
Just down the road from Herakilion, the RAF operated from the airfield of Maleme from 1 May 1941. The Battle of Crete was a significant time during WW2, markedly for a number of firsts: use of Fallschirmjäger (German paratroopers) en masse; first mainly airborne invasion in military history; first time allies made significant use of decrypted German messages using Enigma and the first major resistance of civilians against the German troops.
RAF Akrotiri today is an extremely busy Permanent Joint Operating Base that supports ongoing operations in the region as well as support for the Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus. RAF history at Akrotiri dates back to 1 July 1955 with only 30 personnel, slightly different times!