The Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre ( https://rafmontrose.org.uk ) is a museum on the site of the first operational military airfield in the UK. Just to the northeast of the town of Montrose in Angus, it is well worth a visit. The airfield itself is no more, but you can discern the old perimeter track on the aerial views:
The area just inside the southern perimeter track (north is up) is now used as football fields and this is where the pop-up airfield is located for the annual open day.
There was a break for Covid last year so this year’s open day and fly in was eagerly anticipated. The football fields give about 500m of firm, slightly bumpy in places, grass.
I was looking forward to flying the Cub once it came out of maintenance…
…but it would have to wait as the day after my last work shift we drove all the way to London, had a hotel for the night and then continued to the ferry port at Newhaven. Operation “Campervan France 2022” was GO!
We were off to Normandy again, four years since the last visit, and with some new places to see and things to do. In my case, one particular place to visit to get one particular thing for the Cub. I have been after a replica USAAF B-10 jacket to keep me warm when flying in the winter, and found them at the D-Day Experience museum in St-Côme du Mont. Ordering online was an option, but the sizings were a bit confusing, so it would probably be better if we went in person, wouldn’t it? Brenda agreed, I don’t think she was fooled.
Amazingly, the camp site chosen in Tournières was a twenty minute walk from the site of Eisenhower’s first field HQ, with its attendant memorial. Actually just about ANYWHERE in the area is within a twenty minute walk of some sort of memorial, mostly beautifully kept with information as well as plaques:
As you can see on the map, we were also quite close to the airstrip A5, used by P47 Thunderbolts of 506th, 507th and 508th Fighter Squadrons in July and August 1944. Now returned to farmland, the only sign of the temporary airstrip is the number of large gaps in hedges where the runway and taxiways were sited. We didn’t actually walk to the airstrip as it was far too hot, but Google Earth shows the evidence…
The warm weather continued the next day when we visited the jacket shop. We had to go through the D-Day Experience Museum and Dead Man’s Corner Museum to get to it. That was a shame. After the shop it was off to Utah Beach, parking up near the Roosevelt Café and the Utah Beach Museum.
We had visited the museum last time, so we went for a walk on the beach and had an ice cream. It was interesting to wonder if our Cub had come through this particular gap in the dunes on the back of a truck in June 1944:
A couple of days later, the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église, where we found another Cub hanging from the ceiling…
Not exactly 100% museum authentic, as it still has the post-war (German!) civilian registration under the wing, a non-standard oil filter behind the cylinders, a non-standard silencer and a modern radio aerial, but it’s pretty cool to see, and the information board features that very aircraft in the photo:
One memorial which was not open four years ago was the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer, overlooking Gold Beach. A large memorial wall is inscribed with the names of every British soldier, sailor and airman who died on D-Day itself, and the columns of the rest of the memorial show the names for every day from June 7th to August 31st. From above, the whole memorial is in the shape of the Union Flag:
Entry is free, just a €3 car parking charge which goes towards the upkeep of the memorial. It was quite poignant to find the column for the date we visited, and see the names of the dead 78 years on. Looking out over Gold Beach from the slightly higher elevation it was hard to imagine the sights and sounds of 6 June 1944…it is a lovely quiet spot now, a peaceful place.
After the memorial, which took a lot longer than we expected (in a good way), we headed to Carpiquet airport at Caen for the D-Day Wings Museum, a small affair housed in one of the old hangars. Various bits and pieces of aircraft including a replica Focke-Wulf 190 being restored after an accident and a real US Army Aeronca L3, not as prolific as the Piper L4 – the information booklet stated that there had been only one example serving in Normandy. I also spotted a model L4 Cub in one of the display cases.
We then left the “invasion coast” and headed to Fécamp and our campsite for the last two nights. Even here we could not escape Hitler’s Atlantikwall – while walking around the seafront and marina we could see the bunkers set into the cliff top. Note how they are protected from fire from offshore and oriented to fire along the beach:
After two nights in Fécamp, we got the ferry from Dieppe and drove home. Ten days after it was released by the engineers, I was finally able to fly the Cub and get some much needed delayed gratification.
There had been a flow problem with the fuel feed from the auxiliary tank but it had been addressed, so I filled that tank as well as the main on (yet another) lovely sunny day:
The heat wave which we had experienced in France had also affected the UK, as seen in the crop marks along the River Isla near Blairgowrie…
It was refreshing to fly with the windows and doors open, and the temperature was a little cooler at 3000 feet. I couldn’t resist a little silliness. Our home base has a radio room only, not full air traffic control, so they can’t issue instructions. But I managed to get some practice in case we fly into a full ATC field and they ask us to extend the downwind leg…apologies, it’s an overused Cub joke, everybody does it.
The Cub flew beautifully. We tend to expect something wrong after maintenance, but not this time. And since Bob has fixed the air lock in the auxiliary fuel tank feed line, we’ll be able to double the range and travel a lot further between fuel stops.
Have t-shirt will travel…and now I also have the jacket too, but it’s too warm to wear it!