A 20-aircraft warbird formation set the seal on IWM Duxford’s annual Battle of Britain event
A combination of 16 Supermarine Spitfires and four Hawker Hurricanes provided the finale to IWM Duxford’s Battle of Britain Air Show on Saturday 10-Sunday 11 September. Redolent of the similarly mixed-type ‘Big Wing’ formations mounted from Duxford during the Battle of Britain itself, the showpiece also formed part of the IWM’s commemoration of Queen Elizabeth II, whose death was announced less than 48 hours prior to the event.
The flying programme having opened with a two-minute silence in memory of the Queen, broken by the arrival of John Romain for a poignant, yet scintillating, solo routine in the Aircraft Restoration Company’s ‘NHS’ Spitfire PRXI, PL983, it concluded during the final run-and-breaks by the ‘Big Wing’s’ front section with the playing of the National Anthem. Prior to that, the 20-aircraft flypasts had been led by the IWM’s own Spitfire Ia, N3200, with Jon Gowdy at the controls. Participating in a Duxford finale for the first time were the Air Leasing-operated Spitfire IX MH415, the ‘Silver Spitfire’, MkIX G-IRTY, and Hurricane IIb ‘BE505’ in two-seat form, owned by Hurricane Heritage. While the formation got together, and again between its massed flybys, John Romain performed solo in Aerial Speed Icons’ Spitfire FXIVe RN201, this aircraft making a comeback to the UK display scene following some 15 years’ absence.
The ‘Big Wing’ set the seal on a highly successful show, the largest warbird event in the UK this season, which also saw the Czech Air Force returning to Duxford for the first time since the war years with Mil Mi-35 and Mi-171Sh battlefield helicopters. The Czechoslovak-manned Nos 310 and 312 Squadrons had been formed within RAF Fighter Command at Duxford in July-August 1940, both flying Hurricanes.
Attended by well in excess of 30,000 people, the Battle of Britain Air Show bore out the decision to proceed in the aftermath of the Queen’s death. For a full report, see the upcoming November edition of Aeroplane.