The Shuttleworth Collection Military pageant is always a highlight of every season, generally offering the chance to see some unique visiting warbirds and on occasion WW1 types perform in the picturesque surroundings of Old Warden. This year was no exception and while the main focus was WW1 there were plenty of other special displays from later types. To my mind this show brought to a conclusion a wonderful “triliogy” of Old Warden shows in 2018 with the RAF100 and Fly Navy shows having provided simply superb flying in glorious weather. That is to say nothing different of the Sunday shows that followed, only that these three shows led themselves to a wonderful line up of historic military machines.
The first visiting act of the show was something really special. Having returned to the UK circuit for 2018 under new ownership and in a new guise, P-47 Thunderbolt G-THUN was a highly anticipated act on everyones Old Warden wishlist. Pete Kynsey brought the huge american fighter in from Duxford for a captivating solo display. It is always incredible to watch as this huge fighter appears to lumber through loops and rolls and somehow continue to maintain the energy from the seemingly endless diving run in. This display was even complete with a classic Pete Kynsey 8 point roll before a wonderful series of top side passes brought it to an end. This really was one of those routines you just didn’t want to end.
Before the “Jug’s” arrival, those waiting at the southern end of the display line were treated to the incredible sight of all of the collection’s “heavies” getting ready to depart. This included the Lysander, Spitfire, Sea Hurricane, Demon and, making its first appearance in 2018, the Gloster Gladiator. This unique line up fired up on the fence line and carried out powerchecks before departing into the hold.
The Lysander, Spitfire and Sea Hurricane performed first as a three ship before breaking off into solo displays. Jim Schofield flew graceful aerobatics in the collections Spitfire, while Chris Huckstep and Frank Chapman flew the Sea Hurricane and Lysander Respectively.
Following the WW2 slot it was a further step back in time with the “Silver Wings” pairing of Gladiator and Demon. The two biplanes followed each other through in a graceful pairs routine harking back to those care-free days of the interwar RAF. The Gladiator was flown by Dodge Bailey on this occasion with Rob Millinship in the Demon.
2018 finally saw a planed mass gathering of First World War types come together at Old Warden. Recent years have seen incredible collections of world war one times together on the airfield only to be ruined by either weather or mechanical issues.
With this year marking 100 years since the end of that conflict, it seems fitting that this years military pageant was able to pay tribute to the era so well. The first WW1 sequence saw the Avro 504, Bristol F2b and visiting BE2 take to the skies, followed by a trio of Sopwiths in the shape of the Dove, Triplane and Camel. While conditions were sufficient to fly the earlier machines, it would not have been possible without the recent runway adjustments at Old Warden. The WW1 fighters had to make use of the new meadow strip that allows the aircraft to land into wind even with a crosswind on the main and short runways. This made for some unique views at each end of the airfield.
It wasn’t just the original and reproduction machines on display at the pageant, there were some scale and modern replicas on show as well. The first appearance from the Great War Display Team at Old Warden in some time saw the inclusion of two Fokker DR1 replicas, alongside a Tiger Moth based BE2 replica and scale SE5a. The team delivered their usual dramatic performance depicting first world war aerial combat in a way that can’t be achieved with the delicate original and reproduction aircraft. A wonderful addition to an Old Warden show.
A step forward in time saw a pair of Avros take it in turns to entertain the crowd. BAE Systems’ Anson displayed followed by a spirited series of flypasts from the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight’s Lancaster.
Before long it was back to the great war with a very energetic outing from Stow Maries based Neiuport 17 replica in the hands of John Gilbert alongside the Breighton based DR1, flown by Geoff Cline. Another pair of Bristols followed with the sleek M1c being joined by the wonderful Bristol Scout replica. David Bremner is clearly learning more about flying the Scout and this routine shows the incredible agility of this design.
A highlight of many an Old Warden show in the last few years has been the Hurricane segment. The military pageant perhaps offered the best in a while. After a typically impressive pairs routine Paul Shakespeare flew a graceful solo in the collection’s Sea Hurricane before Keith Skilling delivered a dramatic solo performance in G-HITT. Keith doesn’t often display in the UK away from Duxford so to see his trademark brand of Hurricane aerobatics up close and personal was the stuff of dreams.
As if the show had not already delivered enough, there was an additional world war one epilogue to bring things to a show. With no commentary, a selection of the WW1 types that had flown in the afternoon’s display took to the air again.
This meant that there was a second opportunity to admire the BE2, Neiuport 17, Sopwith Triplane, Sopwith Dove, Bristol Scout and Sopwith Camel. The latter being gracefully flown in beautiful light by Dodge Bailey. With the silence of the crowd and the familiar purr of the rotary engine and aroma of castor oil, there was something special about that final slot.
With the Camel back on the ground it was left to the Bristol Fighter to take to the air again to carry out the poignant role of the poppy drop. This was ahead of two minutes silence, a chance to take stock and remember those who gave up everything in order to protect and serve their country. A memory that the Shuttleworth Collection and its aircraft strive to keep alive year in, year out.
The Military pageant was simply a masterclass in how to construct an airshow. Perhaps for those without an interest in the first world war types it may have seemed a little repetitive but for me, it may have just been the best show of 2018. There are moments from this afternoon’s flying that I have no doubt I will remember for years to come.