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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

5. March 2011 RAF Wickenby and Norwich

March 2011 RAF Wickenby , Lincs (www.rafwmm.flyer.co.uk)

My Dad, Bill Ruddick, was in 626 Squadron of the RAF and he flew as a flight engineer in Lancaster Bombers out of RAF Wickenby in Lincolnshire between June and September 1944. As it was his 90th birthday on 12th March, we decided to take him to the museum there so he could donate some artefacts. We thought we'd go in the motorhome- so handy for travelling. We didn't have to stop to find loos or buy cups of tea.
Dad last flew into RAF Wickenby when he was 80 as a kind friend took him for a flight there. This time we stopped the motorhome at 'Icarus'- the Wickenby memorial to those fallen. It was very emotional for Dad. As we stood, paying respects, local pilots were taking off and landing and doing acrobatics- one flew directly at us- upside down! What a fly past!   
We then went up to the Control Tower, which was the same building as in 1944. There's a cafe on the ground floor frequented by pilots and people going to the museum.  We were met by two volunteers who run the museum as I'd arranged it beforehand and they were so kind to Dad, they really made his day.
There's so much more to see in the museum than when we were last there. There are fascinating things to see that I'd only read about in Dad's life story that, at 90, he's still in the process of writing. He's computer literate; starting at age 80, he's learnt to use the computer and internet, has a web cam and 'flies' Lancasters on his Flight Simulator. I only hope that I'm still learning to do new things when I get to his age. He gave his flying suit and other things to the volunteers and had a good old 'chin wag'- it was so good for him to have his stories appreciated by people who know and understand what he and his colleagues went through. I got to see for myself the compasses made by cutting uniform buttons off and putting one on top of the other, the flying boots that became ordinary boots by cutting the tops off (if you were unlucky enough to get shot down in enemy territory, boots were one thing that gave away your identity), the escape kits with rice paper maps in and lots more.
It's a good place to visit if you're in the area and if you're interested in RAF history, there are so many airfields around. We'd previously been to East Kirby, where there is a restored Lancaster, Just Jane. Dad went for a taxi ride in Just Jane for his 80th birthday and it was fabulous to hear the Merlin engines and see it taxi down the runway at dusk. It really brought it home to me that the last time he'd been in a Lancaster, he didn't know whether he would be returning................so many didn't.
Well, after the emotional, then the prosaic- a cup of tea and a sandwich in the motorhome then a journey to Norwich so that Dad and Mam could see their new great granddaughter, grandchildren and daughter. Fish and chips and a birthday cake with sparklers ended a great day.
 We parked the motorhome on my sister's drive- even got hook up! I wouldn't recommend it as a CL though- too close to other houses and too far from a pub...........
the memorial at RAF Wickenby

Wickenby memorial museum

the 90th birthday boy

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