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      Chailey Airshow - Bower Farm, East Sussex 7th and 8th August 2004

Review - For two days in August the lush farmland in East Sussex that, in 1944, had been the site of RAF Chailey Advanced Landing Ground, again resounded to the mighty roar of Rolls Royce Merlin engines as the Chailey 2004 Airshow and Fly-in got underway.  Held on Bower Farm the show commemorated the exploits of the Spitfire flying Polish airmen of 131 Wing, and Arthur Raynor and his team should be congratulated on putting together an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable event.

The Polish 131 Wing, consisting of 302, 308 and 317 squadrons, flew Spitfire Mk.XIs from Chailey in support of Operation Overlord, the liberation of Europe, including flying four missions on D-Day itself.  131 Wing was commanded by Battle of Britain veteran Group Caption Aleksander Gabszewicz.

The link with Chailey, D-Day and 1944 also extended to three of the Spitfires in attendance.  The Historic Aircraft Collection’s Mk.Vb BM597 was flown during 1942 and 1943 by various Polish pilots from 316 and 317 squadrons and is currently painted in the markings of 317 squadron.  The Old Flying Machine Company’s Spitfire Mk.XI MH434 flew with 222 squadron on D-Day, part of 135 Wing which was also commanded by Group Captain Gabszewicz.  For the show MH434 was painted in the personal markings of the Group Captain, including his famous boxer motif on the nose, and Ray Hanna closed the show with a typically scintillating display.  Carolyn Grace’s Spitfire Mk.XI ML407 also flew on D-Day with 485 squadron, also part of 135 Wing, and both 222 and 485 squadrons were personally led by Group Captain Gabszewicz on a mission on 7th June 1944.   The link with Poland was continued to the present day, as some veterans were able to attend the show and sit again inside the cockpit of a Spitfire.

The afternoon’s flying was a delight for warbird fans with no less than four Spitfires (Breighton based PR.XI PL965 being the fourth), two Hurricanes (Historic Aircraft Collections Mk.XII G-HURI alongside the Real Aeroplane Company’s XII BE417/G-HURR), two P-51D Mustang’s (Rob Davies ‘Big Beautiful Doll’ and Maurice Hammonds ‘Janie’) and The Fighter Collection’s mighty P-47D Thunderbolt in attendenace.  Other highlights included a polished four-ship routine from the Harvard display team and a more sedate ‘dogfight’ between the Historic Aircraft Collection’s MS.505 Criquet ‘Storch’ and Essex based L-4J Piper Cub G-BECN.

A good number of historic types attended the fly-in element of the show, including 1935 built Miles Hawk Speed Six G-ADGP and Hurn based Auster 5 RT486 / G-AJGJ resplendent in D-Day invasion stripes.  The Aircraft Restoration Company’s immaculate Harvard Mk.IV G-BGPB was also present in its Portuguese Air Force colours.

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