North Oxfordshire and Cotswolds Area Report Autumn 2013.

Despite the unsettled weather it seems to have been a very hectic season with our Area members attending events all across the county and well beyond. Reading my previous reports and those of other Areas it seems we have all generally adopted a common pessimistic approach when it comes to the weather, which is understandable really. If it is absolutely belting down with rain it is hard to get motivated to get up early to go and spend the weekend in a damp field. In the run up to "Wartime in the Vale" event I was checking the weather reports about 5 times a day and on the Saturday morning as the rain was lashing down I really did not want to spend the weekend under canvas. However, my daughter (a much hardier soul than me) insisted that we should go and I am really glad that we did. It was a superb event and apart from a couple of brief showers the weather was fine (although a little windy at times). While we were at Evesham we ran into almost every other area member so it was nice to see that no one else was put off by the threat of rain. There was a good selection of vehicles at the show and I was pleased to get a ride in the 1916 Albion lorry. The Saturday clashed with the 47th Air Despatch open day at Brize Norton which many area members attended most of whom went on to Evesham on the Sunday.

It is not always rain that can be off-putting. In April the Gloucestershire-Warwickshire railway held their first "War in the Cotswolds" event and the unseasonably bitter wind was quite a shock. Despite this there was a good turnout of vehicles and the event was a great success. I hope they will hold it again next year. The weekend prior to this event many of our Area members attended the "Fly In" at the historic WW2 Windrush airfield. We had seven aircraft in total fly in and it was great to see them lined up by the control tower. A barbecue was set up in one of the hangers and it was a very pleasant and laid back day. The next morning the aircraft flew on to the Abingdon air show which is another event well attended by our area.

We were approached by the Bremont watch company to assist with the launch of their new "Codebreaker" watch which comprises elements of an original Enigma machine. The venue would of course have to be Bletchley Park. We had two motorcycles, two Jeeps and Bedford MW in attendance. Everybody who went dressed in period uniform and I must say looked very smart. Tony looked particularly dashing as a Navy Lieutenant and which also explained why he had recently grown a beard. James as per usual went out of his way to make friends and was very successful. It must be something about the uniform which does it. Unfortunately on the way home Michaels Bedford stopped without reason on several occasions and ultimately had to be recovered, getting home at about 2:30AM. Luckily for Michael he was not driving it as he had lent it for the day to little Dave and I am sure a lively discussion over driving technique ensued.

For a change not many new vehicles have joined the area. Ian purchased two Standard Tillys which are in very original condition one of which appears untouched since it left the army. It doesn't really need a restoration. Just a wipe over with a cloth and a bit of tinkering with the engine. The number of Bedford MW's has declined slightly as Nathan has sold one of his so he now has only two to maintain (and a ferret of course)

We usually try to arrange the occasional guest speaker and we have had two excellent ones this season. Bishop David Jennings gave a very entertaining talk about his experiences and much to his surprise was subsequently adopted as the area Chaplain. I shall have to repaint my Chaplains Jeep in British markings to accommodate this new post. We were also very lucky to receive a talk by Flight Lieutenant Bill Holmes (DFC) about his experiences as a member of RAF Bomber Command during WW2. Bill flew Stirlings during the war with 149 Squadron and recounted the details of his experinces. His final operation was a low level bombing mission where the aircraft was heavily damaged by flak which took out the two port engines and punctured a fuel tank which caused the aircraft to be awash with fuel. Crossing the channel at the widest point he saw the airfield at Thorney Island when the starboard outer engine died. The aircraft crashed causing all the fuel to ignite. Bill only survived the landing by being pushed out from behind by the navigator who sadly didn't get out. Badly burned however Bill received plastic surgery from the Sir Archibald McIndoe as part of the famous "Guinea Pig club" and did not ultimately fly again on operations. The full story of this talk was recorded by Bill King and can be read on our website Following the talk Bill answered questions, signed books and autographed a print of a Stirling which was raffled. The £102 raised was donated to the Banbury RAFA club of which he was a founder member. We were very lucky to have had such an interesting and evocative talk from a true hero.

All the best
Tim

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