Battle of Britain Memorial Flight honoured by Engineering Heritage Award from Institution

By Tara May Culpin | 09 April 2010
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a photo of a flying Lancaster bomber flanked by a Spitfire and a Hurricane

(Above) Avro Lancaster, Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire at the 2006 Farnborough International Airshow. Photo Yummifruitbat used under Wikimedia Commons.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight has been honoured with an Engineering Heritage Award from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers at a ceremony at the Flight’s Coningsby base.

Citing the historic warplanes as "a tribute to the airmen who lost their lives in the service of this country and an inspiration to all," the Institute presented the Award on Thursday (April 8) in front of dignitaries ranging from RAF personnel to a pilot who originally flew an Avro Lancaster bomber.

Many changes have occurred in the 65 years following the end of World War II, not least the engineering capabilities and technologies associated with world-renowned RAF aircraft.

Today, the historic aircraft act as a reminder of the brave airmen who risked, and too often gave, their lives during the Battle of Britain, as well as the crewman who fought in succeeding battles, some of whom never returned.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight is a showcase and tribute to airmen past and present, made up of several fully restored aircraft, with each display normally consisting of a Lancaster flanked by a fighter on each wing, although the entire Flight comprises 11 aircraft: five Spitfires, two Hurricanes, a Douglas Dakota, an Avro Lancaster and two De Havilland Chipmunks.

a photo of three people standing next to a plaque on a wall

Isobel Pollock, Chair of IMechE's Heritage Committee presenting the award to Dave Walsh, Chief Engineer of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Courtesy IMechE

Based at RAF Coningsby, the Flight is sometimes referred to as "the museum without walls" and is the longest surviving commemorative unit of its kind in the world, helping to make it a precedent for IMechE's prestigious award.

"This is the first time such an award has ever been given to a flight," says Isobel Pollock, Chair of IMechE's Heritage Committee. "Our Heritage Awards always go to artefacts and engineering exhibits that are unique and inspirational but the BBMF goes even further.

"The aircraft and their aircrew helped save the lives of so many in the Second World War so this is not just to remember those airmen who died but to celebrate and acknowledge those alive today."

Crew behind the maintenance and upkeep of the aircraft are paramount to the Flight's success, says Pollock. "We must also not forget those that have painstakingly restored some of these planes and the Flight itself for the work and legacy in keeping the memory alive."

a photo of a fuselage and mid turret of a Lancaster bomber in a hangar

The fuselage and turret of the Lancaster Bomber at RAf Coningsby. Courtesy IMechE

This work is led by Squadron Leader Ian Smith, who is Commanding officer at the BBMF and largely responsible for its ongoing success.

"The Flight's aircraft are unique within the modern RAF," he says. "The airworthy maintenance to full flying condition of these historic airframes falls to 25 aircraft tradesmen, headed by a Warrant Officer engineer and supported by all the necessary back-up provided by their home base, RAF Coningsby.

"BBMF are exceptionally proud to be given this prestigious award, which increases public awareness of engineering, past and present."

Keep up to speed with the latest news about the Battle of Britain 70th anniversary at www.culture24.org.uk/battle-of-britain.

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