Saturday, 24 July 2010

War Machines: Big Boys' Toys

Today I nipped up to Davidstow airfield, high on the cliffs of north Cornwall. The airfield dates from the Second World War; nowadays it's still used by microlight enthusiasts, and also hosts the thriving Davidstow Airfield & Cornwall at War Museum.

This weekend the museum held its annual War Machines gathering, and the Military Vehicle Trust turned up in support. Among the favourites for me were the beautifully turned-out Dodge WC51 truck which I later had a ride in, the Russian GAZ jeep, and the wartime Harley WLA motorcycle ridden by a very efficient MP. These vehicles are living pieces of history, maintained by enthusiasts to exceptional standards.

Also on offer was a tour of the airfield's wartime archeology, made in Marlene, a tiny electric bus. Volunteer Rod Knight gave a lively commentary, and brought the old ruins to life. Back at the museum, on display was its most recent acquisition, a Vampire jet trainer cockpit section.

But the day's highlight was the military vehicle run, as the exhibits took to the local roads for a blast from the past. Thanks to the kindness of museum proprietor Steve Perry, I was given a seat in the leading vehicle. We ran down to a local workshop where telly star James May and his team of schoolchildren had built a mock-up 'Airfix' Spitfire. We found it under refurbishment, prior to a final resting place with the RAF Museum. After that it was off to a nearby wartime emergency landing-ground, now private property, to look around the remains there.

Try as I might, I've never imagined myself racing through the streets of Delabole perched up in the commander's position of a Ferret armoured car.

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