30 November 2022, Virtual
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
Britain has celebrated in its own way the ending of the Second World War. The events of the previous Thursday gave an added poignancy to a weekend which was a mighty celebration, a presentation of history for generations born in the second half of the twentieth century and also a pious act of remembrance. A fine exhibition was mounted in St James Park near Westminster, in the main manned by young enthusiastic cadet types ably supported by more mature personage and included a typical Forces variety show complete with a fine rendition by performers and audience of ”God Save the King”. Superb weather on both days was culminated on the Sunday with a service in the morning at the Abbey attended by two people who have seen war service, HM The Queen, a member of the ATS and Prince Philip who started his shipboard Navy career in 1940 as a midshipman on the elderly battleship HMS Ramillies. She welcomed veterans for lunch in the Palace gardens. As in the days of old the Monarch then entertained her guests, but on a grand style with a superb pageant in Horse Guards Parade, Robert Hardy playing a superb Sir Winston Churchill and a surprise appearance of Dame Vera Lynn (88). After returning to the Palace in an open Land Rover finally the Queen came out on the balcony to watch a flypast of military and civil aircraft of the war.
BBC TV followed the events in its own majestic way.
Now the British Broadcasting Corporation has been criticized in recent days for allegedly needing 150 staff for the Trafalgar celebrations which produced precious little air time and for a huge contingent sent out to cover the Olympic voting. In Singapore was the sports team of Five Live for radio, the sports team of TV, the main news teams of both forms of media, News 24, various magazine programmes and contingents representing London”s BBC radio and television. There may have been others too. An even greater fuss would have been made had we lost. All this and questions asked whether directors of non-profit making organisations should be paid a bonus or as one wag put it ”bonuses, yes, to achieve a target, and deductions when that goal is not met”.
In the main the BBC does a fine job and the coverage of the anniversary weekend events were superb, across the nation. With one exception.
The commentary on the flypast could at best be described as poor and at worst terrible. It cannot be defended by saying it catered for a wide audience. The reporters were uninformed, misleading and failed to convey the message of the display. One was a professional broadcaster, the other a journalist of repute and a self-appointed military expert. Seemingly little research had been done and few of the facts regarding the participants were passed on to the viewers. Oh for a Richard Dimbleby and Raymond Baxter covering the event. Some of the commentary was incorrect and in parts confused.
For the record the flypast consisted of five de Havilland Rapides, one of the great transport aircraft of the 1930s. 741 built and perhaps 20 are still flying around the world. A Consolidated Catalina followed, symbolic of Coastal Command and its anti-submarine work, whilst the three Dakotas represented the amazing 18,000 built. Nobody knows how many are still flying but you can still book flights at most British air displays and they the real thing when you see them in a modern film. Two Boeing B17 Flying Fortresses followed, one British, one French, the UK-based one Sally B better known as the film star Memphis Belle, courtesy of last minute insurance assistance by Virgin Atlantic, and also a pair of B25 Mitchell bombers. Lastly, and not least, the Battle of Britain Memorial flight consisting of a Spitfire and Hurricane plus Britain”s only flying Lancaster bomber whose crew included Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Michael Beetham a Lancaster pilot in the VE-Day flypast of May 1946.
Let us hope that the BBC will show the next major air pageant but this time get it right! Aviation deserves that.