RAF100 baton meets 113 World War II veterans
The Royal Air Force RAF100 Baton made a guest appearance at Halfpenny Green on Sunday 17 June as part of Project Propeller, the annual reunion commemorating World War II veteran aircrew.
The RAF100 Baton Relay is now three quarters of the way along its journey and will have visited every region of the UK and several overseas locations when it ends on 10 July on Horseguards Parade. The idea of the baton relay originally began as an orienteering challenge and still has a significant element of that in it. Each baton carrier is given just a start and end point and they have to work out the rest themselves.
Veterans and their ferrying pilots took the opportunity to have their pictures taken with the RAF100 Baton including ex-Flight Lieutenant Russell “Rusty” Waughman, a Lancaster pilot with 101 Squadron. Rusty also had the opportunity to fly a Boeing Steerman training aircraft on the day, having trained on it during the war. Talking after his flight he said: “It was such a privilege to fly…oh it was exceptional, quite exceptional.”
Sergeant Fred Hooker, an air gunner on the Halifax heavy bomber with 102 Squadron, sat with the RAF100 Baton and explained that it holds a message in a specially designed compartment from HM The Queen to the personnel of the RAF. He said: “I’m very proud to be able to hold this, very proud indeed.”
Project Propeller is an annual event where World War II aircrew are ferried for free from all over the UK and Ireland to an airfield by volunteer pilots. At this year’s venue, Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green Airport in Staffordshire, the veterans were treated to a street party style lunch in the hangar featuring 1940’s live music. They had a chance to meet old friends and catch up with people they may not have seen since the end of the war.
“The last time we saw each other was over 75 years ago in Upper Silesia in Poland,” said former Warrant Officer Jim Mulhall, a flight engineer on a 75 Squadron Lancaster bomber aircraft. Jim was shot down on his third trip and spent the rest of the war in the Luftwaffe prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft 7 in Bankau, Poland. At this year’s Project Propeller, he finally met three friends that he’d been imprisoned with, the first time they’d met since they were liberated at the end of the war. “Meeting my friends again is something I never even dreamed would happen,” he said.
The veterans were finally treated to a flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Avro Lancaster, the most famous and successful RAF heavy bomber of World War II. Many of the veterans were listening out for the distinctive sound of the Merlin engines as it approached from over the horizon, having been crew on the iconic aircraft themselves.