A celebration of land and war
By Ken Smith; photography by Jim Alling
It hardly seems possible that it was over 60 years ago when the Royal Air Force took on the might of the German Luftwaffe in an air war that forever changed the course of human history. But it was, and on the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Moss Motors, in association with Hornburg Jaguar and the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, were proud to stage a celebration in remembrance of that long ago conflict.
Invites were extended to, and accepted by, several of the veteran pilots of the battle, both British and German, Polish and Hungarian, in addition to members of the American Eagle squadron. They gathered together, many of them now octogenarians, to talk over old times and sign innumerable autographs and posters, following a symposium detailing the events of that 1940 autumn.
A Saturday evening banquet held in the huge hangar at Santa Monica airport saw over 700 guests, including current and former veterans, many in period dress, enjoy a repast of roast beef before dancing to the big band sounds of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. One of the highlights of the evening was the famous Winston Churchill speech—“Never in the field of human conflict”—rendered in those unmistakable stentorian tones by Redmond O’Colonies, who also acted as town crier and MC. Another outstanding moment, during the dinner, was when the hangar doors slowly opened to the roar of aircraft engines, and there outside on the tarmac was a Hawker Hurricane and an ME 109 taxing up to the assembled diners.
Sunday saw over 250 British cars gather outside the museum. These cars flanked a superb array of vintage aircraft gathered for the anniversary celebrations. Pride of place went to the Supermarine Spitfires and the Hawker Hurricane, plus the Messerschmitt 109, the only one flying in the world today. However, attracting almost equal attention was the display of vintage military and civil airplanes, including no less than five Tiger Moths and a rare Bucker Jungmann.
Throughout the day, attendees were able to take flights in the Tiger Moths and a vintage Stearman biplane, although many said they wished they could have taken off in the rare two-seater Spitfire flown in from Colorado especially for the event. All the valuable sponsors who were connected with the 60th Anniversary celebrations played their part by choosing their favorite British car for which special trophies were awarded. The crowd went wild when the warbirds displayed their flying grace in a low-level pass over the airfield. The sight of the Spitfire and Hurricanes and the sound of Rolls Royce Merlin engines will live with all whom were there for a long time to come.
All in all, a unique, and unrepeatable event, with well over three thousand people attending over the two days. Our thanks go out to all who participated in helping to raise a considerable sum for the various charities, including the RAF Benevolent Association. We will never again see the like of those heroes who attended from around the world, and they richly deserved their few days in the California sun.