I don’t often get the opportunity to indulge my fascination with all things military, but yesterday I managed to make it over to the Military And Flying Machines Show at Damyns Hall Aerodrome just outside Upminster.
Arranged by the Essex contingent of the Military Vehicles Trust, the Military and Flying Machines Show at Damyns Hall was an opportunity for the owners of classic military vehicles to show off their prized possesions. In addition to the dizzying array of jeeps, half-tracks, tanks and trucks the assembled crowd were also treated to several flying circuits from a Lancaster bomber and re-enactments of several World War II skirmishes. Alternate groups of re-enactors took turns to battle it out – the US Army vs Germany, the British Army vs Germany and then a Vietnam War scenario, all accompanied by loud explosions and the crackle of gunfire as carefully packed charges threw fountains of dirt into the air. The Goodyear blimp also put in an appearance – obviously taking some time off from its duties hovering over the Olympic Park and giving us the dramatic shots of the Olympic Stadium from high above.
Re-enactors clearly take their roles very seriously – I was surprised to see camps around the aerodrome kitted out with authentic materiel and vehicles where the various groups had bedded in. Some of their enclosures even had foxholes and trenches dug into them. I smiled when I saw the US and British Army encampments – most of the ‘Americans’ seemed to enjoy smoking furiously, and the British looked to have a constant brew-up on the go. I have to admit that I found the German command posts dotted around the airfield a bit disconcerting however – I’m not sure how comfortable I would be sipping my mug of tea while a swastika fluttered overhead. I know that military re-enactors strive for authenticity but to my mind displaying that particular insignia goes a bit too far, and while I’d welcome the opportunity to sling a US Army-issue M1 Garand around my neck or pull on a pair of puttees and play at being a British soldier, I’m pretty sure that I’d baulk at buttoning up a fallschirmjäger’s uniform under any circumstances. I’m sure that the members of Das Heer, who participated in the weekend’s activities, are all lovely people but a lifetime of tales from old soldiers and a lot of time spent with contemporary Germans makes me bristle at the thought of representing that particular military outfit, no matter that they were regular army. The oddest of yesterday’s displays was a mock-up of a U-Boat’s conning tower made by members of the U-Boat Society, in fact one sailor was even dangling on a wooden gantry touching up the grey paintwork as his colleagues looked on – very bizzare, particularly when you find something like that in a farmer’s field…
Here are some of my best (and, in a sense, worst) shots from yesterday’s Military and Flying Machines Show – you can explore the entire catalogue of images online at Google+
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