Warning: This blog post contains a lot of photos of planes!
Okay, I’m no aeroplane geek but when I agreed to go to The Royal International Air Tattoo I was a little bit excited about seeing at least one Spitfire up close and personal. Being an iconic part of WWII it’s one thing I’ve never actually seen in the flesh, let alone up in the air. I’m very lucky as I live about a 20 minute drive away from RAF Fairford and over the week leading up to the Air Tattoo I’ve seen loads of aircraft flying over, practising their manoeuvres, and even got to see a formation of about 10 Spitfires, which excited me even more, and I just couldn’t wait for the weekend to arrive.
The minute we got inside the grounds I was snapping away as the path leading up to the main area was lined with a German WWII Messerschmitt and a number of Spitfires and Hurricanes. It was great to see the two enemies’ planes sitting side by side very peacefully, something that wouldn’t have happened 70 years ago.
And then we spotted the Avro Vulcan in the background. This plane is enormous! The Vulcan was a strategic bomber used in the 1950s – 80s and was part of Britain’s Cold War defence. It was designed to carry nuclear weapons but was used for conventional bombing during the Falklands War and I can imagine it terrified anyone who saw it coming with its incredible wing span.
Of course the Red Arrows were there as always and it was fantastic to see them all lined up like this. There were crowds of people all around the perimeter taking photos of them which just shows you how popular they are. I couldn’t wait to see them flying over and doing all their amazing stunts.
The main attraction for vintage lovers at the Tattoo is the Vintage Village and just outside the main marquee was a model of a Spitfire on one side and a model of a Hurricane on the other and I just had to get my photo taken with the Spitfire. The wind was insane that day and my fringe was being blown right across my forehead! I was very thankful I’d tied it back though as it would’ve been in my face all day.
Once inside the marquee I was surprised by how small it was as I was expecting something along the lines of those at The Dig For Victory Show. The tent was split into two sections along the length of it with one side full of stalls and the other for refreshments and entertainment.
When we first got there we decided to get a cup of tea each and sat down at the tea rooms area. We ordered three pots of tea and were charged £9!! Seriously £9 for three teas. Then when my mum asked for another cup, because hers had a crack in it, the girl who was serving got all uppity. I’m sorry but for £9 you’d expect a cup that isn’t likely to break on you.
After we left there less than impressed we decided to hit the stalls. There was about 15 stalls with a mixture of probably half selling genuine vintage and the other half selling reproduction or vintage style clothing. The first one we went to was Frocks in Swing Time, a stall that sold both genuine and vintage style clothing and I immediately picked out a dress to buy. It was a genuine piece, handmade as most of vintage stuff is, and probably from the 1960s at it was only £30. However, it looks incredibly 1920s style with a drop waist and soft pleated skirt. I did try to take a photo of it but alas I couldn’t get a decent one, however, I’m sure I’ll show it off in a later post.
We had a really long chat with these two lovely people from The Siren Vintage in Bletchley and have already made plans to go up to visit their shop and take in Bletchley Park at the same time. I adored her 1940s style glasses and am now really tempted to go and get myself a pair as she said they were from the men’s section in Specsavers!
Having chatted to most of the stall holders it seemed like it was the vintage style stuff that was selling the most. A lot of the genuine vintage stall holders seemed to be suffering the fact that most people walking into the tent had no idea what it was all about. There were very few people dressed up which was a little disappointing.
I have heard that the Vintage Village was better in previous years as my hairdresser used to do vintage hair styling there. She’s told me of an old-fashioned fun fair with a big wheel (there was just one hook a duck stall this year!), the WI doing the teas, a large number of stalls and vintage dance lessons. There were about six people who could dance, showing off what they can do, this year but I didn’t see any lessons going on. Most of the time the dance floor was being used by children bouncing about.
Once we’d been to about half of the stalls we decided to head back out and check out the main strip as we could hear the planes beginning their displays. The main strip ran parallel to the runway so you could constantly keep an eye on what was going up. Thankfully my mum brought some ear plugs which we definitely needed when the fighter jets flew past. My god they were loud!
On one side of the strip was lots and lots of stalls selling things like clothes, hats, aeroplane paraphernalia, Red Arrows merchandise and food. I managed to pick up a lovely pair of 1950s tortoiseshell Ray Ban look-a-likes for £5!
I also wanted to buy one of these amazing UK built jukeboxes from Soundleisure. I glimpsed a look at the price of the Manhattan one on the left and it was £5370! Hmm, I think I might have to save up for that then. I particularly loved the Rocket jukebox in the middle as it reminded me of the one that my dad got his jukebox records from. Of course all of these ones play CDs but I did mention the records to the vendor and he said they were working on a record one as we speak. I want one!
On the other side of the strip was a static display of all sorts of planes, from the smallest gliders to the biggest military transporters. My favourite part was the aviation timeline put together by Brooklands Museum which started with this beautiful A V Roe Biplane from 1908.
And I loved just how close you could get to them. This is the cockpit of their Spitfire and it was amazing to think of the men that had sat in there during the war. It must have been incredibly frightening to be in that tiny space with Germans all around you.
Once we’d exhausted the static aeroplanes, and got rained on, we decided to catch the air show’s bus back to the where the classic cars were on display. This was when I spotted this beauty. Right from when I was a little girl I have always dreamed of a pink Cadillac with a white leather roof and here was one right in front of me. It was stunning and I fell in love in straight away.
Of course I had to have my photo taken with it and when I spotted several young children getting into it I knew I had to take my chance. Oh, can you tell just how extremely happy I was to fulfil my life long dream of actually sitting in one? The owner said I looked right at home and offered to sell it to me for £25,000!! If I only I had that kind of spare cash.
A quick note on my outfit, I decided to go 1950s to this event because I really wanted to wear flat shoes. I knew there was going to be a lot of walking about and didn’t want to be dealing with sore feet all day long. The dress is one I made about five years ago from a combination of two different 1950s patterns. The belt is one I’ve had for years and I think it was from eBay. The bag is vintage, you can see it in my Vintage Shopping in Frome post, and the shoes are a cheapy pair from Debenhams.
Just look at that interior! Shame my feet didn’t quite reach the pedals or I might have driven off 🙂
By this point we were really hungry so decided to set up a picnic and watch the planes, which was perfect timing. As we were popping the cork on the Prosecco (yes really!) the German Messerschmitt went up with the British Spitfires and Hurricanes chasing after it.
It was an incredible display and was in honour of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Apparently there was a number of veterans watching and saluting as they went past, including female Spitfire pilot Joy Lofthouse. I asked my dad a bit later if he ever remembered a Spitfire flying over where he lived during the war (he was born in 1942) and he said that he remembers one crashing into a field not far from his home. That must have been quite something to experience as a toddler.
Next up was the Vulcan. This thing is just amazing, it’s like a huge bird dominating the skies, although it wasn’t all that loud, nothing like the modern day planes that were on earlier. This is the B.2 XH558, nicknamed “The Spirit of Great Britain”, the last of its kind, and 2015 is the last year it is going to fly, so we were all very lucky to see it.
Then the Red Arrows came out to play and, as always, put on a stunning display with different formations, daring stunts where they would fly way to close to each other and trails of red, white and blue. Of course, they left the best until last with their signature heart creation in the sky. I was amazed that I actually caught it on camera. In fact, I was rather impressed with my little point and shoot, especially now I’ve seen some of the professional shots!
The whole time the aircraft were doing their displays I was keeping a close eye on the time because I didn’t want to miss the Hotsie Tosties that were advertised to be on at 3.30pm in the Vintage Village marquee. So dead on 3.30pm we traipsed back to the tent and found a seat. We waited patiently, enjoying this fantastic Winston Churchill impersonator who did a rousing End of War in Europe speech. Then 4pm came and went and still no singers.
We had a look around the stalls a bit more and I bought a beautiful pair of 1930s/40s dress clips for £20 and a lovely mounted print of a 1937 poster advertising holidays in Paignton, Devon. I picked this up because my best friend lives there and I’m heading down to stay in Torquay in a few weeks so I can go and visit her. However, the Hotsie Totsies still didn’t come on and, according to the programme, they were due on again at 5.30pm.
Eventually, after we had left the marquee and were looking around the Vulcan Village we heard the sweet sound of three female singers and rushed back, rather annoyed that we’d missed some of their set. I have no idea what happened but someone clearly got the times wrong. Anyway, we really enjoyed them. I love this kind of music and am a big fan of the original Andrews Sisters and the modern day Puppini Sisters and these girls were just as good.
All in all, I had a really good day and actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I was a bit disappointed by the Vintage Village and, of course, their lack of organisation, but I bought some great things and met some really lovely people. I’m not sure I’d go again, I mean once you’ve seen a whole load of aircraft in the sky then there’s no need really to see them again, unless you’re an aeroplane geek and there sure are a lot of them! The Air Tattoo was sold out a couple of weeks before and was visited by just under 150,000 people over the weekend. Enjoy next year guys!