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On 30th September some thirty Members and friends successfully found their way to RAF Northolt (not easy) for a visit to 32 Squadron. We were hosted by the youthful Sq Ldr James Tenniswood who met us at Reception and guided us in our cars to park near the splendid between-the-wars mess.

From here we were taken by coach to 32 Squadron’s hangars which house the BAe146 transports and Augusta 109 helicopters that this Air Transport Squadron operates. There are two grey 146s used for general military transport duties to places such as Iraq and Afghanistan and two white ones used for passengers including the Royal Family and the Cabinet.

Annual Outing
RAF Northolt And The Battle Of Britain Bunker

Toptop top

We were given free rein to wander through the hangars where we saw one grey 146 undergoing deep maintenance and one white 146 being serviced. We were taken into both aircraft so many of us refamiliarised ourselves with the nostalgic smells of ‘live’ aircraft and saw the first class accomodation provided for the VIPs. It was interesting to see the anti-missile systems fitted to the VIP aircraft. The Augusta 109 had a cabin like a luxury limousine.

Thence we were driven to the ‘terminal building’ where we were shown the ‘Windsor’ and ‘Royal’ lounges where VIPs and the Royal Family await their flights. Both lounges were simply but well equipped with high quality furnishings, paintings and toilet facilities. Many Members were amused to sit in the ‘Royal’ seats and use the ‘Royal’ facilities.

    Next it was to Building 27 to see the 1929 Operations Room built by Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding to house his air defence system. Saved from destruction because there wasn’t enough money to pay for its demolition the building is in the process of restoration under the leadership of Phillip Dawe who does much of the work himself. In the same building is a small but interesting museum with a collection of relevant British and German artefacts.
    It was now time to leave Northolt and drive to the No.11(F) Group Operations Room at nearby RAF Uxbridge. After eating our picnic lunches in the shadows of plinth-mounted Spitfire and Hurricane full scale models we descended the 79 steps into the bunker where most famously Air Vice Marshal Keith Park controlled his 11 Group fighter squadrons during the Battle of Britain. It was in use from the time of the Dunkirk evacuation to the Normandy landings. We sat round the operations map table while Ian Rushforth clearly explained how the system worked and what the apparently complex wall status indicators meant. In a nutshell it allowed the commander to know exactly what all his forces, down to ‘flight’ level (three fighters), were doing and capable of at all times. Very impressive especially when one remembers that there were no computers or digital systems, just people, telephones and radio sets.
    After spending some time in the adjacent comprehensive museum it was time to leave - back up the 79 steps to our cars. All agreed that the day out, organised by Frank Rainsborough and Richard Cannon, was outstanding. We also had beautiful sunny weather all day.