The Association’s annual visit this year, organised by Frank
Rainsborough, was to the Heritage Centre at Royal Air Force Wittering.
Some 25 Members and friends made their own arrangements for getting to
the air station which is near Stamford, Lincolnshire, and were greeted
by our host, Corporal Lisa Morris, near the Harrier GR7a ‘gate
guardian’, ZD469, clearly visible from the A1 highway.
After signing-in and receiving official passes we were taken by motor coach to the Heritage Centre for the start of a two hour visit., where volunteer Bob Farrell gave us a potted history of the air station which opened in1916. From 1968 to 2010 it was known as the ‘Home of the Harrier‘. We were allowed to visit a number of rooms containing historical information and artefacts including Harrier conversion course group photographs amongst which, of course, we found a youthful image of our Chairman, Chris Roberts (233 OCU Course No. 10). A cheque for £250 was presented to the Centre.
We then, complimentary colour guide in hand, walked to the main area
of interest, the hangar. This proved to be a treasure trove for any
Harrier enthusiast, housing several aircraft and lots of items and
memorabilia associated with the Harrier. The place was spotless and all
the contents were accessible, clean and well displayed and cared for.
The aircraft were: Harrier T4 XZ146, GR3 XV799, GR3 XW923 cockpit
section, GR7A ZD318 (the first UK Harrier II/GR5) with every pylon
loaded with stores, AV-8B 162964 cockpit section and GR1 XV279 (the
fourth Development Batch Harrier) still carrying the legend Hawker
Siddeley Harrier (hurrah!)
Ancillary items included a cutaway Pegasus, a complete Pegasus, a gun pod, several external stores pylons, a glass case containing a very large number of 1/72nd scale model Harriers of various Mks and liveries and a 1/24th scale GR1. There were three Harrier wind tunnel models: a GR5 with LERX, AAR probe and a wide selection of external stores, a GR1 hot gas rig model with its associated pipework, and another wind tunnel model with a lengthened front fuselage, FA2 type cockpit and nose, a T2 rear fuselage and a wing with square cut tips. There were also two front fuselage models, one with a bulbous radar nose, the other with a finely tapered nose.
A number of large placards were on show: RAF Cottesmore Joint Force Harrier, Welcome to Happy Four, Harrier Force South (presumably Falklands), a number of large wall plaques: Joint Force Harrier, Joint Strike Wing - Joint Force Harrier, and some bar signs: The Hover Inn, The Old Forge Inn - “Ogu Bar”. A real treasure was a varnished wood plaque with the Tripartite Evaluation Squadron roundel at the top beneath which was the inscription “To All Who Serve in the Kestrel Evaluation Squadron from Hawker Siddeley Aviation Ltd, 1965”.
After thanking our very helpful hosts for an excellent visit, we handed in our passes and set of down the A1 for home. A long day but well worth the journey.