Recently, I visited St Mary’s Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire. Fairford, with buildings in the golden coloured Cotswold stone, has been there since the 9th century, its prosperity built on the wool trade and there is a weekly market in the Market Square which has been running since the 12th century. The current church was consecrated in 1497 and is little changed since then. The complete set of 28 medieval stained-glass windows tell the Christian story using many contemporary buildings, faces and clothes. The church and windows survived the destruction of the Reformation and Civil War – it is the most complete parish church in England.
But Fairford also has a link with more modern times – and the USA! RAF Fairford is a Forward Operating Location made available to the US by the UK Government. With an exceptionally long runway (nearly 10,000 ft), it is the US Air Force’s only European Airfield for heavy bombers and was the only TransOceanic Abort Landing Site for the NASA Space Shuttle programme in the UK with NASA trained fire and medical crews stationed there.
And Concorde, the first and only supersonic commercial airplane, touched down at RAF Fairford on April 9, 1969, after its 22-minute maiden flight from Filton in Bristol where it was made. This British prototype, G-BSST (002) remained at RAF Fairford for testing and development (making use of the long runway) until 1976 when it was ‘retired’ to the Fleet Air Arm Yeovilton Air Museum where it is today.
This, I think, helps to put the pandemic in perspective. For some, it has been incredibly sad and for many, an increasingly inconvenient time which is not over yet – but maybe we can start look forward. The UK vaccine booster programme has started for people over 50 or vulnerable, and those living in the UK may soon be able to visit the US – and the good news is that it looks like my trip to take part in the 80th Celebration of #4BFTS in Arizona in November will now happen!!
July 2021 marked 80 years since the first #5BFTS cadets on Course 1 arrived at Carlstrom in July 1941 to start their training before going over to Clewiston in September 1941. We still have a few who remember Riddle Field as they were there – and many more who are helping to keep the memories alive. The windows in St Mary’s Church in Fairford show us what life was like in medieval England; perhaps one day, people will think back 500 years to Riddle Field and our records will help them discover what happened there between 1941 and 1945.
I hope those of you reading this are safe and, if you have signs and symptoms of Covid-19, are well cared for. If you have lost someone close to Covid, please accept my condolences and sympathy. With my love, prayers and best wishes.
‘Their efforts to preserve the freedom of the world were not in vain and will never be forgotten.’
Scholarly Commons Citation
Harding, J. A. (2021). 5 BFTS Association Newsletter No 20 - September. , (). Retrieved from https://commons.erau.edu/bfts-clewiston-newsletters/7