Sitting In His Dad’s Seat. 22nd June

Fort St George, Cambridge

Last night Cambridge was treated to a firework display, sadly we could only just make out the wizz bangs and flashes from behind the trees on the common. This was soon followed by what sounded like a concert somewhere in the city. Maybe Bruce Springsteen!? If it was he did a bad cover of Live and Let Die, the other songs were unrecognisable as we tried to drop off to sleep with the aim of getting up early. The May Balls in Cambridge have started.

The No 7 bus was late arriving, in fact it was embarrassed of the fact and came incognito as the No 5, changing itself whilst we weren’t looking! As other people headed to the bus who’d also been waiting we went to check, managing to stop the driver from heading off without us. Then we wanted a Cambridgeshire Multibus ticket which the driver had never heard of, so this took another five minutes at least to sort. Would we make our connection? The answer to this was no! By the time we reached Sawston we’d missed the 7A by at least five minutes. What to do now? There was still quite a distance to go and there was over an hours wait for the next service.

Thankfully the next bus got us that bit closer, dropping us off in the village of Duxford. From here we found a footpath that took us across a field, from where we could see our destination, a very large hanger on the other side of the M11. After a mile and a half walk we’d arrived walking underneath the wings of a Spitfire at the gates of the Imperial War Museum Duxford.

Lots and lots of planes

With some birthday money Mick had decided to treat us to a visit to the airfield. The museum is vast as you’d expect being on an airfield, stretching out almost as far as we could see. Today would be a long day making the most of our visit.

Trident Two

First we headed for the British Airliner Collection, looked after by the Duxford Aviation Society. Mick had been in contact with them via Facebook a couple of days ago and a chap called Jim had offered to come and open up one of the planes for us to have a look inside, they are only open up when there are enough volunteers about. We loitered on the tarmac whilst Jim unlocked all the doors, then we were shown inside, the Closed signs put back in position behind us. We’d have the plane to ourselves for a while.

This Trident Two was flown by Mick’s Dad fifty years ago shortly before he retired from being a pilot. This year Peter would have been 100, so this was a visit we just had to make.

Jim and Mick in the cockpit

Jim showed us into the spacious cockpit. The Co-pilots seat would be easier to get into as there was no jump seat behind it, but Mick wanted to sit in the left hand seat, the pilots seat, saying ‘Hello Dad’ as he sat down.

Jim ran us through all the instruments, although Mick knew most of them anyway. Stories were exchanged and of course photos taken.

This Trident Two flew with British European Airways from 1968 to 1972, when it was leased to Cyprus Airways. Damaged by gunfire during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, it was abandoned at Nicosia Airport. In 1977 the bullet holes were repaired and after a complete overhaul it re-joined the fleet in what was by then British Airways until it was retired in 1982.

Captain Geraghty and Co-pilot Leckenby

Tridents were built with ‘blind landing’ capabilities, the plane able to land in thick fog, enabling them to be a reliable passenger service. It had a range of 2,700 miles and could carry 115 passengers at a cruising speed of 580mph.

I’d been expecting Jim to be older, volunteers at museums like this tend to be. But Jim knew his stuff, he holds a pilots licence and has worked around airliners and is most definitely a plane enthusiast. As he showed us into the cabin a chap came saying he was wanting to give the Trident a wash and hadn’t expected it to be open today. With our leisurely tour over Jim locked the plane back up and moved over to open up the plane next door.

We walked up the line of British Airliners. A Viscount, Peter may have flown this plane too, along with the last plane in the line an Airspeed Ambassador which became known as an Elizabethan after the newly crowned Queen, it is the last one in the world.


Planes were taking off and coming in to land, the runway in constant use, we didn’t feel the need for a flight at £45 a go, what we now needed was a cuppa and a snack whilst formulating a plan for the remainder of the day. A cafe in the American hanger provided us with refreshments and we plotted ourselves a route back towards the entrance, picking and choosing what we’d see.

If Mick’s Dad hadn’t retired he would most probably have moved on to flying the BAC I-II which was designed and built in Britain and was the most successful, 244 were built. Jim showed us round this plane too, a much more compact cockpit, no navigator seat required. A much narrower plane with no first class seats. Having a door under the tail meant that turn arounds could be swift. The plane could land, luggage off loaded, refuelled, new luggage and passengers were on board and ready for take off in the blink of an eye.


Thank you so much to Jim for volunteering, opening up the planes and giving us a lot of your time.

The Battle of Britain Ops Block told the story of those who worked at Duxford. The base supported the defence of London with several squadrons flying out from here. The Dowding System was employed where the country was divided into groups, then subdivided into sectors, each sector having a Sector Station with an Ops Room.

The table

Wing Commander Alfred ‘Woody’ Woodhall, who was found to be short sighted in one eye at the beginning of WW2. Pilots were not allowed to wear glasses, so he got round this by wearing a monocle and continued flying for some time, later becoming Duxfords Station Commander.

Squadron status boards on the wall

The Opps Room is laid out how it would have been and accompanied by a projected film, lighting and recordings relives what it was like as five squadrons took off to head off the Germans.

Butternut squash salad and brisket burger

Lunch was taken in the Workshop Restaurant as Spitfires and Hurricanes flew past.

We walked round the Battle of Britain hanger.

Around privately owned planes, a bus and a German one-man submarine.

Then we headed for the Air and Space Hanger. Lined up outside was a vast array of Classic Cars, there was an auction taking place. We headed to the balcony over looking the bids, below a few rich people bid for vehicles. Sadly we missed how much the star of the sale went for a 1969 Ferrari 365GT Rebodied in the style of a ‘Pontoon Fender’ Testa Rossa, estimated at £350,000 to £400,000! No wonder it had ropes round it!

Spitfire and a Hurricane?

Away from the cars we learnt all about man and flight. In 1853 George Cayley designed a man carrying glider which successfully left the ground for 130m, a British aviation pioneer from close to Scarborough.

Looking across the hanger at all the planes, some suspended above others, we spotted another we had to spend time with, another plane that Mick’s Dad flew, the Lancaster. What a difference from the airliners, at least he was a pilot who got some heating unlike most of the crew.

Look at those Ugg Boots! Peter in the middle

To while away a bit more time we went to have a closer look at the classic cars, one had shouted out to be owned by me so we had to see what it was.

A 1937 Fiat 500 Topolino. What a pretty dinky car. A closer look and I spotted a few things that would bring the estimate down from £12,000 to £14,000, a bit of damaged paintwork and a missing centre to the steering wheel. I wonder how much I could have knocked off, oh and a missing wing mirror, but it still had trafficators. The auction was way past Lot 52 so I’ve no idea what it went for.

A quick look at the tat in the shop before we headed out the front to await the 17:07 7A bus. We waited and waited, some road works delaying the traffic. We waited some more as did other people. We had options. Wait, get a taxi, walk back to where we’d got off the bus this morning, walk to Whittlesford Station and get a train back to Cambridge. In the end we walked to the station another 1.8 miles to add to our tally for the day. We hopped on the first bus that arrived at Cambridge station and hoped it would get us some way back to the boat, which thankfully it did. More reliability and some bus route maps around Cambridge would help along with Google giving you information about them!

It would have been Peter’s 100th birthday a couple of weeks ago, Mick wrote a post about him here if you missed it. What a great day out to remember him.

Peter Geraghty

0 locks, 0 miles, 8 plus miles walked, 2 late buses, 4 planes with connections, 1 pilots seat, 1 star Jim, 3 cuppas, 1 coke, 1 flapjack, 1 millionaires flapjack, several millionaires bidding, 7 spitfire flypasts, 2 helicopters, loads of planes, 1 squash salad, 1 smoked brisket, £400,000 for a car! 1 submarine, 2 invisible 7A’s, 1 Lancaster, 1 Typhoon, 1 train, 3 buses, 1 very bored cat, 313 photos, 1 brilliant day.