Category Archives: Visits

A Visit to The Yorkshire Air Museum

A small but select group of Stumperlowe Probus Club mem­bers enjoyed an inspir­a­tional and at times emo­tional visit to the former RAF Elvington air base near York which now houses the Yorkshire Air Museum or, to give it its full name, the Allied Air Forces Memorial and Yorkshire Air Museum, on Wednesday, September 13.

Our select group, minus the pho­to­grapher of course, with some of the exhib­its on show behind us.

As with other visits in the past, for example to the National Rail Museum, the four and a half hours we had allowed proved barely time enough to explore all the exhib­its, indoor and out­door, as well as the archive mater­ial and cinema screen­ings, not to men­tion a lunch­time visit to the NAAFI where many of the British and French air­crew lost during World War II would have enjoyed their last meal.

No 77 Squadron suffered heavy losses during its time at Elvington, with over 500 air­crew killed, miss­ing or taken pris­oner and almost 800 Halifax bombers lost as it played a major part in the Battle of the Ruhr and the bomb­ing of Berlin. In May 1944, 77 Squadron moved to the newly opened nearby RAF Full Sutton and was replaced at Elvington by two French squad­rons, num­bers 346 ‘Guyenne’ and 347 ‘Tunisie’ who both played lead­ing parts in the bomb­ing of Germany.

The Handley Page Halifax Mk III

Elvington is the largest ori­ginal war­time RAF Bomber Command sta­tion open to the public any­where in the world. Retaining the authen­tic atmo­sphere of an oper­a­tional base, the site con­tains the 77 Squadron Memorial, the French Air Force Memorial, the Royal Canadian Air Force Memorial, the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Memorial and the Air Transport Auxiliary Memorial.

Elvington was the war­time home of the only two French Air Force Heavy Bomber Squadrons, who flew the huge Halifax four-engined bomber on mis­sions over occu­pied Europe. The museum, which is held in spe­cial affec­tion by many vet­er­ans and the des­cend­ants of those brave airmen , has there­fore enjoyed a unique rela­tion­ship with the people of France, and the French Air Force and gov­ern­ment, since its found­ing more than 30 years ago.

Of the out­door exhib­its, the high­light for many was the French Mirage IV nuc­lear bomber which had been offi­cially inaug­ur­ated at its new home at Elvington only ten days earlier. The Mirage, which was Western Europe’s fast­est mil­it­ary jet cap­able of sus­tained speeds of Mach 2.2 (1,400mph), was trans­por­ted by road on a four-day jour­ney from the Chateaudun air base in France.

The French Mirage IV nuc­lear bomber

The new attrac­tion, which was first pledged to the museum by the French gov­ern­ment more than 12 years ago, was offi­cially unveiled on September 3 by Général Laurent Lesellier, rep­res­ent­ing the Chief of the French Air Force. It joins the much smal­ler Mirage III fighter which is also the only one of its type in Britain.

The Elvington museum opened in 1985 and had only a hand­ful of air­craft to dis­play. In those early years, volun­teers were con­cen­trat­ing on refur­bish­ing the cent­ral build­ings of the ori­ginal war­time site as well as focus­ing on restor­ing an ori­ginal Halifax bomber. The French vet­er­ans who, 40 years after the war, were still very active, were anxious to help and to ensure that their own his­tory within RAF Bomber Command was not for­got­ten.

A Visit to The Sheffield University Diamond Building — 26th April 2017.

Exterior view of the build­ing.

Thanks to Graham Snowdon, our sec­ret­ary, eleven mem­bers enjoyed a very edu­ca­tional visit to the Sheffield University’s latest and most expens­ive build­ing, the Diamond Building. It gets its name from the out­side facade which is dec­or­ated with dia­mond pat­terns. Some people hate it and others love it. At least it makes a state­ment. It is a sci­ence and engin­eer­ing, teach­ing and research facil­ity, with the emphasis on Research.

It has four floors and a base­ment which house:

  • Student-Led learn­ing spaces.
  • 4 com­puter labor­at­or­ies.
  • 9 lec­ture theatres.
  • 3 work rooms.
  • 17 engin­eer­ing labor­at­or­ies.

The whole interior is designed to have an open spa­cious feel about it and max­imum use is made of nat­ural light. The cent­ral sec­tion of the build­ing is open with study pods on stilts to allow the nat­ural light to come down from the ceil­ing.

Each study  pod has two levels, an inner level for quiet study, and an open top study area.

Most of the labor­at­or­ies are around the cent­ral space and on sev­eral floors, whilst the lec­ture theatres are con­fined to the base­ment.

The group look­ing into a lec­ture theatre.

The build­ing is open for stu­dent study 24 hours a day,  7 days a week and it has the capa­city to cater for 4,300 stu­dents.

The visit lasted approx­im­ately 2 to 2.1/2 hours with some mem­bers trying their hand at flying on the flight sim­u­lat­ors.

It was an excel­lent morn­ing for the mem­bers that atten­ded and our grate­ful thanks must go to the uni­ver­sity staff who were so accom­mod­at­ing.











Any visit to the National Memorial Arboretum is bound to be a day of mixed emo­tions, and so it proved for the 24 mem­bers and guests of Stumperlowe Probus Club who made the two-hour jour­ney to the 150-acre national centre of remem­brance at Alrewas, Staffordshire.

The NMA hon­ours the fallen, recog­nises ser­vice and sac­ri­fice, and fosters pride in our coun­try.

And it does it very well, with more than 300 memori­als in the beau­ti­fully land­scaped grounds, a chapel of remem­brance where we heard the Last Post before observing two minutes’ silence at 11o’clock, the Royal British Legion poppy field and what is inten­ded to be the centrepiece of the whole site, the Armed Forces Memorial.

Featuring no fewer than 30,000 trees, the arbor­etum is an evolving, matur­ing wood­land inter­spersed with long, sweep­ing grass ter­races and walk­ways and bounded on two sides by the River Trent and River Tame. It is there­fore a living, grow­ing trib­ute to those who have served and con­tinue to serve their coun­try.

Sadly for us, the Armed Forces Memorial — which was ded­ic­ated in the pres­ence of Her Majesty the Queen in 2007 — was closed for refur­bish­ment at the time of our visit, but fac­sim­iles of the 16,000 names recor­ded on the memorial have been moun­ted on dis­play boards in front of the chapel of remem­brance.

While cities, towns and vil­lages through­out the coun­try have memori­als to their men who died in the two World Wars, this is ded­ic­ated to those who have died in the ser­vice of their coun­try since the end of WWII. But I was left won­der­ing why such a stun­ning piece of archi­tec­ture should need to be closed for major main­ten­ance work less than ten years after it was built.

Of the smal­ler memori­als, each would have a spe­cial sig­ni­fic­ance depend­ing on which branch of the armed forces family mem­bers served. It might be the Far East Prisoners of War build­ing, the Russian Convoy Veterans memorial, the British Korean Veterans’ Association memorial or others hon­our­ing such groups as the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the Merchant Navy Association, the Normandy Veterans or the Suez Veterans’ Association.

Few, how­ever, pro­voked more emo­tion than the Shot at Dawn memorial, tucked away in a wooded copse on the very east­ern fringe of the site, where dawn first breaks.

It com­mem­or­ates the 306 British and Commonwealth sol­diers who were shot for deser­tion or cow­ardice during World War I. Most were suf­fer­ing from shell shock, or what we now know as post-traumatic stress dis­order, and all were gran­ted posthum­ous par­dons by the British Government in 2006.

All 306 are rep­res­en­ted by posts, like those to which they would be tied before facing the firing squad, and each with a name plate attached. The memorial statue itself is mod­elled on Private Herbert Francis Burden, of the 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, who was shot at Ypres on 21st July 1915. He was just 17.

A Visit To The National Railway Museum At York.

NRM Visit

A party of 49 mem­bers and guests from Stumperlowe Probus Club enjoyed a day at the National Railway Museum in York on Wednesday, 16th March. In front of the iconic Mallard, in the Great Hall of the museum, chair­man Vince Allsopp (left) hands over a cheque for £250 on behalf of the club to Tobias Lumb, Head of Public Programmes at the NRM. Also in the pic­ture (hold­ing the folder) is club sec­ret­ary Graham Snowdon, who was wear­ing two hats as a life member of the Friends of the National Railway Museum.

A selec­tion of pho­to­graphs taken on the day by  Peter jack­son are avail­able for view­ing in the Gallery.

A Trip to Bletchley Park Near Milton Keynes -26th May 2015.

We  enjoyed a most suc­cess­ful outing to Bletchley Park where the Nazi and Japanese ciphers were broken during World War II.  Visiting coaches must park off site.  Setting down and pick up times have to be booked weeks in advance.  Our drop off time was 11am requir­ing a 7.30 am depar­ture from Sheffield but as the day brought wall to wall sun­shine our spir­its were high.

Whilst Chamberlin’s appease­ment ruled, Alastair Denniston planned for the coming war.  He was head of the Government Code and Cypher School and acquired Bletchley Park in 1938.  The ini­tial team of less than 10 experts and math­em­aticians where known to Denniston per­son­ally and moved into the main build­ing in 1939.  By the end of the War over 9,000 people were based at Bletchley Park.  Many of the build­ings sur­round­ing the ori­ginal house have been restored to their war­time state and vis­it­ors wander through these “huts” to view exhib­i­tions and hands on dis­plays that explain the oper­a­tions under taken by each “hut”.

Most asso­ci­ate the Park with crack­ing the Enigma machine used by the Germans for its enciphered army, air force and intel­li­gence mes­sages and for cre­at­ing the first modern com­puter to assist this work.  In the second half of 1940 an even more com­plex enci­pher­ing machine called the Lorenz was used and the Bletchley team also cracked this.

The ori­ginal three rotor Enigma machine was cap­able of 156,000,000,000,000,000,000 pos­sible com­bin­a­tions.  It was mar­keted to the bank­ing industry and had been “cracked” by a few bril­liant Polish math­em­aticians.  The German mil­it­ary adap­ted this machine and made it more com­plex.  The Polish res­ist­ance obtained one of these mil­it­ary enigma machines that was given to the French and then to the British together with their know­ledge.  At Bletchley Park the Enigma was cracked and an organ­isa­tion was developed to try to inter­pret the de-ciphered mes­sages.  The machine set­tings were changed at mid­night each day and the Bletchley team had to crack the “codes” anew.

The vis­itor is taken through all the above and it is enlivened by sound record­ings as well as pho­to­graphs and objects of the time.  There is a res­taur­ant as well as coffee shops, a museum with work­ing models, a book­shop and of course toi­lets dotted around the site.  It came as a bit of a sur­prise to some of the mem­bers’ wives just how inter­est­ing the Park was to them.  The added bonus is that each entry ticket can be reused for entry during the next 12 months.

A Visit To The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

FoF-Aug12Approximately 30 mem­bers enjoyed a morn­ing visit to the AMRC wing of the Sheffield University on Wednesday the 11th February. The visit com­menced at 10:15 am with coffee fol­lowed by an intro­duct­ory talk at 10:30 am, and finally a visit to one of the advanced machin­ing labor­at­or­ies on the com­plex. The morn­ing was then roun­ded off with lunch at Whitby’s Fish & Chip Restaurant close by.

The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre or AMRC as it is known was estab­lished in 2001 as a £15 mil­lion col­lab­or­a­tion between Sheffield University and aerospace giant, Boeing with sup­port from Yorkshire Forward and the European Regional Development Fund. It was the brain child of Adrian Allen and Professor Keith Ridgeway.

rothbiz adrian allen AMRC
Adrian Allen OBE

Adrian Allen had worked in aerospace for over twenty years, which included owning and man­aging a Sheffield based engin­eer­ing con­sultancy busi­ness. He had developed a new method of machin­ing titanium alloys, used in large quant­it­ies in the air­craft industry. He took his ideas over to Boeing, only to be told that they no longer had their own man­u­fac­tur­ing facil­it­ies, they adop­ted the policy of sub­con­tract­ing everything to highly skilled spe­cial­ist com­pan­ies. They had in fact cre­ated a net­work of sup­pli­ers all over the globe and Adrian was not pre­pared to go globe hop­ping to all the man­u­fac­tur­ers, who might or might not have accep­ted his ideas.

He came back to Sheffield and dis­cussed the situ­ation with Professor Keith Ridgeway. Between them they decided to approach Boeing with the idea of estab­lish­ing a research centre in the UK as part of the Boeing net­work and that it you be based at Orgreave and they would call it South Yorkshire Knowledge Organisation, SYKO for short. Boeing were delighted and agreed to go into part­ner­ship with the organ­isa­tion, but the name had to be changed because SYKO had other con­nota­tions. It was finally agreed that it should be called AMRC and based at Orgreave.

In 2004, the AMRC moved into a purpose-built facil­ity as the anchor tenant for the Advanced Manufacturing Park and since then it has gone from strength to strength. The organ­isa­tion is headed by the Sheffield University and Boeing and includes more than 70 fee paying com­pan­ies. The AMRC iden­ti­fies, researches and solves advanced man­u­fac­tur­ing prob­lems and has over 80 highly qual­i­fied research­ers and engin­eers from around the globe.