Event Reports for 2021
13th June 2021 - Green Wood Turning. A demonstration by John Burbage
A large group of 29 assembled at Neil Anderson’s farm for the first Society meeting since the start of the pandemic. We were outdoors and well socially distanced, and on a beautiful sunny day we were glad of the shade afforded by the trees next to Neil’s barns. Fortunately we were just spared the need to separate into 2 groups (which would have been necessary under the current Covid restrictions). It was marvellous to see so many people again and there was a great spirit of camaraderie, which was enhanced by John’s fascinating talk and demonstration.
The ingenuity of the set-up of the lathe was quite amazing. Other than the metal chisels, everything could be obtained and fashioned within a short time from the components to be found in any small wood! Motive power was a treadle and a bent sapling! Now that’s what I call GREEN. John showed us how to take a bit of tree and turn it into a decorative chair leg. I even got to have a go and didn’t ruin it (much). He also turned a big bit of chestnut trunk into roofing shingles with simple tools in a few minutes. John supplies all his timber from his own 50 acre wood. He also brought some lovely examples of stools and chairs which he makes, and some gardening tools for sale (dibbers, rakes and planting lines) most of which were snapped up by members.
All in all, a very fine restart to the Society's meetings, and a fine follow up to our previous meeting on woodland crafts and basket making.
13th June 2021 - Farm Walk at Kingsdown Farm with Richard Moyse of Plantlife (a Wild Plant Conservation Charity). We gathered at Neil’s farm in threatening lunchtime weather with dire forecasts of thunder and lightning. A last-minute decision was taken to chance it and it proved to be a wise choice.
Richard is a plant expert with an encyclopaedic knowledge of insects as well, so ideally qualified to lead our walk. Neil was keen to show the massive biodiversity advantages of his agricultural practices of minimal tillage and his provision of generous headlands planted to encourage wildlife. As the thunder rolled around we walked through his fields discovering a surprising number of butterflies, peacocks, red admirals, gatekeepers, meadow browns and Essex skippers. A clouded yellow had been seen in the morning but was not spotted on the walk. There was a bewildering variety of flies, bees, hover flies and crickets. Several of our party rediscovered their inner child by capturing grasshoppers in the long grass for Richard to identify. We also saw many plants including the extremely rare woundwort, a tiny and rather nondescript plant which had Richard very excited. This he described as an archaeophyte, an ancient plant which travelled out in the grain seeds of Neolithic farmers as they colonised Europe after the ice ages. It has almost died out due to modern farming, though Plantlife are trying to conserve it at their Ranscombe Farm site in Kent.
Still dry, we repaired to Neil and Jenny’s beautiful garden for tea and a sumptuous spread of cakes.
A superb event all very covid secure and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Ecology and cake - what could be better!!!
A group of 28 met at the church for this talk on the air battle which shaped all our lives. The talk was held over from last year due to covid, when it would have marked the 80th anniversary, but the 81st anniversary still resonated.
Guy opened with some spectacular in plane footage of The Battle of Britain memorial flight in action, close ups of their Spitfire, Hurricane, Lancaster and Dakota. Such excellent film clips and stirring soundtrack were to be a feature of the evening!
The battle opened with the RAF heavily outnumbered by 2600 planes to 654. Invasion was threatened with the German plan operation Sea Lion. The failure to establish air superiority along with bad weather and logistical problems meant it had to be cancelled and the battle became the first purely aerial conflict. Hitler did not expect much resistance. The Luftwaffe was already battle hardened with 2500 aces - pilots with over 5 kills to their credit.
We were then treated to the recording of Churchill’s stirring speech, “the Battle for France is over, the Battle of Britain is just beginning.”
Guy reviewed in some detail the marques of plane available to each side, their strengths and weaknesses, and how these influenced the tactics adopted. One example given was the use of beam attacks against the Heinkel 111 bomber as it could not defend itself once the dorsal upper gunner was hit.
The Dowding System gave the outnumbered RAF a huge advantage. Information relayed by Radar looking out to sea, allied with an efficient army of the Observer Corps covering the land, enabled controllers to dispatch aircraft in an efficient and timely fashion to defend strategic assets only and maximise effectiveness. The development of Chain Low radars also prevented low level raids and by the end of the battle 56 stations were operational. Propaganda was aimed at deceiving the Germans that our pilots’ success was due to eating carrots for their eyesight!!! Most of the operators and planners were women and Emlyn recalled his mother was a member of the Balloon Corps responsible for the deployment of barrage balloons to protect cities. We were also reminded of the heroic efforts of ground crew who were subject to frequent attacks but kept planes flying, often re-fuelling and re-arming them in 20 minutes and also of the Womens’ Auxillary Air Service which kept up a constant delivery of new fighters straight from the factories to the airfields. The most famous was Amy Johnson who was lost on a delivery trip off Herne Bay. Recent research suggests she was lost in bad weather and, when challenged by anti-aircraft defences, she failed to give the correct code word twice and was shot down.
German frustration at the RAF’s resistance led Hitler to change tactics and institute The Blitz on cities. Tragically this led to 40,000 civilian deaths but enabled the RAF to re-group and re-equip.
Guy showed an amazing film montage of actual aerial footage taken during the battles, which had been digitised and colourised. It was not film which I had seen and really brought it all to life. It alone was worth the evening. Very sobering.
He told the very personal story of Ray Holmes, the Saviour of Buckingham Palace. Ray was over London when he saw a bomber heading for the palace. He had no ammo left but deliberately rammed the Dornier bringing it down near Victoria; luckily he parachuted safely. Guy showed us the film of the actual event taken from the ground that day, which was spine tingling.
544 British aircrew were lost with an average age of 22 years while 2500 Germans died, although the number of planes lost between the two sides was not that dissimilar. This difference was in large part due to the Germans losing mainly bombers with 5 or more crew, whereas the RAF lost mainly fighters with only 1 pilot.
We concluded with a very funny film of Ray Hanna (who was a founder member and lead pilot of the Red Arrows) flying his own Spitfire and buzzing a TV crew at ultra-low level and a Q&A during which Peter Bones told us some of his wartime memories of the battle when he was a small boy in Lynsted.
An excellent chat over wine finished the evening, a chance to see old friends and talk to some of our many new members.