Sunday, 3 August 2014

I have been to ... the Military and Flying Machines Show, Damyns Hall Aerodrome, Essex

After spending quite a lot of time sorting out the now-defunct shed and its contents, Sue and I decided to have a break yesterday ... and went to the Military and Flying Machines Show, Damyns Hall Aerodrome, Upminster, Essex.

This show has been running at its current for eight years, but this is the first time we have not been on holiday when the show was on. As I know the area around Damyns Hall Aerodrome very well (my home from 1958 until 1973 was just over a mile away in Corbets Tey, and my father lived there from 1958 until he went into a care home), we had no problem getting there by the time the show opened at 10.00am. We had pre-booked entrance tickets, and by 10.15am we had passed through the show entrance and were looking around the show.

Please click on the image to enlarge it.

Flying Machines
Although the show is devoted to both military and flying machines and takes place on an aerodrome, the majority of the displays were military. There were, however, some interesting flying machines on show.

Whilst we were waiting to enter the show, a Boeing-Stearman Model 75 trainer flew overhead and landed at the aerodrome.

This aircraft is regularly flown from Damyns Hall, and specialises in wing walks ... hence the apparatus above the upper wing!

Around midday a Bell UH-1 Iroquois (unofficially known as a Huey) also flew into the aerodrome.

By the entrance to the show was the engine and cockpit of a late model Supermarine Spitfire ...

... whilst just outside the hanger was a scaled-down flying replica Spitfire.

On display was a semi-scale replica of a World War I-era Bristol M.1 Monoplane Scout.

Military Machines
The show had a very large display of static vehicles, only a small part of which is shown below.

Please click on the image to enlarge it.
Please click on the image to enlarge it.
Please click on the image to enlarge it.
Please click on the image to enlarge it.
There were some particular vehicles of interest including a Belgian-built Minerva Land Rover, ...

... a Jeep with a towing bar attached to its front bumper, ...

... an Alvis FV101 Scorpion, ...

... and a Caterpillar D7 Armoured Bulldozer.

Some vehicles were being driven around inside the display area, including two Daimler Dingo Scout Cars ...

... and a Kettenkrad.

Re-enactor Groups
As you would expect, the re-enactor groups were out in force. The largest number were dedicated to re-enacting various units of the German Armed Forces, including Panzer Lehr, who had their replica StuG III with them ...

... as well as a Skdfz 251, ...

... a Citroen truck, a PaK 36, and a motorcycle.

(This group was raising money for the Royal Marines Association. If you had your photograph taken aboard the StuG III you were asked to give a donation to the Association. People seemed to be being quite generous whilst I was there.)

Some of the other 'German' re-enactors had dug trenches and seemed prepared for a enemy attack ...

... whilst others seemed to be in a more off-duty mode ...

... or were receiving training.

British Airborne Forces were also represented by 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (the 'Ox and Bucks' AKA – according to my late father – as the 'Ox and Jocks') ...

... and the Airborne/Parachute Field Security Section ... who were doing what soldiers so often did when not in action ... playing cards! (The Medical Officer was winning when I walked past.)

A group of Red Army re-enactors had constructed a trench system, that was defended by two female snipers ...

... and a Russian-built Maxim Machine Gun.

The Spearfish Creek Wild West Group had a large contingent at the show. They specialise in depicting life in and around the mining town of Spearfish Creek in South Dakota during the nineteenth century.

The only group of re-enactors who depict the Croatian Army during the Croatian War of Independence (1991 to 1995) was also present at the show.

They are only a relatively new and small group, but they were very enthusiastic and more than willing to talk to anyone who stopped to look at their trench.

Classic Vehicles
One particular exhibit caught our eye as we walked around this section of the show ... a Matchless motorbike.

These were built less than a mile away from where we live in a now-gone factory in Plumstead. It was nice to see such an excellent example of this British-built motorbike on show.

This was a very interesting and enjoyable way to spend our Saturday, and we were both pleased that we went. The show was well organised and there was more than enough to see and do. The entrance fee of £10.00 each (there were lower prices for children, serving military personnel, and OAPs) was good value, especially as it included free car parking.

Next year's show takes place on 1st and 2nd August 2015, and is billed as being the V.E. Day Anniversary Show. If we aren't on holiday at the time, we may well be going.


  1. I was there as well, with my family. My Brother in Law was selling his book and had five Veterans doing signings all day. I helped out and spent a lot of time chatting to the Veterans but also had tome to look around the site. Its a nice little show but there did seem to be fewer 'heavy' vehicles on display this year. The air show was excellent though, especially for such a small event. The Dakota DC-3 did some very low passes and the Spitfire Mk9 'Spirit of Kent’ which arrived very late gave a fantastic display.

  2. Lee Hadley,

    I looked out for you as I expected that you might be at the show ... but somehow I must have missed you.

    Most of the vehicles that I saw were soft skins, which I did find a bit surprising.

    I missed seeing the Dakota and the Spitfire as my wife wanted to go for a late lunch and a trip to Lakeside on the way home.

    All the best,


  3. Conrad Kinch,

    It was a nice show, and it was much easier to see everything than it was at the last War and Peace show I went to a few years ago.

    The Alvis Scorpion is not much bigger than most of the larger 4 x 4s one sees on the roads ... and it has a Jaguar engine that gives it quite a respectable turn of speed.

    All the best,


  4. Any idea which model Matchless that is? It looks a bit like a late model made for the US market.
    I had a G3LS in the 60's which ended its days buried in the side of a Ford in Sidcup after many reliable pre motorway journeys from Chepstow to Welling and return.
    The compensation bought me my first Norton Dominator ;)0

  5. Nobby,

    I am sorry, but I wasn't able to find out any information about this particular Matchless motorcycle. The driver had parked it with the other vehicles and gone off to have a look around the show. Someone else who was looking at he motorbike said that he thought that it was a late model, and that it was built after the merger with AJS.

    The tax disc was not much help, as it did not indicate anything except that it was an historical vehicle.

    It is nice to know that you preferred British-built (or British-designed) motorcycles at a time when Japanese bikes were flooding the UK market.

    All the best,


  6. It's definitely later than the merger with AJS and, I think, Norton. They look like Roadholder forks.
    Between 1969 and 1976 I had a Norton 88, a BSA Gold Star (big mistake for a road bike but an exhilarating ride up the fairly new M1 with no speed limits) and a Norton 99.
    One day I am sitting at traffic lights on a dual carriageway near Birmingham and a very small Kawasaki triple pulls up alongside. Lights changed, dropped the clutch and I am left breathing in two stroke fumes! I didn't catch him until the lights went red again.

    Didn't fancy a two stroke myself so, a few weeks later I bought a Honda 500/4. Silky smooth ride (once I'd fitted a steering damper from Paul Dunstall, former Norton agent of Eltham?), instant power delivery, no vibration and no oil leaks. Above all else, it was black and silver; proper motorcycle colours :0)
    Best bike I ever had, along with the Honda CX500 shaft drive V twin that followed it!

    I enjoy your posts, Bob.

  7. Nobby,

    You are far more knowledgeable about motorcycles than I am! The closest I ever came to being a motorcyclist was owning and riding a Honda 90. (I had just started teaching and could not afford any other form of transport.)

    Paul Dunstall was still alive in 2011 (this link might be of interest to you) and was well known for the way he customised Nortons.

    I am please that you enjoy reading my blog, and I hope that you become (or remain) a regular reader.

    All the best,


  8. Looks like an interesting show, but the re-enactors would probably put me off... totally unreasonable view I know but the older I get the more they irritate.... and as for the guys who depict the Croatian Army, words fail! :o)

  9. Steve-the-Wargamer,

    Some of the re-enactors do take themselves rather too seriously for my liking. At least the Croatians and the Paras were visitor-friendly, unlike most of the German groups. (One group was portraying an SS hospital unit, which I did find very odd; almost worse than the German 'Home Front' group that were at SALUTE some years ago, who had children selling mugs with pictures of Hitler on them.)

    All the best,


  10. I'm sorry Bob and others feel the German re-enactors seemed unfriendly. I can only speak for my group which is called Sturmpanzer. We were helping raise money for the Royal Marines Association and the StuG and half-track were ours, not 'Panzer Lehr's who had the truck next door. There was a steady queue of folk wanting to look round our two vehicles and we engaged with freindliness and courtesy, answering the many questions about our two vehicles as amicably as we could. I did believe we added a little value to the Show, but I guess you can't please everyone?

  11. George Small,

    Thank you for clearing up the mistake I made when I stated that your StuG III and Sdkfz 210 were part of display put on by Panzer Lehr. I thought that your group – Sturmpanzer – were doing a great job talking to the public (and raising money for a very worthy cause) ... which was in marked contrast to the way I was ignored by several of the other 'German' re-enactors.

    I tried speaking to members of several of the groups who were mounting displays, but in a lot of cases I was either ignored or greeted with monosyllabic answers. They seemed to be like many of the wargame groups I see at shows; they have worked hard on their display/wargame but then don’t know how to communicate their enthusiasm to members of the public. They would rather ‘do their thing’ as part of their group and not interface with anyone else. Perhaps this is something that these groups need to address.

    I am sorry if my comments appeared hyper-critical or that they applied to all the groups that were at the show, but people like your group need to show how and what can be done. If that could be achieved then both the re-enactors and the general public would benefit.

    All the best,


  12. I'd recommend the Military Odyssey at Detling over the August bank holiday weekend for an event covering a huge range of historical periods. We've been several times over the last few years and there's always been something new of interest. Spent quite a time talking to a chap who'd brought a couple of mules along for a display about XIVth Army.

  13. Nigel Drury,

    Military Odyssey is a very good show, and I really much try to get there this year if I can.

    All the best,



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