The D-Day 75 event at HMS Daedalus attracted a crowd of thousands to this coastal airfield which played a key part in World War II.
Hundreds of families spanning the generations headed to Lee-on-Solent. For the children, there was old-fashioned fun, but for those old enough to know about or remember 6 June 1944, there was an appropriate nod towards that historic and momentous day.
The crowd was entertained while waiting for the flying display, with music with a Forties flavour from the brilliant ‘Jazz and Cocktails’, lots of interesting stalls and, for the kids, a retro funfair, complete with wooden helter skelter and boat swings.
Queues for the half a dozen rides and the lone ice cream van, were lengthy so our seven-year-old was less than impressed with that – but generally there were lazy lunches on picnic blankets and the atmosphere of a by-gone village fete.
Most importantly though, there was an awesome display of military aircraft from yesteryear as well as the armed forces of today, all complemented by a collection of cars and working road vehicles from the forties.
The flying displays didn’t disappoint, kickstarted with the breathtaking two-seater Grace Spitfire, with its black and white invasion stripes, used during and after the Normandy landings to reduce the risk of friendly fire. The Spitfire display made way for a duo of military helicopters which pulled off some spectacular stunts before a flotilla of aircraft filled the skies above the Solent.
A break in the performing pilots made way for a brilliant show on the ground from Team Green Rockets, a crew of around a dozen children aged four to 13, who put on an amazing motorcycle display involving complex routines, jumping through fire and leaping over cars. Daedalus is their training ground, so the two-wheeled team was playing to an appreciative home crowd, who loved every minute.
But for me, it was the Boultbee Spitfire that stole the show, a fixture at Daedalus during the summer months where, if you head to Cafe Zero05 at Solent Airport you can watch her taking off and landing from the comforts of their cafe and with a bacon sandwich.
The look and sound of the Spitfire causes goosebumps every time – so evocative. I’m always all too aware that seven decades ago the pilots and the iconic sound of its engines over the Solent would have had a very different mission than delighting the crowds.
This display of heritage flight was a stunning end to a lovely day – even if my son still has the hump for not getting a turn on the bungee trampolines.