Making a pilgrimage to the WW1 battlefields of Northern France in microlights
In June this year, with the support of the Endeavour Fund, Flying for Freedom undertook an ambitious expedition to conduct an aerial battlefield tour and pilgrimage to the WW1 battlefields of Northern France. The team of six WIS pilots together with their mentor pilots and ground support, were accompanied by three WIS who had been nominated by other Military Charities: SAAFA, The RAF Benevolent Fund and Help for Heroes. These nominees had never experienced microlight flying but were in for a once in a lifetime trip.
One of the nominees commented: “I had no qualms about getting in the Microlight, especially as my first flight was with a former world champion and world altitude record holder. I found the sensation of been so exposed to the elements exhilarating and familiar in a way that I was not expecting, taking me back to when I would be at the open door of a Hercules awaiting the green light to jump, but with this, there was no parachute!”
After a memorable first flight across the Channel, the FFF Team set up base at St Omer which was the former depot airfield of the Royal Flying Corps during WW1. The team were brilliantly hosted by the St Omer Aero Club with much ‘entente cordial’ in evidence in the Club Bar!
From St Omer the Team flew daily battlefield tours to such memorable battlefields as The Somme, Vimy Ridge, Cambrai and Passchendaele, often landing on grass strips on the old front line. Viewing the scale of the battlefields and the number of war grave cemeteries from the air was a new experience for all the Team.
Adrian, who was nominated by the RAF Benevolent Fund to attend the trip, commented: "The whole trip was very moving, to see the Battlefields from above and sadly where so many were laid to rest. It certainly makes you take a step back and think of all those who never returned."
Finally, on the 8th June the team flew the length of the British Front Line as it was laid out exactly 100 years before. The team then went on to fly to the Alps and conduct mountain flying training before circumnavigating France and returning to the UK.
Kat one of the Flying for Freedom WIS pilots said: “Being one of the 6 pilots flying other individuals in a country none of us had flown in, gave me a real confidence boost of my flying ability. I can be an under-confident person, but each time I undertake a challenge such as this one, it builds my confidence. This was especially true after flying the aircraft in the difficult environment of the Southern Alps and successfully landing in conditions which most microlight pilots would not even have contemplated attempting.”
For more information about Flying for Freedom and other opportunities available, please visit http://www.flyingforfreedom.org/