Above: farewell to RAF Lyneham from the iconic Hercules. Photo: Siân Wildeboer
The skies above Wiltshire lost an icon on Friday with the departure of RAF Lyneham's famous Hercules aircraft. The huge transport aircraft have been transferred to RAF Brize Norton, ahead of Lyneham's closure. The above shot, taken by my niece Siân during Friday's flypast, captures perfectly the 45 year relationship between Wiltshire and the Herc.
Lyneham has played an important role in Britain's defences, especially in times of crisis. I remember the constant Hercules flights over Wootton Bassett during the Falklands war, and the base has played a similar role in later conflicts. When I lived in Wiltshire in the 1990s, the sight of a Herc on final approach added interest to many long waits on Swindon station. There was always something special about the aircraft - an echo of Britain's earlier four-engine propellor 'heavies'. Back in the 1970s, I enjoyed making the Airfix kit of the Herc, complete with Land Rover cargo and moving loading ramp!
Winston Churchill himself flew from RAF Lyneham during the war in 1943, in an unheated converted Liberator bomber, bound for Cairo and Moscow in 1943. When he returned to Lyneham, his train was waiting at Dauntsey to take him back to London. His staff had arranged for the PM to be served breakfast on train, but this was hurriedly changed to dinner after WSC's flight from Gibraltar left much earlier than expected!