RAF Benevolent Fund supporter Elizabeth Halls is raising funds for our charity through a special challenge. Elizabeth will be visiting various RAF airfields in a 1935 Singer Le Mans sports car. Elizabeth tells us more.
I am a counsellor and heritage consultant and I live in Herefordshire with my husband. My father, Bryan Wild, was a pilot during the war and after he died I compiled and edited his memoirs for publication in 2014: 'Flying Blind: The Story of a Second World War Night-Fighter Pilot'. So I have recently become an author and discovered more about the RAF than I ever thought I would know!
My fundraising challenge is called 'Where They Served' and will see me visiting 60 airfields across the UK.
The 1935 Singer Le Mans I'll be driving is almost identical to the one my father owned and loved while at 25 Squadron. I bought it last year when it appeared in Brightwell's classic car auction. Its number plate, CHU 944, recalls my father's favourite wartime song, 'Chattanooga Choo Choo', and the year he bought his own Singer, 1944. We call the car 'Chattie'.
I've never driven a vintage car before and I'm learning to double clutch and drive without power assistance. Chattie doesn't have a heater or a hood, so there are a few challenges!
Several of the airfields I'll be visiting are still in RAF service, such as Valley, Lossiemouth, Scampton and RAF Brize Norton. Other airfields now range from civilian airports to farmers' fields or industrial estates. One is a prison. Many have museums; some hold air shows.
My tour will chart the development and demise of our airfield heritage, and celebrate those who served there over the years. 'Where They Served' is especially dedicated to those who took off from the airfields and never returned.
The tour is from April to September and will see me covering 6,000 miles over 74 days. Almost 2,000 miles will be in Chattie, the rest in my Mercedes carrier.
The reason why I wanted to support the RAF Benevolent Fund was because they were so wonderful to my family when my father developed Parkinson's disease later in life. They provided a stair lift, and helped my mother work out the allowances and benefits available. They were there for her when she needed support. So my challenge is also my way of saying thank you.
Many people are supporting 'Where They served', some offering to drive with me in their own vintage Singers along the way! I'm looking forward to meeting the family of my father's wartime friends as I do the challenge but more than anything I'm looking forward to moments such as driving through the gates of RAF Valley and remembering my dad doing the same thing 75 years ago.
By Elizabeth Halls