Now a biannual event and selling out well in advance each time, Timeline Events afternoon and evening photos shoots at East Kirby give photographers a unique opportunity to photograph Lancaster Just Jane on full engine revs in an authentic setting as well as raising money to keeping this important aircraft in running order.
Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre as the former East Kirby RAF Bomber Command Station is now known is a private museum set up by two farming brothers, Fred and Harold Panton as a memorial to Bomber Command and in particular as a tribute to their eldest brother Christopher Whitton Panton; who was shot down and killed on a bombing raid over Nuremberg on 30/31 March 1944. Opened it 1988 it is home to Lancaster Bomber NX611 which is in a taxiable and potentially airworthy condition as well as a Dakota and various other WWII vehicles all housed in the only airfield museum in the country recreated to its original design on an original WW2 airfield. This includes a WW2 NAFFII building and control tower.
Starting at 5pm the format for the event was cameos from period reenactors for the last hour or so of day light before an engine run at dusk and another during full darkness and a hopefully starry night with further cameos in between all under the lights that give the photos that special feel you can not get in day light. On arrival and checking in at the very welcoming NAAFI Cafe, “Just Jane” was positioned at the end of the concrete pan with her back to the runway. As the last of the days visitors left the reenactors including a full set of seven aircrew, ground crew and auxiliary staff formed various scenes around the aircraft.
The museum has a fantastic collection of WWI vehicles and many of these featured in the cameo scenes. The David Brown Tractor with bomb loader was pulled in front of the Lancaster and the AEC Fuel Bowser was positioned to the side to set up a second shoot location. The sight of seven airman walking to and from the aircraft gives a glimpse of what would have happened each afternoon at this very location during WWII.
As the light fell the vehicles were moved away to give clear shots of “Just Jane” for the engine run. In a break from previous practise at similar events photographers formed up in a crescent behind barriers which, whilst keeping everyone back and preventing anyone getting in the way of another photographers shot it did prevent photographer from “doubling up” (one at low level and one at standing level) which reduced the number of shooting positions available. I would have preferred a rope line which enables people to use the lower shooting position as well.
As each engine was started in turn nothing really beats the sight, sound (its very loud) and smell of the four Rolls Royce Merlin engines on a cold October night to evoke memories of how it must have been 70 years ago. The engine run lasted about 10 mins with opportunities for photographers to move around and capture “Just Jane” in the last throws of the blue hour before twilight gave way to nightfall.
With the engines silenced there were further scenes with the aircrew in various positions entering and leaving the aircrafts side door and a second scene by the fuel bowser both under the lights.
At around 9:30pm it was time for the second engine run. Firing up each engine in turn with the bomb bay doors open we were treated to another 10 minutes of those wonderful Merlin engines before she fell silent for the last time of the evening. There was just time for photos of the reenactors in front of “Just Jane” before the event finished as scheduled at 10pm.
Whilst always a fantastic opportunity to see and shoot a Lancaster Bomber with all four Merlin engines running I thought it was lacking some variety around the scenes for seasoned attendees. In the past there has been access to stairs and platforms to give elevated shots of the cameo scenes and aircraft but this wasn’t available this time. I would also like to have seen more variations of background with one of the engine runs and some cameos in front of the tower or other airfield building rather than both being next to the runway.
A big thank you must go out to the reenactors who go to great length to ensure the authenticity of their outfits and volunteer their time to help create realistic scenes.