The joint 611 Squadron and THUM Flight reunion took place at RAF Woodvale on Saturday 19 May 2007. The reason was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the disbandment of 611 Sqn at RAF Hooton Park, Cheshire on 10 May 1957 and the departure of the last Spitfires on routine duty with the RAF forming the THUM Flight at Woodvale and departing to form the embryonic Battle of Britain Memorial Flight on departure on 12 June 1957.
Approximately 250 people were invited to Woodvale on the Saturday to attend a superbly organised event, set up by 611 Squadron Air Training Corps and particularly Fg Off Peter Tipping. An Officers' Mess Dining-In night on the Friday 18th also saw ex 611 members invited to attend in celebration plus Aldon Ferguson as both Station and 611 Sqn Historian. At this dinner Flt Lt Neil Winrow RAFVR(T), CO of 611 Sqn ATC spoke about the connection between the squadron and Woodvale and also about the THUM Flight. He was followed by Air Commodore Jack Broughton, Chairman of the Aircrew Association to toast the RAF but also 611 Sqn and the THUM Flight.
The weather on Friday was windy resulting in the two Spitfire PR.XIX's of the BBMF not being able to get to Woodvale but fortunately the third PS853, now owned by Rolls-Royce, made it from Filton flown by Rod Dean. Again the exotic sound of a Griffon engined Spitfire was heard in the Woodvale circuit almost 50 years since the same aircraft departed.
Saturday morning saw CAC built P-51 Mustang Mk 22 Big Beautiful Doll arrive flown and owned by Rob Davies. 611 Sqn flew Mustangs from 23 March 1945 until disbandment on 15 August 1945 when based at Hunsdon and later Peterhead.
The veterans arrived at Woodvale on Saturday morning to be given a reception in the Officers' Mess, whilst a large display had been set up in the HQ of 611 sqn ATC for general viewing by those present. Included was the Squadron 'Tally Board' which had gone missing when the Sqn disbanded in 1957 only to appear at auction in 2003 when it was bought by the RAF Museum for £4,500. The RAF Museum, and in particular Andy Simpson, Curator of Aircraft, graciously allowed the Board to be taken to Woodvale for the weekend to be temporarily reunited with the Squadron (see photograph).
The veterans and visitors were guided to the civilian aircraft hangar where the aircraft had been squeezed into one end and was set up for a memorial service - fortunately, as the wind was very cold indeed! Here Standards of RAFA and ATC were paraded and Sqn Ldr J A Stevens BSc RAF, OC RAF Woodvale welcomed everyone and the Padre led the Service of Commemoration o the 50th Anniversary of the Disbandment of 611 Sqn and the withdrawal of the Spitfires from the THUM Flight at RAF Woodvale. The lesson was read by cadet Flt Sgt C Hall of 611 Sqn and Aldon Ferguson gave an address of appreciation of the THUM Flight and 611 Squadron, highlighting their numerous and unique achievements. Flt Lt Neil Winrow, OC 611 (Woodvale) Sqn ATC closed with his thanks for all those attending, the aircraft for flying in and Fg Off Peter Tipping for planning and implementing the event over the previous 18 months, plus the huge effort put in by the staff and cadets of the Squadron plus the staff of Merseyside Wing ATC.
After a barbecue lunch we all moved back to the aircraft which had been on display together with a Grob Trainer of the resident Liverpool University Air Squadron, Manchester & Salford Universities Air Squadron and No 10 Air Experience Flight. The two aircraft were started up, taxied out and gave a very spirited display over the airfield before returning to their respective homes. Silence again descended on Woodvale and the delightful and incredible day was over. This was probably the last time that the THUM Flight will be remembered in this way and it was sad that no ex personnel were present that day although several ex Woodvale ground staff, engineers, air traffic controllers etc. of the period were present. Similarly it is unlikely that 611 Sqn will have another such celebration but you never know!!
Thanks to RAF Woodvale, Rolls-Royce, Rob Davies, 611 (Woodvale) Sqn ATC and especially Fg Off Peter Tipping for making the event so successful and enjoyable.