OldCiren - Cirencester, Gloucestershire, UK
Spitfires over Ciren
When many Ciren folk worked at RAF Kemble
Recently the sky’s over Ciren have seen a Spitfire flying to celebrate the life of Joy Lofthouse; a local girl who served with the Air Transport Auxiliary during WW2. Spitfires could be once be seen more frequently above Ciren when up until the 1980’s those that remained in RAF hands, were serviced along with other historic aircraft at what is now called the Cotswold Airport at Kemble.
Not many people today can say they trained and worked on Spitfires, Hurricanes and other planes such as the Hawker Hunter and the Gloucester Meteor; but many Ciren people did do this when the airport at Kemble was then the Number 5 Maintenance unit for the RAF’s collection of historical aircraft. RAF Kemble employed a great number of civilians as Engineers, Armourers, Painters and supporting staff. In addition, the airbase took a regular influx of Ciren teenagers as Apprentices to train as either Airframe or Engine fitters. The apprenticeships lasted 4 years and included a year full time at the Stroud Tech College to learn general engineering practice.
The Apprentice School at RAF Kemble was housed in a wartime hut to the edge of the airport, within walking distance to the hangers where apprentices like me were shown how to remove propellers and engines from Avro Lancaster Bombers or taught to sew patches on Hurricane’s wings (Early versions of Hurricanes had wings covered in Irish Linen fabric). During my time as an Apprentice, the Red Arrows were also based at RAF Kemble and although we were never let loose on any of their Folland Gnats; we had a regular air-show most days as the team took to the skies to practice over Kemble. Sadly not all the practice flights were joyous and between 1969 and 1971, five aircraft crashed and a total of five pilots lost their lives at or near the Kemble runway.