My Unforgettable Day with the Red Arrows

Written by Jonathan Patterson.

I’ve always been captivated by the Red Arrows, and the chance to see them up close at RAF Waddington was a dream come true.

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Left: Presenting in front of the Red Arrows who are taxiing to the runway at RAF Waddington Middle: I had to take a picture with the Hawk Jet MKII Right: My interview with Red 10, Graeme Muscat

Our day began in the early morning as we arrived at the base, passing through tight security checks with a sense of mounting excitement. We eagerly awaited our Red Arrows escort, who would take us to the heart of their operations.

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As soon as we stepped off the Red Arrows mini-bus, the deafening roar of jet engines filled the air. We hurried to the viewing point only metres away from the runway, as the Red Arrows formed up and took off in a stunning, orchestrated formation.

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The Red Arrows taking off at RAF Waddington

For the next 20-30 minutes, the Red Arrows captivated us with their brand-new display for their 60th Diamond Season. Their daring barrel rolls, incredibly close manoeuvres, and crowd favourites like the Tornado left us in awe. The nine Hawk Jets flew overhead in an awe-inspiring sight, the thunderous noise was incredible. Starting with Red 1, each jet gracefully peeled away to land, marking the end of an unforgettable performance.

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Some incredible manoeuvres and formations from the Red Arrows 60th Season display

In need of a moment to absorb the experience, we decided to grab a cup of coffee. Within five minutes, a group of officers entered, with distinct marks around their ears from wearing some sort of helmets. It was then that I realised these were the Red Arrows pilots themselves, casually grabbing their coffees in their Red Arrows mugs. I was in complete awe of these men, who moments ago were hurtling through the clouds at over 500 mph.

Our RAF contact informed us that we only had a few minutes before debrief with the pilots. Led by Red One, Jon Bond, the meeting was a fascinating insight into their meticulous process. Each pilot critiqued their performance, highlighting areas for improvement and discussing how to perfect their manoeuvres for the next sortie that day. I was amazed to learn that the Red Arrows conduct these sorties and debriefs three times a day, every day, to ensure their displays are flawless and maintain their public display authority.

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A Red Arrows debrief led by Red 1, Jon Bond, here pilots watch there display moments after flying and critique their performance

Next, we had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Red 10, Graeme Muscat. He shared insights about the Red Arrows, their intense manoeuvres, their strong focus on teamwork, and how they are a beacon for Great Britain, flying the red, white, and blue all over the world.

We were incredibly excited to show Graeme the brand-new 50p coins specially made to celebrate the 60th Diamond Season of the Red Arrows. His elation was clear as he smiled and said, “I think it’s amazing… I can keep that one, right?”

Watch the full interview with Red 10, Graeme Muscat.

Our day with the Red Arrows was nothing short of extraordinary. From witnessing their breath-taking display to meeting the pilots and learning about their dedication, it was an experience that left us deeply inspired. The Red Arrows continue to be a symbol of excellence, teamwork, and pride for Great Britain.

To commemorate this special occasion, a brand-new coin range has been released to celebrate 60 years of the Red Arrows.

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>>> Click here to explore the complete Red Arrows 60th Anniversary Diamond Season coin range <<<

Operation Colour Scheme. The Fire Service’s Top Secret D-Day Mission.

2024 marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day. On 6th June 1944, the Allied Forces launched one of its biggest military operations – they came by land, sea and air and would eventually bring about the liberation of Europe and the end of World War II.

But as D-Day was being planned, more and more equipment was stockpiled in the South of England and needed to be protected, and that’s why the National Fire Service Commanders were tasked with a top secret mission of their ownOperation Colour Scheme.

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Operation Colour Scheme: Protecting the Overlord Invasion’s Infrastructure

Operation Colour Scheme, a little-known but vital aspect of the Fire Service’s activity in World War II, involved moving 11,000 firemen and women and over 1,200 fire fighting vehicles to the South of England to protect resources being stored in rural areas.

In 1943, the German bombing offensive was at a lower level and so it was decided that fire fighting resources could be moved from areas in the North and the Midlands to areas in the South to cover sites that now required a higher level of protection, including:

  • Logistical supply sites
  • Harbours linked to the D-Day invasion – most notably coastal areas of East Sussex and an armada of ships in the lower reaches of the Thames
  • Ammunition dumps
  • Petrol pipe lines

The Colour Scheme – and what each colour meant

And to aid planning, England and Wales were split into 12 regions – with each region given a colour to represent the level of risk each region faced:

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Image Credit: rob1713
War Relics Forum
  • Regions shaded Purple and Blue needed to be reinforced to above their maximum strength –  the Purple regions were most impacted
  • Regions shaded Green needed to be reinforced up to their maximum strength
  • Regions shaded Brown were areas from which resources could be drawn from to provide for Purple, Blue and Green regions

The crucial role of the Fire Service during World War II

The war years proved to be the busiest for our Fire Brigades with fire fighters on the front line protecting communities during Air Raids and as part of Operation Colour Scheme.

Fire fighters were issued with one basic uniform; a steel helmet, rubber boots, trousers and waterproof leggings – although shortages saw some stuck with just Post Office uniforms!

The first air raid on London took place on 7th September 1940 and this would mark the start of The Blitz – where London endured bombings for 57 nights in a row. Most of the air raids took place at night, meaning fire fighters spent long hours extinguishing fire or dealing with explosions.

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Fire fighters putting out a blaze in London during The Blitz
New York Times Paris Bureau Collection, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the first 22 nights of air raids, fire fighters had fought nearly 10,000 fires – and for many, this was their first experience of fire fighting…

And by 1943, over 70,000 women had enrolled in the National Fire Service, many becoming fire watches and drivers and managing the communications network.

Britain’s Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill honoured these great efforts and once said that the fire service “were a grand lot and their work must never be forgotten”.


The BRAND NEW History of the Fire Brigade 50p Collection

Issued to mark 200 years since the establishment of Britain’s first Municipal Fire Service, The History of the Fire Brigade 50p Collection shares the story of two centuries of heroic service.

Included in the set is the 1934 London Fire Brigade 50p Coin which depicts a World War II Fire Engine – a Dennis Chassis with an extendable ladder – in front of a background representing the city during The Blitz.

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Each coin has been officially authorised by Buckingham Palace and King Charles III to pay tribute to the unsung heroes who have battled flames and saved lives for centuries.

A variety of specifications are available to order today from The Westminster Collection. Click here to view the COMPLETE range >>

The Evolution of UK Banknotes: From Paper to Precision

The history of banknotes in the United Kingdom is a fascinating journey of innovation, security, and tradition. From the earliest issues to the forthcoming King Charles III banknotes, each phase reflects the technological and cultural shifts of its time.

A Brief History of UK Banknotes

The Bank of England began issuing banknotes shortly after its establishment in 1694. Initially, these notes were handwritten, a far cry from the highly sophisticated currency we use today. By the mid-18th century, partially printed notes were introduced, with the denomination and other details filled in by hand.

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Earliest Bank of England handwritten note dated 18th June 1967
Source: Bank of England website
https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/museum/online-collections/blog/our-earliest-bank-of-england-note

The 19th century brought significant changes with fully printed notes and the introduction of standardized designs to prevent forgery. A pivotal moment in the history of UK banknotes came in 1960 when Queen Elizabeth II became the first monarch to be featured on the Bank of England notes. Her portrait on the £1 note marked the beginning of a tradition of depicting reigning monarchs on the nation’s currency, providing a sense of continuity and national identity.

Security Features: From Simplicity to Sophistication

As technology advanced, so did the sophistication of banknote security features. Early notes relied heavily on the quality of the paper and intricate designs to deter counterfeiters. However, as counterfeiting techniques improved, so too did the security measures.

Modern UK banknotes are a marvel of technology and design. Click on the dots below to explore the key security features:

Introducing the King Charles III Banknotes

In a historic move, the Bank of England is set to release the new King Charles III banknotes on June 5th, 2024. This marks the first time in over 70 years that a new monarch’s portrait will grace the currency, following the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

The King Charles III banknotes will continue to feature the same high-security features of their predecessors and the new banknotes will initially be available in £5, £10, £20, and £50 denominations. They will circulate alongside the existing Queen Elizabeth II notes, gradually phasing out the older series as they wear out.

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Introducing the DateStamp™ Set: Connecting the Past and Present

To commemorate this historic transition, we are excited to introduce an exclusive DateStamp™ set that brings together the past and the present of UK currency. This unique collection features the Queen Elizabeth II £5 and £10 banknotes alongside the brand new King Charles III £5 and £10 banknotes, each postmarked on the official issue date, 5th June, 2024.

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You can now be one of just 2,024 collectors to own this special set.

Click here now to pre-order yours before the official release >>