Last month we travelled to Compton Abbas Airfield in Dorset to meet two pilots who have raised thousands for the Royal British Legion.
Jason Davidson and Simon Shackell flew in specially to tell us all about a remarkable challenge they took on in May.
To mark the 80th anniversary of the Dambusters Raid, they undertook a commemorative flight to recognise the technical skills, ingenuity and courage of those who conducted the legendary air operation.
And in doing so, they have already raised over £3,000 for the Royal British Legion!
Watch below as we meet Jason and Simon, who tell us about the challenge and why they chose to raise funds for the RBL.
We were delighted to gift Jason and Simon a 2023 Royal British Legion Poppy® Silver Proof £5 each as well as the FINAL 2023 Poppy® Silver Masterpiece Coin to be struck to honour their achievements and thank them for their fundraising efforts…
Watch the interview and gifting in full below or read on to find out more about Jason and Simon’s story…
Jason and Simon’s Story
Both Simon and Jason have a close connection to the military – Jason served in the Parachute Regiment for over 22 years and his twin brother was also in the RAF. Simon’s father was a navigator in the RAF during National Service.
They took on the challenge as they were inspired by the bravery and skill that the 617 Squadron showed. Simon said that the idea was to “champion the engineering aspect” as well as the airmanship. “It really struck home how difficult that would have been, and how dangerous. The airmanship was what blew me away”, Jason said.
On 16th May 2023, the 80th anniversary of the Dambusters Raid, Jason and Simon began their challenge – departing from the RAF St Athan airfield site on a mission to pass over 8 locations:
- Chesil Beach, Dorset – testing location for the “bouncing bomb”
- Reculver Bay, Kent – testing location for the “bouncing bomb”
- East Kirkby Aviation Heritage Centre, Lincolnshire – a unique living museum to the Dambusters and home of ‘Just Jane’.
- Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire – home of the Dambusters Memorial
- RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire – the wartime base of the 617 Squadron and location where the Raid was launched
- Derwent Dam, Sheffield – a location closely resembling the Möhne Dam where the Dambusters practiced for the Raid.
- Nant-y-Gro Dam, Rhayader – the site where Barnes Wallis successfully demonstrated the concept of the depth charge mine.
- Penarth, Glamorgan – the site of Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s memorial and his wartime home.
Jason and Simon conducted each flight using only maps, stopwatches and compasses to navigate as the Dambusters did.
The 2023 Official RBL Poppy® Coin Range
For nearly 20 years, The Westminster Collection has released coins in support of the Royal British Legion – and collectors have raised over £1.25 million for the RBL.
The 2023 coin range is available to order now but with stock selling fast, you’ll need to act today to secure your tribute…
Each year, as many of you collectors may know, here at The Westminster Collection, we release a special Masterpiece coin in partnership with the Royal British Legion. A donation from the sales of our Poppy coins is made to the Royal British Legion, on your behalf.
2021 saw a special centenary year for the long-established charity, with many celebrations held, including the laying of a wreath at the Cenotaph by RBL National President Lieutenant General James Bashall CB CBE.
One such way we commemorated this important event was the gifting of our prized Remembrance Masterpiece Poppy Coin to D-Day veteran Jim Healy.
Jim is 97 and from Manchester – he was born in the Spring of 1925 and was called up to join the Armed Forces at the age of only 18. He served in the Royal Marines from May 1943 until August 1945, telling RBL he couldn’t even swim being a Manchester boy! His specific role was Coxswain of the Landing Craft Assault (LCA).
He landed on Juno Beach on D-Day 1944 and during his time in service, made several trips to land Canadian troops on the coast of Normandy. Describing one such trip he said, “I really admired these lads, I saw some wrecked craft, which must’ve copped a mine, but we were fortunate going in on a high tide, we avoided the mines in the water, going over the top of the obstacles.”
Jim is now a retired printer. He married his wife Marie at the age of 25 and they were married for 38 years, but she sadly passed 30 years ago. His brothers Tom and John also served in the Forces. Tom served in the Royal Air Force, and John worked in munitions.
With the Royal British Legion, Jim has been back to Normandy and took part in the D-Day 75 commemorations in northern France in the Summer of 2019. He has said “I’ve had a whole life before and since D-Day, and it’s only since the RBL started organising these trips that I’ve really started talking about those days.”
“…you’ve got in mind the lads you’ve lost – we lost ten of our boats and even mine was classified as lost, the family were told that I was missing in action, because our craft was disabled in the middle of the sea.”
Jim added “I still don’t know which of those soldiers we dropped off died and which ones survived, which is sad for me. I often think about them, we offer our condolences at various times each year and I know the Canadians suffered heavy losses on Juno Beach, but I never knew them really, which is quite hard.”
The Masterpiece which has been gifted to Jim is crafted from 1945 British Army Mess tins, a World War Two Spitfire and a D-Day Landing Craft, similar to the one piloted by Jim himself on June 6, 1944. Representing the three military facets of RBL, we have repurposed these important materials to create a three-dimensional ‘1921 style’ Poppy, which sits magnificently on the coin.
Jim has said “I’m very proud to receive this coin, it is a fitting reminder of my time in the Marines during World War Two and I am very grateful. I do get called a hero, but it is a word that’s over-used these days, even by my own family.”
We feel honoured that our 2021 Masterpiece Silver 5oz Poppy Coin has been gifted to Jim and what a fitting tribute that it’s one of our most historically fascinating pieces to have ever been released.
Our partnership, held since 2004, continues with the Royal British Legion who provide financial, social, and emotional support to members and veterans of the UK Armed Forces, their families and dependents.
Want to know how a 1945 British Army Mess Tin, a WWII Spitfire and a D-Day Landing Craft have been repurposed to serve as a poignant tribute to the fallen? Keep reading to find out.
Army Mess Tins WWII Spitfire Landing Crafts on D-Day
Since 2004, The Westminster Collection has felt honored to be in partnership with the Royal British Legion, supporting them year on year by raising funds which enable them to continue to provide financial, social and emotional support to members and veterans of the UK Armed Forces, their families and dependents.
In support of the Royal British Legion, each year we produce a stand-out coin to mark Remembrance Day. We call it the ‘Masterpiece’.
And now, we’re excited to announce details of this year’s ‘Masterpiece’ coin…
Masterpiece Poppy Coin mould Masterpiece Poppy Coin centrepiece
When you discover the story behind the metal used to create this coin, you’ll quickly realize that it’s one of the most unique and historically fascinating coins ever released. It really does live up to its name.
As this year marks the Centenary of the Royal British Legion, an exceptional Masterpiece Poppy Coin has been released, commemorating this important milestone. It represents the three military facets of RBL ─ the Army, RAF and the Navy.
This is why we commissioned a three-dimensional ‘1921 style’ Poppy to be crafted from three pieces of historic metal representing the three divisions of the military:
1. WWII Spitfire ─ to be precise, the MK356, which flew during the D-Day campaign and shot down a German Me Bf109
2. A British Army Mess Tin from 1945
3. Landing Craft LCT7074 ─ the actual craft that landed on Gold Beach during D-Day
Historic Metals ─ crafted into a Masterpiece…
We acquired the craft metal with the kind assistance of the National Museum of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth, allowing us to source the substance from the original steel plating of the landing craft LCT 7074. LCT 7074 landed on Gold Beach on D-Day, 6th June 1944, and the plating used is from the hull that was physically in contact with the actual beach on D-Day itself. Today, LCT is the only surviving Landing Craft Tank left from this momentous day.
The LCT 7074 last surviving Landing Craft in Portsmouth Extracting steel from the LCT 7074 Landing Craft Tank Steel taken from the LCT 7074 Landing Craft
You may notice dark spots visible within the red enamel of some Poppies ─ and these are the filings from the historic LCT 7074 Steel.
Filing the steel taken from the LCT 7074 Landing Craft Steel filings from the LCT 7074 Landing Craft placed into the red enamel liquid for the Masterpiece Poppy Coin
The material used derived from Army origins is a combination of ex-MK356 metal and 1945 dated ex-British Army Mess Tins, mixed to a 50:50 ratio. The MK-356, officially named the Spitfire Mk IX, took an active part in D-Day operations in June 1944. The original wing main spar was removed around the year 2008, and it is this metal that has been combined with the Mess Tins.
Army mess tins being melted down Army mess tin turning to liquid under heat
Mess tins were and still are used for a number of different things within the Army. Soldiers use them to heat food, eat from, boil water and to wash and shave in. They can be cleaned easily and used for storage of other items.
Hot Army mess tin melted liquid being handled Hot Army mess tin melted liquid
During the Second World War, aluminum was a scarce commodity primarily reserved for aircraft production, and whilst perhaps not as romantic as the Spitfire, these tins are significant items ─ because an army marches on its stomach!
Poppy mould being put in liquid to begin the process of shaping the centrepiece for the Masterpiece 2021 Poppy Coin Masterpiece Poppy Coin centrepiece having come out of the liquid Masterpiece Poppy Coin centrepiece having been cleaned Individual Masterpiece Poppy Coin centrepieces Masterpiece Poppy Coin centrepiece being filled in with the red enamel liquid The Masterpiece Poppy Coin Centrepiece
What’s more, it has been struck from 5oz of fine 999/1000 Silver and is an impressive 65mm in diameter!