On 14th June, Ben, our Concept Development Manager, had the opportunity to see the famous RAF Avro Lancaster up close and personal.
Here’s what Ben has to say about his experience retracing the steps of the legendary Dambusters and having the brand new £5 coins carried on board an original WWII Lancaster Bomber…
To mark the 80th anniversary of Operation Chastise – the legendary Dambusters Raid, I wanted to capture some of that history and somehow apply it to some of the superb coins issued for the anniversary.
Following is my story of how our one day in Lincolnshire panned out. A story that makes each of these coins – in my opinion – uniquely collectable. Here’s how it went…
I have come to rural Lincolnshire to a private museum and airstrip at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre in East Kirkby, to take some of the Dambusters 80th Anniversary Coins on a ride of a lifetime.
But before that happened, it was an overnighter in a remarkable hotel, few know about. This part of the English countryside is awash with airfields, aircraft museums and RAF bases.
It was central to RAF and Bomber Command’s missions and in 1944 the skies would have been buzzing with Spitfires, Hurricanes and of course, Lancaster Bombers. And that’s why the hotel I stayed in has some fascinating Dambusters links.
The Petwood Hotel was where Wing Commander Guy Gibson and the hand picked 617 Squadron had billeted during the war.
The squadron bar is now a museum shrine to the history of the squadron featuring artwork, photos and cabinets full of authentic 617 memorabilia. This is the exact room where Guy Gibson would have had a pint with his colleagues, as they discussed their missions past and present.
There is even a genuine prototype Bouncing Bomb in the garden…
It’s a remarkable feeling to know you’re sat at the very bar they did.
After an evening at the bar, it was up bright and early to head to the Lancaster Aviation Heritage Centre. And it was here as I drove through the gates, I got my first glimpse of ‘Just Jane’, one of only FOUR operational Lancaster bombers in the entire world.
Technically known as Avro Lancaster B. VII NX611, she was one of 150 Lancasters built in early 1945 for operations in the Far East.
She’s had a varied history. In the 1970s she stood as the Gate Guardian at RAF Scampton (home of Vulcan bombers and more recently, The Red Arrows) before being sold privately and moved to her current home in 1987. She is now a fantastic piece of aviation history, and the ongoing restoration program means hopefully soon we will see her take to the skies once more.
It was a beautiful sunny day, as I arrived at the airfield early in the morning to get the coins onboard. She was still in her hangar alongside the De Havilland Mosquito and a B25 Mitchell.
Before the Lanc was fired up – the main part of our mission started. We were given permission to board and get the coins securely stashed. This in itself was a privilege, reserved usually for visitors who book the tour and the ride, something that gets booked up a year in advance.
Despite its size, there is not a lot of room inside a Lancaster for boxes of coins!
There’s barely room for people, and only once you are inside do you contemplate how it must have felt when heading on a bombing mission. It’s dark, cramped, and once you are in position, there’s no moving. With the engines running I imagine it is exceptionally loud.
The coins were loaded in with help from the crew who work at the LAHC, and I had a short amount of time to photograph them inside the plane before she was moved outside and prepared for the day’s events.
Then the magic happened.
As the four huge Merlin engines spluttered into life, a deafening roar bellowed across the tarmac, debris flew across the airfield as the wind seemed to pick up as we stood in awe. Lancaster Bomber NX611 made her way along the tarmac and onto the grass airstrip, where the engines kicked up a few notches.
It really is a sight to behold. And there we had it, coins travelling on board a piece of aviation history in the anniversary year of the Lancaster’s most famous moment – adding to their own provenance forever.
As the Lanc returned, the coins having been onboard a few hours, I had a five-minute window between runs to get onboard, remove the coins and stack them up on the airfield.
She had another group of guests to take for a ride. She wasn’t going to wait for us, and I wasn’t going to get in her way. It was a day I shall never forget. And thankfully, these coins now act as a lasting reminder of this epic and historic occasion.
If you’re interested…
A few years back, one of my contacts at HMS Victory presented me with a very special opportunity. It was the chance to secure genuine wood from HMS Victory, removed during restoration.
What an incredible opportunity to own such a fascinating piece of history.
This was real wood from the most famous ship from possibly the most important naval victory in British history.
Of course, I had to say yes!
Since then I’ve wanted to create a really special collector item with this piece of history. But I’ve never found a coin issue I considered worthy of including such a treasured artefact.
Introducing the Masterpiece Silver 5oz 50p Coin
This limited edition Silver Antique Finish 5oz 50p coin celebrates the history of HMS Victory and Admiral Nelson.
And 50 of these brand-new coins include an actual piece of wood from HMS Victory.
This British Isles 50p has been struck from five ounces of .999 Pure Silver to an Antique finish and features a glorious depiction of HMS Victory with selective gold plating.
Also, it spans a huge diameter of 54.60mm and weighs a hefty 5oz. That’s twice the size of a standard 50p and more than 17 times heavier.
Collecting opportunity – strictly limited to only 50 pieces
What’s more, alongside this Silver Antique Finish 5oz 50p is a genuine piece of wood from HMS Victory — sealed in a tamper-proof capsule to preserve it forever.
This is an incredible opportunity, but you’ll need to act now as 95% of these limited edition pieces have already sold.
You can secure yours today with an initial payment of just £69.50 followed by 9 interest-free instalments of £69.50.
PS. By owning one of only 50 of these unique presentations you will be helping to maintain HMS Victory. £41.66 from each coin sold will be donated to the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
You can watch our unveiling of the HMS Victory Masterpiece Silver 5oz 50p coin in our video below.
You may also be interested in our blog on the HMS Victory Silver Proof 50ps, taken on board HMS Victory as we explore the famous ship.
What is the world’s oldest naval ship still in commission?
I’ll give you a clue (beyond the one in the title). It’s now in its 245th year of service.
The answer is HMS Victory, probably the most famous ship in Britain.
I was surprised to hear that she is still part of the Royal Navy’s fleet, having never been officially decommissioned.
HMS Victory has been in dry dock for 101 years, but over 200 years ago, she was the flagship of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson during the Battle of Trafalgar.
Five-coin set honours HMS Victory for the first time ever
And our entire edition limit of Silver Proof HMS Victory 50p sets was taken aboard HMS Victory last year and placed in Nelson’s day cabin to soak up centuries of incredible history.
The five 50p designs feature the following:
- HMS Victory at full sail
- The ship’s stern
- Canons at fire
- A portrait of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson
- Nelson’s final moments
Each coin is struck from .925 Sterling Silver to a Proof finish and features its design in full colour!
And the complete set includes the first ever Lord Nelson 50p coin!
Tiny edition limit: Just 400 sets available
Just 400 Silver Proof sets were available, and we now have less than 20 remaining.
How long can 400 sets possibly last? Especially knowing that they have been aboard Victory…
By purchasing one of the HMS Victory Silver 50p Sets you will be helping to maintain this important piece of British naval history. £17.45 from each set sold will be donated to the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
Watch our video below where we explore HMS Victory and discuss this exciting coin set!
You may also be interested in our blog on the HMS Victory Masterpiece Silver 5oz 50p — in a presentation alongside real wood from HMS Victory’s restoration.