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…
This year marks the 80th Anniversary of the Dambusters Raid, one of the most famous air operations of World War II and an example of Great Britain’s daring wartime ingenuity.
The operation involved 133 heroic RAF crew flying 19 Avro Lancaster planes – the magnificent WWII bomber that delivered Barnes Wallis’ astonishing “bouncing bombs”.
And now, 80 years on, a spectacular range of British Isles coins have been authorised to honour this legendary chapter in RAF history.
Each coin commemorates that audacious midnight raid on Germany’s Ruhr Valley dams in May 1943, arguably one of the turning points that led to British Victory in World War II.
View the coins below and all the information you’ll need to order your favourites.
ONLY available from The Westminster Collection: The Dambusters 80th Anniversary £5 Pair
Exclusively available from The Westminster Collection, The Dambusters 80th Anniversary £5 Pair has been issued by Jersey and Guernsey and fully approved by Buckingham Palace.
Featuring specially commissioned designs by David Lawrence, both coins are struck to a pristine Proof finish and housed in a presentation case with Certificate of Authenticity. What’s more, a strict worldwide edition limit of ONLY 4,995 has been set.
The Limited Edition Silver Proof Collector Set – own it today with JUST £29.50
This STRICTLY LIMITED Collector Set includes two British Isles Silver Proof £5 Coins that have been fully approved by Buckingham Palace, alongside a Sterling Silver Proof Commemorative.
Importantly, this is the ONLY way you can own the Dambusters 80th Anniversary Silver Commemorative – it will never be released individually.
A strict edition limit of JUST 750 has been authorised for release worldwide.
This makes the coins more than 16 times RARER than the UK’s most recent Silver Proof £5 that completely SOLD OUT of 12,500 coins in a matter of days. So, you can see why this new collection is so significant and why so many collectors will miss out…
Demand will outweigh availability – JUST 195 Prestigious Silver 5 Ounce Coins issued
Struck from FIVE ounces of 99.9% Pure Silver and hand-polished to a pristine Proof finish, the reverse design is inspired by the classic movie poster for ‘The Dam Busters’ and features Wing Commander Guy Gibson alongside the legendary Avro Lancaster Planes.
With its complex and sophisticated process of production, the 5oz Coin is one of the most extravagant and demanded in the world of numismatics. A strict worldwide edition limit of JUST 195 has been set and so demand will outweigh availability.
Impressive 100mm diameter 10oz Silver Coin – JUST 55 WORLDWIDE
This HUGE 100mm diameter coin has been struck from 10oz of 99.9% Pure Silver and hand polished to a pristine Proof finish. Due to the size of the surface, this coin allows collectors to appreciate the smallest details of the design.
The coin comes housed in a special collector case with numbered Certificate of Authenticity. With ONLY 55 being released worldwide, it is one of the rarest issues in the Dambusters range and will be highly sought after by collectors.
If you’re interested…
The birth of the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1918 was the first time there had been a separate and independent air force established in any country.
It soon became among the most dominant air forces globally.
The 1930’s saw public interest in aircraft increase dramatically and following World War Two (WWII), the demand for the number of aircraft to be built grew quickly in a very short space of time.
Throughout its life, the RAF has monitored the advances in aircraft for military use, and today displays some of the greatest developments in aircraft technology.
For nearly a decade we’ve worked in partnership with the RAF. In that time, we’ve preserved and celebrated over 100 years of history on official commemorative releases.
Let me tell you about 4 aircraft monumental during their existence.
The Sopwith F1 Camel
This Biplane fighter had only one seat and was given the nickname Camel after one squadron commented on its hump like appearance. A comment that would influence its official name.
Carelessness would get you killed in this aircraft.
Pilots had to be skilled to fly it, attentive and observant.
The Camel thrived in daylight but also succeeded at night.
The aircrafts actual nickname?
The King of the Air Fighters.
The Avro Lancaster
The Lancaster proved vital towards the end of WWII for Bomber Command. The aircraft helped Britain successfully undermine Nazi Germany from the air.
Lancaster crews risked their lives every time they took to the air in these bombers.
They showed tremendous bravery.
On average they carried out 21 missions before they were lost.
The Eurofighter Typhoon
A vision of the future.
This is how the RAF describe this 21st century Eurofighter Typhoon.
Did you know this aircraft can travel two times faster than the speed of sound? It uses cutting edge technology and has many advanced features.
The UK, Germany, and Italy all worked collaboratively on this aircraft, as they have done also with the tornado project for over several decades.
The Spitfire is by far the most famous British fighter aircraft in history. It was designed by Reginald J Mitchell for the Second World War and there are many reasons why pilots fell in love with it.
It was a symbol of freedom.
The early Mark II could reach speeds of up to 360 mph.
The Spitfires sleek lines and elliptical shaped wings make it perhaps the most graceful fighter ever created.
Did you know that Mitchell’s first attempt to answer the British Air Ministry’s call for an all-metal land-based fighter aircraft was rejected?
It had a cooling system issue.
So, his team tried again.
And boy, did they triumph.
The new design had retractable landing gear, an enclosed cockpit and of course, the thin wing shape.
After the first flight of the prototype in 1936 only a few changes were made and by early June, the Air Ministry had ordered 310 Spitfires. By the outbreak of the Second World War, 306 Spitfires were in service with the RAF, along with 71 waiting and 2,000 in the pipeline.
If you’re interested…
The aircraft I have spoken about are intricately illustrated on our collection of commemoratives celebrating the History of the RAF.
The first one in the collection I hear you ask.
Well of course it must be the Spitfire.
Bill Dady, the renowned aviation artist, has designed this one.