Route To Victory 2008

. . .and some brave souls turned up early!

Apart from some very necessary and essential preparation that was undertaken by Keith’s 'press' of volunteers, the Route To Victory event started in earnest on the morning of Friday the 2nd of May. This involved the marking out of the various pitches and laying out the areas set aside for accommodation.

All was going smoothly until about 2:00 p.m. when, to co-inside with the visits by the local Primary School children, we experienced the first torrential down-pour of the day! Naturally the rain stayed constant and heavy for about 1˝ hours, just long enough for us to cancel the remaining school trips, yet within 20 minutes of the rain stopping it was horizon to horizon sunshine! If only we had known then. . .

Luckily the remainder of the day was dry, and by the early evening the other groups and the majority of the Garrison team were on site. Luckily, a cunningly supplied Catering Van and Beer Tent enabled a cheery end to the day’s labours to be enjoyed. Saturday morning dawned relatively clear and soon people were up and about. In due course the Chefs arrived after their ‘red eye’ trip from Northumberland and the Mess Tent and Cookhouse became fully operational. Also arriving were the Maltese Gunners who had made the journey from Malta to sample a UK event at first hand. That morning all the 'American' and interested Brit / Maltese groups left on the US Convoy to visit all the various WW2 US Airborne bases and associated villages, including Littlecote, Aldbourne, etc.

The remainder of The Garrison were soon engaged on camp duties designed to make our stay as comfortable as possible. This involved putting up more accommodation, refining the mess and catering areas, digging a soak-away, maintaining an adequate fuel supply for the Soya cookers, organising equipment, vehicles and the guns. However, the ground still remained fairly wet and quite a few bales of straw were employed in an attempt to make the place more habitable. Naturally, the chefs rose to the challenge and throughout the day we were all well catered for with scran and brews

The US Convoy returned in the late afternoon, having had a splendid day enjoyed by all, and an evening meal appeared right on queue. Several of The Garrison then had a quick change ready to take part in the 1940s Fashion Show which was to take place on Aldbourne village green that evening.

Later a sizable group all jumped on a passing Jimmy or Austin 10 and enjoyed a bumpy ride to Aldbourne to view the excellent Fashion Show and partake of a few beers in the picturesque heart of the Berkshire Downs. Again a great time was had by all and the availability of the Beer Tent on the return to Ramsbury was a greater temptation than many could resist!

Sunday dawned grey and overcast but nobody was bothered as it was the day of the ‘British Convoy’. Many members of the Garrison were keen to take part and as soon as breakfast was over started organising themselves. As this was taking place, Keith received an emergency call from Simon Ulrich who had experienced a rear wheel blow-out on his Bedford MW. Luckily, it was only just outside of Hungerford so a mercy dash was made by Rod Ulrich on his Don R Bike with some wheel change kit. Both recovered to Ramsbury in time for Simon to have breakfast and all to attend the convoy brief.

Soon the convoy formed up and included from the Garrison Keith’s Austin 10, Fred’s Tilly, Jonathon’s Quad, Andy’s Quad, Simon’s Bedford (including the Maltese detachment) and Rod on his Matchless. All the vehicles being suitably packed out with eager passengers. Overall there were more than 60 vehicles ranging from motorcycles to armoured cars and halftracks which took up about 3 miles worth of road! Luckily the MVT motorcycle outriders were brilliant and performed a text book job in keeping the convoy moving and trying to minimise the impact on the rest of Berkshires’ and Wiltshires’ road users!

For More photo please view http://www.astrocruise.com/victory/

The itinerary took in a host of minor roads and classic downland scenery with enough pauses to keep everyone from boiling up or scattering and by lunch-time we all arrived at Netheravon airfield for a Hog Roast and the arrival of the Douglas Dakota. Unfortunately the arrival of the Dakota also coincided with the arrival of the wet weather but it did little to dampen every ones enthusiasm.

During a suitable break in the weather the convoy left Netheravon for the disused airfield at Everleigh. Whilst at Everleigh Dave Berryman gave a presentation on the development of the British Airborne Forces and the part played by the local aerodromes. Additionally, a short act of commemoration was carried out and a wreath laid to honour those who lost their lives during the training of this force.

By now the weather had developed into sunshine and showers but the convoy processed back to Ramsbury without any major incidents – except for Rod’s bike (a puncture) and Keith’s Austin (an airlock in the fuel pump which cured itself!) . Luckily for Rod a Bedford QL was on hand to recover him (and one of the outriders who’s bike had also died) back to the camp site.

Back at Ramsbury the evening meal was served and all the party animals got changed into their 'glad rags' ready for the 1940s Dance. Rod, however, spent the evening fixing his puncture! None the less, most people made it into Ramsbury for a good social at either the 1940s Dance, the excellent Pubs or gathered around the Searchlight for its midnight demo. Oh, and the Beer tent was still open back at the camp. . .

Unfortunately, that night the rain returned with a vengeance. By 5 a.m. the rain had destroyed any chance of either of the car parks being used by anything other than a 4x4 with the whole show being threatened with closure by 8 a.m. The organisers gathered everyone together for an emergency meeting at 09:00. The decision was reached to put on whatever we could in the arena, parade whatever we could in Ramsbury and the locals would rally support and attempt to get enough parking together for the public. Additional support was provided by the local media.

Despite the rain and the ever increasing depth of mud, a limited parade took place through the town and was very well supported. Luckily, by mid-day the rain had eased off but conditions underfoot remained treacherous for all vehicles. None the less, a full arena programme was arranged and the public attended in their droves.

Even better, by mid afternoon the weather had improved sufficiently for the flying display elements to take place. These included an Auster AOP ‘spotter plane’ and 25 Pdr Gun demo, a full display by a Spitfire and display and Para-drop from the Douglas Dakota. The parachutists, from the Royal Artillery Parachute Display Team, dropped in two 'sticks' wearing British and American WW2 uniforms.

The show was concluded with a parade of all the participants, a short address and review by the Shows guest of honour Col. Ben Tottenham and a timely flypast by the Dakota. After the show there was a very busy period of packing up and breaking camp, followed by a whole series of ‘good-byes’, especially to our Maltese visitors. The evening was spent very quietly by the few who had remained eating a curry supper, drinking wine and beer in very moderate amounts!

The following day naturally dawned, bright, sunny and dry! Luckily, it did allow the clear-up to progress in improving conditions and permit some sorely needed drying and airing of the tents, groundsheets, etc. All day a succession of trucks and low-loaders arrived to return the heavy equipment back to their owners. By 1600 the whole site had been restored and only 1 gun-set remained to be picked up. Then Keith’s Austin broke down and Don went to rescue him; but that is another story . . .

Thanks as ever to all those who organised the event, those who volunteered their services in addition to the actual event, the cookhouse team and every member who attended for keeping a robust sense of humour despite the less than ideal weather conditions and the condition of their kit afterwards!

© Rod Ulrich