F for Freddie Flies Again

aviation, aviation history

The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum near Hamilton Ontario has just introduced a new exhibit. “Virtual Reality Experience – BBC 1943 Berlin Blitz”, produced by the BBC, takes you along on a flight on an AVRO Lancaster as it flies a bombing mission to Berlin in 1943.

On September 3, 1943 BBC reporter Wynford Vaughn-Thomas and soundman Reg Pidsley climbed on board “F for Freddie”, a Lancaster with the No.207 Squadron of Bomber Command. Their flight from RAF Langer in Nottinghamshire was part of a 316 Lancaster raid on the Berlin area. Vaughn-Thomas and Pidsley recorded the sounds of the flight on acetate records including banter amongst the crew and the tense moments of the approach, bomb release and return. 22 Lancasters were lost in the raid but F for Freddie made it home – the aircraft was shot down the following year.


Wynford Vaughan-Thomas and  Reg Pidsley before the flight



76 years later you can relive their experience thanks to the magic of Virtual Reality. Donning the VR glasses takes you back in time as the Lancaster rumbles down a grass runway struggling under the weight of fuel and bomb load to get off the ground. As you look in every direction, you’re immediately immersed in the experience.

The author going back in time

The entire experience lasts for about 15 minutes and covers the flight to Berlin complete with searchlights, flak and enemy fighters and all the time you’re hearing the actual crew chatter that was recorded so many decades ago. As flak bursts around you it’s impossible not to get caught up and think of how terrifying it must have been for these young fliers. You share their relief when the coast of England comes into view and a crew member breaks into song.

CWHM is the first location in North America to host this exhibit and it is a perfect prelude to seeing the museum’s own Lancaster VRA, one of only 2 left flying in the world.

Lancaster

Virtual Reality Experience is FREE with admission. Regular admission rates are Adult (18 – 64) $15, Senior (65+) $13, Student (13 – 17) $13, Youth (6 – 12) $10. Free admission for museum members.

The Canadian Warplane Heritage museum is located at 9280 Airport Road
Mount Hope, Ontario – right beside Hamilton International Airport.