↑ Return to Volunteers

Tim Roberts – Premises Manager

Tim RobertsIn my local, Graham the barman said, “Have you heard about the project to restore a WWII Typhoon?”  This got me thinking about my Dad, David “Bob” Roberts, who was an RAF Typhoon engine fitter during the war.  Whilst I had some of his stories, I didn’t have all full details, which I was then able to obtain from RAF Cranwell.  Dad served with 609 Squadron and with repair units in Normandy, Deurne in Belgium, Mill in the Netherlands, and Goch in Germany.

Perusing the RB396 website, I realised I’d missed the project launch ceremony just down the road at Goodwood in 2016.  The unveiling of the newly acquired Napier Sabre was coming up using at the hangar of our friends, Boultbee Flight Academy.  But, once again, the available places had been filled.  So I quickly became a project Member and sent an email to Trustee Sam Worthington-Leese.  I spoke about my Dad’s Typhoon history and about the memorabilia of his that I could bring to the event. Sam responded saying yes I could come “but don’t bring a busload.”

In 2017, the trustees decided that we should attend around 10 airshows, so I put my name forward and became an airshow volunteer.  Our debut was at Halfpenny Green, where we had half a dozen of us struggling with the new marquee in the wind.  We finally got it in place and we did manage to sell a few items from the stock of merchandise. The marquee impressed visitors with its eye-catching design and the project logo.  It was also great to meet trustee Dave Robinson and the other volunteers.

At the event, we shared stories and made endless notes about how we could improve for the next show. With each show, we gradually evolved our and the marquee with bigger weights, straps, and pegs each time survived the windiest of locations.  Over the 9 air shows I attended in 2017, I met many more volunteers, as well as interested people from around the world.  We all had one aim; to see RB396 take to the skies in 2024.
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At the end of the show season, we were all exhausted, especially Graham Green who tirelessly loaded, drove the van, and set up for all of the airshows.  We were more than happy that we had got the message out and we felt we’d contributed greatly. Personally, my hip which was needing a replacement had taken a beating. But, there was no let up as we had our members open day at the unit in October.  Following a huge amount of work to install a shop area, racking for the many parts acquired over the years, and generally sorting the place out, the Members event was a huge success. So, 2017 closed with more work at the unit and a cloud of optimism.

2018 arrived with more work to do.  Luckily my hip replacement was planned for the end of February, prior to the airshow season, so after a short recuperation, I was ready for work.  The project had been invited to a dinner at the Worshipful Company of Fanmakers in London, so Sam said “let’s get RB’s cockpit, display engine blocks and rear fuselage up to show standard and work out how to get it all in and out of Central London!  Oh, and how about making a replica Typhoon rocket and restoring our sectioned Hispano cannon.”  We all said, “are you sure that’s all you want, Sam?”  Andrew Boakes became the project manager and what a job he did, particularly in fabricating the replica rocket.

With all that completed, we travelled into London in April, on the hottest day of the year and we set up the display in the foyer of the listed building.  During the unload, Andrew protected me like a ward sister not letting me lift anything heavy in case I dislocated my new hip!  We were all proud of the superb looking display and Sam, our representative at the dinner, met many valuable new contacts.

The 2018 airshow season commenced, beginning with a soaking at Middle Wallop followed by a visit to one of the prettiest airfields at Compton Abbas. For the bigger shows at Duxford, it was decided to take the engine, engine blocks, cockpit and rear fuselage.  This meant the use of a large truck & driver as well as renting a larger marquee. By the end of the season, we had the loading and unloading process, which includes a fork-lift for the engine, cracked in loading time of about 3 hours.  

Following another successful season of a dozen airshows, 9 for me again, it was “back on our heads” at the unit for more improvements works.  This culminated in our October 2018 members open day where a capacity crowd gathered and supported the project to the hilt in memorabilia sales, raffle tickets, membership renewals and generous donations.

With 2019 approaching, we haven’t yet reached our funding goal yet, but we are in a position through sales, membership, and donations to be shortly sending the rear fuselage for restoration.  Am I still optimistic? You bet I am!

I’m looking forward to an exciting new year, with work commencing at the unit on the 3rd of January, the new challenges and meeting new people.  When I think about Dad, because RB396 was based at some of the places he was, I wonder if I will be the second family member to have touched RB396.  Becoming a volunteer is hard work but rewarding and of course of immense value to the project. Why not join us?

Tim Roberts – December 2018

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If you want to join our Team, the first step is to join the Supporters’ Club.  Our membership packages for 2019 are described here and are available through the Webshop here.

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