All of the volunteers at the Museum want to start this update by wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2023. It seems ludicrous that there have been no updates on the website since September but here we are two thirds of the way through January. Hopefully this will bring everyone up to date with what has been going on in the background. Although we’ve been quiet – we’ve been beavering away in the background.
The Museum volunteers have been working hard to continue unpacking and consolidating the Museum exhibits into more manageable boxes and checking on the artifacts that haven’t seen the light of day for coming up to 5 years since we left RAF Scampton. We are glad to report that although there are a few pieces that have suffered damage we have come off incredibly lightly considering that the whole collection has moved at least 4 times in as many years.
We will be glad when it comes out the boxes for the final time and on display, but this will have to wait until we receive further word on Scampton Holdings Ltd’s bid to purchase RAF Scampton from the MOD. As you might expect, this is a long and complex process involving many organisations and bids so all we can do is sit and be patient. Good thing that a lot of our volunteers have vast experience of this waiting for the Tri-Star or VC-10 at RAF Brize Norton!
Limited progress has also been made on the vehicles that we can gain access to. As you can imagine, this is difficult at the best of times, but when you are completely exposed to the elements and have little to no tools the options are limited. We have continued to make small journeys with the vehicles that are still on the road like the DP1, WOT-1 and the MK10 made its annual appearance as Santa’s sleigh at RAF Digby. These vehicles, although outside, are still running perfectly fine and will need little attention when we hopefully secure the necessary premises to store them undercover.
The RB44 at Scunthorpe had a periodic new lease of life last weekend when a new volunteer cast his eye over the engine. The RB44 is a rare fire appliance based on the Reynolds Boughton Heavy Duty Utility Trucks the British Army procured to replace the one tonne Land Rover and went through a number of extensive modifications during its service life until it ended up at North Weald Airfield. As a result, the maintenance books are sparse. The week before the crew had gone through most of the potential issues, such as replacing a fuel line and checking spark was reaching the engine but had no joy in waking the dormant Chevrolet . Turns out that we had it 90% there and it just took a few other adjustments to get it running again, much to the delight of the rest of the team.
For the other trucks that are outside, it is evident that a lot more attention will be required for these garage queens and kings as most haven’t moved since before last year when they were moved out of the undercover storage which we were kindly provided. Covers and sheets for the smaller appliances have been ripped off during the winds and the trucks have deteriorated due to them being cooked during the summer and battered by endless lashings of rain and wind over the winter.
It is very easy to get frustrated about the time that we have lost in recent years and the massive task we have ahead of us as an organisation, but we must remember that the trucks can be worked on to bring them back and things could be a lot worse than they are. We thankfully – touch wood – haven’t suffered the misfortunes that other heritage organisations have in recent times which is an immense positive.
This week the volunteers all turned up to Scunthorpe with their best thermals and long johns (it isn’t warm enough for string vests yet) to catch up and prepare the headquarters for our AGM at the end of January. Stock was counted for the shop and other administrative tasks were performed within the HQ as another team were dispatched to the storage area to locate some equipment, retrieve vehicle batteries to be charged at home and attempt to start one or two trucks to keep them in running order should we receive word that we need to move them again.
When the team eventually navigated through the thick fog to the storage site and persuaded the locks to work they set about finding the equipment and attached a generator to the RIV to try and warm the sump, coolant, fuel and put some charge in the batteries after sitting dormant for much of winter. For such a high-performance engine it is essential that these auxiliary components are given enough of a chance to work before attempting to start the engine otherwise it will refuse to start, or worse, cause damage. We attempted a start and got the engine to turn over a number of times, but the jump pack and the generator just didn’t have enough guts to sustain the massive load usually met by the 4 batteries to start the engine. The team tried everything including the interstart cables on other vehicles but it just would not oblige. Even the portable generator started running rough in protest so we took the hint. This means that we will have to remove the four batteries completely and regeneratively charge them at home to try again another week.
It was the turn of the Nuclear Convoy next. In an almost defiant nod to the petulant teenage RIV next to it, it obligingly puffed to life off its own batteries at the first turn of the key. After a few stretches and groans the appliance rolled out of its parking space and was left to clear itself out and warm up before it was taken for a small trundle up and down the storage area to get the oils and joints moving. Notably, the vehicle has developed several electrical gremlins such as the rev counter not working but it is to be expected when it has sat outside for so long in such damp conditions. However, mechanically, it still roars along like the day it was struck off service – an old faithful.
We also checked on the other vehicles which have been afforded the limited covered storage offered to us. Although these have been sheeted extensively, they will need to get the best of valets when they are eventually taken to our next location. The local Pigeon Squadron has definitely done a number on all of them. However, it can’t be helped – what we must remember is that they are undercover, they are the most fragile and senior vehicles in our collection, and we are extremely lucky they haven’t been left to the same exposure as their modern counterparts.
After the volunteers eventually collected all the equipment back up and loaded the batteries in the cars, we made our way back through the frost filled scenery back to Scunthorpe to have a brew and debrief before departing in our warm cars to defrost on the way home. A successful day irrespective of the outcome.