Coachlines - November 2023

27.11.23 The Clerk

Banquet 2024 – Friday 17th May 2024 at the Guildhall

The theme of the Banquet will be Navy Wings, but why?

In November 2022 the Coachmakers’ Company presented the Victor Gauntlett Scholarship to a young man called Patryk Nelkowski who at the time was working for the Navy Wings organisation at RNAS Yeovilton. Having met Patryk (now a Freeman of the Coachmakers’ Company), the Master said “I would like to do more with Navy Wings because my father served in the Navy during the war.” It therefore took a nanosecond to realise that Navy Wings would be a great theme for Banquet 2024. The Master liked the idea and an outline plan has been developed.

To expand upon the core theme, 2024 is also the Centenary Anniversary of the year in which the name “Fleet Air Arm” was first coined. Those squadrons of the RAF that were designated to operate from and with ships became known as The Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Air Force before being returned to full RN control once again in 1937 as The Fleet Air Arm.

The date of 17th May 2024 has been decided upon because it will mark the 80th anniversary of Operation Transom. Although not recognised as a decisive operation, inter alia other units from the UK, US, and the Netherlands, the fourth HMS ILLUSTRIOUS took part in the operation which was a joint air attack against the Japanese-occupied city of Surabaya on the Indonesian island of Java. Serving aboard HMS ILLUSTRIOUS was the father of one of our members, Alderman Sir Andrew Parmley (Lord Mayor in 2016/17).

Although not recommended to be used as a work of reference, this link provides a description of the events of 17th May 1944:

The main aim of Banquet 2024 however, is to highlight the work of Navy Wings to preserve old naval aircraft and thereby preserve history. This work helps to educate people about naval heritage and enables the continuation of heritage skills in aircraft maintenance, essential to keep the old warbirds flying. Following in Patryk Nelkowski’s footsteps, Hugo Cowley was awarded the Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown Scholarship at this year’s Aerospace Industry Dinner earlier this month and he too is in full-time employment with Navy Wings.

Therefore Banquet 2024 will focus on highlighting the preservation of naval aviation from the past, the continuation of the heritage skills essential to make that possible but at the same time it will tip a nod to the present and future of naval aviation.

So what about the headline display at Banquet 2024?

Having covered off the coachmaking industry in 2019 with the Quick Silver Mail Coach, in 2023 it was the turn of automotive with the 2003 Le Mans winning Bentley Speed 8, and so it is natural that to cover off the aerospace industry it must be an aeroplane. And with the help of the team at Navy Wings, it can be revealed that the intended headline display piece will be a flying replica of a 1914 Bristol Scout.

More details about the aircraft will be revealed in December’s Coachlines but you’ll have to be there on the night to believe it. So, highlight Friday 17th May 2024 in your diary, the book will open in January 2024.