In 1971 the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA)  Amsterdam Branch organised a Charity Ball at the RAI congress centre, several hundred guests attended the ball and the proceeds were later presented to the RAFA Care Home ‘Sussexdown’ at Storrington, West Sussex. The following year the ball took place at the Hilton hotel and again the proceeds were presented to the home, but this time the day was named ‘Dutch Day’.  However the 1972 Dutch Day was different to the first Dutch Dayday in 1971 in that the Gilze-Rijen flying club gave a demonstration over the home with their Harvard aircraft; whilst on the ground the residents were treated to a first class lunch paid for by RAFA Amsterdam, and the home was presented with a very large cheque to pay for a room there.

The Gilze-Rijen pilots were either Members or Friends (these days Associates) of the RAFA Amsterdam Branch, and  in 1974 after flying over the Blenheim Grave in Zuidoost Beemster they made the decision to form the 1077 RAFA (Amsterdam) Squadron under the leadership of JacThuring. Pilots in the early days were not only Jac Thuring, but also Anne-Cor Groeneveld, Leo van Broeck, Eddie Smallwood and Pim Sierks.

On subsequent Dutch Days the team flew displays on Dutch Day and would end when a Cessna 172 parachuted 2lb Edam Cheeses in to the grounds on small parachutes, attached to one of the cheeses was the cheque which was presented to the matron.  A local newspaper  covered the event and named the team “The Edambusters” – a name that has stuck. Dutch Day became a true happening and many well known VIPs attended the event, the most regular was Dame Vera Lynn (30 plus years).  Over the course of time the programme of activities grew until eventually a complete airshow was staged for the residents. There have been free fall parachute teams, a helicopter each year from RAF Shawbury, aerobatics displays by Spitfires, gliders and Extra 300 , marching displays by the ATC cadets and much more

Dutch Day was to continue for 40 years, but during that period the Edambusters team changed several times. When the Gilze Rijen flying Club withdrew their support because of the costs, others stepped in to continue the tradition of the Cheese Drops and commemoration flights.  For a couple of years the KLM Flying Club took over the task, when they stopped it was the turn of the Schiphol Flying Club and eventually the Transavia Flying Club. But in 1997 a group of pilots at Lelystad Airport flew over to Shoreham Airport to do the honours on Dutch Day and in that same year one of the pilots, Willem Baggerman, approached the branch to enquire about forming  a proper squadron with the blessing of RAFA Amsterdam. 

Willem’s idea was to register the team as a charitable foundation with the name “1077 (Edambusters) Squadron RAFA” the intention was not only to fly at Dutch Day, but also to honour the sacrifice of the WWII aircrew who lost their lives; this they would do by flying (missing man) formations at various ceremonies and commemorations.   He hoped to achieve this with several enthusiastic private pilots who would undergo proper formation training. After much training the team’s display was eventually approved by the Dutch authorities, and the Edambusters  name was officially registered in April 1998. After  intense training the Edambusters, apart from memorial flights, also gave some pretty slick displays at a couple of air shows, including one in Czechoslovakia.  

At Dutch Day they would dive bomb the home but  the cheeses they dropped did not always end up on the lawns – some went into the quarry next to the home never to be found again, others landed in the gardens of nearby houses and one actually smashed a couple of the home’s roof tiles. Eventually, for reasons of safety,  smaller baby cheeses were dropped.  The dive bombing came to an abrupt end after a clandestine visit by CAA inspectors who threatened to stop issuing a licence for  the display unless the team kept to 300 ft above ground level (this was stipulated in the licence issued by them). From that height no more cheeses ever landed in the grounds of the home.

Sadly, the team leader Willem Baggerman was seriously ill when the  40th and final Dutch Day took place in June 2011. He died two months later. This left the team without a leader  but  another pilot, Ger May, who had flown with the team from 1997 took over as leader. Not all pilots were happy with the new situation, and some left leaving just two pilots as Edambusters. However, a serious training programme was established and the team started to build up to its present strength of five aircraft, with other potential team members  in training. The pilots,  who all own their own aircraft, are from various backgrounds; one is a Computer Engineer, another a Doctor, there is a Dental Surgeon, and a Commercial Airline Pilot.

Commodore Chris Lorraine a retired RNLAF pilot, who originally gained his wing in the Royal Air Force then flew jaguar aircraft before transferring to the RNLAF, is the team’s  Chairman. Chris is a qualified civilian flying instructor who  has coached the team on several occasions, as a result the formations are absolutely brilliant. To give you an idea of what the team get up to log on to:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=43Urye5pa2E 

 

Edambusters report for 2016

By Ger May, Leader 1077 RAFA squadron Edambusters

In 2016 the Edambusters didn’t manage to do a complete training weekend similar to that which took place in 2015. This year it was a single but fruitful  day’s training at Stadtlohn, Germany.  Pilots taking part were: Ger May, Marcel Aldenhuijsen, Berry and  Jacobien Verlinden, Tim Weert and Hans Teigeler. The team had great support from Chris Lorraine.

The first memorial flight of 2016 was over the Lancaster monument at Elspeet, with ground support from Malcolm Mason

Our major sortue of the year took place on 4 May.  On that day the afternoon sortie passed over 9 ‘targets’.  Starting at the “Bleinheim Grave”in Zuid Oost Beemster, followed by Berkhout, Opmeer, Wadway, Benningbroek, Midwoud, Andijk (Polish Monument) then Andijk (Central Remembrance Location) and Venhuizen.  After this the team flew back to Lelystad for supper before the evening sortie;  which passed over Baarn at 20.02 hours, then followed Huizen, Zeewolde, Harderwijk and last, but by no means least, Dronten.

The Dutch ice skating speed  champion Jochem Uytenhaage posted a photo on the internet of the team passing Blaricum at a distance – in 2017the leader plans to take the team right over the Blaricum monument!

The team normally flies over Stompetoren on the 11th October, but due to an error in the agendas the flight did not take place.

The final sortie of the year was our flypast in November over the RAFA Amsterdam Branch’s Remembrance Ceremony, at the Commonwealth War Graves in De Nieuwe  Ooster begraafplaats, Amsterdam. This is always a special event for the Edambusters,  because  Amsterdam Schiphol tower only gives the team permission to operate the flight at very short notice. This year was particularly difficult as the visual conditions  were very bad.

 

be continued.