John Lilley is the Chairman and Managing Director of The People’s Mosquito, a charity he established after sending out a ‘tweet’ to restore a Mosquito aircraft to British skies, back in 2012. John grew up near RAF Finningley, near Doncaster, and during his youth often cycled over to the station to watch the RAF flying. He was very lucky to attend the RAF Battle of Britain air shows at Finningley through the 1970s and 80s, often in the VIP areas or pilots enclosure, as his uncle had contracts to supply services for the shows. Fast forward many years and his love for military aircraft, in particular warbirds, was rekindled when he started as a volunteer aircraft restorer at the IWM Duxford. Being hands on in a team working on the Shorts Sunderland, Spitfire F.24, Lancaster and the Mosquito TT.35 TA719. While spending a week of annual leave preparing this Mosquito for new paint, he came to realise that this aircraft needed to fly again! He has also part owned warbird projects, supported a small warbird flying operation and traded warbird parts.
The Second World War continues to be one of the most enduringly fascinating episodes in history for many of us – for its huge reach, for its complexity, for the totality in which it affected every man, woman and child of all the main combatant nations, but above all because of the immense human drama it involved.
THE ENCIRCLEMENT OF KIEV, 1941:
HOW THE GERMANS WON THEMSELVES TO DEATH IN THE EAST
On 14 September, 1943, German armoured units linked up just to the north of Lubny in Ukraine, so completing a giant encirclement of more than three-quarters of a million Red Army troops. The Nazis hailed it as the greatest victory ever, and a giant leap towards the final, complete defeat of the Soviet Union. But was this the case? Or could the seeds of Germany’s ultimate defeat be seen in this victory? Was Nazi Germany, in fact, winning itself to defeat? In this event, Stephen Prince and James Holland will challenge many of the assumptions so often made about Operation BARBAROSSA and the early months of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
In this special day of events at the festival, we will be discussing the astonishing De Havilland Mosquito, one of the most inspirational and iconic aircraft ever built. Joining us for an extended session will be John Lilley, the brainchild behind the People’s Mosquito project, and also Des Curtis, DFC, a former RAF navigator whose astonishing wartime experiences carrying out attacks first in Scandinavia, then training with 618 Squadron with bouncing bombs due to be used on an attack on the German battleship, Tirpitz, and then on anti-U-boat operations in the Channel and Atlantic are truly extraordinary.
THE DUNKIRK 25-POUNDER
Also included in the programme will be the setting up and firing of a very rare Dunkirk 1940-era 25-pounder field gun by the Garrison Artillery Volunteers, the Larkhill based team now unique as the only organisation still training and using wartime artillery drills. Keith Brigstock will be explaining the gun’s history and significance as well as overseeing the live-firing demonstration.
2.00-3.00pm A WAR OF EMPIRES: JAPAN, INDIA, BURMA & BRITAIN 1941-1945
Robert Lyman (included in WW2 day ticket)
3.45-4.45pm 1945: VICTORY IN THE WEST
Peter Caddick-Adams (included in WW2 day ticket)