It was raining, and had been for several days. The four of us finished lunch, and left the house to walk the half mile to the top of Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath.
There were probably a couple of hundred people on the summit, clutching umbrellas, feet in rubber boots, and the smell of Sunday lunch still lingering.
We were a minute early, at 3.29 pm, just on time. And then the earth mildly trembled as a D-Day Douglas Dakota C45 rumbled into sight over the Thames, flying with its escorts along the Mall and on to the Queen, who stood on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, watching them approach, waving.
After a short pause, the Red Arrows swooped in, trailing red, white and blue smoke.
We all stood silently for a moment on the hill because we could all still hear the sound and roar of nine Rolls-Royce Merlins as they turned over our heads and set course for RAF Duxford. It was an emotional moment for us all as we watched them go. Their collective energy was in the area of 16,200 horsepower.
The Merlins were powering the four Spitfires, one Hurricane and the Lancaster.
We were there on the hill partly because of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, but mainly because my father-in-law devised the Merlin supercharging improvements for the RAF, and my father flew the new engines as a test pilot for ROTOL, which made the propellers to go with the engines.
My father-in-law was Sir Stanley Hooker, or SGH, at Derby and Filton. The engine in the Harrier, the Orpheus, was his, as were the Proteus, Olympus and the rescued RB211, which has since been developed into the mighty Trent. His last job was a Technical Director, Rolls-Royce Aero-Engines.
The vintage aircraft were wonderful to see in the air again, but there is, alas, no possibility of seeing either my father or Sir Stanley again. SGH died in 1984, and my father, Bryan Greensted, died ten years later in 1994.
However, SGH wrote a big-selling autobiography, which is still available from Amazon. Nick Stroud, who started writing for The Aeroplane Magazine whilst Noah was planning the Ark, has my father’s logbooks, and is wondering about writing a biography of my old Dad.
If you want to see some photos of the two men, please go to my Flickr page.
When Sally and I got married, the two men met for the first time since World War Two, and cried, which makes me think they had forgotten that they were, at an early period of their lives, Sons of The British Empire, who didn’t cry easily.
But maybe they did from time to time.
Finally, I went to pick up the newspaper from my local newsagent yesterday.
Sivendra Patel greeted me warmly.
“God save the Queen!” he briskly barked.
“Yes,” I replied, “God save the Queen.”
The photos came from The Mirror’s website. I thank the people there for their generosity.