A LITTLE known piece of Red Arrows history has emerged, just in time for the display team’s 50th anniversary season this year.
The famous aerobatic team is celebrating its half centenary this year and will be performing on special Pit Day at this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford.
The air tattoo was launched at the end of May with an exclusive media day at RAF Fairford, where current Red Arrows pilots met those who had formerly flown in formation with the Reds.
Squadron Leader Henry Prince, 85, visited for a second time at the end of June, to pay tribute to his faithful pet Labrador, and the Red Arrows official mascot in 1965, Dusty.
Dusty the yellow labrador was with Red Arrows from the very beginning but died before they could do their first ever display in May 1965. He was hit by an aircraft propeller while running to catch up with one of the pilots.
Nearly 50 years on, Sqn Ldr Prince travelled back to RAF Fairford to visit Dusty’s grave.
The faithful friend to all the Reds pilots in 1965 was buried on the north side of the airfield, marked by a gravestone and surrounded by a white picket fence.
He has been buried there for the last 50 years, unknown to all except for a small group of people.
Over the years his grave became unkempt and dirty but earlier this month a group of children from Kempsford Primary School, whose parents are all serving members of the RAF, came to clean up the area.
The pupils spent the day scrubbing, sanding and painting and had the grave in pristine condition for when Dusty’s former owner Sqn Ldr Prince visited.
“I can’t thank the children enough,” said Sqn Ldr Prince, who came along with his wife Nikki.
“They’ve done a wonderful job. I visited here three weeks ago and the difference between now and then is amazing.”
Air tattoo spokesman Richard Arquati said he was grateful to the pupils who spent their time cleaning up Dusty’s grave.
“Henry Prince and his wife Nikki have said they were lost for words when they heard what the school pupils had done. For them, Dusty was not only the Red Arrows’ first mascot but also a loyal and much-loved pet.”
The air tattoo takes place on July 11–13 this year. Tickets are still available.
Visit airtattoo.com for more.