RAF song inspired by Hucknall museum history

Nigel Gibson, who volunteers at the Hucknall Flight Test Museum, put forward the name Merlin March after the engine used in the famous Spitfire and Hurricane planes in the Second World War.
Nigel Gibson, who volunteers at the Hucknall Flight Test Museum, put forward the name Merlin March after the engine used in the famous Spitfire and Hurricane planes in the Second World War.

A Hucknall museum volunteer  is feeling “chuffed” after he helped name the newest RAF march.

Nigel Gibson, who volunteers at the Hucknall Flight Test Museum, put forward the name Merlin March after the engine used in the famous Spitfire and Hurricane planes in the Second World War.

The Rolls-Royce engine has a close connection to the museum as that was where some were tested at the Hucknall airfield where the museum is located before being manufactured and used in the War.

The 59-year-old contacted Wing Commander Piers Morrell, RAF principal director of music, after having the idea for the name.

Mr Gibson, of Eastwood, who has been with the museum’s trust on and off since 1985 said: “I am chuffed - it is the most amazing thing that he used the name.”

Now eight volunteers at the museum including Nigel are going to see it performed live in Lincoln on Thursday, May 24.

It is hoped the new Merlin March will form a permanent part of the RAF band’s repertoire, fitting in neatly with Hucknall-born Eric Coates’s famous theme for The Dam Busters film, which has become a national favourite as the Dam Busters March.

The museum’s hangar, off Blenheim Lane, became part of Rolls-Royce in the 1930s, when the firm acquired the site and created the secretaive Rolls-Royce Hucknall Flight Test Establishment.

The museum – which aims to “bring Hucknall’s remarkable, and largely secret, aviation history into the public domain” – is run by volunteers who are members of the Hucknall and Derby branch of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, which is trying to save the museum building, the old test wing hangar Lord Hives brought, from demolition.

The engineers dedicated their entire working lives to testing the world famous Rolls-Royce aero engines, from 1934 to the mid 1970s.

Mr Gibson said: “I am so inspired by seeing how many retired aero engineers were still turning up as volunteers to the Hucknall site every week, some more than 90 years of age; keeping their stories alive by helping to restore and rebuild many of the historic Rolls-Royce engines.”

Over the past 80 years Britain has seen the Spitfire become an internationally recognised icon, with many examples still flying around the world.

Other planes powered by the Merlin engine include the Avro Lancaster, Hawker Hurricane, De Havilland Mosquito, Vickers Wellington, and the North American Mustang.

Where can you hear the first performance of the new march?

In one of the major musical events to mark the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, Lincoln Cathedral has been selected to host a Royal Air Force Centenary Concert, where Merlin March will be performed for the first time.

Taking place on Thursday, May 24, the concert will feature one of the finest military bands in the country, The Band of the Royal Air Force College, under the direction of Wing Commander Piers Morrell and Squadron Leader Richard Murray.

The programme will honour World War Two and other air force veterans who will join the audience.

Tickets are available online atlincolncathedral.com

The concert music will be available to buy on iTunes.