Andrew Blow writes. “The Steepest Climb – the story of the IBCC” is released exactly four years after my first visit to the International Bomber Command Centre on the South Common ridge overlooking Lincoln.
Busy with corporate video, and specialist DVDs like “Birth of the Tanks”, I did not learn of the IBCC project particularly early in its life.
On that important day in May 2015 when the Memorial Spire - Britain’s tallest war memorial - arrived on site on the back of low-loaders, I couldn’t be there.
We were the official video crew at the unveiling of another important memorial a mile away - the one in Lincoln that remembers inventors William Tritton, Walter Wilson and the men and munitionettes of Foster and Co, who, during WW1, created the world’s first fighting tanks.
It took a lecture in 2016 by Air Vice Marshal Paul Robinson Rtd, delivered to the Rotary Club of Lincoln, to awaken me to the breadth of the IBCC’s vision.
After Paul - a member of the IBCC management committee - paved the way, I was soon in touch with IBCC Director Nicky van der Drift and began to film the unfolding story.
I filmed 37 times at the IBCC over the major period of development and this has led to a comprehensive DVD of eight items totalling 100 minutes. The title film “The Steepest Climb” was made on a bitingly cold April day in 2018 when the £16m project was officially opened.
It refers to the uphill slog of the management and volunteers to deliver the dream of Tony Worth, the late Lord-Lieutenant of Lincolnshire. Details of the fight for funds unfolded in speeches at the opening ceremony. Tony was in the thick of that campaign, until his untimely death in the autumn of 2017.
Tony, who lost two uncles in Bomber Command, wanted a Centre that would properly remember the Command. He wanted it in Lincolnshire, from where thousands flew on wartime missions, many losing their lives in the process. The IBCC, now complete, is highly valued by visitors and surely fulfils his dream.
(In fact, according to Trip Advisor, it is the top Place to Visit in the county)
I have fond memories of meeting Tony Worth and also many WW2 veterans. It was great to meet Les Rutherford again, and to film his 100th birthday party (at the Centre). When Les‘s 50 Squadron Lancaster was shot down over Germany in 1943, he had already had one miracle escape. As a soldier in 1940, he had escaped from a beach near Dunkirk by paddling out to sea on a door!
It was wonderful to meet Harry Parkin, James Flowers, Arthur Atkinson and other veterans - and to film them when they were honoured with a visit by HRH The Earl of Wessex at the IBCC.
Dave Gilbert, whose chance involvement with Tony Worth led to his becoming Head of the Losses Database, gave us a comprehensive insight into the work he and fellow volunteers have done to provide this significant and important online resource.
Similarly, I would like to thank Professor Heather Hughes, Dan Ellin and the team and volunteers at the Digital Archive for their time, and access to some of the incredible memorabilia they have digitised and then returned to families.
I had no idea that, when I filmed at the till on the opening day, the very first customer would himself deliver me a compelling WW2 story.
It was great also to meet the Cathedral stonemasons in their workshop as they carved the Globe Sculpture that adorns the front of the Chadwick Centre.
As a filmmaker you get little glimpses of the way people live.
One fundraising lady brought a parrot to the IBCC front door on the day of the Inspire Motor Cycle Rally. On the same day a motorcyclist arrived with his dog in a basket on the pillion behind him.