Last May, the Red Arrows visited Menorca as part of the 300th anniversary celebrations of the first British Royal Navy hospital to be built overseas on the Isla del Rey. This year, Menorca has been privileged to welcome back the Red Arrows’ team to help commemorate the tercentenary of the arrival of Brigadier General Richard Kane as the first British Lieutenant Governor of Menorca in 1712.
For around 20 minutes, thousands of spectators were held spellbound, gazing upwards in admiration at the skills of these highly trained RAF pilots at the peak of flying precision excellence. At just two metres apart, this year’s seven aircraft formation led by Red 1 Jim Turner started with synchronised aerobatics, their trails of Red White and Blue vapour creating loops and shapes, including the famous heart. Then followed the more dynamic second half with the ‘Synchro Pair’ performing the traditional opposition manoeuvres for which they are renowned. There were gasps of amazement when the two aircraft crossed each other over the Isla del Rey almost appearing to touch, although in reality some 35 metres apart and reaching speeds of 660kph. With a complete view of the airspace, once again the roof of the Hotel Agamemnon in Es Castell acted as the control tower, from where ‘Red 10’ Mike Ling orchestrated and monitored the performance of the seven pilots.
To witness such a traditional British event of this quality in such a spectacular Menorcan setting for the second time will certainly leave another lasting impression on the Anglo-Menorcan community. And, one that nearly may not have happened since on leaving Menorca on route for Malta to display as part of the MaltaInternational Air Show, one aircraft experienced a minor technical problem which forced the team to divert to Italy until it was repaired.
Commemorative Events on the Isla del Rey
Following on from their amazing aerobatic demonstration, the Red Arrows attended a series of commemorative events on the Isla del Rey, including a special service in the Royal Naval Chapel of St George.
After transferring to the Isla del Rey onboard one of the Yellow Catamarans, invited guests crowded into St George’s Naval Chapel where The Very Reverend Michael Higgins OBE warmly welcomed everyone to such a significant event in the chapel’s history. He mentioned that he had affinity with a famous naval Brit in Menorca, Lord Nelson, with whom he shared the same birth county of Norfolk as well as a love of Menorca. As the service began, the Ensign of the Royal Air Force was carried in procession and placed on the altar. During the service Deborah Hellyer
After the service, in the central nave under the tower, Commodore Federico Price, British Defence Attaché to Spain, gave an introduction to the history leading to the installation of three memorial plaques to commemorate the participation by the Red Arrows in the 300th anniversary of the building of the Naval Hospital on the Isla del Rey. On his invitation, the plaques were unveiled by General Luis Alejandre, past President Fundación Hospital de la Isla del Rey, and British Honorary Consul Deborah Hellyer and sincere thanks were extended to the sponsor David Bainbridge.
The inscription in English reads: “On 25th May 2011 the famous Royal Air Force Red Arrows Aerobatic Team made a special commemorative display over the Port of Mahón to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of the first British Naval Hospital overseas built on the Isla del Rey, Minorca. This was the first visit by the Red Arrows to Minorca for which acknowledgement is due to: General Luis Alejandre Sintes, la Fundación de la Isla del Rey, Asociación Amigos de la Isla del Hospital, Real Aeroclub de Menorca, The British Defence Attaché Commodore Federico Price MBE RN, Honorary British Consul Deborah Hellyer MBE, Ian Warren, The Fellows of the Red Arrows, The friends and citizens of Minorca.”
At around 18.00 hours, the large party moved to the main quadrangle where a temporary stage had been erected for the speeches and presentations to the President of the Fundación, Hospital de la Isla del Rey, Sra Dña Isabel Espiau. These began with an introduction by HM Consul Paul Aubrey, British Consul for the Balearic Islands, following which Dr Ann Hanson presented her red leather bound book, ‘Celebrating 300 years’ A collection of memories commemorating 300 years of the Hospital on the Isla del Rey.
Referred to by Paul Abrey as ‘Ann’s Little Red Book’, the original idea had been to collate a book of signatures. However, this grew to be so much more as people wished to express how they felt about being part of such a momentous project, encapsulating all the work that has been achieved and the celebrations that took place last summer. A copy of the book was also presented to General Luis Alejandre Sintes, founder and former president of the Fundación de la Isla del Rey by Ann’s daughter and Ann thanked Deborah Hellyer as the ‘linchpin’ for bringing both last year’s and this year’s events together.
Commodore Federico Price MBE RN then thanked everyone for coming, expressing what a great pleasure it was to be on the Isla del Rey again and promising not to say too much as he expected that by now everyone was now “dying for a beer”! He pointed out that representatives of all the British military, Navy, Air Force and Army, had played a part in the celebrations of 2011 and introduced Andrew Izod Esq, retired adjutant of the Company of Pikemen & Musketeers of the Honourable Artillery Company, explaining the official role they play as personal bodyguards to the Lord Mayor of the City of London. Andrew Izod spoke of the Pikemen & Musketeers’ historic maritime link dating back to Elizabethan times, and his memories of parading on the Isla del Rey in full heavy wool military uniforms in temperatures of over 100° Fahrenheit..! He then presented six models of Pikemen & Musketeers marching in front of a model of the Isla del Rey crafted by David Nuttall in commemoration of the role played by the company in the tercentenary ceremonies of last year.
The day and location also provided the perfect opportunity for the Mayoress of Mahón Agueda Reynes to present an oil painting of the hospital’s founder Admiral John Jennings to the Fundacion, Hospital de la Isla del Rey, commissioned and given to her in July by Commodore Federico (Freddie) Price and Mrs Angela Price. This was a personal gift from the Price family to the City of Mahón and its people which Sra Dña Isabel Espiau was very pleased to accept and everyone agreed that it was most fitting that Admiral Jennings should live in the hospital in which he believed so passionately 300 years ago. The Mayoress made the presentation in Spanish and then addressed everyone and thanked the Red Arrows in English, which was greatly appreciated.
Deborah Hellyer then invited Anne Maddison to the stage to say a few words about the work of R & R Menorca and the latest fundraising activities for wounded British servicemen. Surprised, Anne was delighted to have the opportunity to thank personally the team’s youngest fundraiser 10 year old Teresa Price, daughter of Freddie and Angela Price. Teresa had raised a total of €60 in Madrid for R & R Menorca by selling freshly squeezed orange juice outside her home in Madrid, which she proudly presented to Anne. Finally, bringing the presentations to a close, Red 1 Jim Turner presented a signed photograph of the Red Arrows to Sra Dña Isabel Espiau.
Everyone was invited to the Priest’s Garden for ‘cava and cakes’ before returning to Mahón Harbour. Guests then made their way to a reception held for the Red Arrows team hosted in the Real Aeroclub de Mahón. There was a great atmosphere as the guests enjoyed drinks and tapas before the highlight of the evening, the auction of a water colour painting by local artist Graham Byfield of the Isla del Rey with the Red Arrows flying over the hospital which all the Red Arrow pilots had signed. Following a warm welcome and thanks to the Red Arrows by the Island’s President Santiago Tadeo, enthusiastic auctioneer Fernando Serrano got the bidding off to an excellent start which culminated in some lively bidding banterbetween two would-be owners, the victor being Chris Reeve of Fairline Menorca with a final bid of €1,501. As Chris said, “It is a pleasure to have been able to contribute to the Isla del Rey project and the painting is a fantastic reward for doing so.”
The auction went so well that Commodore Federico Price saw an opportunity to continue with another auction and provided a framed photograph of a RAF Hawk which was later also signed by the Red Arrow Pilots. Menorca’s youngest, most ardent fundraiser took centre stage and Teresa’s endearing and persuasive tactics secured a fantastic £500 winning bid for the print by Captain Bob Radford, which she donated to Rest & Recover Menorca.
It was then left to Commodore ‘Freddie’ Price to close the formalities, summing up the day’s events and thanking everyone involved, including one unsung hero Ian Warren who was presented with a commemorative pair of cufflinks by way of thanks in playing a major part in securing the Red Arrows’ second visit to Menorca. A commemorative tankard was presented to Col Francisco Riva Mayor, Miltiary Commander of Menorca and commemorative hip flasks to the President of the Aeroclub Jose Luis Barrero and to Air Show organiser Pablo Gonzalez. ‘Freddie’ Price finished by saying that this was his last official visit in Menorca before stepping down from his position as British Defence Attaché at the end of this year and moving onto pastures new.
Appreciation for all his efforts and dedication in supporting the Isla del Rey official commemorations were acknowledged and it was with certain sadness that everyone said goodbye to such a supportive Defence Attaché who has shown so much interest in the military history of Menorca. (see below)
Summing up the programme of events, Deborah Hellyer said that she felt the day had gone extremely well, everyone was relaxed and happy and it was a joy to see the excitement that an Air Show by the Red Arrows brings to Menorca. “We are hugely indebted to David Bainbridge and the other Fellows of the Red Arrows whose enthusiasm and determination has brought this spectacle twice to the island, as well as to all the other sponsors who have made today and the Red Arrows’ visit so memorable. In fact, Menorca is the only place in Spain where the Red Arrows have put on a display twice. I would also like to say yet again how important and gratifying it is to see British residents and non-residents pulling together to record and keep alive British history on the island of Menorca. It was a fabulous day enjoyed by everyone and another occasion to successfully solder good British-Spanish relationships and celebrate integration.”
After two such monumental days for Menorca and Great Britain two years in succession, what can we come up with for 2013….the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht perhaps…?
Two remarkable gifts: Commodore Federico Price MBE RN, his wife Angela and 10 year old daughter Teresa made a private visit to Menorca in early July with an exceptionally generous purpose. They came to make two magnificent gifts to the town of Mahón and to St George’s Naval Chapel on the Isla del Rey. On Wednesday 4 July, the Price family was welcomed to the Town Hall where they presented an original oil painting of Admiral Sir John Jennings Kt MP based on a portrait by Godfrey Kneller in 1708, to the Town and People of Mahón. The oil painting was received by the Town Hall with an understanding that the best place for its custody would be the Isla del Rey. Admiral John Jennings was the founder of the naval hospital on the island in 1711 and a very important figure in Menorca’s 18th century history. Kneller’s painting can be seen at Greenwich Hospital in London. The second gift was an old ship’s bell which the British Defence Attaché and Mrs Price had purchased and had inscribed before dedicating it to St. Georges Naval Chapel during a short service on the Isla del Rey. In true naval tradition, this bell is to be used as a baptism font with the names of those children baptised in the Chapel inscribed inside the bell.