It is officially Spring, thank GOD!!! The weather is warming up and Papow and I have already been busy planning which vintage festivals we are heading to this summer. Being massive fans of all things nautical, back in 2015 we went along to Salute to the 40s for the first time and make no mistake this is one you do not want to miss…we will definitely be returning in 2016.
The festival is held at Chatham Historic Dockyard in Kent, and last year fell over the gloriously sunny weekend of the 19th – 20th September. It was voted one of ‘Britain’s Best Vintage Festivals’ by the Daily Telegraph in 2014 and it is clear to see why. It is simply full of vintage delights and wartime activities; there is plenty to do all weekend! As we have done before, I felt it necessary to put together a quick top five things not to miss should you decide to pop along yourselves this year.
Let’s get straight to the point, Papow and I love a vintage festival for the shopping opportunities and Salute to the 40s does not disappoint. You can quite literally shop until you drop here. There are several separate shopping areas on site including “The Courtyard Vintage Fair”, “Tinker’s Alley”, “The British Family Fayre” and “The 1940s Fete”.
There is a lot on offer including vintage and replica 1940s clothing, accessories, jewellery, collectible homewares, radios, music, films, books, toys, preserves, cake, fudge, and vintage memorabilia. You can enjoy a leisurely stroll around the stalls on the grassy lawns of the vintage picnic area while soaking up the 1940s village fete vibe. Alternatively you may wish to take a break from the sunshine and pop inside where you can stop between stalls for some tea and cake or to get your make-up and victory rolls attended to at the vintage salon. Why not bag yourself a few bargains and once your shopping needs have been fulfilled, throw on some of your new purchases and join the 1940s’ re-enactors as they take part in a ‘Parade of Vintage Fashion’ across the dockyard?
2. 1940s Knees Up
2015 marked the 70th Anniversary since the end of World War II and Salute to the 40s had a particularly special party atmosphere indeed. There are three stages across the site and many performers to keep you entertained including 1940s radio shows, swing, jive and lindy boppers, various 1940s tributes bands, to the likes of Justin and the Argonauts, and The Polka Dot Dolls. The acts all re-create a celebratory 1945 street-party feel and you find yourselves having a sing song and dancing along. Papow and I took part in a dance lesson with Gypsy John and the Clinque Port Lindy Hoppers and found ourselves among a group of WWII nurses doing the Lambeth Walk…Oi!
As a self-confessed vintage aeroplane geek, the static Spitfires and Hurricanes at Salute to the 40s brought a massive smile to my face and are a sight not to be missed. However, when I realised that at this event I had the chance to sit inside an actual Supermarine Spitfire I literally went weak at the knees. What an experience this was in itself, but so close to the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, it would be an understatement to say that this meant a great deal to me. I got my five minutes inside this beautiful plane, and the lovely gentlemen from the Italian Air Museum who have restored it to its former glory told me a little about the history of this exact spitfire itself during the war. Having entered service on 5th July 1944 it was the personal aeroplane of F/Lt. Anthony Cooper and was named “Peter John III”. Together they were involved with fighter sweeps, shipping reconnaissances, low level boming and escorting bombers, gliders and, tugs. They even crash landed in Belgium towards the end of the war. Amazingly both pilot and plane returned to the UK and back to service. As if this wasn’t enough for this vintage aeroplane boff, later in the afternoon another Spitfire, the ‘Spirit of Kent’, took to the skies. As it soared overhead everyone in the dockyard stopped their shopping, singing and dancing to look up and take in this incredible plane.
There is a vast number of vintage vehices on display at Salute to the 40s. you can stop to have your photo taken with some of these, or even have a chat with their owners, however one of the highlights of the weekend has got to be the “Locomotives in Motion Coming Home Vehicle Display”. This display of various military, civilian and emergency service vehicles is breathtaking. Everybody took to the streets to catch a glimpse of these amazing trucks, jeeps, cars and bikes. The re-en-enactors aboard these vehicles only add to the 1940s atmosphere, one such troop called from his truck to commend Papow and I on our outfits which, of course, is all part of the fun!
5. Simply Enjoy Your Surroundings
Lastly, but by no means least, Chatham Historic Dockyard is such a beautiful place, that once you are there you find yourself not only taking in the atmosphere but simply enjoying your surroundings. As you stroll through the site, fans of “Call The Midwife” will instantly recognise some of the streets and buildings from the BBC show. There is then the beautiful Comissioner’s House, where you can visit the Dig for Victory garden and have a chat to the re-enactor land army girls. While we were there Papow and I took a walk around the glorious gardens of The Commisioner’s House and were instantly transported back to the 1940s as we passed beautifully dressed families enjoying a picnic in the sunshine.
Next you have HMS Cavalier, a World War II Destroyer which fires its guns to pay respect to those lost in the war. The chilling 2nd World War air raid sirens scream out every so often, followed by speeches from Winston Churchill and King Geroge VI and you find yourself reflecting on what life was really like in the 1940s back here in Britain while the troops were at war.
Wow, what a festival! As you can see, Papow and I had such a great day and we strongly encourage all you vintage lovelies to get the 17th and 18th September 2016 in your diaries now…this is one not to be missed!