W Bro Len Thorne, P51 Mustang pilot and Past Master of Ipsley Lodge No 6491 is now featured in the newly refurbished American Air Museum (AAM) at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. W Bro Len, who passed to the Grand Lodge above in 2008, has previously been featured in Freemasonry Today (Episode 26, Summer 2014), when his son in law W Bro Barry Griffin, also a past master of Ipsley Lodge, provided details of Len’s wartime exploits as a fighter pilot and test pilot. This article also featured his post war experience of finding a fellow pilot he had seen shot down and assumed was dead. They were both Freemasons and met again through a mutual friend at a Masonic Widows club having lived for most of their lives within 8 miles of each other.
W Bro Barry Griffin recently received the following email from the Imperial War Museum at Duxford:
“We are considering using Len as one of the ‘P-51 people’ in the American Air Museum (AAM), when we introduce a new display focused on the Mustang. This will be part of the third major redevelopment of the AAM scheduled for 2015-16, when we will again empty the building completely, & recreate it mostly with existing aircraft but with new or enhanced displays around them. To this end, we need a physical item as the focus for Len’s potential display case, ideally a uniform or flying jacket, but otherwise a substantial alternative item of personal memorabilia. This would be in addition to his Log Book. We wonder, therefore, if you still possess any such suitable item within your family network?”
Barry had Len’s Service dress jacket and hat, his flying helmet and parachute bag plus his Commissioning Certificate signed by King George VI. The Imperial War Museum already had his Pilot’s Logbook, which had been willed to them.
The museum decided that they would use Len as one of the very few English pilots included and these objects were to be used in the display which features Len as one of two pilots who flew the P51. Len had tested the Mustang prior to its acceptance as a front-line fighter and was instrumental in convincing the American manufacturers to put in a Rolls Royce engine. As part of the display six segments of a video made by Len for the Imperial War Museum in 1999 have been used. The other pilot is an American, Huie Lamb, who flew the plane in combat.
On Friday 18th March 2016 W Bro Barry, his wife and son were invited to the official reopening of the American Air Museum at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford for families of featured airmen and other contributors. The day before, on Thursday 17th March the Grand reopening had been held, with HRH Duke of Kent, the Most Worshipful Grand Master presiding.
Barry commented, “We were very proud to see my wife’s father on permanent display in this prestigious museum. W.Bro. Len Initiated me into Freemasonry in October 1972 and Exalted me into Royal Arch in 1982. It is good to know that an English Freemason is part of this great exhibition.”