Were you there, when on May 30th 1982 Pope John Paul II visited Baginton Airfield in Warwickshire? Many were, and this was certainly an event like no other.
Clearly the visit of the Pope was an unprecedented occasion, and many police were drafted in from other forces to help with the operation. Plans were made to close roads, and the A46 was to be turned into a huge coach park. With the size of the visit, authorities were nervous about numbers beforehand1 and anticipated up to 750,000 people would descend on the Warwickshire countryside. As it happened, the turnout was somewhat lower than expected. This was in part due to the doubt cast on whether the Pope would actually visit owing to the crisis surrounding the Falklands2. Nonetheless, the Leamington Courier estimated that the attendance was 350,0003, and this was still more than enough people! The Courier reported how “thousands of people swarmed the vast landscape”4.
In touch with history
With such a huge volume of worshippers going to see the Pope, people had to set out early. One party of Catholics set out from midnight from Kenilworth, to walk the journey to Baginton5, and many waited overnight. The Leamington Courier reported that “when his helicopter appeared out of an azure blue sky the cheers rang round the vast arena.” In interviews with visitors, they mentioned what a great time they had, and how exciting it was to get so close to the pope. “It makes me feel in touch with history” was one comment from Veronica Cutler.6 It was clear to all that this was a unique event for Warwickshire.
Were you there?
Do you have any memories you’d like to share about the day? Were you able to get close to the Pope? Did you buy a souvenir of the day? We’d love to hear your memories, so do please either leave a comment or submit an article about your memories.
1 Leamington Courier April 2nd 1982.
2 Leamington Courier 21st May 1982.
3 Leamington Courier 4th June 1982.
4 Leamington Courier 4th June 1982.
5 Leamington Courier 28th May 1982.
6 Leamington Courier 4th June 1982.