Mike Oliver was born in Farnborough on 13th February 1921.
Mike was passionate about aeroplanes as a boy and his flying career started in 1940 when he joined the R.A.F. as a volunteer reserve and started his flying training in October of that year. His first active posting was to Malta flying Hurricanes; he took off from H.M.S. Ark Royal for Malta on 30th June 1941 to join 185 Squadron.
On 8th August 1941 Mike was forced to bale out of his stricken Hurricane 55 miles out to sea, qualifying him membership of the Caterpillar Club; he was very fortunate to be picked up by a Swordfish in appalling sea conditions. On 21st February 1942, whilst attacking a ME109, he was jumped by 2 other ME109s and his aircraft was hit by 4 explosive canon shells; much to the surprise of the ground crew, he managed to bring the badly damaged aircraft home but, according to the unofficial squadron diary, he was more concerned that his only decent pair of trousers were ruined by glycol than the fact that he was nearly killed!
In 1940 no. 320 (Netherlands) Squadron RAF was formed by members of the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service, who had flown from the Netherlands when it was invaded. On 12 June 1944 Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands visited Dunsfold to award medals. In all, 320 Squadron were awarded the Dutch Military Order of William four times and the Dutch Airman’s Cross, 176 times.
The Queen arrives in a fairly rare aircraft the De Havilland DH95 Flamingo. The film also shows how extensive were the dispersal areas to the South and East of Dunsfold airfield.
February 3rd 1963. Here is XP831 on the deck of HMS Ark Royal after Hawker Test Pilot Bill Bedford had completed the deck landing. This was the first ever vertical landing of a fixed wing aircraft on an aircraft carrier and the last of significant milestones in the proving the prototype’s potential. 3 months later XP831 would crash at the Paris Airshow.
It was late in a sunny warm Sunday afternoon in August 1978.
XZ450 just at start up for the first Sea Harrier flight at Dunsfold. the photo was taken by Dunsfold Photographic Dept. John Farley is in the cockpit, Trevor Davies is sitting on the ground and I’m standing with the cine camera.
Dick Poole, formerly of Dunsfold Flight Test Department
This is a curious piece of propaganda, “Train Busting Mustangs” – a Pathe newsreel. Whilst not identified this film is dated 1943 and noting the names and aircraft serials it appears to feature Mustang I’s of 400 Squadron. 400 Sqdn. had their Tomahawks replaced with Mustangs in July 1942. Whilst the gun-camera footage looks to be from a variety of different sources, some of the ground scenes look to be Dunsfold.
Two notable names are Flight Officers “Bitsy” Grant and J Morton:
MORTON, F/L John Alexander (J7451) – Distinguished Flying Cross – No.400 Squadron
Former Dunsfold Chief Test Pilot John Farley’s presentation of his story of the Harrier development from 1951 to 2015. This hour long presentation is a unique insight into the early development of the “jump jet” and the evolution of Hawker’s prototypes P.1127 to the Harrier as a military aircraft. This recording was made by the Brooklands Museum Trust in 2015.
Warbirds Magazine reports the “return home” of the crash damaged Kestrel XS694 that has been languishing in the USA for many years. But the question is – coming home to where? The Wings Museum, who bought the airframe some years ago, are based in Balcombe Sussex and don’t have space in their agricultural building that is packed with their current display artefacts. The Warbirds report skirts over the huge elephant in the room that Wings Museum have plans to build a 10,000sqm warehouse to the South of Dunsfold aerodrome as part of their ambitious plans to move their museum from Sussex to Dunsfold.
A restored Kestrel would make an excellent centre piece to this new museum, but with supporters being asked for donations to help with the restoration it begs the question: what about the money earmarked to construct the new Museum? Professional estimates indicate there will be little change out of £10m to build the museum – and that’s without factoring in the operating costs. Half of the proposed museum space is destined to be telling the Dunsfold Story but so far the Kestrel appears to be the only item in their catalogue that has any link with Dunsfold.