Category: History

Harrier Story – Presentation by John Farley

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.

Video Copyright Brooklands Museum Trust ©2015 (digitally remastered 2020)

Video Copyright Brooklands Museum Trust ©2015 (digitally remastered 2020) The original slightly longer video is here.

The Harrier story – transcript of 2015 presentation

Now the Harrier story goes back to 1951 and the meeting at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. Now 1951 is a long time ago. I mean that’s 64 years, isn’t it? And to try and get ourselves in the sort of mindset to thinking how long ago that was. It was two years later that our queen came to the throne. It was two years before Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing wandered up Everest and it was two years before the Supreme allied commander in Europe, Dwight Eisenhower now became president of the United States. That’s a long time ago. It’s also one year after I started my engineering apprenticeship at the Royal aircraft establishment. Now in those days, the main gate looked like that. And in the evening, this is the sort of thing you saw, people went to work on their feet in buses or on bikes. There were very, very few cars and indeed the number of bike sheds that Farnborough was astonishing. 

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Napier-Railton parachute test vehicle

In 1951 the Napier-Railton was purchased by the GQ Parachute Company of Woking to test aircraft parachutes at Dunsfold airfield. GQ had the car modified with the addition of specially made disk brakes and fitted with test equipment capable of deploying an aircraft braking parachute at high speed, and then retracting the parachute when the speed had dropped to about 30 knots. The car was normally driven by Sir Geoffrey Quilter but also other members of the company. When the testing work had been completed, the car was sold on to be raced in VSCC meetings.

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Crash at Shackleford Heath, Mitchell 30th Aug. 1944

Shackleford Heath, Mitchell crash, 16:45 hrs, 30th Aug.1944

Compiled by Frank Phillipson

16:45 hrs, 30th August 1944

North American Mitchell II, FW268, EV-O, (a 180 Squadron aircraft).

Shackleford Heath (Opp. Cyder House PH(?), Pepperharrow Ln., Shackleford.

Hit trees on an air test and flew into ground.

Crew:

Lieut. Cees Waardenburg DFC (Pilot) Royal Dutch Naval Air Service, 320 (Dutch) Squadron (?)(flying with 98 Squadron), Aged 23 killed. Originally buried at Rudgwick – 1964 moved to Dutch section of Mill Hill Cemetery, London

Flying Officer (Air Gunner) Henry George Payne, 139 Wing, 180 Sqdn., RAF, Age 27, killed. Buried at Rudgwick.

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Mitchell Crash 30.8.44 Shackleford, ORB 180 Sqdn..jpg Continue reading

Grade II Listing for VTO Pads and Engine Running Pens

Engine running pens and VTO blast grid at Dunsfold Airfield, Cranleigh, Surrey – Awarded Listed Building Status

The latest news from Historic England is published here:

Following the application to add the above building to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, we have now considered all the representations made and completed our assessment of the building. Having considered our recommendation, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has decided to add the Engine running pens and VTO blast grid at Dunsfold Airfield to the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. They are now listed at Grade II.

VTO Tethering Pad during the early development tests of vertical take off and landing

Engine running pens

Please click on the link below to download a copy of Historic England’s advice report, which gives the principal reasons for this decision. The List entry for this building, together with a map, has now been published on the National Heritage List for England, and will be available for public access from tomorrow. This List can be accessed through the Historic England website.

http://services.historicengland.org.uk/webfiles/GetFiles.aspx?av=57C7E905-875A-49E1-A270-FFAC5B70BDE6&cn=06233F8A-F95E-43A7-81CC-09EBF700A043

The local planning authority will now be preparing the statutory notices required under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.

DAHS Editor’s note:  This brings the total of Listed Structures on the Airfield site to 5:

Primemeads Farm – Grade II

VTO Blast Pads – Grade II

Engine Running Pens – Grade II

Royal Observer Corps Monitoring Post – Grade II

Canadian War Memorial – Grade II

Crash of two RAF B-25’s at “Pallinghurst” Rudgwick 7th Jan. 1944

Collision and crash of two RAF North American Mitchell II bombers at “Pallinghurst” (now the Japanese Rikkyo School, approx. 2.5 miles south-east of Dunsfold airfield), Guildford Rd, Rudgwick on 7th January 1944. (2nd Revision Dec.2018)

Compiled by Frank Phillipson with Acknowledgement to Rudgwick Preservation Soc.

Jan. 7th 13.35 hrs. North American Mitchell II, FR396, Code letter ‘K’ pilot Flying Officer (F/O) Fooks of 180 Squadron collided over Rudgwick, West Sussex with Mitchell II, FL682, Code letter ‘N’ pilot Warrant Officer (W/O) Riordan of 98 Squadron. This occurred as they approached RAF Dunsfold in two separate 6 aircraft box formations in poor weather. They were returning having just bombed targets in Occupied France: –

180 Squadron on Primary Target a V1construction site at “XI/A/93, La Sorellerie II” (No.16 Château du Pannelier, Brix)at 12:58hrs from 12,000ft and

98 Squadron on Alternative Target (because of cloud over the Primary) a V1construction site at XI/A/41,Mesnil Au Val”(No.18 L’Orion) at 12:55hrs from 12,000ft.

Crew members of both aircraft were all killed.

Aircraft ‘FR396/K(Fooks) of 180 Squadron and ‘FL682/N‘ (Riordan) of 98 Squadron were not noted as having or not having dropped their bomb load. Aircraft ‘B’ and ‘X’ of 180 Sqdn. and aircraft ‘V’‘P’‘S’‘U’ and ‘X’ of 98 Sqdn. did not bomb due to cloud cover obscuring the targets. Each aircraft carried 8 x 500lb Medium Capacity bombs. Therefore more aircraft of 98 Squadron (5) failed to drop their bombs than those of 180 Squadron (2).

An account of excavation of the two crash sites carried out in the 1990’s records that: – “Pieces (were) recovered from the area of what had been the orchard on the edge of the (lower) football pitch. This aircraft must have come down flat as it did not penetrate the ground to any depth, (and we) thought it had burnt on the surface. The other aircraft dived into the ground in front (north east) of the building (stables),(in the) area of the big bush (rhododendron), but (we) didn’t investigate as area had been landscaped”.

One Mitchell ‘FL682/N‘ (Riordan) of 98 Squadron crashed in a fairly flat manner and burst into flames 200 yds south-east of “Pallinghurst” in an orchard. If still bombed up, its bombs may have fallen out as the aircraft descended and landed in a nearby field where they either

exploded or were defused. Otherwise they may have been retained within the aircraft and as

there was seemingly no explosion with this aircraft when it hit the ground, were defused by RAF bomb disposal team after the crash.

The other Mitchell ‘FR396/K(Fooks) of 180 Squadron dived straight into the ground 200 yds north-east of “Pallinghurst” on the County Boundary near the stables. The aircraft had probably not dropped its bomb load due to cloud cover obscuring the target. One or more bombs exploded, either when the aircraft hit the ground or fell out and exploded nearby as the aircraft descended. Other unexploded bombs were defused.

Witness: – Emily Harwood (nee Covey) b.1923, daughter of the Gamekeeper (Ernest Covey) to the Pallinghurst Estate, owned by Ernest and Katharine MacAndrew.

“One day I shall never forget (7th January 1944) Mitchell bombers were returning to Dunsfold on an operational flight, but, unable to find the target had bombs on board. Two collided over Pallinghurst, one crashing in front (actually behind and south-east) of Pallinghurst House, the other one by the stables. The bombs fell out of the plane and landed in a field close to my father. He fell behind a tree which took most of the blast. Mr MacAndrew’s daughter [Kitty (Katherine Flora Lund)] was blown into the pond and received a cut on her leg, but all the airmen died. A few years later, when we were settling down once again, Mr MacAndrews decided to plant some rhododendrons near where the plane had crashed. My brother, now home from the RAF, was the Head Gardener, and he and the other gardeners planted them”.

Witness: – Mel Reynolds, (a 5 year old boy), standing at a Tismans Common (¾ mile to the south-east) with a group of 3 other children. He was told, at the time, that the aircraft were returning from a raid on the German Forces in France and one of the aircraft had been badly damaged. Two other aircraft were in close formation with it escorting it back to Dunsfold. Just before streaming in for the landing at Dunsfold he vividly recalls seeing the damaged aircraft dip and touch wings with one of the others and then one went one way and the other went the other both spiralling down out of control. He saw one aircraft crash followed by a very large explosion which he said shook the ground. (Both the aircraft were in two separate six aircraft box formations and were not escorting any damaged aircraft: – 180 Sqdn. ORB “Aircraft FR396 was returning from an operation flying in box of six aircraft when it collided with Mitchell FL682 of No.98 Sqdn. in another formation. Both aircraft crashed, FR396 diving straight into the ground”).

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\AHB Letter re Map Ref. for Mitchell at Pallinghurst.JPG

Above: – MoD Air Historical Branch letter identifying a crewman from FL682 at stables crash site. However, subsequent investigation seems to show that the map reference to the stables site (499532) seems to have been used in reference to both aircraft. C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\3rd Map Revision for 2nd Revision Crash location of 2 RAF MItchell bombers at Pallinghurst 7th Jan 1944 (2).JPG

Above: – Hambledon ARP Log.

Above: – Situation Report SE Regional Civil Defence Area. 8 bodies recovered.

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Above: – 98 Squadron Operational Record Book, Summary of Events.

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Above: – 180 Squadron Operational Record Book, Summary of Events.

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Above: – 98 Sqdn. Operational Record Book, Record of Events 7/1/44.

Transcript of 98 Sqdn. ORB, 7/1/44.

Operations on La Sorellerie II. Alternative – Mesnil Au Val which was attacked by F/L. Wilson’s box. A/c “N” of 98 Sqdn was in collision with a/c “K” of 180 Sqdn on return from the raid and crashed 3 miles S. of base. All of crews killed.

C:\Users\Frank\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.Word\Station Orders 98 Sqdn 7.1.44.jpg

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\ORB and CD Logs\Station Orders 98 Sqdn 7.1.44. b .JPG

Above: – Station (RAF Dunsfold) Summary of Events 7/1/44.

C:\Users\Frank\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.Word\West Sussex County Council Action Minute Book 7th Jan. 1944 - Copy.jpg

Above: – West Sussex County Council Action Minute BookChichester 7 Jan 1944

Transcript: –

13.45 RUDGWICK 2 planes crashed at approx 13.35 hrs. Bomb or bombs exploded as a result. Region notified at 13.48.

14.40 RUDGWICK One plane crashed at Pallinghurst Map Ref. 499-531. Fire. N.F.S. on spot (National Fire Service). Some bombs exploded, others unexploded. One slight civilian casualty S.C. (Sitting Cases) car dispatched.

15.18 RUDGWICK 2 Mitchells from Dunsfold Aerodrome crashed at Pallinghurst at 13.35. One crashed 200 yds NE of the house right on the County boundary, the other 200 yds S of the house (actually SE of house). One bomb exploded after crash. 4 UXBs [unexploded bombs] found and dealt with by RAF. 3 bombs not found. 4 bodies from one plane found. Damage to stables, cottages and Pallinghurst House. Region notified at 15.25.

16.15 RUDGWICK All bombs now detonated. Total bodies found 5.

Region notified 16.20.

16.30 RUDGWICK Nothing further to report. Incident closed.

Aircraft Accident Report cards for Mitchells FR396 and FL682

The Aircraft Accident Report cards courtesy of the RAF Museum for both Mitchell FR396 and FL682 contain a brief description of what happened and the conclusions of the Court of Inquiry (CoI). The salient details of the crash are roughly transcribed here: –

Mitchell II, FR396, Code letter ‘K’, pilot F/O Fooks, 180 Squadron.

Flight time: – 1hr. 45mins. Accident time: – 13:33.

F/O Fooks: – Total Flying Hours: – 520. Total Flying Hours on Type: – 222.

In formation collided with Mitchell of other formation.

Pilot following leader (of “Blue” box formation) – leader PCM (?).

If gunners had left microphone on, warning could have prevented accident.

Leader did not follow plan. Broke away too early.

CoI Recommendation: – Stricter control of a/c near drome.

Orders given for gunners to leave microphone on.

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\Aircraft Accident Card FR396 Fooks 180 Sdn. 01.JPG

Above and below, Aircraft Accident Report cards for Mitchell II, FR396, Code letter ‘K’, pilot F/O Fooks, 180 Squadron.

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\Aircraft Accident Card FR396 Fooks 180 Sdn. 02.JPG

Mitchell II, FL682, Code letter ‘N’, pilot W/O Riordan, 98 Squadron.

Flight time: – 1hr. 28mins. Accident time: – 13:33.

W/O Riordan: – Total Flying Hours: – 245. Total Flying Hours on Type: – 90.

Collided with A/C of other formation.

A/C caught fire in the air after collision.

Pilot beyond criticism as in formation with leader.

Leader of “Blue” box formation (180 Squadron) did not conform to tactical plan as he didn’t apparently fully understand it, and so broke away too early.

Orders that gunners leave microphone ‘on’.

Had this been done warning might have been given in time to avert accident.

Steps have been taken to exercise stricter control over a/c flying in the vicinity of dromes.

It would seem that with Riordan’s aircraft FL682, which caught fire in the air, is the most likely candidate to be the aircraft that crashed in a fairly flat manner and burst into flames 200 yds south-east of “Pallinghurst” in an orchard. If so, then Fooks’ aircraft FR396 is likely to be the one that dived straight into the ground 200 yds north-east of “Pallinghurst” on the County Boundary near the stables.

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\Aircraft Accident Card FL682 Riordan of 98 Sqdn 01.JPG

Above and below, Aircraft Accident Report cards for Mitchell II, FL682, Code letter ‘N’, pilot W/O Riordan, 98 Squadron.

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Crew of Mitchell FR396 of 180 Squadron

Flying Officer Ernest Fooks, pilot, 32, from New Zealand, Buried at Brookwood

Pilot Officer Leonard Taylor, navigator, 24, from and Buried in Birmingham.

Flight Sergeant Charles Forsyth, wireless op/gnr, 23, from Peacehaven, Buried Newhaven.

Flight Sergeant George Ormandy, gunner, 20, from and Buried in Beckenham.

Crew of Mitchell FL682 of 98 Squadron

Warrant Officer Terence Riordan, pilot, 22, from Abergavenny, Buried at Brookwood.

Flight Sergeant Douglas Morris, navigator, 23, from and Buried in Abergavenny.

Flight Sergeant Stanley Norton, wireless op. /gnr, 22, from and Buried in Lincoln.

Flight Sergeant William Cross, gunner, 22, from and Buried in Preston.


Flg. Off. Ernest Berjeu FOOKS, Pilot, from New Zealand, (Mitchell FR396 of 180 Sqdn).

Buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery 2. B. 1, Service Number 146328, Died 07/01/1944, Aged 32, 180 Sqdn. RAF Volunteer Reserve, Son of Alfred Augustus and of Adele Catherine Fooks, of Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand. Brother P/O Harry Gordon Compton Fooks RNZAF killed on 21/7/1941 in crash at Marcham, nr. Abingdon, Berkshire on training flight in Armstrong Whitworth Whitley V, N1527, with No.10 OTU at RAF Abingdon.

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\Ernest Berjeu Fooks 306183 - Copy.jpg C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\Fooks Brookwood.JPG

Plt. Off. Leonard Augustus TAYLOR Navigator (Mitchell FR396 of 180 Squadron). Buried Brandwood End Cemetery, Birmingham. Service Number 168632, Died 07/01/1944, Aged 24, Son of William and May Taylor, of Small Heath, Birmingham.


Flt. Sgt. Charles Henry FORSYTH W/Op.AG (Mitchell FR396 of 180 Squadron).

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Killed while returning on his 30th Operational Flight (the last of a Tour of 30 flights).


Flt. Sgt. George ORMANDY, Air Gunner, (Mitchell FR396 of 180 Squadron).

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\Mitchell FR396, 180 Sqdn. N of House and ADAM\George Ormandy 01.JPG

Warrant Off., Terence RIORDAN, Pilot (Mitchell FL682 of 98 Squadron)

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Flight Sergeant Douglas MORRIS, Navigator, (Mitchell FL682 of 98 Squadron).


Flt. Sgt. Stanley Charles NORTON, Wireless Op/Air Gnr, (Mitchell FL682 of 98 Sqdn).

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\Details of Crews\Crew of FL682 of 98 Squadron\Flt Sgt Stanley Charles NORTON.JPG


Flt.Sgt. William James CROSS, Air Gunner, (Mitchell FL682 of 98 Squadron)

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\Details of Crews\Crew of FL682 of 98 Squadron\CROSS, Sgt. Air Gunner.jpgC:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\Flt. Sgt. Air Gnr. Wm. Cross, 98 Sqdn, Died 7th Jan. 1944, aged 22. Son of Wm. and Nancy Cross, of Ribbleton..JPG

Photo of Flt. Sgt. William Cross – Courtesy Arthur Burns.

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\Details of Crews\Crew of FL682 of 98 Squadron\!cid_2BA2C171-0C36-4DA9-9785-E01701C9AEF8.jpg

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\Mitchell FL682, 98 Sqdn. Nr Stables\Crew of FL682.JPG

Crew of Mitchell FL682 of 98 Squadron.


“Pallinghurst” (shown below in 1930 from the air) looking north east, had a very productive garden and orchard (to the right, with the timber-framed Garden House, where the head gardener lived, and (white) glasshouses for peaches and grapes as well as bedding plants and flowers, in line with the other buildings. The park landscape and avenue to the main road are shown clearly, as is the foreground planting that keeps the view from the house open to the southerly view.

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\Photos of House\Pallinghurst 1930 - Copy.png

On the left is the tennis court. The stables on the right would have been home to a dozen or so hunters. The lodge, just visible in the background was home to the head chauffeur. Some oak trees visible at the top of the drive were ‘county oaks’ marking the boundary, thought not to be there now. To the left, just off the picture was the wild garden, woodland managed for attractive walks along the rides.

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\Aerial Photos of Pallinghurst HEngland\Pallinghurst aerial photo 10th April 1947.jpg

V1 Construction sites Target Information

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\V1 Target Photos\La Sorellerie II 11.A.93, No.16 Chateau du Pannelier, Brix. Highlight..JPG

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\V1 Target Photos\No.18 L'Orion, Mesnil-Au-Val. (XI.A.41) 001 - Corrected.JPG

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\V1 Target Photos\V1 Sites Normandy Map - Copy.JPG

C:\Users\Frank\Pictures\z011 Dunsfold Airfield and crashes and incidents thereon\Pallinghurst House\V1 Target Photos\V1 Noball Targets Normandy.JPG

 

Update September 2019:

A memorial stone has been unveiled near the site of the crash:

https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/horror-dunsfold-story-how-two-16956700

Mystery Mitchell Crash Summer 1944

Bill Allom has asked for some more information on a number of incidents at Dunsfold during 1944 that don’t appear in our limited records.  Bills father was stationed at Dunsfold with 180 Sqdn.

1 – The first is about a Mitchell FL 217 that crashed on landing on 20/6/1944. Bill states: I think this date is correct my ORB copy is poor and hard to read”

2 – The second query:   Bill says:  ” My father returned on a mission with the hydraulics shot out. While the ORB does not indicate the plane crashed on landing it appears to never fly again.   This occurred on 24/7/1944 in Mitchell FW 185.  Dad records 40 hits a/c badly holed, hydraulics shot up. Could the undercarriage still be lowered with damaged hydraulics?   I am unable to confirm if this aircraft returned to service or was written off.  I hope you can help solve these mysteries.”

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Crewman’s story of flying B25’s from Dunsfold

The following story was written by my father, Ray Mitchell, in 1995, for the newsletter of 139 Wing Association. 1995 was the 50th anniversary of VE Day, and also my parents 50th wedding anniversary. Called up in 1942, Ray had met my mother whilst working in the Air Ministry. He courted her throughout the rest of the war, until marriage in June 1945, a month after D-day. Final de-mob, and my arrival, came in 1946!     2005 will be their diamond-wedding anniversary.    139 Wing Association has now disbanded; living memory of WW2 will soon pass into history and be left to historians and others to argue about. It is important that those who were there tell their story.
Fraser Mitchell – eldest son.
———————————————–
“Its May 1995, and I am lying in bed, thinking of all the urgent tasks to be performed that day, such as pruning roses, and suddenly remembering where I was fifty years ago.   Yes, its near VE Day, and I am suddenly Corporal Ray Mitchell – Radio Technician, working on those lean and hungry-looking B25 Mitchells at Achmer airbase, Germany.

I came to 180 Squadron at Dunsfold in mid-1944 after a rather soporific career in Training Command working on ancient Oxfords, and clapped-out Blenheims, installing and servicing, believe it or not, battery operated transmitter/receivers run on 120 volt batteries and 6 volt accumulators. Anyone going on leave with a ‘sparks’ badge on their uniform were always being stopped by RAF police in their search for disappearing HT batteries; there was a shortage everywhere in wartime.    Training command were always short of airfields and were constantly sending flights of aircraft around the country to odd and empty airfields so that trainee pilots could get the hours in. Ground crews followed and from main base at Grantham I was shuttled around Harlaxton, Bottesford, Balderton, Woodvale, and finally Hawarden (near Chester) where suddenly the Orderly Room announced ‘You’re posted, chum’.

To Dunsfold and 139 Wing, my first posting to a REAL Air Force; where there was pressure and tension in the air; where everything had to work 100% first time; where Form 700 was taken very seriously!    Where those B25s with their bobbing noses on tricycle undercarriages would chase you along the perimeter track if your servicing truck dawdled at 40 mph. There was no ‘scrounging’ here, everyone knew that they were an integral part of the fighting machine.  Dunsfold was a noisy place in those days. With Wright Cyclone engines and two to three ops a day, and thirty-six plus Mitchells taking off there was always urgency in the air.

ROYAL AIR FORCE: FIGHTER COMMAND, TACTICAL AIR FORCE, 1943. (CH 11040) North American Mitchell Mark IIs (FL707 ‘EV-Z’ nearest) of No. 180 Squadron RAF, taxiing along the perimeter track at Dunsford, Surrey, for take off on a cross-Channel bombing sortie in support of Operation STARKEY. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210444

D-day approaches; we are now all in tents scattered in the woods around the base. On the ‘Day’, maximum effort puts 9 boxes of 6 aircraft into the air several times. The effort continues month after month, many of us are taught to drive and a few months later we are on our way to Ostend and Brussels. To Zaventum Airbase (now Brussels Airport), and that old convent, a welcoming population and a winter of ops, opera in the Theatre Monnaie, and Pouishnoff playing Chopin one evening.

So many memories; they come flooding back. The day the Luftwaffe strafed the airfield, fortunately after our aircraft had got airborne. And the days in Spring 1945, when the war seemed won. But not quite. Flying bombs started to fall around us. A lone Luftwaffe jet suddenly drops a bomb on a dispersal – an instrument mechanic working alone is dead. I had been working on a radio in that very dispersal shortly before.   And now it is April, and in a final push, 139 Wing Mitchells are moved up into Germany to help finish the war, to Achmer near Osnabruck. I flew up with the advance ground crew party.
Memories again. We bank over the Achmer airbase. I hear the pilot say “how the HELL can we land there”. We orbited a few times. Down below was a lunar landscape of thousands of overlapping craters; all neatly inside the airfield boundaries. Precision bombing on a vast scale; it must have been the Yanks ! Many craters had, however, been filled in despite appearances from the air, and after a very bumpy landing we unloaded our tents and kit. Next day a large party of German civilians approach us. Our first glimpse of the “enemy”. We are worried. We put our clips into our Sten guns, but no problem. They are the civilian staff of the airbase, and expect to be taken on by the ‘new management’, which they are. First job, digging latrines. Second job, hairdresser.

North American Mitchell II of No.180 Squadron, Rickard, J (2 October 2008), http://www.historyofwar.org/Pictures/pictures_mitchell_II_180_sqn.html

Memories Fade. Did 139 Wing carry out real ops from Achmer ? It seems that only a few days after arriving there, VE Day was announced. Where’s that photo I had of us all in front of a B25? And the one of the floods after torrential rain?

VE Day and now what? No more bombing, nothing more to “do”. Achmer soon reverts to peacetime. Almost a holiday camp now! Swimming in the Ems-Weser Canal; the Malcolm Club, sunbathing, sightseeing flights over the Ruhr to see the bomb damage, leave in Brussels – and leave back home to marry a lovely London Scottish girl. Our Golden Wedding and VE Day anniversary go together.

And finally! Worries about being transferred to the Far East are over after Hiroshima. (“If only we’d had one to drop” we all agreed, we would have been home sooner.) But the Americans want their B25s back; 139 Wing is converting to Mosquitoes. Fewer ground staff will be needed, demob is in the air and so we all return to Zaventum for dispersal. Old friends and colleagues are disappearing in all directions; 139 Wing is downsizing fast
And soon I find myself alone walking into Polebrook, a silent airbase near Norman Cross on the Great North Road, and as I go into the Airmen’s Mess for the first time, American 8th Air Force notices, signs, and insignia are everywhere. I go up to the Servery. On either side are large grey boards bearing, in proud white lettering, dates and places of bombing targets of long departed Flying Fortresses. What catches my eye is of course, the lettering “Achmer” and again “Achmer” amongst the dozens of other target names.
So now I know from where those American precision bombers of Achmer had flown. What could we British and Dutch in 139 Wing have done without them? They had provided us with those superb B25s and then took the trouble to get the Luftwaffe out of Achmer for us. This is the reason why I am still pretty pro-American, and why I have made a friend and twice visited a certain Bob Maker in Idaho, who as a captain in the US Army Air Corps, navigated and piloted B25s and other aircraft in the Pacific. But that is another story”…..
Note: –
139 Wing comprised RAF 98 and 180 Squadrons, and Royal Dutch Navy 320 Squadron. It was part of 2nd Tactical Airforce (RAF), tasked with supporting Allied troops prior to, and after 6th June 1944

Originally published: ‘WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar’

 

Top Gear

The real history of the Top Gear Track

  • 1938

The BBC Top Gear track has been laid out on the main runway of the former WWII RAF and RCAF air base.   The perimeter roads used for Gambon and the finish line were laid over the route of original B-Roads that were ripped up when the airfield was constructed in 1941.  One cottage, Broadmead, was situated where the TopGear FollowThrough is now, but the cottage was lifted whole and winched half a mile on rollers to the otherside of the airfield.

Broadmead cottage original location in 1942 now at FollowThrough of Top Gear track

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Spitfire Bridge

The Spitfire Bridge carried the A31 (now B3404) Alresford Road over the A33 Winchester Bypass in Hampshire. It was constructed in the immediate prewar period, and opened in 1940 with the rest of the bypass. It was a concrete parabolic arch bridge.

19 October 1941: P/O George Rogers of 400 Squadron, in a Curtiss Tomahawk flew beneath the bridge, but had to take evasive action after meeting an oncoming HGV. The pilot clipped the bridge and lost 3ft of his plane to it, causing him to later crash at Odiham while landing. He walked away with only minor injuries.

The “Spitfire” Tomahawk in 400 Sqn. colours. Image from http://www.deviantart.com/art/Tomahawk-Mk-I-AH781-400-Sqn-RCAF-Odiham-Hampshire-554605147

Spitfire (Tomahawk) Bridge to the East of Winchester in 1940

The story soon spread through the local area, but it wasn’t clear what plane it was. It was generally assumed that only a Spitfire would attempt to do such a thing, so the name ‘Spitfire Bridge’ stuck.

In 1983 the bridge was demolished as part of the upgrading of the Winchester Bypass to M3, being replaced by a single-span concrete bridge. The cutting it crossed was widened to house the motorway and parallel A272, which was named ‘Spitfire Link’ in its honour, and the nearby A31 junction is known as ‘Spitfire Roundabout’.

Spitfire Bridge replacement in 2016

 

Records of RCAF aircraft crashes at Dunsfold in 1943-45

Canadian aircraft crashes at Dunsfold Aerodrome

In 1943, Tom Gold, Hermann Bondi and Fred Hoyle were living in a cottage on the edge of Dunsfold Aerodrome. Later, Tom Gold wrote:

“As the preparations for the invasion of France were proceeding, the French Channel coast was of course under almost constant bombardment by our airplanes. One such striking force was a Canadian contingent who flew these bombing missions early every morning, mostly with chemically timed bombs that could not be disarmed in any way. An acid inside was just going to eat its way through a diaphragm and when it did, the bomb would explode. Nothing you could do from the outside would stop it; the most sophisticated bomb disposal squad could do nothing with it, even if it knew all the details of its design.

The trouble for us was that this Canadian contingent was operating from an airfield adjacent to the house in which Bondi and I, and Hoyle some of the time, were living. In fact, it was our house that was the first object the heavily laden planes had to clear on take off. When we had rented the house, we did not know of this particular drawback, but now we were stuck with it. After a while of being awakened by twenty planes in succession just clearing the rooftop at 4:30 a.m., we got quite used to this, and could sleep through it.

But then one morning I woke up in a state of shock – there had evidently been a very nearby and very violent explosion. I must have been sleeping with my mouth wide open, for a large chunk of the plaster from the ceiling had fallen into it. As I was spitting it out, my bedroom door opened, and Fred Hoyle, who was staying there at the time, stuck his head in and said ‘Did you hear that!’ I said, ‘what do you mean, did I hear that? The house nearly collapsed!’ He said, ‘I know, but I heard, about twenty minutes ago, all the planes taking off except for one, where I heard the take off noise just suddenly stop, and then nothing more. So,’ he said, ‘I went back to sleep, and then came this noise, which of course, woke me up.’ I said to him, ‘How can you be so stupid, to go back to sleep, when clearly what must have happened was that the plane failed to take off, caught fire, and its bombs exploded?’ He said, ‘Well, of course, I know that now, but I couldn’t have done anything about it anyway’.

We later learned, of course, that this is exactly what happened. The crew had been able to save themselves, but the burning wreck eventually exploded its bomb load. It was only a hundred yards from our house.”

Burbidge (2003: pp218-219)

Editor’s note: Tom Gold, Hermann Bondi and Fred Hoyle had moved to this farmhouse in July 1943.  They were working for ASE (Admiralty Signals Establishment at nearby Witley) Hoyle was director of Section XRC8. They were working on RADAR theory.   In the 1950’s Gold, Bondi, and Hoyle were to become famous for their Steady-State of the Universe Theory.

Fred Hoyle (1915-2011, FRS 1957),

Thomas (Tommy) Gold (1920-2004, FRS 1964),

Hermann Bondi (1919-2005, FRS 1959)


Records of RCAF aircraft crashing at Dunsfold in 1943- 45

Below is a list of aircraft crashes on the Aerodrome. More planes crashed in the vicinity.
18 January 1943: A Curtiss Tomahawk Iib of 430 Squadron RCAF blew a tyre on take-off and crashed. 109

21 January 1943: A Curtiss Tomahawk Iia of 430 Squadron RCAF crashed after forced landing due to mid-air engine failure.110

14 February 1943: A North American Mustang 1 of 430 Squadron RCAF aircraft flew too low and hit trees, crashing 111

28 February 1943: A Curtiss Tomahawk Iia of 430 Squadron RCAF aircraft force landed after engine failure and crashed. 112

19th March 1943 – damaged aircraft

23rd December 1943 – aircraft crash near Dunsfold

1944:

21 February 1944: A Handley Page Halifax III of 78 Squadron RAF crashed on landing at Dunsfold. 113

24th March 1944 – Lancaster crash landed

5th May 1944 aircraft crashed at Old Rickhurst

21 May 1944: an Avro Lancaster III of 156 Squadron RAF crash landed and caught fire after damage over Duisberg.114

12 July 1944: a North American Mitchell II of 98 Squadron RAF crashed on take off. 115 13 July 1944: An aircraft of 613 Squadron RAF crashed.116

13th July 1944 – aircraft crashed 613 Squadron

 8 September 1944: A North American Mitchell II of 98 Squadron RAF carrying bombs and exploded on touchdown, killing all the crew and badly damaging the runway. 117

14th September 1944 – Mitchell 180 Squadron crashed

1945:

9th February 1945 – Hawker Typhoon crashed pilot killed

17th April 1945 – Hawker Typhoon broke in half

19th April 1945 – Hawker Tempest crashed

14th June 1945 – Hawker Typhoon dived vertically into the ground on the bank of the Wey & Arun Canal

Source: Surrey County Council Monument Full Report ref, SHER 350/16 Dunsfold HER Monuments (5 December 2016).


109 SMR No 17145 – MSE17145; McCue, 1991: p39 (Includes photo). 110 SMR No 17148 – MSE17148; McCue, 1991: p39.
111 SMR No 17151 – MSE17151; McCue, 1991: p44
112 SMR No 17153 – MSE17153; McCue, 1991: p45
113 SMR No 17191 – MSE17191.
114 SMR No 17202 – MSE17202.
115 SMR No 17208 – MSE17208.
116 SMR No 17209 – MSE17209.
117 SMR No 17215 – MSE17215, Ashworth, 1985: p83; McCue, 1991: p161-163.

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