Donald Riches, was a Squadron Leader in the RAF. He was posted to Singapore in the early 60’s and subsequently to Devon and then Norway.
In August 1968, Don Riches completed his posting with the Norwegian Air Force 336 SKV at Rygge and took up his new posting at Dunsfold with Hawker Siddeley as Squadron Leader on secondment from the RAF due to the belief that both the Navy and Air Force would be purchasing Harriers and Sea Harriers in the future. After a couple of years, he was asked by Hawker Siddeley if he wanted to give up his RAF career and continue as a test pilot for them.
Don was test flying the Harrier and the Hawk. He flew at the Paris and Farnborough airshows. His contemporaries at his time at Dunsfold were Andy Jones, John Farley, Dick Whittington, Jim Hawkins and Duncan Simpson.
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!
Crash at Blacknest Farm, Dunsfold of Mitchell II, Ser. No.FW264, of 180 Squadron on 6th October 1944 at 10:21hrs.
Compiled by Frank Phillipson.
At 10:00 on 6th October 1944, twelve Mitchell II bombers of 180 Squadron took off from their airfield at RAF Dunsfold to attack a petrol, oil and lubricant dump west of Amersfoort, Holland. As the aircraft climbed away from the airfield two of them collided in cloud with Mitchell FW264 crashing and killing all on board at Blacknest Farm, Chiddingfold Road, Dunsfold. The aircraft was burnt out with three of it’s 500lb bombs detonating, three made safe and two still remaining to be traced (at the time of the police Daybook entry below).
Sunday 16th June 2019 marks the last time we will hear fast jets flying over Dunsfold. The final Wings and Wheels airshow will have concluded. It is the last because the redevelopment of the airfield will soon be welcoming the construction vehicles to try to pull up the runways and perimeters with the aim of building thousands of square metres of industrial space and 1800 houses. I wonder if any of the construction team will appreciate the significance of what they are demolishing, digging up and dragging into a ditch somewhere.
A request for information came into the Society from Michael LeBlanc in Canada. Can anyone shed more light on the story recounted?
“To date I have been unable to find more information on the officers – not even initials. Hoping someone can help.
I do have a crew photo and have a trove of family letters between my uncle, his two other brothers in the RCAF (78 & 425 Sqdns.), all sent to their mother. Lots of great gossip about him and his fellow NCO gunner drinking and lots of chat about chasing pretty British girls together.
Uncle Jim was a wonderful story tells, always presented with great humour. He use to tell one about a trip made with Ernest Hemingway on board and the incident, when after being hit by flak, they lagged behind and that to run the flak concentrated on them.
Hemingsway’s then pal and fellow newsman from the News Chronicle Special Correspondent, Michael Moynihan, flew with P/O Stevenson & Rees in ‘U’. He describes the same incident in some detail his book ‘War Correspondent – unfit for service’, but no date is given and an original newspaper clipping of the same story from Jim’s papers has no date.
Moynihan and Hemingway had been haunting the station in that period hoping for a trip of their own while doing some stories on the boys. Getting late notice of the op, they rushed to the field getting there at the very last last moment and hoped on the nearest kites. Their names do not show up in the Monthly Summaries nor in the daily ORBs
Unfortunately, I’m having difficulty identifying exactly what date this took place on with the various clues offered so far.
Time of take-off shortly after 2 pm. Stones & Stevenson flying.
Can anyone help flesh out more of this crew’s story ?
It would be interesting to know if anyone else has anyone else heard of the ‘Hemingway’ story or others similar to this one ?”
The Harrier was purchased about 10 years ago by my friend Neil Banwell. I met him about 3 years ago and said I would be interested in cleaning the Harrier and from there on I have moved to restoring it. I have attached some photos from when Neil first purchased it to how it looks now. There is still more to do, and we are still looking for bits, so if you know of any, I would be very interested in them. Cris.
Many will have seen the news last week that the RAF is closing Scampton – the airbase which, among other things, is the home of the iconic Red Arrows display team. Those with an interest in UK aviation history, including neighbours living around Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey, will probably also know that the Hawk trainer jet which is used by the Red Arrows was developed, assembled and first flown at the Dunsfold Aerodrome in 1974. More than a few people are therefore asking the question – is now the time to consider offering a new base for the Red Arrows, at the historic home of the Hawk, Dunsfold Aerodrome?
By coincidence (or may it be providence?), a rare example of a Hawker Hunter fighter jet which has for many years been on public display in a shopping street in Woking, is also looking for a new home. ‘XL623’ was the last Hunter T.7 to be built, and it is believed it first flew at Dunsfold.
Having been donated to Brooklands Museum, and with the help of the Hawker Association, restoration of Hunter T7 XL623 is about to begin – very fittingly at Dunsfold Aerodrome! How good would it be if that aircraft could also find a permanent home at the Dunsfold site?
Dunsfold Aerodrome is also the semi-permanent home of the Brooklands-owned VC10 aircraft, which although not fit to fly, regularly starts up its engines for a short taxi round the runways. In addition, it is a base frequently used by a WW2 Dakota painted in D-Day landing colours.
In the past year, the Aerodrome has benefitted from a flurry of Listings of buildings on the near-intact and still operational airfield. During 2017, Historic England listed as Grade II;
So are we about to see a resurgence of interest in Dunsfold Aerodrome becoming a living museum as the home of a VC10, Hunter XL623, and – possibly? – a base for the Red Arrows flight of Hawk jets? Well, while the threat of obliteration of the aerodrome under housing development remains, this would seem a remote dream. But, surely, the site owners, who often cite their interest in the flying history of the airfield, would do well to consider how popular such a proposal might be, and how many tourists the new museum could attract? It may, just, be time for the planes to come home to Dunsfold.
Banner Image: Red Arrows at Dunsfold 2010. Image courtesy of Gareth Stringer
Eric Hayward had worked at Dunsfold for many years and over that time was able to take photographs of the activities and aircraft that he saw. His whole collection has been scanned and assembled into an album on Flickr. Whilst it is a diverse collection, in no particular date order, many images are from Dunsfold, and some are of very significant aircraft.
If you can assist in identifying aircraft and locations, please do add the detail in the comment section.