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”).

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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).

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

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

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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.

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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.

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V1 Construction sites Target Information

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Crash of 180 Sqdn. B-25 August 25th 1944

An enquiry came into the Society for information about a B-25 that ditched in the sea off Beachy Head in 1944.  Flight Officer Hodder had survived being shot down and his family were researching the details.  There were no known pictures of his aircraft Daily Delivery.

We managed to trace Daily Delivery (photo below) but the crew was not F/O Hodder’s crew.  This photo was taken a few weeks before the crash, but further research by colleagues of DAHS determined that the 180 Squadron crews rotated aircraft as operational restrictions dictated.  So the question was which aircraft was ditched in the sea? F/O Hodder’s later memoirs of the event are written below, with the Squadron ORB recording the official account.

D – Daily Delivery at Dunsfold. Informal group portrait of RAF ground staff with RAAF and Royal New Zealand Air Force air crew of a Mitchell bomber squadron, 180 Squadron RAF with the Second Tactical Air Force. Left to right: two RAF ground crew, Jock (Fitter) and Alf (Rigger); 422248 Flying Officer (FO) Jack B O’Halloran, pilot of Sydney, NSW, (later Flight Lieutenant and DFC); 417379 Pilot Officer James Crosby (Jim) Jennison (later Flying Officer and DFC) of Adelaide, SA; 422175 FO Reg J Hansen of Sydney, NSW; FO Harry M Hawthorn, RNZAF of Hastings, NZ

Continue reading “Crash of 180 Sqdn. B-25 August 25th 1944”

Open Day for VC10 at Dunsfold

On Saturday 15th July we will be holding an Open Day at Dunsfold Aerodrome for our VC10 ZA150, which lives there. This was the very last VC10 of 54 built at Brooklands in the 1960s and was one of the last two to fly with the RAF from Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. On its retirement in September 2013 it was acquired by Brooklands Museum and flew in to Dunsfold, where a team of dedicated volunteers maintain it in running order.

Entry is by pre-purchased ticket only and the timetable is as follows:

  • 12.00-14.00 Pre-booked visitors will arrive via Stovolds Hill
  • 13.00-13.15 Taxi run
  • 13.45-15.30 Visits on board in small groups
  • Last entry to Dunsfold will be 14.00

More info at Brooklands site.

Willards Farm Spitfire Crash

A Spitfire Mk XIV of the Flying Training Wing crashed at Willards Farm Dunsfold on 19th January 1945. The pilot – Flying Officer Fisher – bailed out and was injured.

Has anyone further information and about the cause of the crash and what became of the aircraft?

Spitfire Mk XIV similar to that involved in the crash at Willards Farm Dunsfold

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.”

Continue reading “Mystery Mitchell Crash Summer 1944”

CONSERVATION AREA STATUS TURNED DOWN

Press Release:

Waverley Borough Council’s Executive decided at its meeting on Tuesday 6th June that it was ‘not suitable’ to establish a Conservation Area at the historic Dunsfold WW2 Airfield site, the birthplace of the Harrier Jump Jet, and now used among other things for filming TV’s Top Gear.

The proposal to consider the site for conservation on the basis of its heritage value and the history associated with it, had come from local residents in late 2016 and the Council carried out a public consultation which ended in April this year.

87 responses were received, including support from 3 Parish Councils, and a letter from Historic England. The report presented to the Council on Tuesday explained that 84 were in favour and only 1 response was against the proposal, but went on to summarise that objection and agreed with several of its assertions.

One of the key supporters of the idea of a Conservation Area is the Dunsfold Airfield History Society (DAHS). A spokesperson for DAHS said; ‘This decision by Waverley is hugely disappointing and clearly flies against the overwhelming views of the local population, and people interested in the proper conservation and celebration of the heritage of this unique site’.
While the Council pointed out that there are no set criteria for assessing the merits of a Conservation Area, they did cite the extensive guidance provided by Historic England. In their report, Council Officers agreed that the site is of historic importance and that it is already an Undesignated Heritage Asset. ‘The problem with that’, said the DAHS spokesperson, ‘ is that it adds absolutely no level of protection.

We asked that question of the Executive in writing but our question was not read out and no answer given at the meeting’. Council Officers had visited the site for one day to assess the heritage assets, and concluded that the condition of the majority of them was ‘poor’.

Historic England has recently listed Primemeads Farm within the site and is still separately assessing several other structures for potential listing. According to Historic England ‘another mechanism by which the significance of an airfield can be highlighted, as a historic landscape, is through conservation area status’.

Making former military airfields into conservation areas does not stop development and change but adds a level of protection and control for the local authority when changes happen.  There are 9 other former military airfields across the country that do have conservation area status, and DAHS said ‘It seems a no brainer that Dunsfold, now under threat of complete demolition, should be afforded at least the same level of protection that these other airfields have’.

Detail of DAHS proposal for designation

History:
Dunsfold Aerodrome was built in 1942 by the First Canadian Army as a temporary airfield for use by the Royal Canadian Air Force during WWII. The site was completed in just 20 weeks. The layout of the airfield consisted of three standard runways (one 2,000 yards and the other two 1,400 yards), laid out in a triangular pattern with a perimeter track surrounding it. Dispersal sites clustered off to the south and east and a main technical area was located to the north. The airfield was opened on 16 October 1942 by Lieutenant General A.G.L McNaughton of the First Canadian Army with a commemorative stone placed in front of the control tower that still exists. The first arrivals were three Mustang squadrons from the RCAF in December 1942. They mainly carried out reconnaissance as part of the army cooperation.In June 1943, Army Co-operation command was disbanded and the airfield became a fighter station allocated to the new 2nd Tactical Air Force.

Dunsfold was one of five airfields used by No.2 group and was home to three Mitchell II squadrons. These squadrons were part of bombing missions aimed at the Germans’ long range weapons sites, and, in the months prior to D-Day, aimed at sites which could reinforce German positions after the invasion. By the end of October 1944, the Mitchell squadrons had left and Dunsfold was placed on care and maintenance.

After the war when the airfield was used as a landing ground for DC3 Dakotas bringing back over 47,000 prisoners of war. In August 1946, the Aerodrome was declared inactive and the airfield was leased to Skyways Ltd, a charter airline. Skyways used the airfield to refurbish, test fly and deliver Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft for the Portuguese Air Force, it also played a Major part in the Berlin Airlift between 1948 and 1949, making 2,730 of the total 21,785 flights to Berlin.

Following the liquidation of Skyways in 1950, the lease was acquired by the Hawker Siddeley Group. The company used the airfield for final assembly work and flight testing of its Sea Hawks, Hunters, Sea Furies, Gnats, Harriers and Hawks. From the 1960s, the company became involved in developing Vertical/Short Take-off and Landing (VSTOL) planes (Harriers). Much of the work was carried out at Dunsfold and some of the engine testing bays still survive. It is around this time that the runways were lengthened/widened to allow for testing. On 21 October 1960, the first P1127 (the forerunner of the Harrier Jump jet) made its first tethered flight at Dunsfold, which led to its first conventional flight in November of the same year.

In 1969, the Harrier was introduced into the RAF Service with the ground training phase taking place at Dunsfold. Until 2000, when BAe Systems ceased activity at the aerodrome, all derivatives of the Harrier family of aircraft evolved from Dunsfold. The airfield was also used by the Royal Observer Corps (ROC). A monitoring post was constructed in 1961, in the south western corner of the airfield for nuclear reporting during the Cold War. The post was closed in 1991 following the break-up of the Communist Bloc.

 

Mitchell Bomber flying over Dunsfold in 1944. Source; Public Archives Canada

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’

 

Harrier in private hands – XZ439

The legacy of the Dunsfold Harriers goes far and wide.   50 years on, and the Harrier is still flown in American skies.   Significantly the point is made that the Harrier was the only non-US aircraft used by the US Military since World War 1.

This story shows the passion of one man for the Harrier.    Art Nalls has had a life long dedication to flying. His addiction to the sky has lead him to an honourable military career and an even more adventurous retirement. Nalls has had the unique opportunity to purchase his own British Harrier Jump Jet. Now this retired Lt. Col test pilot uses his passion for flight to help preserve military history with the maintenance and upkeep of the last three remaining Sea Harriers. Continue reading “Harrier in private hands – XZ439”

Memories of a Dunsfold Photographer

I looked up at the gleaming red paintwork, and the black letters ‘ XX154 ‘ on the side.  I knew I was very privileged, few people outside Hawker Siddeley Aviation, and almost certainly no other twelve year old had seen this.
I’d had to duck down low in my seat as my father drove us through the lesser security gate by the Three Compasses pub, the back way into Dunsfold Aerodrome.

Dad was an assistant foreman here for Hawkers, working on famous aircraft such as the Hunter, Gnat and lately ‘ The VTO ‘ – Vertical Take Off, as the workforce called the P1127 prototypes which developed into the Harrier fighter.  He had sneaked me in after school on the evening of Tuesday the 20th August 1974.   The next day would see the first flight of the new Project 1182 Advanced jet trainer – the Hawk.

Continue reading “Memories of a Dunsfold Photographer”