All about me and my trails…

These series of trails are the musings of an aviation enthusiast with too much time on their hands. I simply have a love of aviation (in particular military) having been introduced by my father’s stories of his time in the Royal Air Force during the 1950s.

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Me, My brother and my sister at christmas a long time ago.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s when British aircraft ruled the world, fast jets adorned the skies over Britain which, at the end of the Cold War, had been ready to tackle, head on, the threat of Soviet Russia and her allies.

Like many children of that era, I spent many an hour perched at the end of runways, peering through fences, often with armed guards loitering close by, and generally staring skyward. I lived nearby to what was the British Aerospace development at Bitteswell, Leicestershire. Standing at my parent’s bedroom window, I could see Vulcans and the like circling following modification work. I developed a knack for locating disused airfields through the car window, where I would drift off into my own little world, visualising aircraft taxiing and lifting off into the skies above war torn Britain.

As a child I dreamt of fast jets and soaring above the clouds in formation. My brother and I would spend our holidays building complex cockpits between our beds, drawing each and every instrument using cockpit photos and magazine articles as guides. Sheets would form the roof, shoe boxes throttles, and old headphones as radios. We lived the fantasy, and for a few hours a day we were pilots – we were living the dream.

Unfortunately, the dream never turned into reality. But my love of aviation never died. My dreams of what it must have been like continue on, and my frustration at the state of old airfields and their deteriorating significance to our heritage, is stifled by the understanding of developmental needs and the continuing high maintenance costs they require.

I feel saddened by old aircraft rotting in farmer’s fields, images of bone yards, vandalised airframes and aircraft discarded like unwanted pets in the rain. These are, in many cases, the reminders of what was the sacrifice of the many thousands of men and women who gave their lives in wartime, flying over foreign lands, knowing that at any minute, their time may be up. They deserve more. They deserve better.

I have an envy of those who have given up their time to help preserve this heritage of this fantastic aviation country, I admire their dedication, their determination and above all, the fact they can sit in the cockpit of an aircraft and do what I dreamt of for so many years as a child. To them, I thank you.

I am not an expert; I do not pretend to be. I decided to write these trails based on my experiences, adding in links where I could. They are not conclusive, and factually may not be reliable. They have been created in my spare time when I have taken my self back to the ‘good old days’ and are purely to share my thoughts and experiences.

If you like them, great let me know, leave a message. So, why not join me on a nostalgic journey through the second world war and beyond. It’s great to have you along.

 

My Father at RAF Manby before being de-mobbed.

On a final note, I wish to extend my gratitude to the lovely and hard-working Marcella, who comments, praises and criticises my grammar for me. She also promotes the blogs and is a truly important member of the partnership. I am truly grateful to her and hope that one day she will be able to join me here to experience these amazing places for herself.

64 thoughts on “All about me and my trails…

  1. Hi, A super site – well presented. I am webmaster for Dunsfold Airfield History Society. As you mention, Dunsfold is threatened with re-development – just got planning for 1800 houses. Historic England are looking at Listing 10 buildings on the site, and as soon as we can we are seeking designation for a Conservation Area – it might just preserve some of the unique parts of Dunsfold – the home of the Harrier and a lot more. You can help by registering support asap on our site:
    https://dunsfoldairfield.org/conservation-area/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andy
    Great blog and I know how much work you have put into it. I had a friend (died in 2007) who flew on a Kiel mission laying mimes to trap a German convoy in the Baltic. I too have a WordPress blog relating to places and people we have met during 45 years of travel and I am writing about at this moment using stories from my friends journal and from what he told me in the 1970s. I would like your permission to use the photograph of the crew in with the bomb with Kiel chalked on it.

    My link is http://www.tbeartravels.com email hillier.bev@gmail.com If you permit me to use I will of course credit and link your blog. After you read the post (will not be posted for another couple of weeks you might see some pics I have you might like to use. I would have to get my friends children to give you the ok but there will be no problem.

    Regards Fred

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Fred great to meet you, I’m glad you enjoyed the blog, I shall take a look at yours, it’s sounds fascinating! Of course you can use the photo, (actual copyright ownership should be with the photo on the page, it’s IWM – not mine). if there’s any others you would like please let me know. Did your friend fly from Downham market do you know? Or elsewhere? I look forward to reading your post. Kindest regards Andy.

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  3. This is a FABULOUS web site. Great information. You and I have a great deal in common. I soloed when I was fifteen but had to wait one year until I got my drivers license before I could take my check ride. I learned to fly in a Piper Tri-Pacer–fabric-covered two-seater. My love of aviation is somewhat genetic. My dad served in a B-29 Bomb Wing during WWII, He served on the island of Tinean in the South Pacific and actually worked on the Enola Gay. I definitely will be a daily visitor to your site and thank you for taking a look at mine. The very best. Bob J.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Really good to meet you Bob, thank you for your very kind words – I’m glad you found the site interesting. You must have some interesting stores to tell from your father, I will definitely take a look at your site! All the best! Andy.

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  4. Hello.
    The sense of loss is sometimes overwhelming, what must it have been like to be there then to witness the events. All we have left are the crumbling remnants of heroic deeds and daring do. So sad, fortunately your efforts are making it seem a little more real again. Thank you.
    Looking forward to receiving more posts and may join up on a jaunt or two.
    Best,
    PC.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Paul. So glad you enjoyed reading it, thanks for leaving a comment. These places really are historically important for the events that occurred with them. The losses were horrendous and sadly many are disappearing far too fast. Once they have gone their memories will also fade and that I feel will be a terrible waste. Join up anytime – be glad to! Andy

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      • Good to meet you Andy, thanks for the reply. Exploring airfields is an undifinable passion and one I’ve been unrepentantly guilty of for many years. It’s something that you must do with a like minded chum or two, two or more sets of eyes definitely see more and miss less. My highlight was meeting Vets from the 388th at Knettishall and a few of the guys signed my B17 at War book, where the centre spread was all about the 388th. What a privilege that was. The local pub in Coney Weston had a picture of one of the Vets aircraft! Which I now have a copy of.
        Living in and exploring Wiltshire airfields, walking my dog on RAF Everliegh. Lots still here to see including live military aircraft types. Please could you add the Musuem at Old Sarum, as was previously the Boscombe collection.
        Looking forward to meeting up for a stroll, although I find bicycles can cover more ground. Cycling down a B17 runway is never to be missed.
        Best,
        Paul.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Paul, meeting vets certainly is a privilege and one few of us get to do these days. Take the chance while you can and make the most of the stories they have to tell. It’s one of things that I feel lacks on the blog, historical facts are one thing, but human stories are another dimension altogether I try to add some where I can but it’s rarely through first hand discussions. As a general rule the places I have on the blog are only ones I’ve visited, but I’ll make an exception this time (as it’s a recommendation) and add the Old Sarum site for you. You could always do a write up yourself and have it added! It’ll take me a few days, sadly the day job gets in the way but it’ll appear soon. Enjoy your walks, perhaps as you say we can meet up, two pairs of eyes certainly my are better than one! All the best and it’s great to have met yet another supporter of these sites and these wonderful experiences.

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  5. Hi Andy – Steve from RAF Stoke Orchard here. I wanted to publicly recognise all the great work you do in your efforts to catalogue our long forgotten / often remembered concrete leviathans called Airfields. Your mails are a delight to read and contain a huge amount of information.

    Well done ! Power to your elbow !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words Rich. I must admit when I started this I didn’t realise how far it would go (I’m now writing 39 and 40) and as I go on, I find more and more things to write about. I am struggling to keep the word count down and find each one is getting longer and longer. As a youngster I bought a small pocket book of a similar name, I still have it, and it’s what gave me the initial idea. I’m glad you enjoy it Rich, it is a passion and I’m glad that others can share it with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Marcella has contacted me regarding the blog and your website. After reading about your love for aviation, I am shaking my head in amazement at the intensity for which you admire flying, old airfields and aircraft. My father too, Major Bernardo Procopio, had a deep affection for flying. He was a WWII B-17 pilot out of Framlingham, England and after five missions, was shot up with flak and with very little fuel left, understood he would not make it back to England. He radioed back to his navigator to ask how far it was to Mallmo, Sweden. His navigator radioed back that they didn’t have enough fuel on board. My father told his crew they were going anyway! The story unfolds from there. Photos to follow Kind regards,
    Rebecca Procopio

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Rebecca, it’s so good to hear from you, and thank you for your kind comments. It is a passion of mine as you can clearly see. I believe that these men and women deserve to have their stories told and these sites, where many spent their last hours, deserve to be honoured. Too many are disappearing beneath housing or farmland without due thought to the events that took place upon them. I was only today planning my next trip which actually includes Framlingham! I aim to go there next week and visit what is left of the site, and walk across it where access permits. I will obviously take photos and share anything I find with you. I would love to tell your father’s story with my readers if that is ok with you, perhaps Marcella could talk to you in person which might be easier for you. I look forward to seeing the photos and hearing more about your father’s time during the war. Do please keep in touch. Very best wishes and kindest regards, Andy Laing.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Good morning,

    Pen and Sword Books is the UK’s leading Military publishers and I was wondering if you would be interested in becoming a reviewer of some of our aviation titles? Please take a look at our website, if you’re unfamiliar with our company, to get an idea of some of the titles we publish. http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk.

    If you’d like to discuss this opportunity further, please email me at digitalmarketing@pen-and-sword.co.uk.

    I look forward to hearing from you,

    Milly Wonford
    Digital Marketing Executive
    Pen & Sword Books

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi there

    What an excellent website! Many thanks for sharing a ‘shared’ passion. I have always been interested in military aviation as long as i can remember but as time goes by the opportunities for those magic ‘peering through the fence’ at the end of runways is gradually disappearing, with less and less aircraft types and a dwindling selection of active airfields to visit. So all we are left with are memories and relics of this past era.

    Having recently returned from a holiday in Suffolk / Norfolk, I found time to visit a couple of old airfields (Thorpe Abbotts and Bentwaters) and I am determined to discover more, so your website that I’ve just found is inbaluable. I have discovered the excellent Lincolnshire Aviation Trails so this will be my first ‘mission’…..only 90 odd airfields to choose from!!

    All i need now is the time……..!!

    Kind regards

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Graham. Thank you so much for the kind comment! It really is a disappearing world, even between the early ones I went on and now the differences are there. Time is one of those things that eludes most of us, I teach so have to restrict them to holidays and plan them very carefully. As I have gone on I have found more to see and write about – the history is fascinating. I do hope you enjoy Lincolnshire, one of our ‘richer’ aviation regions and one I have yet to truly travel round. A shame as it is where my father was last stationed. Have a great time and thank you for leaving such a nice comment. Andy

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  9. We must be around the same age. Your photo from Christmas long time ago look a lot like mine–little black and white TV in the background. I now live in an area that experienced many civil war battles. Over time, stores and houses began to cover over some of the battlefields…..AND then, the U.S. National Park Service began to step in save some of the areas. Which is a good thing.
    When I was very young, I wanted to grow up and be an astronaut. That was before I found out that I’m rather claustrophobic…after that, I changed my mind about the astronaut thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can remember that TV very well, we had it for a number of years and it took an age to warm up! That must have been taken in the late 1960s, so that gives you an idea! It’s good that the national parks have intervened, these places need recognition for their historical Value. I guess claustrophobia is not a good thing to have if you want to spend months In a tin can floating around space! Hopefully you found a suitable replacement role that’s just as satisfying.

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  10. As readers and obviously the author of this blog are obviously aviation enthusiasts, and possible admirers of the activities of the USAAF during the former dispute with Herr Schicklguber and his cohorts, perhaps you might be interested in reading a comparatively short novel which I wrote as my own tribute to the 30,000-odd Americans who flew, fought and died during those long, desperate years of War.

    I wrote American Cemetery about ten years ago, and really do believe that the sound of four Wright Cyclone engines as they hammered across the sky was the true ‘Sound of Freedom!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love your emails. I have a fascination with WW2 AIRFIELDS as I live near Winthorpe airfield so am surrounded in all directions by them from Wittering in the South to Wigsley in the North to Newton in the West and Swinderby in the East.
    It’s such a shame that so much of our important heritage and history is neglected. Maybe we should all meet up in the summer, say have a word with The Petwood Hotel as I’m sure they’d set aside the Lancaster bar (AMAZING!) and some sandwiches/cups of tea for a resonance cost. I can’t think of anything better than a group of fellow enthusiasts sitting chatting in 617 Officers’ Mess!

    Maybe you should email everyone who you send the airfield trails too and gauge interest. I’m sure we’d all find it extremely informative and be able to swap information!
    I have a friend works at Scampton and can arrange a free tour of non other than the Dambusters very hanger, the grave of a certain dog, and you can sit in Guy Gibson’s office!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a brilliant idea. I shall do that and see what happens, I do know many of the readers are from abroad, but you never know, a group
      of like minded people together at the Petwood! Oddly my colleague at school was there over the weekend and is going to Scampton on Saturday for the tour! My appetite has been wettened!

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      • Great to see you still about mate, what are you up to these days? You still using Facebook?

        I have just stumbled across this website, it has some interesting stuff on and I will be following with interest.

        I have been rebuilding my website over the past year and it’s a very slow project but I am getting there!

        Cheers

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m still around buddy, just not on Facebook due to my intolerance to stupid people!
        My email address is my username @hotmail.com if yiu need to get hold of me.

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  12. Do you know when USAAF Station 118 (Wendling) closed down. I believe that the 392nd Bombardment Group (H) left Wendling in June 1945, but I am seeking more information as to actual dates. Do you have or can you direct me to websites that have such information?

    Liked by 1 person

    • No problem. The books I have state that the 392nd pulled out in June 1945 as you say, all flying then ceased although the base was ‘active’ usually classified as in ‘care and maintenance’ until November 1961. It was then sold off, by the Ministry of Defence, in 1963. I don’t have a date when it was sold other than the year. Whilst under care and maintenance, these sites usually remain dormant with a small contingency unit who look after it. Once they leave it falls into decay until sold and demolished / dug up. Most sites I have / can find don’t go beyond 1945 probably as there is little to say about them. Wiki give slightly more information here http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Wendling. But I don’t know how accurate they are. Hope this helps.

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      • I’ve just shared a link to this page on my twitter account, maybe people can offer advice then.
        Also, if anyone is interested I have a friend who arranges talks from WW2 veterans quite often including THE Johnnie Johnson from the Dambusters Raid. I’ll try to let you know when the next one is.
        They are usually along the A1 coridoor just North of the A1 and are fascinating.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Dave. I know of folk who would enjoy that as long as it’s a weekend due to work etc.

        Do let me know when the next one is I’d be really interested and sure I might be able to drum up some support. Not that it needs it I’m sure! Thank for assign the link very much appreciated! Andy.

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    • Thank you for your kind words. It has been a lot of work driving round and finding out about these places and the people who served there. I believe we need to keep their memories alive. It has, as you say, been a labour of love. Many thanks.

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  13. Your blog is fantastic, I am so happy I came across it! I, too, love aviation, and am deeply saddened whenever I see empty, decrepit airfields and rusting aircraft. Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful stories and photos!

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  14. The book only covers 8th Air Force bases, but if you don’t know the book, you might find it interesting. Kaplan, Philip. One Last Look. New York, NY: Abbeville Press, 1983.

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    • Thank you. There are a huge number of books on the subject also now the internet is full of photos not previously available. Those that show the original fields are perhaps of more historical interest and hold the harder to find original photos. Thanks very much for the heads up I shall seek it out and take a look. Much appreciated.

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      • I notice you have some Lincolnshire fields on your trails, but not RAF Binbrook. I understand there isn’t too much left of that base anymore owing to land development, but there looks to be a heritage centre there to keep the memory of the base alive as well:
        http://www.binbrook.demon.co.uk/

        If you get up to Yorkshire, Church Fenton would be another interesting one to touch upon as its closure as an airfield was quite recent:
        http://www.rafchurchfenton.org.uk/

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      • Thanks for the comment and the links.

        I try where possible to cover groups and have generally concentrated on those closest / where there are cheap hotels or I’m travelling anyway – hence Norfolk and into Suffolk. I want to cover further into Lincoln particularly as it was my fathers area and Binbrook is most definitely on that list.

        I remember going to Church Fenton as a child and again those to the north are on the ‘to do’ list.

        It’s a race against time to capture what is left if these places, even close to here we have recently lost Waterbeach, Upwood, (coming soon) is earmarked for housing and Oakington is to be built upon, time is most definitely running out.

        Many thanks for the links, I shall take a good look, perhaps a holiday to Yorkshire is needed!

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  15. Please gpcox… Don’t laugh.
    Aviation Trails is the one who found my blog about 249 Squadron.

    Hi, a fascinating read. My father served with 249 sqn 1949 into the early 1950s in Habbaniya, where they had Tempests amongst others. A little after this time I know, but this is the first connection to anyone from that same Squadron I have been able to find. A super read!

    Like

  16. Very nice site – come over to Cambridgeshire, I run on the former sites of RAF Mepal and RAF Witchford – the latter having more remaining features.
    I’m not expecting you to run!!

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    • Hi Ian. Was at both sites a few weeks ago had a fabulous walk (not run) round both. Enjoyed the fabulous museum at Witchford too. Trail 11 covers both Mepal and Witchford it should be it up soon!

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  17. You are to be highly commended. I would be only too pleased to help in any way with your venture. I’ve often thought of doing much the same as you have now done, boving ut you did it. I’m now based in Gloucestershire, but was born and raised in Bedford. Moving to Rushden took me to the heart of so many old airfields… Chelveston, Poddington, Kimbolton,… you know them all.

    I’ve walked them all…

    Haunting. Keep it up

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    • Hi Steve,

      Thank you very much for the kind and supportive comments, I’m so pleased you enjoy the trails and share the passion. it’s been a big interest of mine for years, often standing imagining the scene and what it must have been like all those years ago. There are many more trails to come in the near future and it would be great to share your experiences. I am currently looking into ways of offering readers an opportunity to add their own guest posts. I’ll let you know when this is up and running, would love to have your contributions! All the best Andy.

      Like

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