Fleet Air Arm Memorial, London

The Fleet Air Arm memorial, on the banks of the Thames, is one of many that stand together at this spot. The Battle of Britain, the Korean War and Royal Air Force memorials all being in very close proximity, outside the Ministry of Defence building in Victoria Embankment Gardens.

Forming one of many Fleet Air Arm memorials across the country, it joins others such as those at that the National Memorial Arboretum and Lee on Solent.

A more modest memorial, this one was designed by the architect James Butler RA, who has created a number of other statues and monuments in and around London. 

Initially, the figure looks like an angel, but is thought to resemble Daedalus, the Greek inventor –  father to Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and fell to his death.

The statue, which was unveiled on the 1st of June 2000 by his Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, stands looking down, perhaps Daedalus watching his son fall from the skies. Crafted with a pilot’s body and flying suit, but with the bare arms of a ‘God’, it wears a fallen oxygen mask that reveals a face with a look of horror, as if witnessing some awful event beneath.

The winged guardian stands on a single stone column that protrudes from a boat-like base, around which are engraved the names of the many conflicts and battles that the Fleet Air Arm have been involved in. Ranging from 1914 right up to modern conflicts such as the Falklands and the Gulf War, it shows how important the Fleet Air Arm has been to both the safety of this nation and world peace in general.

There are further inscriptions around the other sides of the base. On the front, in gilded letters, are the words ‘Fleet Air Arm’, with the crested insignia, and to the side the words:

‘To the everlasting memory of all the men and women from the United Kingdom the British Commonwealth and the many Allied Nations who have given their lives whilst serving in the Royal Naval Air Service and the Fleet Air Arm’.

Also on the base is a quote from Psalm 18:10, “He rode upon a cherub and did fly yea he did fly upon the wings of the wind”.

One of many memorials standing at this location, the Fleet Air Arm winged  guardian, watches closely over the crowds below, standing as a tribute to those who gave their lives and whose bodies now rest in the deep waters of the worlds oceans.

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The Fleet Air Arm Memorial on a wet and windy day in February.

Other ‘major’ memorials can be found here, with specific airfield memorials here.

RAF Bircham Newton.

Trail 20 is a Trail that takes us round northern Norfolk. Our first stop is RAF Docking. After Docking, we travel to Bircham Newton.

Bircham Newton has it origins in the First World War prior to the birth of the Royal Air Force. Its distinguished career, saw action in both World Wars and post war right up to 1965 when it finally closed.

Guard House

The former Guard House now stands as a shop.

Opened in 1916, its first operational use was as a fighter gunnery School in 1918. Its runways were grass and early residents included: DH4, DH5 and the DH9, amongst others. There then followed a period of expansion and development where larger buildings and accommodation blocks were built. Its first and possibly its most significant early aircraft, were the Handley Page V/1500 bombers. An enormous 4 engined aircraft, it was designed to hit Germany hard, targeting Berlin from airfields in East Anglia.

During expansion, a number of squadrons were based here: 7, 11, 166, 167 and 274 to name but a few. Primarily a bomber base during this period, it was soon passed to Coastal Command, who would also take charge of a number of other airfields around this area, including both satellites at RAF Docking and RAF Langham. Many of the original buildings were demolished and those we see today built instead.

Armoury and Photographic building

Former armoury and photographic building.

New residents for Bircham featured heavier twin-engined aircraft such as the Lockheed Hudson, Bristol Beaufighter and Vickers Wellington, for which steel matting was laid to prevent sinking in the soft earth.

The majority of missions from here were anti-shipping activities, mine laying and Air-Sea rescue. Like its satellite, Docking, it saw a large number of squadrons pass through it gates, too many to give the required credit to here.

As the second World War drew to a close, Bircham’s activity began to dwindle and its role lessened. From Anti Shipping activities to Flying Training, Transport Command and finally to a Technical Training unit, training the Officers of the future. Flying reduced, and Chipmunks became the order of the day. The most notable ‘resident’ of Bircham being HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, who made several landings here as part of his flying training in the early 1950s.

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One of the former technical buildings no longer used.

Finally, in 1962, Bircham Newton closed its doors to aviation, but it was not to be the end of the story. In 1965, with the development of the Kestrel, Hawker Siddeley’s VTOL baby, Bircham came to life once more, albeit briefly, with the sound of the jet engine.

A year later, Bircham was sold to the National Construction College and the pathways are adorned with young building apprentices, diggers and cranes of varying sizes. Being a busy building college, many of the original buildings hae been restored but the runways, flying areas and sadly the Control Tower, removed. Whilst private, the airfield retains that particular feel associated with an airfield.

Main Stores

The main stores with two of the C-type hangars in the background.

Luckily, the main road passes through the centre of Bircham. A memorial project has been set up to remember those that served at the airfield with photos and exhibits from days long gone. A memorial has also been erected and stands outside the original Station Commanders house, just off the main road and is well sign posted. The original accommodation blocks, technical buildings and supporting blocks are still visible even from the road. The 1923 guard-house, is now a shop and the operations block, the reception centre.

Squash courts

The original squash courts are still used as they were intended.

Reputedly haunted, the squash courts (built-in 1918) continue to serve their original purpose, and most significantly, the three large C-type hangers and 2 Bellman sheds are still there – all visible from the public highway.

RAF Bircham Newton, stands as a well-preserved model one of Britain’s wartime airfields. Although Private now, the buildings reflect the once time bustling activities of a busy centre of aviation.

RAF Memorial and Station Commanders house

The recently added RAF Memorial and behind, the Station Commanders house

The memorial project at RAF Bircham Newton has a website and can be found here. Norfolk Heritage Explorer also has more details here.

Finally – recognition for Britain’s airfields and the sacrifice made by so many. 

The government recently announced their final budget before the forthcoming general election. Amongst the tax hype, vote buying and pre-election promises we have come so accustomed to, was a small recognition to those who gave their all for the security of Britain. 

Recognition has finally been given to the deterioration of Britain’s wartime airfields. In particular Stow Maries that dates back for the First World War, the museum at Hendon and the chapel at the former RAF base at Biggin Hill, have all been the subject of grants to improve and update them. 

This does not in itself signify a dramatic change in heart of the upkeep or a reduction in planning and development of Britain’s wartime airfields, but it does show a change in attitude toward those that flew from them and the memories we hold of them. 

Any small recognition of the sacrifice made by these people, and the fading historical aspect of these now decaying sites has to be good. Maybe just maybe, somewhere along the line planning regulations may change to allow for preservation of some small part of these sites before they are all gone forever. 

This has to be a positive step forward, let’s hope so!

An interesting article relating to this appeared in the “Telegraph” newspaper on May 21st. It’s well worth a read and can be found here 

Leslie Howard Pilot Officer 77sqn. RAF(VR) RAF Elvington

As a teacher, I often try to squeeze in a little bit of modern history. I feel it’s important that the younger generations know and understand what sacrifices were made during both the First and Second World Wars (not to mention the many others) so that they realise lives are lost and that war is not a game of ‘Call Of Duty’.

To my surprise one of the girls brought in some papers and explained how it was a relation of hers on her mother’s side, but she knew nothing about him. The gauntlet was thrown, eager to know more, I took copies of the relevant documents and brought them home.

After some considerable searching I came up with some interesting facts about this man.

His name was Leslie Howard (s/n: 168652), he was originally a policeman, and came from the Sheffield area (Birklands Road). He was married to ‘Gladys’ and on joining the RAF was posted to 77 Squadron who were based Elvington at the time of his death. He was a sergeant and received training on Wellington bombers. After promotion, he became and Pilot Officer and flew Halifax (V) bombers from Elvington with 77 Sqn, RAF(VR).

On the night of 20th /21st December 1943, he was on a mission to bomb Frankfurt. With him on board were: Sgt. E Dickman, F/sgt. C. Quine (DFM), F/Sgt. J. Waterston, Sgt. N.H.C. Short, Sgt. W.C. Wight and Sgt. A.P.H. Restarick. His Halifax, S/N LL121, “KN-G” was attacked by what is believed to be by either JU88 or B110 of 8./NJG3 night fighter squadron, piloted by, again not confirmed, Oblt. Paul Zorner, from Hintermellingen, near Frankfurt.

The aircraft was severely damaged and crashed. Both P.O. Howard and Sgt. E.W.Dickman were killed, whilst the others survived being taken prisoners of war.

Sgt. Dickman was buried in Runnymeade, whilst P.O. Howard was buried in the cemetery at Hintermellingen. His remains are now in the Hanover War Cemetery, block 16, row A, number 18.

I informed the father of the young child who was more than interested as they knew little of him. He told me that the family on the mother’s side, still resided in the Yorkshire area and were visiting in the next week or two. He would pass this information on.

I shall continue digging, to find more and confirm the details I’ve already found, but you get a real sense of achievement and satisfaction to know that a little bit of history has been uncovered for this family.

If you know of, or have any further information about this operation or crews, I would love to hear from you.

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Do you recognise anyone in these photos? Particularly the bottom left.

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The telegram sent to Mrs Howard.

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Leslie Howard’s grave is 16.A.18 to the top of the diagram (created by the War Graves Commision).

 

Trail 20 – RAF Docking, a satellite that became an airfield in its own right.

RAF Docking

RAF Docking (also known as RAF Sunderland after the farm it took over) was originally built as a satellite for nearby RAF Bircham Newton. As one of many dummy airfields in this area, it saw an unusually high level of activity.

Looking across and along what would have been runway 3 at Docking.

Looking across and along what would have been runway 3 at Docking.

Docking had 3 grass runways one each of 1,730 yds, 1,400 yds and 1,100 yds (all extendable) it also had 8 blister hangars, 1 x A1 hangar and accommodation for 789 RAF personnel and 92 WAAFs.

Located to the East of Docking village, it was a ‘K’ site during the day and a ‘Q’ site at night. Dummy aircraft and false buildings would be used along with flarepath lighting to guide enemy bombers away from major nearby targets; it was quite successful in this role being bombed on a number of occasions.

Northern Peri Track

The northern side of the peri track. The bomb store is behind and slightly to the south.

Docking became a dispersal site for RAF Bircham Newton, and often took aircraft returning during the hours of darkness. They would remain here and then be transferred home the following day. As it grew, it took more and more aircraft, eventually becoming an airfield in its own right to the point that it had its own satellite which became RAF North Creake.

Many of the airfields in this area, participated in the anti-shipping role under the control of Coastal Command.  A small number of larger aircraft based with RAF squadrons, having with their longer range and larger bomb loads, were also based here and used to attack targets in Holland. A wide range of aircraft both visited and were stationed here at Docking, Avro Ansons, Lockheed Hudson and even Gloster’s Gladiators graced the grass field. In fact the range was so vast, (ranging from the iconic biplanes, Swordfish and Albacore to the larger Wellingtons, Whitley and Hampdens to the more modern Spitfire and Mosquito) that there are simply too many to mention with any real accuracy.

Movements in and out of Docking were frequent, but, many units were here at some point officially, these included: 53, 143, 221, 235, 241, 254, 268, 288, 304, 407, 415, 502, 521 and 524 RAF squadrons. With so many movements, it is hard to believe so little exists about its history or photographs of its activity.

Crew quarters

One of the crew huts now a storage unit, once housed pilots and latterly, local families.

Undoubtedly, the most significant contribution by Docking was that of meteorological reconnaissance, preparing weather reports for returning bombers and reports for forthcoming mission and the like. Many of these operations involved flying up to altitudes as high as 40,000 ft, taking measurements every 5,000 ft and reporting back. They would fly in set zones around the UK, Docking’s aircraft focussing on an area between Norfolk and Wick in Scotland. These sorties were codenamed ‘RHOMBUS‘, some from the west coast flying out deep into the Atlantic and some as far north as Iceland. Later on, these flights codenamed ‘PAMPA’ would involve flying deep into enemy territory to ascertain weather conditions over the target area in advance of a forthcoming bombing raid. Performed by Spitfires and latterly Mosquitos, these were often very dangerous with many crews failing to return.

Docking had its fair share of accidents. One such unfortunate incident on 10th october 1943, saw a Docking based Handley Page Hampden crash on take off, three of the crew members being killed in the ensuing fireball, whilst two others escaped – Sgt. J. Alloway and Flying Officer J. Maxwell. Alloway was severely burned and became one of ‘McIndoe’s’ army later known as the ‘Guinea Pig Club‘.

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F.O. H Featherstone was killed when the HP Hampden he was in crashed.

A number of other crashes, many in extremely poor weather, paid a toll on the crews, these are all talked about in detail in David Jacklin’s book so I won’t dwell here. One that is worth a mention is that of Flying Officer H.E.M. Featherstone (41275), 206 Sqdn., Royal Air Force who died on 1st January 1941, Age 27 when the aircraft he was in crashed killing him and seven other crew members. Featherstone’s grave is found in the nearby war cemetery at Great Bircham.

Another ‘noteworthy’ mention is that of Pilot Officer A.L. Kippen (407 Sqn RCAF) who was killed on 16th May 1942. Kippen, (J/7208), an Air observer, was killed when the badly damaged Lockheed Hudson he was in, crashed on its approach to Docking hitting an anti-aircraft gun pit killing the occupants. He too is buried in the nearby church. What makes Kippen’s death so significant, is that just eight days earlier, his sister had sent him a poem, this poem now stands beside the headstone on a plaque.

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P/O A Kippen, Whose Poem from his sister sits at the foot of his headstone.

Meteorological reconnaissance was not the only role played by Docking. Air Sea rescue were responsible for saving a number of downed crews, mine laying, anti-submarine missions and attacks by the Polish 304 Sqn RAF in the ‘1000 Bomber’ raid on Breman all form part of its rich tapestry. Even though it was a grass airfield, it became a refuge for many returning ‘heavies’, Lancasters, Halifaxes and even Stirlings found Docking a safe haven. On one day alone, 17th January 1944, a total of five Lancasters who had run out of fuel managed to land safely on its grass tracks. A number of B-17s also tried to land at Docking, but believing it to be a much longer runway, they ran off the end forcing their undercarriage to collapse in an adjacent ploughed field.

Toward the end of the war, Docking was used less and less operationally and eventually became a ‘demob’ centre for crews. Many faces were to pass through, including Richard Burton and Mick Misell (aka Warren Mitchell/Alf Garnet for those who watched British TV!). Robert Hardy (All Creatures Great and Small) another British TV actor was also here with Burton, as was Danny Blanchflower (Tottenham and Norther Ireland footballer). With little to do, these particular crew members were often in trouble, fights, vandalism and fraternization with the locals led to many a run in with the law.

Gas Decontimination building

A gas decontamination building.

After the war had ended, Docking was used as emergency housing for the locals, many stories are told by David in his book and indeed he was one of those souls who had to brave the cold and ‘misery’ of a Nissan hut in winter.

With such a ‘distinguished’ history, RAF Docking is one of those airfields that has managed to fade into the past. Little now remains of its existence. Being grass, there are no runway remains or even an indication of a runway. The perimeters being concrete now form the eastern road that pass along side the site, being single track it is considerably smaller today then it was in the 1940s. At the top of this road, where the track swings west, is the former bomb site. Now a ploughed field, its wartime existence totally masked.

The new Docking memorial.

The new Docking memorial.

To the West of the site, the main road (B1154) passes through what was the admin and technical sites. A single crew hut stands in a field marking the location of the airmen barracks. Further along, the road forks, and to the left would be a further domestic site housing crews in more Nissan huts. The triangular coppice that stands in the middle of this fork, still retains, in a very dilapidated state, the gas decontamination centre and the emergency electrical supply, the stand-by set house. Both these are in a very poor state and now house disused agricultural machinery. Careful observations amongst the bracken and undergrowth reveals entrances to underground shelters, four entrances in total. These have been blocked and partially filled by the farmer to prevent access. Further along the right fork, would have been to the left, the WAAF site, to the right, the water tower along with further domestic units. All traces of these are now sadly gone.

Original watch tower

The original watch tower watches over crops rather than departing aircraft.

Newly created on this fork, is a memorial to those who flew from Docking, beautifully crafted in black, it over looks the airfield to the east. From here, a small pill-box can be seen amongst the hedgerow, and with permission, it may be accessible and could be one that was damaged when hit by an HP Hampden.

The entrance to the rebuilt Sunderland farm is also along here. This led to the A1 hangar, again now gone, and on through to the centre of the airfield to where the watch office still sits. Used for storage, again with permission it may be accessible. A number of smaller buildings are still evident here too and many can just be seen between the hedgerows, from the public highway.

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A Pill Box remains hidden in the hedgerow.

When visiting Docking, it is strongly recommended that you visit the War Cemetery at St. Mary’s Church, Great Bircham, which includes 11 German war graves and a Cross of Sacrifice unveiled by King George VI on the 14th July 1946. These graves highlight the sacrifice of these men who flew in poor weather for the benefit of their more famous counterparts, the bomber crews. The high number of graves here and the stories that can be told, all reveal a rich tapestry of valour, bravery, sadness and loss that for a decoy station certainly earned its place in history.

War Graves Cemetery - St Mary's Great Bircham

War Graves Cemetery – St Mary’s Church, Great Bircham, includes 12 german graves.

Trail 20, takes a tour round North Norfolk, an area of natural beauty, where many of its airfields are remain intact, but are slowly succumbing to the bulldozer.

Please see Trail 20 for further reading and references.

Luftwaffe diaries – Big Week

Following on from the earlier diaries of Luftwaffe pilots during the Battle of Britain, I have found other examples, worth sharing.

These examples, were written as the Allies launched the ‘Big Week’ campaign against heavily defended German targets. In defence, the Luftwaffe were operating a wide range of aircraft, heavily armed, they were designed to destroy the big heavy bombers, both quickly and easily. The US Eighth and Fifteenth Airforces were bombing during daylight whilst the RAF were bombing at night. As a result, brutal dogfights were common place between escorting P-51s, P-47s and P-38s and the German aircraft.

Based at Wunstorf near Hanover, was III Gruppe Zerstorergeschwader 26, (part of Luftflotte 2) whose primary role was defence of the North Western Sector of Europe, Belgium and the Netherlands. Formed along with I. and II. Gruppe; III. Gruppe were to suffer badly at the hands of their superior American counterparts. During 1940, they had a total fo 33 aircraft, by the time ‘Big Week’ had come in 1944, this number was significantly lower.

The entry starts in the middle of February, with visits from Generalmajor Ibel1, re-equiping of machines and flight training. Prior to Big week, the Gruppe were also operating in support of land forces. However, as the allied forces began their operations, this role changed.

20.2.44 – At 12:03 hours the Gruppe received orders from 2. Jagddivision to take off and engage reported enemy bomber formation. At 12:13 hours, Bf 110s were airborne and assembled at radio beacon Marie, after new orders re-assembled overhead base. The Kommandeur, Major Kogler, took off late with three more BF 110s at 12.19 hours but failed to meet up with the aircraft which had taken off at 12.13. At 4,000m the first formation was surprised by enemy fighters attacking out of the sun and as a result 11 Bf 110s were shot down2. During the incursion two enemy fighters carried out a low-level attack on the airfield. As a result nine aircraft were hit and suffered up to 30% damage.3

21.2.44 – At 12:41 hours the group received orders to engage incoming enemy formations. At 12:45 ten BF 110s were airborne; assembly over radio beacon Marie.
At 13:15 hours these aircraft joined up with the escort a friendly fighters in the Rottenburg area. Our formation made contact with the enemy force, but due to poor direction failed to reach a favourable position from which to attack.4

22.2.44 – The Gruppe was ordered to take off at 12:22 hours to engage incoming enemy formations. The Gruppe scrambled eight BF 110s at 12:28 hours. Weather at take-off: Fair weather, 50km visibility, cloud base 1,000m, 2–3/10 cover. At 12:55 to 13:00 hours joined own fighter escort at 7,000m above Lake Steinhude. The Gruppe joined up behind I./ZG 26 which was operating under the control of the 2. Jagddivision. At 13:35 hours three formations of Fortress IIs were sighted. The leader of our formation (I./ZG 26) closed on the enemy formation to attack from head-on. III./ZG 26, following, was too close behind for a head-on attack, and had to turn an attack from the rear. While closing in to attack, fire was opened from about 400m. The enemy machine flying on the left outside of the formation burst into flames along its right side. It began to curve away to the left and the second attack was carried out from above and to the left, from behind. This Fortress dropped away from the formation well ablaze. There was strong defensive fire from the enemy rear gun positions. Each enemy formation numbered about 60 aircraft, flying in arrow. Weather in operational area: about 3/10 cloud cover, cloud base 500m tops 2,000m. Visability above cloud more than 50km.

During the head-on attack, the formation leader turned in too soon, so that the aircraft coming behind were unable to get into an attacking position.

Landing: Two BF 110s landed at Wunstorf, at 13:58 and at 14:10 hours. Four BF 110s made belly-landings. No landing reports received so far from two BF 110s. 5

Successes: One Fortress II shot down by Oblt. Bley.

23.2.44 – No operations. The Gruppe carried out instrument flying training missions as planned. The 7th Staffel is in the process of receiving replacement aircraft.

24.2.44 – Operational report.
Take off: Four BF 110s from Wunstorf at 12:01 hours. Order: Scramble take-off to engage incoming enemy formations. The Gruppe assembled at 7,000m over Brunswick with ten BF 110s of I./ZG 26. II./JG 11 joined up to provide the escort at 12:15 hours. Instructions received from JaFue6 during the assembly. At 13:15 hours eight formations each of about 15 liberators were seen in the area of Nordhausen, stepped up from 4,000m to 7,000m and flying on the south-easterly heading. It was noticeable that the enemy aircraft were wavering about. On the approach of our Gruppe the enemy force turned south and later south-west. Attack was carried out at 13:00 hours in the area of Holzminden, from the left and above. III./ZG 26 scored one victory7 and one Herausschuss (bomber leaving formation after attack by Major Kogler). Several liberators were observed to be on fire; others were seen to crash8. The claims of I./ZG 26 are not to hand. Landing: Two BF 110s landed at Wunstorf at 14:08 and 14:14 hours. One BF 110 suffered damage to the cabin and turned back. One BF 110: no landing report received (Gern’s aircraft).

Supplement: the enemy bombers were escorted by Thunderbolts, which flew above the formation. It was ascertained that the leading formation, which I tried to attack, always went into a turn to the right when I was in front shortly before I turned in to make my attack. It is possible that this forced the bombers away from their target.

Diary written by Major (Gruppe Kommandeur) Kogler, 1944

On February 24th 1944, there were several missions flown by the USAAF: Mission 233, (to attack targets at: Gotha, Rostock, Poznan and Schweinfurt) and 234 which occurred at night.  Mission 233 was the second largest operation to take place during ‘Big Week’ and involved 809 bombers with 767 fighters as escort.

Mission 233 took place in 3 Waves, Wave 1 – 239 B-24s were sent to Gotha; Wave 2 – 266 B-17s were sent to Schweinfurt and Wave 3, 304 B-17s were dispatched to the primary target of Poznan.

A fatal mistake by the lead aircraft in the first Wave (due to a faulty oxygen mask) led to Eisenach being bombed by mistake. The following formation also bombed by mistake, following his mark.  These are the only B-24s that flew on that day and as a result, it is probable (but not certain) that these are the Liberators mentioned in Kogler’s diary for that day. Casualties reported by the USAAF for that mission were: 3 KIA, 6 WIA and 324 MIA9.

Liberators of the 392nd BG from RAF Wendling were involed in this mission, an account is available here along with MACRs and statements from those involved.

It has been interesting to compare explantions from both sides, with limited resources, any connection is only presumed, but it does give an interesting perspective to the bomber war over Europe.

Sources:

1 – Generalmajor Ibel was the Commander of 2. Jagddivision

2 – Six pilots and five radio operators were killed in the attack. Two pilots and four radio operators were wounded.

3 – One armourer was killed along with one Radio operator and one mechanic wounded.

4 – Combat report D1

5 – Later found to have been shot down, their crews were killed.

6 – JaFue – Fighter Controller.

7 – Oblt Meltz.

8 – Lt. Gern, who was shot down during the action but bailed out of his aircraft, logged a claim for one Fortress shot down when he returned to his unit.

9 – 8th Airforce Operations, http://8thafhs.com/missions.php

The full diary entry appeared in The Luftwaffe Data Book, by Dr. Alfred Price, Published by Greenhill Books, 1936, 1977, 1997. pg197-200

March 14, 1945

An amazing account of a ball gunners escape.

Wayne's Journal

Wednesday

In England, the Eighth Air Force dispatched 1,278 bombers and 804 fighters to hit oil, rail and industrial targets in Germany; they claim 17 Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed. The Eighth Air Force loses three B-17s and two fighters.1

Verne and the other members of Combat Crew 87 of the 571st Bombardment Squadron (H) were part of a mission to bomb the Seelze marshalling yard near Hanover. This was the 274th combat mission of the 390th Bombardment Group (H). The objective of the mission was . . . .

To hit oil tankers seen parked on the sidings at Seelze marshaling yard, near Hanover, only planes of 390th “A” Squadron bombed on 14 March.

“B” and “C” Squadrons had poor visibility, plus equipment malfunctions, and did not bomb. “A” Squadron was troubled by haze, and overshot the target. The operation was marred by the loss of 2 planes which…

View original post 1,452 more words

The Stars ‘n’ Stripes flys once more. 

Over the last few days I’ve been posting updates about the work continuing at the Grafton Underwood (Station 106) memorial,  which was home the to 384BG, Eighth Air Force. 

I have now been told that the flags are finally in place and flying proudly over the airfield once more – the first time in 70 years. 

Grafton was home to a number of bomb squadrons, with the 384th  BG there between May 1943 and June 1945. They took part in the ‘Big Week’ bombing operations operating B-17s from this site. Raids on prestige targets such as Schweinfurt, eamed the group a number of Unit Citations, reflecting both the dedication and  bravery of its many crews, a number of which never returned home. 

Grafton Underwood can once again proudly display it’s links with the USAAF, as this little piece of America finally comes to life once more. 



Picture courtesy of Kevin Fleckner the memorial curator. 

Grafton Underwood – more Good news. 

I recently published an update on the Grafton Underwood memorial, saying how there was now a parking spot and improvements to the site generally. Well further good news is that two flag poles have now appeared and the Stars ‘n’ Stripes along with the Union flag will soon be flying once more over the former USAAF base. 

It’s been 70 years since the flag was lowered and about time it flew once more! ‘American ghosts’ trail 6 

A new parking area for the 384th BG memorial Grafton Underwood

Following many months of lobbying, letters and phone calls, a friend of mine, whom I met whilst trailing ‘American Ghosts‘, has finally secured and had built, a new parking area adjacent to the Memorial of the 384th BG at the former airfield, RAF Grafton Underwood (Station 106).

Kevin Fleckner, has maintained the site for some considerable time, which is located on the former airfield at the end of the 6000ft long, No.1 runway, part of which can still be seen in front of the memorial today.

Kevin’s next aim is to get both the ‘Stars ‘n’ Stripes’ and the union Flag raised once more, something that has not happened since the end of hostilities, 70 years ago.

The parking area is now tarmac, with top soil, seed and bollards placed to repair damage done by tractors and other road traffic.

It is accessible by wheelchairs and is a superb memorial, paying tribute the many men and women who served at Grafton Underwood during the Second World War.

My congratulations and thanks go to Kevin, for his dedication and for all the hard work he puts in maintaining the memorial on behalf of us all.

Well done buddy!

Grafton memorial

Grafton memorial

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The remains of the No.1 Runway

The memorial is bottom left by the road.

The memorial is bottom left by the road.


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The Church memorial window dedicated to the 384th BG