HENRY F.M, F/O, WOP/AG, 107 & 88 Squadrons, Boston Bombers. Logbook Entries:-
9.9.43, Boston IIIA BZ253, Pilot- S/Ldr Evans, Self- WOP/AG, Circus on Monchy-Breton. 9 Squadrons Spitfires Escort, 4x500lb Bombs from 12000 ft., Slight flak.
22.10.43, Boston IIIA BZ331, Pilot W/Cdr Spencer, Self WOP/AG, Operation low level to Charleroi, Four Aircraft Shot Down Crossing Dutch Coast, Another Two Lost On Abortive Trip. F/Lt P Mendes- France a Navigator On This Operation (With 342 Squadron - Ed.) - Later To Be Premier Of France.
06.01.44, Boston (U), Pilot P/O Glynn, Self WOP/AG, Operation Circus, Ski Site, Abortive Returned One Engine Made Emergency Landing At Friston Flying Time, Day, 1hr 20.
19.4.44 Boston IIIA (K), Pilot -P/O Holliday, Self- A/G, Operation Circus, Noball Belvoir, Navigator Hit By Flak, Landed Friston Flying Time, Day, 1hr 30. Returned Friston-Base Flying Time, Day, 0hr 20.
26.7.44 Boston IIIA (A), Pilot Holliday, Self- A/G, Operation Fuel Dump - Alecon, Explosion Seen In Target Area. Flying Time, Day, 2hr 20.
During the war I was a pilot with 140 Squadron, part of 34 Wing , 2nd TAF, We were engaged in photographic reconnaissance in preparation for the Normandy landings. Early in 1943 we moved from Mount Farm (near Benson) to Hartford Bridge and my recollection is that we were the first squadron to be based there. Our dispersal was close to the road from Camberley on the western side of the airfield. During our time there we converted from The Spitfire to Mosquitoes.
VALENTINE Leslie, CdeG, F/Sgt promoted F/O, Pilot, 88 Squadron, Boston Bomber. Letter 8.7.94.
I was a pilot in 88 Squadron at Hartford Bridge from April 1944 to February 1945 during which I completed two tours of operations, back to back which comprised of 36 operations in the first tour and 24 in the second. I am a Scotsman and for the first tour I had an all Scottish crew but not for the second tour.
I commenced duty in 88 Squadron as a F/Sgt Pilot and ended as a Flying Officer. It may be of interest to you that I was commissioned in one of the huts in Hartford Bridge by none other than Air Marshal Sir Basil Embry and I was the only one to have that privilege.
The huts were all standard Nissen of a fairly uniform size and very basic. The hut which was used for the pre-op briefings was considerably larger as a lot of people had to get into it.
I had a great variety of operations which included day light formation bombing in boxes of six, night intruder patrols, smoke laying on 'D-Day and on occasions leading the Wing to the target.
It may be of interest that at the end of my service at Blackbushe I was awarded the Croix-de-Guerre (medal by the French- Ed) with 88 Squadron.
STEWART 'Ossie', Pilot, 162 (PFF) Squadron, Mosquito. Letters 18th April, and 25th August 1994.
I was a pilot in 162(PFF) Squadron, which was posted to Blackbushe after VE Day. We (the squadron) were known as the ADLS (Air Delivery Letter Service) and we were responsible for the delivery of documents etc., from the War Cabinet to S.H.E.A.F Headquarters in Weisbaden and other various locations in Europe and the Middle East.
During our period at Blackbushe, there was nothing terribly exciting happening. The 'runs we did were routine, on a daily basis and a lot of time being on 'stand by' usually for 24 hours, and then not being called at all! This resulted in us having a lot of time off. Of course demobilisation was going on during this time, but the 'demob' of aircrew was halted from July 1945 to November 1945, presumably because the Air Ministry did not want to loose the experienced air crew. However, experienced ground ctrew were still being released, which was a little worrying , since the replacements were lacking in experience and accidents were happening - some fatal.
The summer of 1945, as I recall, was a lovely summer, and a lot of time was spent sitting about!
The Customs building was just behind the Control Tower on the other side of the A30. This meant taxying across the road for customs clearance, and then back again on to the perimeter track. Our flight dispersal was at the top of the airfield at the Basingstoke end on the left resulting on it being necessary to taxy across the A30 again. The A30 had been opened to traffic which was practically nil. However, one of our crews , who shall remain nameless, decided to taxy up the A30 from customs to flight dispersal , much to the consternation of a car driver who looked in his mirror and saw two Merlin XX engines about to come in through his back window. Incidentally, the pilot in question was 'hauled over the coals'.
STANGER W.A 'Wilf', W.O, WAG, 226 Squadron, Mitchall Bomber Letter Dec 2 1994.
I did a tour of ops from Hartford Bridge with 226 Squadron. Our crew only did 44 ops as the squadron went to Belgium and they wouldn't take us, just for 6 more trips - a tour then was fifty ops. I was the W.A.G and my crew consisted of Bob Fowler- Pilot, Rus Hunter- Navigator, and (?) Owens- Gunner.
While on the squadron I had the rank of W.O.1 This rank, was supposed to be one of the best in the Air Force, for being able to scrounge, beg, borrow or steal and I used it to the fullest.
The Nissen hut I stayed in was the focal point for all underground activities. On the front of the hut was a sign about 3ft x 2ft;
FINGER INN W.O.1STANGER PROPRIETOR SGT. ED HUNT MANAGER OPEN 24 HRS
I don't remember where we acquired it, but we had a hot plate, and if anybody 'found' anything to eat they always showed up at our hut, 24 hours a day. One of our favourite places to find things was the Officers Mess after hours, and more than one garden was raided. I always regret leaving the sign, It would have been a great momento.
When our squadron was posted overseas, there was money left over in both our Messes. The story was that the money had to be used up before the squadron was transferred - so naturally there was a party for all ranks. During the course of the party I 'discovered' a keg of beer in the Officers Mess which had not been tapped. I immediately recruited my good friend F/O Dan Wyjad and told him that if he could get the keg onto my shoulders we could make a get-away.. Got the keg outside, and managed to roll and carry it to the 'Finger Inn'. We put the keg under my coat, where it was safe until the following day.
I still correspond with a New Zealander who was on our squadron, and unbeknown to me he had taken a photograph the next day. The only one missing from the photo was the local village 'Bobbie'- I guess he felt a little guilty.
I could carry on these stories , but I picked one where I had proof. (Wilf enclosed a copy of the photograph as proof and it did show numerous crew, Officers included, in their hut ..and the keg!- Ed.)
TAYLOR Laurie OBE, FRAeS, Pilot, 95 Squadron, Stirling Bombers Letters 28th August and 20th September 1994.
On June 2nd 1945 I flew a 295 Squadron Short Stirling aircraft, coded 8 EK.S from Brussels to Blackbushe with 24 ex- prisoners of war on board and on the 10th June flew 8 EK.Y into Blackbushe again with 24 ex POW's on an identical trip. POW's released from German hands were brought to Brussels, Melsbroeke airport then on to a number of RAF and Navy bases in England and then returned to base. I did only two flights to Blackbushe but others were made to Ford, Oakley and Down Ampney - all in the period May - July 1945.
SKUDDER S.E, F/Sgt promoted W/O, Pilot, 140 & 88 Squadrons, Ventura & Boston Bombers. Letters April - June 1994
I was a pilot with 88 Squadron at Hartford Bridge August 1944-October 1944when we moved to Vitry-en-Artois in France. I was also in 1943, for a brief period with 140 Squadron (July and August 1943) . 140 was a photoreconnaissance unit, PRU, flying Venturas, also on the flight were Spitfires. The Venturas were used for night flash photography, and Spits were used by day.
I flew 20 ops out of the airfield with 88 Squadron Boston IIIA and Boston IV's and a further 30 from Vitry. For the first time FIDO was used (by them -Ed) on the 21st Sept 44 when we returned from an operation to Boulogne, and very efficient was FIDO, we all made safe landings under very severe 'clampers' conditions.
We used to go to a private swimming pool for dingy drill. This was on the outskirts of Camberley on the A30 on the right travelling towards Bagshot.
After our move over to France we did the odd trip back to Hartford Bridge on 'The Beer Run' to keep stocks up in the Mess, until we were organised with a French Brewery. This run from France was logged as 'testing guns in the Channel' - not bad.
Log book Entries:-
30.7.43 Ventura AE714, Pilot F/Lt Brown, Second Pilot- Self, Night photos Channel Coast. Flying Time, Night, 1hr.40.
13.8.44 Boston IIIA 'H', Pilot - Self, Operations. German Strong Point South of Cain Heavy flak over target. Flying Time, Day, 02hr.00
21.9.44. Boston IIIA BZ378 'H', Pilot -Self F/Sgt Edwards, F/Sgt Clifton, Sgt Eachern. Operations Fort de La Creche, Boulogne. Unable to Identify Target. Bad Viz. Very Bad at Base When Returned. 'FIDO' in action. Flying Time, Day, 01hr.15
ROBINSON D.B, Schoolboy - Later, Group Captain. Letters June & July 1994.
I am not sure that my school boy recollections are really what you are seeking, but they may nevertheless be of some interest.
My school was Wellington College at Crowthorne where life was somewhat cloistered, with little contact with the outside world during term time; my home was in Shrewsbury. The school ATC Flight did pay fairly frequent visits to the Airfield (Hartford Bridge and later Blackbushe -Ed.) and there was obviously a good relationship with the authorities.
The school was almost on the circuit of the airfield and it was a great thrill on and after 'D-Day' to see Bostons and Mitchells returning from raids, often badly shot up. I also remember fog-dispersal experiments on the airfield (FIDO)with a line of flames down each side of the runway, but my outstanding memory is of a 30 minute flight in a Mosquito on 21st February 1945, when I was visiting the airfield with some members of the school's ATC Flight. The flight had been 'engineered' by our CO, and another cadet and myself were packed into a fighter version of the Mossi (i.e one with the blocked in nose) so it was quite a squash! But what an experience - to fly in such an advanced aircraft as a mere cadet, three up in a two seater ,and to exceed 300 knots in that day and age was really something! Small wonder I joined the RAF and became a pilot myself, but I do not think my colleague on that occasion, Johnny Wilkinson, ever did so; I believe he ended up as a director of the BBC.
My logbook reveals that I had the following short flights from the airfield during 1944/1945:-
14 Mar 44 Proctor 15 mins 18 Mar 44 Anson 20 mins 07 Dec 44 Dominie 30 mins 21 Feb 45 Dominie 30 mins 21 Feb 45 Mosquito 30 mins 01 Mar 45 Oxford 20 mins 27 Jun 45 Lancaster 20 mins
The Lancaster flight was actually a transit from Brize Norton where the ATC Unit had a field day outing. Prior to being flown back to Blackbushe cadets were given flights in Lancasters, Albermarles and Horsa gliders at Brize. I can still vividly recall my alarm at the Horsa's landing technique - a dirty dart at the runway from about 500 feet above the threshold!
BOND L.A 'Les', F/Lt, Navigator, 88 & 342 Squadrons, Boston Bombers. 1994 Logbook Entries.
342 Squadron 14.2.1944 Time pm Boston BZ303 Pilot Barberon, Self- Navigator 'B', Operations Construction Works at Hambures. 7500 feet. Leader 3rd box, No flak or enemy auircraft (E/A), 4x 500lb M.C Bombs. Result Fair Flying Time, Day 1hr.45
8.3.44 Time pm Boston BZ303, Pilot S/Ldr Gorri, Self Navigator 'B' Smoke Laying Exercise near Whitchurch (Hants). Flying Time, Day,0hrs.30.
88 Squadron 25.7.1944 Time 06.15, Boston IV BZ455, Pilot S/Ldr Evans, Self Navigator 'B' Leader (Wing), Operations Troop and Gun positions in Wood east of Bourgebus, Excellent Bombing Results - Area Well Pranged. Intense Heavy Flak. Flying Time, Day, 1hr.50.
29.7.1944 Time 22.00, Boston IV BZ412, Pilot S/Ldr Evans, Self Navigator 'B' Operations, Patrol Area Le Mans-Tours-Saumur-Le Mans, Bombed Road Movements, Results unobserved, Three Separate Attacks By Enemy Aircraft. Flying Time, Night, 3hrs 35.
31.8.1944 Time 15.10, Boston IV BZ418, Pilot W/C Evans, Self Navigator 'B' Formation and Bomb Dropping Test With 4000lb of Bombs, Base - Wash Area. Flying Time, Day, 1hr 35.
16.9.1944 Time 18.50, Boston BZ455, Pilot W/C Evans, Self Navigator 'B' Operations, Fort de la Creche, Boulogne. Bombs Slight Undershot, Some Flak. Flying Time, Day, 1hr 35.