CORNFORD A.E, Navigator, 162 (PFF) Squadron. Mosquito Letter 31st July 1994.
On the 7.6.1945 'B' Flight of 162 (PFF) Squadron was detached from Bourn near Cambridge to Blackbushe under the command of Sqn Ldr B.A McDermot. This flight of Mosquito aircraft were to act as a diplomatic mail service.
My log book indicates that the first service departed Blackbushe at 08.00 on 10.6.1945 for Brussels and Weisbaden returning via Brussels - total flying time 3hr 55min the aircraft was flown by John Watt with myself as Nanigator. Thereafter I recall that a daily service was in operation to Belgium and Germany and in addition we ran an operation to Oslo with a refuelling stop at East Fortune (Edinburgh). Subsequently I learnt that Malta became another destination.
On the return flight from Hanover (Wunsdorf)on 16.6.1945 aircraft 'A' burst a tyre on take-off at Brussels. The possibility of a 'wheels up' crash landing at Blackbushe required that the wing tanks be jettisoned. One was dumped in the North Sea but the second , after much wing waggling , finally landed in an Esher garden! John Watt, with great skill, landed parallel to the active runway at Blackbushe on the one wheel, the aircraft only sustaining minor damage to the tail unit.
BENNETT Colin B, AC1, Transport Section, Fuel Tanker Driver. Letter 14.8.94.
My contribution to the history of Hartford Bridge would not be one to glorify as the first two or three months I was frequently AWL (absent without leave -Ed). That was before I was palmed off with a fuel tanker.
When I applied for my 'props' - that is the next rank up from AC1, I was told by the C.O to get out of his bloody office - they could not have men like me as a Leading Aircraftsman. He would turn in his grave if he knew I was destined to be responsible for virtually all fuel gauge systems on civil and military aircraft on the manufacturing side and design systems manufactured by Smiths Industries for 25 years.
One of the sad parts of the job which still makes me angry when I think about it was when a red (signal flare from the tower -Ed) went up to overshoot a Boston when it was making a good approach on one engine from the Camberley end. I was waiting to cross the runway as he was within a minute of landing. It regained reasonable height and went into a left hand circuit over the forest towards Fleet when the remaining engine stopped and he fell from the sky like a falling leaf.
WATKINS Basil L, S/Ldr , Pilot, 487 Squadron, Mosquito Mk VI Letter 1 July 1994.
It was almost exactly 50 tears ago on this night - just before 'D-Day' - that my Navigator, F/O Munro, and I were detailed to carry out a night-intruder attack on a German fighter base in eastern France. Despite the unbelievably lousy weather with heavy rain ,low cloud, almost nil visibility and forecast to deteriorate, this operation was 'ON'. As the first aircraft on target we departed at dusk into heavy overcast to be met with such heavy static that any R/T was impossible. However, we were maintaining standard R/T silence, so it did not give us much concern.
During our 35 minutes over the (enemy-Ed) airfield we carried out standard low level attacks on aircraft in the air, on the ground and airfield installations. On ETD we departed and climbed back into comparative safety of the heavy overcast and on ETA we crossed the French coast and called base with the standard call '---our feet are wet---'. To say that we were stunned by the replies is an understatement. They included:- '---how had we missed the general recall, all operations had been cancelled? ---' ( This had been soon after take-off in the heavy static) '---All airfields in England were closed due to the weather---' and '---We had the entire radar and ATC system for our own benefit---, ....WOW !
After simple, but short discussions with base we were offered two alternatives:-
1/ Bail out over England( and lose our faithful 'R' for Roger Mossie). 2/ Make a FIDO approach to RAF Station Blackbushe (and keep 'R').
It was a no win situation, for us there was only one solution - go to Blackbushe.
Unfortunately neither of us had flown FIDO, but as a real safety conscious crew we had studied the FIDO film, and during training sessions had pre-planned and flown our own approaches and let downs into dummy airfields. But, even if we both had completed another 100 missions, never did we ever suspect that we would need one or other of these procedures, let alone both at the same time. Weather at Blackbushe was really dreadful, airfield closed due fog with visibility 50 yards, cloud base 200 feet and landings permitted using FIDO and an added proviso- 'for pilots experienced in 'FIDO' only'.
We arrived over Blackbushe and using his 'G' box , Andy proceeded to instruct me in our Watkin/Munro 'G' approach and let-down. What a carefully instructed and oh so painstakingly flown approach and let-down. Approaching 200 feet and committal attitude, suddenly directly ahead, piercing the dense fog, appeared this tiny rectangle of intense fire and to Andy's only laconic comment during the let-down of - 'Gosh! It is rather small, even for our Mossie!' continued
We landed safely in this wall of fire, to be met by a completely unexpected incredibly deafening roar from the enormous thrust of thousands of gallons of fuel being forced through the burners, intense almost overbearing heat with an unbelievable brightness from the burning fuel. We immediately experienced complete loss of night, and any other vision . As we rolled to a stop, two events occurred without warning:-
1/ The burners were turned off, leaving us in complete and utter blackness(we could not see anyway). 2/ Both motors just stopped. We had run out of fuel. ( Later discovered to be due to AA fire we had encountered on our mission - what chance an overshoot then?
( 487 Sqn was operational from RAF Gravesend during June 1944 -Ed )