Post by flyboy on Feb 20, 2015 18:48:24 GMT
The Gooseneck Flare
As the mail and paper flights continued apace the operation of the flights was streamlined. Papers were picked up from Camberley railway station just before midnight and sorted into destination loads before being packed, in the early days, into metal drums onto which had been welded bomb lugs to fit the aircraft bomb racks. The first drop of the day would be at about 0430hrs from a height of 100 feet onto a target marked by gooseneck flares. ( a gooseneck flare was a piece of apparatus that was similar to a metal watering can with a wick protruding from the spout. The cans would be placed at regular distances down either side of the runway and would be filled with paraffin and the wick lit. The resulting flame was usually used to indicate the edges of the runways at airfields that didn't have electric runway edge lights.- Ed) There were some failures of the metal drums and an updated system was devised where the papers were packed into standard airmen's kit bags which were more flexible. These were carried in the aircraft bomb bays on a bomb lug which was fixed to a piece of wood which in turn was lashed to the bag. These bags stood up to the impact of hitting the ground much better than the metal drums which could split open and deposit the newspapers all over the dropping zone and further afield if there was a wind blowing! Naively the bags were marked ' return to Blackbushe by the quickest possible route'- but strangely most of them did in fact find their way back.
There were incidentally , so many Mosquito XXVs available in the country at this time that any type of damage even Cat'A' (repairable within 24 hours) was automatically downgraded to Cat 'E' (not repairable) and the aircraft was written off. There was a large pit on the airfield where such aircraft were towed and set on fire. They would have been worth a fortune now!
Tom Grieveson was a Navigator with 162 Squadron and a great Mosquito fan:
" Looking back I think a very interesting point was the Mosquitos performance all those years ago. For instance, we used to fly direct to Athens from Blackbushe, albeit with overload tanks, in 5hrs 50 minutes and that just shows what a fantastic plane it was"
On the 23rd a stand-down of four days was granted to all staff not required for essential duties. This was much appreciated by all ranks and about two thirds of the Station personnel were quick to take advantage of the break to travel home for Christmas.
On Christmas Day at the Station only one kitchen and Mess were in use to cater for the 600 remaining personnel, including officers, NCOs and airmen , who all dined together in the concert hall which adjoined the airmen's Mess. A magnificent meal was served, which was followed in the afternoon by a concert and later an all ranks dance which lasted late into the night. This was to be followed by yet another dance on New Year's Eve.
Sport was still a major activity at the airfield with soccer, hockey and rugby being played every Wednesday and Saturday. Team spirit was good and in rugby football the team had reached the district finals against Stoney Cross XV, but unfortunately lost by 3 points to 16. Badminton and squash were also popular sports.
The station cinema was showing four different films weekly.
On the 13th of the month a conference had been called at SHQ. S/Ldr Irving, the Senior Medical Officer attended with senior officers of 46 Group, as did the Deputy Air Officer Administration, Transport Command. The future of the airfield was discussed and plans put forward for improvements to the required standard of the accommodation at reasonable cost. It was suggested that the installation of baths and/or showers on the various dispersal sites would go a long way to improve conditions. Although there was a considerable exchange of views no definite conclusion was reached.
Finally to end the year FIDO had to be used on New Year's Eve to land the all-weather Prestwick-Blackbushe service. Visability had deteriorated to 40 yards in fog but the pilot was able to make a successful touch-down.
So ended 1945.