Newsletter 001 - April 2000
Boxted Airfield Historical Group
Newsletter No. 1 April 2000
Welcome to the first Newsletter of our newly formed Group, We hope you enjoy reading it. Just about six years ago when I first started Researching the Airfield I never dreamed it would go this far. A big bonus has been the extremely interesting and helpful people I have met along the way. The one thing that really surprised me was how little information was available in local archives and Museums, (although some info is available in books in the local Library), this was one of the reasons for staging the Exhibitions, the first of which opened in January 1999. The other thing that has both surprised and pleased me is the literally hundreds of people that have visited and hopefully enjoyed them. In each Newsletter We hope to tell you about Our Research Experiences and people we meet.
Boxted's Tiger Moth
Recently I was contacted by Richard Teverson who lives near Sudbury who told me on the phone he owned a Tiger Moth Biplane that was used by the flying school on the Airfield. The Flying School was run by Wing Commander Percy Hatfield. Richard owns a farm with a small Airstrip and has a passion for Aircraft. In a corner of the farm there was a small hanger full of different types of aircraft some being restored, Richards pride and joy is one he is designing and building himself. Inside the Hanger was what we had come to see, the Tiger Moth, Gleaming dark blue and in excellent condition. It was built in 1939 by De Haviland with design code of DH82, At first it went to Coastal Command at Abbotsinch as a Submarine spotter, then to Central flying school at Woodley. Later it was sold to Famous Pilot Doug Bianchi for £25. Percy then purchased it and brought it to Boxted. The Tiger was then sold to 20th Century Fox and it appeared in the film "The Blue Max". After the film was finished the Tiger was sold at Auction where a consortium of three including Richard Teverson bought it and still owns it today. The Flying School was run by Percy Hatfield from 1958 to around 1965. Richard was one of his pupils and remembers Percy as an extremely good Pilot and generous man who liked the ladies and parties. Another man who remembers Percy with affection is his ex Flight Engineer Tony Sutton. Tony first met Percy when he was going to buy a glider and needed somewhere to keep it, He approached Percy with a view to keeping it on the Airfield. Percy being generous said "no problem when are you bringing it over". Tony however was £50 short on the purchase price so could not purchase Glider. Percy gave him the rest of the money there and then although they had never met before. There will be a section in the Exhibition on The Flying School, Percy Hatfield, his service career, and the part he played in the sinking of the Bismark.
7th July at Langham Community Centre 7.30
BOXTED AIRFIELD HISTORICAL EVENING
A mix of historical talks and Archive Film
Members £1 non Members £2
Sunday 13th August
Guided Tour of PARHAM AIRFIELD and CONTROL TOWER MUSEUM
Tour conducted by Leroy Keeping 390th B.G. Veteran
Bring pack lunch arrive at Parham 1 pm
Members £3 non Members £4 includes transport
Next Exhibition open day Sun 14th May
PILOT PROFILES: Hub Zemke (C.O. of the 56th Fighter Group)
Hubert Zemke was born on 14th March 1914, in Missoula Montana, to German immigrant parents, His father worked on the Railroad. Aged sixteen he spent a month with a Civilian Military Training Corps and because of his build was encouraged to take up boxing, winning several
fights with a few dollars prize money. While at University all boys were required to do two years service in the ROTC and the opportunity to basic
flying training which he did at Randolph Field. Cadet Zemke then joined the Primary course in 1936 which he really enjoyed and became determined to make a career in the Air Corps. In 1940 he was offered the chance to come to England to observe the air war and to assist the R.A.F. with the Curtiss Tomahawk. He was then asked to go to Russia to test and teach Russian pilots on the new Mustang Fighter. While he was in Russia Pearl Harbour was attacked and he was summoned back to the States to join the new 56th Fighter Group. It took time to get the Group up to full strength and Hub helped other units in various roles during this time Early June 1942 he was asked to be C.O. of the 56th, which he considered this a prized appointment. On 6th January 1943 he travelled on the Queen Elizabeth on his way to England and the 56ths first English base at Kings Cliffe. After Kings Cliffe it was Horsham St Faith and his first operations, before another move to Halesworth. Hub was developing into an exceptional leader, formulating Policies and enforcing them, Expecting only the best from his men. The 56th had entered into friendly rivalry with the 4th Fighter Group at Debden over most Aircraft shot down. In early October 1943 he returned to the States to take part in a presentation tour to outline 8th Airforce aims and method of operation. In his absence Dave Schilling became C.O. After two months Zemke returned to England and the 56th, resuming as C.O. The 56th was now established as the leading American Fighter Outfit in Europe. On April 18th 1944 the 56th moved to Boxted, the move being completed in three days with no break in operations. After one particuarly harrowing mission involving several tussles with ME 109s, one piloted by German Ace Gunther Rall, Hub went to London and got blind drunk. Shortly after this Hub was asked to take over the 479th at Wattisham and Dave Schilling took over the 56th. On 30th October whilst on a mission Hubs aircraft developed stability problems and he had no alternative but to bale out. After a couple of days on the run he was captured and taken to Stalag Luft 1 where he spent the rest of the war.
Hubert (The Hub) Zemke passed away on the 30th August 1994.
Boxted Airfield the History: (Part One)
After the American Fleet were attacked at Pearl Harbour by the Japanese, America then entered the War and rapidly built up its Air Force.
At this time it was not possible for Aircraft to fly from America to Germany, Talks were held with England to base an American Airforce in this Country. Langham Village was one of the sites chosen because like most of the other sites it was very flat and fairly close to the coast. It was the Air Ministry's general policy to name Airfields after the village or town where they were located, However there was already an Airfield in Norfolk called Langham so this one was named after the next Village hence Boxted. It was allocated to the 8th Airforce on 10 august 1942 as a bomber base, Originally to hold B17 Flying Fortresses. Main Contractor W and C French Ltd of Ipswich using local and Irish labour. Three runways one of 6,000ft and two of 4,200ft each. Dispersals consisted of 43 loops,1 large loop and six pans. Hangars were two dispersed T2 and one blister added in 1944 for the Air Sea rescue Squadron and utility buildings for 2894 persons. First occupied by U.S.A.A.F. in June 1943 and officially transferred to 8AF 26 August 1943 and loaned to American 9th Airforce in October 1943. The 9th Airforce was formed as a Tactical force to attack specific military targets. The first Group to arrive at Boxted was the 386th Bomb Group (medium) flying the Martin Marauder.
Part 2 in Newsletter number 2.