Newsletter 008 - January 2002

Newsletter No. 8 Jan 2002


As usual lots to tell you about, particularly as it is at the beginning of the year, lots of events, committee changes, An article on the 386th reunion by Henry Farwell and "Memories of the 386th B.G." by Michael Heath. But first a recap of recent events.

Remembrance Sunday

Just over 20 villagers and members attended the wreath laying at the airfield memorial, The groups wreath was laid by Anne, our secretary. Earlier in the day I had the honour of laying a wreath on the memorial seat at Nayland, This is dedicated to Lt Charlie Gumm a pilot of the 354th F.G. from Boxted who was killed in a crash nearby.

During the following week we received a letter from Nayland British Legion, thanking us and asking if we would like to participate in their service officially next year and of course we would love to and we thank them very much.

Table Top Sale

This was a reasonably successful day, 16 tables were booked and approx 50 people attended and we made a profit of £24.10. The high point of the day was the table booked by one of our members (Roy Henson) to sell some of his unwanted items, Later he donated his profit of £21.00 to the group funds, Well done Roy. It is the exceptional things like this that our members do, that makes all the work worthwhile.

Committee changes

Following the recent resignation of our Treasurer, I am pleased to announce Ron Tickner has agreed to take up this post, Ron has considerable experience as Treasurer of another club.

Forthcoming Events

Sunday 17th Feb @ 2pm Langham Comm Centre

An Afternoon with Geoff King D.F.C.

Geoff will be telling us about his wartime experiences as a Flt Lt on Lancaster's, He Flew 49 missions over a 6 year period for which he was awarded the D.F.C.

Bearing in mind how emotional our Lancaster flypast was on 23/9/01 we are expecting a good crowd.

There will be refreshments and a raffle.

You can reserve seats as normal on xxxxxx £2 members £3 non.

Sat 23rd March 7.30 Langham Comm Centre

Nostalgic Film Evening

The East Anglian Film Archive

Will be showing local films made during the War.

Again we expect this to be very popular so we will be selling tickets in advance £3.50 members £4.50 non, Get yours by sending a cheque (made out to Boxted Airfield Historical Group) and stamped addressed envelope to xxxx.

There will be refreshments and a raffle.

Memories of the 386th Bomb Group

by Michael Heath

My parents lived in Ipswich rd, In 1942 there was a timber yard and cottage opposite, long since demolished, now the site of the Esso petrol station.

The first signs of the airfield being constructed was the constant procession of vehicles loaded with materials passing our gate, the occasional explosion as tree stumps were blown up to be removed.

On the 10th of June 1943 we noticed different military vehicles with white stars, manned by soldiers in a different uniform to our own, By this time word had got around at school (Colchester high school for boys) that the airfield at Boxted was finished and the Americans had moved in. The 386th Bomb Group (The Crusaders) had arrived.

Time to get on the bicycle, it was one of those hot summer days of June 43, Along Severalls ln (all fields in those days), on the left was a lattice radio mast, a long concrete hut, usually a couple of jeeps parked outside (incidentally the remains of the original rd can still be seen opposite the old Trebor buildings). Further on opposite Mill rd, Floods ln led down to communal sites, On the right was Severalls hall (now demolished) past this one could get the first view of the airfield, On to Langham ln down to Runkins corner, up past the butts on the right, The road ran along the western edge of the airfield.

There were barriers which were swung across the road when Marauders took of on runway 28, Although 4,200 ft long a fully laden plane would just clear the rd by about 50ft, When the barriers were across there were armed guards on each one.

The rd went past no.2 T2 hanger, by the boundary was the "viewing point" where us boys would wait and watch hoping for an invitation to come over and look round one of the Marauders parked nearby.

The first combat mission on August 30th resulted in the crash of "One way ticket" an engine quit after take off, The crew escaped with minor injuries. I recall seeing the wreckage in the field by Mill rd. (where the Royal London sports complex is).

Visiting aircraft noted about this time were A20 Havocs (Boston) painted black with R.A.F markings parked by the butts, The reason for their being there is not known, Also here stood a A35 Vultee Vengance target tower, a day or so later an undercarriage leg had collapsed, another occasion a C47 Dakota stood there.

One day while standing in the front garden a Marauder flew along the Ipswich rd at roof top height towards the town, there was a roar of Pratt and Whitney 2800 engines and it was gone, the crew were clearly visible but it went so quick I could not get its markings.

There was always plenty to watch, planes being refuelled, rearmed, seeing the aircraft returning from a mission, flying over the field, breaking formation coming into land, the high speed landing of a Marauder was something to see.

Some aircraft had artwork painted on the nose, Crescendo, Blazing heat, Thumbs up, Texas tarantula (Col Maitlands plane), Yankee guerrilla to name but a few. Artwork included some very nice female forms, all the Marauders had the dark olive drab and grey livery.

Little did I know that some 50 yrs later I would meet Henry "fireball" Farwell a 386th B.G. veteran one of the crew of "Litljo" who flew from Boxted.

The 386th were here for a relatively short time, moving on to Gt Dunmow on Sep 24th 1943.

The airfield was deserted, no aircraft, very few vehicles or personnel, only the picket posts were manned, The question we were all asking, Who is coming next?.

As one of the archivists of the group there are some questions we would like answered, maybe members can help!

We assume the hard stands were numbered and allotted to individual aircraft, to enable the maintenance crews to locate their planes.

Secondly where were the 552, 553, 554, and 555 squadrons located on the field.

Finally has anyone got a photograph of the control tower, or a copy they would care to donate to our display as we do not have a good photographic record of this vital building.

Any information to :

Michael Heath xxxx xxxxxx

Robert Trimnell xxxx xxxxxx E mail xxxx

Richard Turner xxxx xxxxxx

WELL DONE MICHAEL an excellent article, conveying vivid pictures from your memories of a boy in wartime.

The Last reunion of the 386th Bomb Group (medium)

By Henry Farwell (Radio Operator on Marauder Litljo)

It took place in Tampa Florida, which is quite appropriate as the 36th B.G. was activated at Macdill field (as it was then known) in December 1942. Macdill is on the outskirts of Tampa, so we had, quite literally, come home.

The reunion started on Wednesday the 24th Oct 2001, at the Radisson hotel in Tampa. The first day was more of a get together than anything else. They had hospitality set up with plenty of tables and chairs and an open bar and snacks, A good place to meet old friends from previous years and catch up on gossip.

At 5.30 there was a cocktail party with sandwiches etc, more catching up with acquaintances.

Thursday was a big day for us, they had laid on a trip to the Fantasy flight museum at Polk city. This was very interesting, for there were various exhibits of W.W.2 flying activities, especially the ones from England. An adjacent hanger was full of all types of aircraft, from the first days of flight up to current models. We were provided with a very nice lunch.

The highlight of the day for us was a B26 Marauder just outside, it was an early "A" model, but in excellent condition, it is also the only remaining fly able Marauder (although they did not fly it that day), but it was a real treat to go through it. When we got back to the hotel there was dinner for the individual Squadrons and more reminiscing.

On Friday we went to the Macdill Airforce base. There is a memorial park on the base, including a B50 bomber and an F4 fighter. there is also a flagpole with many plaques around it commemorating airforce highlights.

We had a short ceremony to commemorate a plaque to the 386th. Following that we were provided with lunch at the officers club, after which, a Colonel commanding the local refuelling wing, gave a comprehensive talk on the role of Macdill AFB. It is now used by air refuelling tankers and is quite active in present operations. The Colonel's talk was excellent I very nearly stayed awake, had the talk been given before lunch, I probably would have, but that's the way it goes.

The next day Saturday, we were given a tour of the city of Tampa, very interesting, but very different from 1942. In the evening we had cocktails and dinner at the local country club, this was the social highlight of the reunion, more reminiscing, helped along by an open bar of course. The years were taking there toll, for when the first bus left for the hotel it was full (Lottie an I included), thirty years ago we would have been on the last bus!

Sunday was checkout day, we hired a car and spent the next week touring Florida, leaving Miami for London on the 5th November.

Thanks Henry for an excellent report on what was obviously an enjoyable and memorable trip.