Newsletter 010 - July 2002

Newsletter No. 10 July 2002

Another edition packed full of interesting material, the committee have certainly been busy, highlights of this newsletter are, two very special events and part 2 of Michael Heaths memories of Boxted.

Report of A.G.M. held on 14th April 2002

Approx 30 members were present, for an afternoon of positive business and memories of what we have achieved over last 12 months. My report mentioned the video, website and of course "Then and Now" on 23rd Sep 2001, the latter being my highlight of the year, we could not have carried it through without all the members who helped, I still get quite emotional when I think about it, so once again THANK YOU ALL.

We then had secretary and treasurer's reports, we are in a very good financial state, if you would like a copy of the accounts please let us know.

I was then able to make a VERY SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT, because 23rd Sep was so successful and a number of members had expressed a desire that we do it again, you will be pleased to hear that we are, (full details in forthcoming events section).

It was then the members turn to ask questions, and make suggestions, it was proposed by a number of members that the ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL BE CHANGED TO THE A.G.M. AS OPPOSED TO THE ANNIVERSARY OF JOINING. The committee have since met and this is how it will work. ALL ESTABLISHED MEMBERS WILL PAY THEIR RENEWAL AT THE A.G.M.



Hope this is clear, if you have any queries do not hesitate to ask.

We spent the next 2 hours or so watching videos, listening to tapes, looking at 23rd Sep photos, and an exhibition on Gabby Gabreski who had recently passed away, also details of veteran members in the U.S.

Recent Trips

A great day out on 14th March to R.A.F. museum Hendon was enjoyed by 48 members and guests, quite a few of our party were making their first visit and cameras were very much to the fore, expressions of enjoyment and surprise as too how much there was to see.

15th May saw our evening trip to Martlesham control tower museum, they made us very welcome, with an introduction to the history of the site and refreshments, after time to look round, we made our way to the Douglas Bader pub for a very nice meal. As usual these trips were organized by Anne and once again we thank her for some really enjoyable trips.

America's Memorial Day Service at Madingley Monday 27th May

Our group had the honour of being asked by the American Ambassador to lay a wreath at Madingley American cemetery near Cambridge.

So on a bright, sunny and warm morning five of the committee represented our group, I had the honour of laying our wreath which was designed by Robert Trimnell, it had white flowers some sprayed blue to create the shape of the American star. Over 100 wreaths were laid, representing most airfields and groups based in East Anglia. There was a 21 gun salute, a minutes silence, playing of both national anthems and a flypast by 4 F15s, 3 harriers, and the B17 "Sally B". This is an annual event and we should get an invite next year, we will let you know so you can attend if you wish, it certainly was a moving experience.

Forhcoming events

Five parishes show

Sun 4th August, An all day event on the garrison ground, sign posted from the mersea rd. We shall have a stand there publicizing the group and our forthcoming events. Bill Morris and his wife (members) will have their jeep display on our stand.

Boxted Airfield 60th Anniversary Flyin

Sun 1st Sep 106 on the Airfield

Yes this is our big event of the year, even bigger and better than 23rd Sep last year. We are organizing the event jointly with the Suffolk Coastal Strut of the P.F.A. We are hoping up to 50 aircraft will Flyin and land on the old runway. What will make our event unique is that you will be able to get close to the aircraft, look in the cockpits and meet the pilots.

There will be an aerobatic flying display by "The Bucker Formation Team"

Lots for all the family. Displays by aviation groups and organisations, Children's playground, Display of Classic Jaguar Cars, Military Vehicles, Model Aircraft, etc. etc.

Again we will need your help to make the day a great success. If you would like to get involved we are holding a presentation at Langham comm centre on Friday 26th July @ 7.30 upstairs room.

If you cannot help on the day maybe you would like to donate a raffle prize, these can be left at my address. For all U.K. members,we have enclosed two notices.we noticed at last year's event people were prepared to travel. If you could put these up in local shop, post office, library, notice board, or maybe a board in your garden. If you would like more just let us know. Whichever way you help us we THANK YOU VERY MUCH, and look forward to a wonderful day.

Sat 21st Sep Langham Comm Centre1940s Dance

Swing Xpress Big Band

MillerJiveall the big band tunes of the time.

bring your own drink

811 £8

This is the same band we had before, they have just changed their name.

Ring for tickets

Coach Trip to DuxfordTue Oct 1stcoach £7 entrance adult £8 senior £6

Leave St Christopher Rd shops @ 9am leave Duxford @ 5pm

lunch own arrangements.

please use return slip enclosed.

Sun 24th November an afternoon with Roger Freeman

A special event for us. Roger will be giving a talk with slides on the History of Boxted Airfield and his personal memories of his home airfield.

Bring your Roger Freeman books along and get them signed.

2pm Langham comm centre members £3 non £4

Michael heath's memories of Boxted Airfield part 2

The 354th Fighter Group (The Pioneers)

After the 24th September 1943 the airfield was deserted, The Marauders of the 386th b.g. had moved to Gt Dunmow, A few Personnel as a holding force were there, We were wondering who or what would be coming.

On the 13th November 1943 a new sound was heard in the skies over Colchester, The unmistakable Rolls Royce Merlin.

I recall cycling along Severalls ln. Mustang aircraft were visible from here, on the hard stands on the south side of the airfield. By going to the usual viewing point in Langham ln by the T2 hanger. One got the best view of seeing the planes using the perimeter track, Mustangs parked on the nearest hard stands, Any that were being overhauled either inside or outside the hanger.

Security was not as strict as it was when the marauders were there. Occasionally a member of the ground crew would invite some of us over to look at the aircraft or take us into the cavernous hanger. Needless to say there was usually a mad rush to get over the hedge, which in those days was very low, or in some places almost non existent.

The three squadrons which made up the 354th f.g. were:

The 353rd squadron (coded ft) The 355th squadron (coded cq) The 356th squadron (coded aj).

The 355 f.s. hard stands were on the east side of the airfield, around Lodge ln and no.1 hanger, but which of the other two squadrons were on the south and west side hard stands I cannot remember.

When the Mustangs arrived they had olive drab and neutral grey finish, by Nov 43 white spinners, white bands on both upper and lower wing surfaces and tail appeared, (later I learned this was to differentiate friend from foe).

Stacks of 75 u.s. gallon drop tanks started to appear at various locations around the airfield, The long range escort missions had started. The Pioneer Mustang group was at last active on the 1st of December 1943.

Watching the Mustangs taxiing round the perimeter track with two drop tanks indicated an escort mission, usually with a crew chief on the port wing guiding the pilot,(the pilot's view forward was obscured by the engine cowling) on arriving at the main runway the crew chief dropped off, and saw his plane safely away.

The Mustangs would take off in pairs (the main runways were 150 ft wide) this speeded up the time to form up into flights of 4 aircraft, a wide left hand circuit of the airfield, then returned over in squadron formation.

On return some hours later the squadrons would fly over the airfield on the line of the runway in use, each flight would peel off to the left and space themselves out to land one after the other, usually accompanied by engine coughing and spluttering, which could have been engine problems or low on fuel.

The other places to get a good look at the activity going on were the entrance to the aviation dump on Langham ln, the west end of Park ln, this was barricaded off just past the last cottage, at this point one could get a good view of the perimeter track and the aircraft assembling for take off on runway 22, one could also stand in Langham ln at the ends of the runways 10 and 16, the east end of Park ln was another place, being close to a single hard stand(known as a pan).

Visits to the airfield in the winter of 44 were few,(weather permitting) if the group were out on a mission, this meant waiting around for their return, when they did, the whole airfield would become a hive of activity, with the aircraft landing, taxiing to their respective hard stands, vehicles going about collecting the pilots, and sometimes a ground crew standing by an empty hard stand, waiting for the late arrival, or a pilot who would not return.

Now coming to some of the nose art on some of the Mustangs which I can remember, "Peggy" Lt G Talbot "Live Bait" Lt Clayton Gross "Suga" Cpt Charles Lasko "Peg of my heart" Maj George Bickell, then the more colourful, "Short fuse Sallee" Cpt Richard Turner and "Ding Hao" Col James Howard, this one puzzled us as there were six Japanese flags (denoting six kills with the AVG) plus the six swastikas.

The Pioneer Mustang Group had a large number of famous pilots, Col James Howard was awarded the medal of honour for the mission of the 11th January 1944 (the only award of this medal to a fighter pilot in the E.T.O.), Capt Don Beerbower, Lt Col Jack Bradley, Lt Bruce Carr, Maj Glenn Eagleston, Capt Frank o'Connor, Col Richard Turner and others.

One of the tragedies that occurred on March 1st 1944, Lt Charles Gumm lost his life in P51 42106749 when it developed engine trouble on a training sortie, he managed to avoid some houses in the village of Nayland, but hit a tree and was killed, there is a memorial seat in the village square.

A polish pilot witold Lanowski was assigned to the 355 f.s. in March 1944 as intelligence officer, before coming to the 354th f.g. his career started with the Polish airforce, the French airforce and the royal airforce (Polish squadron) although he logged flying time in Mustangs he was not permitted on missions, when the 354th f.g. moved to Lashenden, Lanowski remained at Boxted to fly with the 56th f.g.

By January 1944 the Pioneers were engaged in escorting the bombers, by April they had completed over 30 missions with 200 enemy aircraft to its credit, on the 17th April the Pioneer Mustang Group moved to the advanced landing ground at Lashenden (Kent) to prepare for DDay.

The airfield at Boxted was again quiet, but only for a very short time, for on the 18th April another famous fighter group, the 56th moved in.

We love reading about your memories Michael, we look forward to the next instalment.