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D-Day tours on Airfields around East Anglia,


Aviation Art
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Today on my Detour-Day or (D-Day for short) i managed to call into Duxford to find out what might be basking in the sunshine as we start the road to recovery and the thought of warbirds being pushed out ready for a potential season of flying and entertaining all of us that yearn to hear the wonderful sights and sounds of V12 powered warbirds and Big Radial trainers and fighters, so with the sunshine bouncing of Spitfire LF MK.Vb EP120 parked outside Duxford and owned and operated By THE FIGHTER COLLECTION this feels like a good start, with a few of its Stable mates all longing to once again take to the air here are a few photos, and so onto the next D-Day, 

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Supermarine LF Mk.Vb Spitfire EP120 (G-LFVB)

Our Mk.V Spitfire is one of the most credited historic aircraft left anywhere in the world with an impressive SEVEN confirmed kills. EP120 was built at the Castle Bromwich factory where she was probably test flown by the legend that was Alex Henshaw. She was taken on charge by the RAF in May 1942 with 45 MU at Kinloss in Scotland. She was assigned to 501 Sqn the following month and scored six of her confirmed kills with Sqn Ldr Geoffrey Northcott at the helm. A ground collision saw her returned to Castle Bromwich for repair following which she was allocated to 19 Sqn in Cornwall. In April 1944 she was taken on charge with 402 Sqn ‘City of Winnipeg’ RCAF, coded AE-A, which are the colours she wears today.In June 1944 EP120 went to 33 MU at Lyneham, before moving onto 53 OTU at Kirton in Lindsey. Following a period as a ground instructional airframe, EP120 served as gate guard at a number of RAF stations until 1967 when she was used as a static aircraft in the ‘Battle of Britain’ movie. Following her first silver screen experience she was back guarding the gate, at RAF Wattisham this time until 1989 when she was transported to St. Athan along with all the rest of the gate guard Spitfires. EP120 remained in storage at St. Athan until she joined The Fighter Collection fleet in 1993.Following a full restoration, EP120 returned to the skies in September 1995 and has been a popular performer with both the crowds and pilots ever since.

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                                                                            PARHAM AIRFIELD/FRAMLINGHAM AIRFIELD

On another D-Day tour we find ourselves discovering this quite little part of Suffolk just outside Framlingham, Parham Airfield which was home to B17s during the war, on arriving to the Control tower via part of the old runway and peri tracks we find this restored control tower with out buildings which nowadays forms part of the wonderful museum that you find here,  on stepping out of the car you find yourself  immersed in wide open country views with the sound of skylarks signing all around and the quite warm breeze, (if lucky to visit it on a glorious summers day) your mind starts to visualise the sights and sounds that once would have been heard all around from a busy war time airfield and the hustle and bustle of active B17s coming and going to follow through there daily duties, 

I visited on a none open day were i was left to capture my thoughts on what was once a completely different way of life, i would recommend anyone who hasn't found this gem of WWII airfields to take your Detour-Day and explore ,

Here are my photos of that day,

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Framlingham airfield was built in 1942 to the standard Class A specification seen on many other airfields. Class A was the specification set for an airfield that was to be used as a heavy bomber station with three runways, 50 hard standings, two T-2 type hangars for aircraft maintenance, a bomb dump and enough accommodation to house around 2900 personnel dispersed in the surrounding countryside. Although designated as “Framlingham” the station did not fall in the parish boundary of the nearby town of Framlingham.

Once complete the station opened, designated as AAF Station 153 and the 95th Bombardment Group (Heavy) arrived on the 12th May 1943. Flying the B-17 Flying Fortress as part of the Eighth Air Force’s strategic bombing campaign the 95th entered combat on 13 May 1943 by attacking an airfield at Saint-Omer, however the group suffered terrible losses, and eventually transferred to nearby Horham on 15 June to regroup.

The station was not quiet for long as the 390th Bombardment Group (Heavy) moved into the site on 4th July 1943, again equipped with the B-17. The 390th flew its first combat mission on 12th August 1943 against Industrial targets in the Ruhr. Five days later the group attacked the Messerschmitt aircraft complex at Regensburg, and received a Distinguished Unit Citation for its part during this mission. As second DUC for their part in the raid on the antifriction-bearing plants at Schweinfurt while enduring a sustained onslaught by Luftwaffe fighters.

The 390th largely flew strategic bombing missions attacking German industry such as aircraft production, oil supply, and rail marshalling yards; however like many bomb groups it switched to a more tactical role in support of the D-Day landings in Normandy, attacking enemy artillery in support of ground forces during the breakthrough at Saint-Lô, the Battle of the Bulge, and the allied crossing of the Rhine. In all the group flew 195 combat missions losing 58 aircraft flying its last combat mission on 25th April 1945 to attack an airfield in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. Despite the cessation of combat operations,  the group dropped food supplies to the Dutch during the lead up to VE Day. In all, the group flew 300 missions dropping 19,000 tons of bombs. They lost 181 aircraft , 714 airmen were killed and countless more wounded. The unit was inactivated on 28 August 1945.

 

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                                                                              EARLS COLNE AIRFIELD

 

Continuing on with are Detour-Days (D-Day for short) were on are travels around the east Anglian region we are lucky to find many reminders of the areas part it played during WWII and for anyone interested in this topic the signs are all around if you live close buy, and you don't need to look to hard, Today we focus on Earls Colne Airfield which isn't hidden away like many Airfields we find with more detective work required to find what remains of the once active lives of a WWII airfield. 

Earls Colne Airfield is now a thriving commercial hub for many industrial business's and Golf Course but it hasn't forgotten its History and on driving past the main entrance you are immediately presented with a memorial dedicating its past sacrifices to all those who gave up there own freedoms, 

The photos attached are of my time spent there and although a busy place you still grab a sense of Airfield life, so on to the next Detour- Day, 

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Earls Colne’s first operational tenants were B-17Fs of the Eighth Air Force's 94th Bomb Group in May 1943. Its four squadrons moved to Rougham, Suffolk, on 13 June, having lost nine bombers that day during a mission to Kiel.

The following month, B-26 Marauder ‘medium’ bombers of the 323rd Bomb Group moved in, staying at Earls Colne until July 1944 – having transferred to the US Ninth Air Force on October 16, 1943.

 

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                                                                                              RAF DEBDEN

On yet another Detour-Day (D-DAY) i find myself parked at the end of the runway were you can find this memorial dedicating itself to all those Squadrons that took to the skies from this very spot to help turn the tide of the war, No Skylarks on this occasion as winter was very much in place,

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 A few photos from the Detour-Day above and some history below,

 

RAF Debden, construction of which began in 1935, is perhaps most famous as a Battle of Britain fighter airfield, partly responsible for the defence of London in 1940. In 1942 it was also home to three RAF 'Eagle Squadrons’ of volunteer American pilots. When the base was handed over to the Americans in 1942, the Eagle Squadrons transferred to the USAAF, becoming the 4th Fighter Group. Equipped first with Spitfires, then P-47 Thunderbolts, the Group occupied Debden until July 1945.

During the Battle of Britain the airfield was a sector station for No. 11 Group being occupied by eight RAF fighter squadrons at different times. The first air-raid sounded on 18 June 1940 although the first bombs were not dropped on the airfield until seven days later. Then, on 2 August, came a heavy attack which destroyed several buildings, to be followed by another severe raid on 31 August. During August and September, Debden fighters claimed seventy aircraft destroyed, thirty probables and forty-one damaged.
 
On 28 January 1941, the station was visited by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the following month by a German aircrew. It was on 4 February 1941 that a German pilot landed his aircraft and taxied to the watch office (control tower) at which point the German pilot must have realised his mistake, opted to turn his aircraft around and open the throttles at full RPM,, to say the least, 
 

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                                                                            HALESWORTH AAF STATION 365 

 

Another visit today on my D-Day tours of airfields within East Anglia and today i found myself soaking up the atmosphere at Halesworth, stepped in history it was the home to the 56th group who would become famously known as ZEMKE'S WOLFPACK with there combat performance , it was also home to the 489th bomb group and 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron, On finding my way around the outskirts of the old perimeter tracks there is still lots to see from what was this vital airfield, with many sections of concrete runways still visible to see, on approaching the south side of the airfield you will find plaques dedicating to those of served along with a well stocked museum with plenty to occupy those with an interest in the airfield, its an active area with many commercial business to be found but you can find yourself on the quite side of a perimeter track to take stock and reflect on what it would have been like all those years ago,  

 

The 56th flew numerous missions over France, the Low Countries, and Germany to escort bombers that attacked industrial establishments, V-weapon sites, submarine pens, and other targets on the Continent. In addition the 56th strafed and dive-bombed airfields, troops, and supply points; attacked the enemy communications; and flew counter-air patrols.

The 56th became one of the most outstanding fighter groups in the Eighth Air Force, producing fighter aces including Francis Gabreski and Robert S. Johnson. The group was responsible for pioneering most of the successful fighter escort tactics with the Thunderbolt and had many successes while operating from Halesworth and received a Distinguished Unit Citation for aggressiveness in seeking out and destroying enemy aircraft and for attacking enemy air bases, between 20th February and 9th March 1944. Having flown 128 missions, the 56th FG was transferred to Boxted in Essex on 19 April 1944 as Halesworth to make room for a new bomber group.

The four constituent squadrons of the 489th Bombardment Group (Heavy) arrived at Halesworth from the 1st May 1944 equipped with the B-24 Liberator and the group flew its first combat mission on 30th May attacking targets in preparation for the D-Day landings.

To merge the combination of the visit and our art section we can look at Robert Taylors iconic print depicting ZEMKE'S WOLFPACK in action as pictured below along with photos of are visit  

Hub Zemke was a fighter pilot and commander who led from the front.

A great tactician too, it was in no small measure due to the air combat tactics introduced to the 56th Fighter Group by its mercurial leader that by the end of WW2 it had become the top-scoring Fighter Group in the USAF. This highly successful unit spawned some of the top fighter aces in the European theatre: Gabby Gabreski with 34.5 victories, Robert Johnson with 28 victories, and the colourful Ace, Walker Bud Mahurin who shot down 21 German aircraft.

High over Germany at the extremity of its range, the P-47 of Hub Zemke is seen leading his pilots in to defend a stricken B-17 against the persistent attacks of marauding Fw190s. Already damaged, the B-17 has dropped from the relative safety of the formation, and protection from the P-47s is now its only chance of survival.

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                                                      RATTLESDEN AIRFIELD

 

On this particular visit on my D-Day Tours (Detour-Days) i came across this particular memorial by chance whilst driving around on my working day, and struck lucky by passing this, i have attached a few photos and look forward to making a revisit to soak up and explore in more depth,, so look forward to that, 

Rattlesden Airfield was built in 1942 by the British,, Rattlesden was a “Class A” airfield with three intersecting concrete runways and hard-standings for 50 aircraft. It was initially a satellite of nearby Rougham airfield, both being part of the American 3rd Bomb Wing in USAAF’s 8th Air Force, “The Mighty 8th”.

 

Ground personnel of the 322nd Bomb Group arrived in December 1942 with plans to operate the B26 Marauder Medium Bomber, but by April 1943 the unit was operating exclusively from Rougham. In november 1943 the 3rd Bomb Wing moved to Essex with its B26s and was replaced in Suffolk by the 4th Bomb Wing. Rattlesden then became home to the 447th Bomb Group equipped with B17 Flying Fortresses,

 

A posthumous award of the medal of honor (the highest american military decoration) was made to 2nd lieutenant Robert Femoyer of the 447th Bomb Group, after he navigated his damaged Flying Fortress home to Rattlesden on 2nd November 1944 despite being terribly, and ultimately fatally wounded. The 447th Bomb Groups’ B17s flew 257 missions from Rattlesden and earned a reputation as one of USAAF’s most accurate bomb groups. It lost 97 aircraft.

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If any one has had more time to explore please upload you photos,, would really like to see more, 

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                                                                                      RAF RAYDON 

Todays D-Day tour took me to RAF Raydon and what a gem with so much to look at with sections of runway perimeter tracks and many outbuildings and the use of any original T-2 Hanger there is plenty to soak in,, i found myself at the location of the memorial that again dedicates those that served and lost there lives for freedom, As i stood taking in the surroundings i had a sense of calm with the gentle breeze that was blowing across the open fields and the quite open space with the distinct sound of the skylarks often found around these airfields, you try to imagine the distant sound of an approaching P51 or P47 returning to base and for a while it could be possible until the sounds of modern life return,, its an interesting airfield to visit with many discoveries to find is worth a Detour if you find yourself in the area,

Raydon airfield was constructed by the 833rd and 862nd Aviation Engineer Battalions. Although only ever used by fighters, Raydon airfield was constructed as a standard Class A bomber airfield. As a result, its main concrete runway was approximately 6000 ft long with two intersecting concrete runways of 4200 ft. Two T-2 type hangars were built at opposite ends of the airfield and 52 concrete dispersal points were located around the perimeter track and as you can see from my Photos attached the T-2 Hanger is visible in the back ground,

 

 

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Heading Home to Raydon

Attached Drawing is by Robert Taylor called Heading for Raydon, After an arduous bomber escort mission in early 1945, P-51 Mustangs of the 353rd Fighter Group return to their base at Raydon, Suffolk.

 

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