(Winkton Airfield ) ( 404th Fighter Group ) ( Aircraft of the 404th ) ( Links Books Contacts ) ( Author )
The area around the airfield contained ( and still does contain) several small villages, each with one or more good English Pubs. The nearest to the aerodrome would have been the Lamb Inn at Holfleet at the eastern edge of Winkton village, the Carpenters Arms, Crown and Three Tuns in Bransgore and the Woolpack in Sopley. Local people remember the Lamb Inn (run by a Miss Cox and her sister) and the Three Tuns as the most popular with the American servicemen and it is know that 506th ground crews used the Woolpack in Sopley. Also in Sopley was another pub, called the Smiths Arms which sold only ale. Still having a landlady, Anne Curtis, in 1939 some locals remember it being used during the war as a Forces canteen, others remember it as a billet for Canadian airmen from RAF Hurn, and in 1946 it became a private house. Whether all activities occurred and in what order has yet to be established.
In Bournemouth the American Red Cross occupied two hotels in Bournemouth, both run as Red Cross centres for US service personnel.
picture provided via Bob Williams and the 404th Fighter Group association
The Woolpack in Sopley, used by 506 squadron ground crews
Locals also remember the vast amount of armaments, aircraft underwing drop tanks and equipment stored in every hedgerow and copse around the airfield, supplemented by replenishments of supplies from either Christchurch, by US Army trucks, or from RAF Holmsley South nearby. Holmsley South was not Winktons parent unit but was much closer and was a large new permanent airfield with excellent facilities and moreover it also hosted a number of military and civilian lodger units which provided support to other local airfields. Winkton airfield also had vehicles of its own, and the base used Mr and Mrs Harrisons Sopley Garage as a fuel store. Their daughter, Phyllis Bailey (an ex WAAF) tells that each day about 9 a.m. between four and six vehicles would arrive to be refuelled from drums and jerry cans.
The base staff got to know the Harrisons well, called them Ma and Pa, and would visit for tea and lunch , especially Sunday lunch. The airmen understood very well the privations of the civilian population caused by rationing and would a bring along welcome supplements to the Harrisons' normal rations.
The vicar of Sopley and Burton, Canon Charles Dudley Kirkham was appointed in 1942. In addition Canon Kirkham was asked to be the Officiating Chaplain for the Royal Air Force at Sopley and Ibsley, and this involved care of personnel at other bases too. His children, John and Anne, remember the arrival of the construction teams in 1943 who built Winkton and the filling in of Derritt Lane to make way for the runways and taxyways. Derritt Lane is variously described by local people as being a narrow sunken road between high hedge rows, (as it remains in part to this day at its eastern and western ends), a bridle way and a wide footpath. It was then and remains now subject to flooding. Apparently the site of the airfield contained an old burial mound, a barrow, claimed to be the site of the burial of warriors killed in a local battle between the Danes and King Alfreds forces. The barrow was flattened during the preparation work for the aerodrome and Canon Kirkham expressed some concern at this to the commanding officer of the unit concerned. The officer was apologetic and offered to put it back again !!!
On a visit to Winkton aerodrome with his father, John Kirkham acquired one of the underwing fuel tanks, it being presented to him by the Americans, and a local farmer helped transport it back to the vicarage in Burton where it was converted into a canoe but never tested in the water. Nevertheless it apparently generated lots of enjoyment.
(more memories of Canon Kirkhams children can be
found in the pages of this site dealing with Sopley and Starlight, Southern Radar and RAF Sopley ).
Andy Wilson from the 507th Squadron remembered in 1998....
Our office trailer (van, caravan or whatever you call it) was called a "Brockhouse trailer". From its position on the south side, east end of the E_W runway, I was watching a "conga-line" of my squadrons P-47s taxiing very carefully, tacking from side to side because the high nose kept the pilot from seeing directly ahead, when one planes propeller chewed into the tail of the plane ahead. Nobody hurt, but two planes sidelined for repairs, and one pilot very red-faced.
Once a JU-88 - - with RAF markings - - gave us a flyover, for aircraft recognition alertness, I presume.
We were defended on the ground by an RAF light anti aircraft contingent. One day a group of the gunners came through my tent-copse looking for rabbit-tunnels among the roots of the trees. They covered one opening with a burlap bag, started a smoke-fire at another opening, and very soon had something wriggling and squirming inside the bag. One RAF sergeant grabbed the body in the bag, gave a vigorous twist -- and off they went to fix up a rabbit stew perhaps.
I was a school boy in Ripley when the Americans were at Winkton. I got to know one of the pilots well, his name was Abraham (Bill Abraham of the 508th ?), and I used to follow his flights all the time. If he was flying very late, even if he landed back in the early hours of the morning, I would often get up and sneak out to the airfield to see him safely back
Once or twice aircraft from other airfields crashed at Winkton whilst trying to land, I think one was a Lightning (a P38) or a Hurricane (A Hurricane did crash on the north west corner of the airfield before the 404th arrived, it collided with one of two other allied aircraft whilst being jumped and engaging in mock combat). I remember a bigger aircraft, a Liberator perhaps, with an injured crew, very nasty to look inside the aircraft.
Tom Adlem .
The airfield was almost entirely in the Parish of Sopley, and the majority of the airfeild was on land belonging to Sopley Farm, which my father was farming at the time. The southern end was on land belonging to Clockhouse farm, still on the Sopley Estate, whilst the northern end entered onto Parsonage farm still within Sopley Parish.
I remember one aircraft on take off fired its guns by accident, one of the bullets was said to have travelled three miles and injured someone in Bisterne. I can't remember precisely where the hanger was, but almost certainly in the vicinity of Clockhouse copse. Most of the airfield operational site was over on the south east part of the airfield, the boundaries over on the west side had a lot of stores and materials hidden in them. There was a fuel site just north of Ripley crossroads on the edge of the airfield, opposite our house, and a generator site too. The fuel site (and the nearby radar site with its two fixed anti aircraft gun positions) was nearly hit by a Hurricane which crashed there before the Americans arrived. A Dakota (C47) landed with supplies one day and went through the sommerfeld netting it was so heavy. The airfield had this netting, steel plating and also some surfaces reinforced with an interlocking grid.
My father not only farmed the land around the airfield, but was also a sergeant was in the Home Guard. The guard were all trained in rescue techniques to get pilots out of aircraft. Two aircraft crashed on different occasions near Priest's Lane in Sopley, and my father was at home on one of these occasions. They got the pilot out OK, but apparently he was over six feet tall and they had an awful struggle to do so. The other aircraft crashed with a full load of bombs, which thankfully didn't go off. The cottages nearby were evacuated overnight and we were told to keep our windows open all night in case they exploded. I also remember one aircraft landing having been unable to let his bombs go. The bombs exploded when the aircraft landed. (Gordon thinks this was just before the Americans left, so it was probably Roger Green's aircraft).
I'm sure I remember New Barn being used as a theatre by the Americans for an ENSA concert. My father and mother went to a show there, the stage was framed by two big shells about two and a half feet tall - I think my sister still has one of them, they were artificial shells made of wood. The Americans sat on 5 gallon oil cans in the theatre, and used to beat the sides of them instead of applauding. Across the road, by the side of the stream, was a mess tent where my parents were invited for a meal - lots of things they never saw in wartime Britain. They were pressed to take things home with them, including some fresh pineapple. Just down the road towards the airfield was a set of buildings in a little four acre field, I don't know what they were, maybe catering buildings. The road outside New Barn was closed off, there was a guard and a check point up by the junction with West Road at the top of the hill on the edge of Bransgore.
Colonel McColpin lived in a caravan in the yard at Lower Clockhouse Farm. One day he requested that my father come over to discuss his bill for grass cutting on the airfield. The Colonel suggested that it was too low and to resubmit it at a higher price. He also suggested to my father that if he had any old grass cutting and hay making equipment he wasn't using, he should leave it on the airfield and charge for it.
Gordon Farwell, Pylewell Farm, East End, Lymington
From Leslie White, local aviation historian and author, in 1944 Les was an Air Cadet living in New Milton.
The bombs used to be brought up from Christchurch railway goods yard in US Army trucks. They were stored in the old sunken road that ran along the southern edge of the north-south runway (the trucks just drove along slowly and the bombs were dropped out into the verges). The area to the south of this was were the RAF kept an Auster light observation plane used in conjunction with the RAF radar site. Also in this area was the hanger, a USAAF mobile anti- aircraft truck with twin machine guns and some earthworks. Inside the earth works were a number of vehicles and aerials (including a rotating dish aerial). (Its possible that these were part of the Control Net System for Winkton, or some of the older equipment displaced from the RAF radar site during its refurbishment.) The field here was also used as a general storeage area with vehicle and stores scattered about.
The Sommerfeld matting was laid by having two jeeps push a roll of the matting out in front of them.
The airfield was defended by a unit of the Royal Air Force regiment. They had an anti aircraft gun site to the NW of the airfield near Ripley, and possibly another behind Merryfield copse to the North east of the airfield.
There are stories that, to test the reinforced airfield, the Americans flew in a B 24 Liberator to load the wire and steel reinforced runways.
Jim Slightam was also an Air Cadet in the New Forest area during the war. His first job was as the telegram boy at Burley Post office, before becoming a trainee post office engineer whose are included amongst others, RAF Holmsley South. Jim used to deliver the occasional telegram to Winkton, addressed to the station commander, but sent in error to Burley rather than Christchurch or Burton. The post master in Burley would write the messages out in longhand, then shred the next few blank pages of the message pad to ensure the content could never be read by anyone else. The messages were always for the Colonel, and Jim was always instructed to hand then over to Colonel McColpin or his deputy, no one else. The guards at Winkton were highly amused by this, but Jim would be shown through to the Colonel.or to the Group Deputy Commander, Major (later Lt Colonel) James K Johnson. There he was received with amused formality whilst he delivered the message as instructed , in person, into the hands of the recipient.
Tim Gibson lived at Merryfield Farm and was a very young pupil at Sopley school, in Ripley when the airfield was built. Whilst the school was only about half a mile from his home the journey could be as much as six miles due to the closure of the road across the airfield. The solution proved to be the form of a US Army jeep which picked up young Tim in the morning, drove him across the airfield to school and collected him for the return trip each afternoon. Tim says he was often given the odd luxury to take home with him, to supplement the wartime rations at home.
Pat Stokes was a member of the British Women's Auxuliary Air Force (WAAF) who was on the strength of the RAF GCI radar station at Sopley during the war. She was in a billet at Winkton House and remembers that they were all a bit nervous of the new arrivals on the airfield, so much so that they asked for a bus to take them on duty on night watches rather than cycle as usual. Pat remembers that there were some casual friendships formed with members of the 404th, and remembers a picnic on her birthday shortly after D Day, when some of the US servicemen came along and, as they worked in the Stores on the airfield, the food choice was therefore somewhat enhanced. Indeed food seems to be a common thread amongst peoples memories of the 404th at Winkton. Pat tells me that after D day there was a period when the RAF at Sopley were provisioned by the 404th as the local British units had all gone following the invasion. This was understandably popular, but caused some confusion at times. The British servicemen and women at Sopley had not come across frozen food before ( and had no refrigerator) and when presented with 20 frozen chickens they were apparently a little non plussed as to what to do with them. In the end the cook hung them up over a coal fireplace overnight and cooked them all the next day.
From Doug Nelmes - one of the fuel tanker drivers at WinktonI remember that just opposite the 508th Hanger on the northside of the trees (Clockhouse Copse) we had a live 500 lb bomb that fell off a plane and went off on the runway. I was driving a gas truck with two 600 gal trailers on at the time and I looked out and saw men jumping off wings just before the bomb went off. The explosion shut the engine off on the truck & blew the hood open. I had some holes in the back bunper but no holes in the tanks. The bomb sort of mushroomed and went over the truck. Also blew my helmet off.
From Francis Abt - a pilot with the 507thI went to Winkton as one of the early replacement pilots assigned to the 507th fighter squadron. It was May 1944. the new guy got all of the lousy jobs and I was duty officer of the day on June 5th. Late that night the direct phone line from 9th Air Force fighter command rang, and began a rollcall of all fighter groups in the 9th Air Force, for an immediate "operations alert"with the code designation "the door bell has rung". It was the code for the start of the invasion. The group flew its first mission before dawn that morning june 6th. I flew my first mission five day later June10th. I was with the 507th until Jan 22nd 1945 when I was shot down on my 70th mission about six miles SE of St Vith during the battle of the Bulge.
From Michael Dowding, formerly of Bockhampton Bakery.
I remember the Thunderbolt that landed on the back of Tommy Hopkin's lorry whilst he was delivering to the thatched cottage opposite Pouncy's Market garden at the junction with Chapel Lane and West Rd. He would deliver, I think, once a week to our area from Hinton Admiral Railway Station but I can't believe parcels would wait for several days before being delivered!! It was said locally, tongue in cheek, that he had just made a delivery and found that he couldn't move because a plane had landed on him. I always thought the P47 dropped out of the sky until. For some reason, listening to your collection of memories of those events, it seems to me as tho' the plane should have been upside down on the hedge outside the cottage, but I'm pretty certain that the cockpit was uppermost and nose into the ground. It left, what I thought, were several bullet holes in the ground.
I remember on 1 or 2 occasions taking half a dozen eggs to the men under canvas and being given a box of chocs. for mother and some Juicy Fruit gum and boiled sweets for myself. The Americans would come into our shop (Old Bakery) at junct.with West Rd. and Burley Rd.and make a fuss of Mollie, my baby sister and they pleased my mother by saying how pretty she was and how, if she were older, would like to take her back to the States with them. I remember having "Piggy_Back" fights with 2-3 of my pals in the woods opp. RAF Sopley main gate. The Americans would have us lads on their backs and we would try and pull each other off their backs.
I remember running and standing at the edge of the woods when the planes returned from their missions and how pleased they were when their leader was leading them back and how sad they would be if there was a space in the formations.....they would come back 3 abreast and looked a lovely sight "Peeling Off" to come round to land. I guess I must have been ill at the time,..unless it was early morning before I went to school but I used to think it a wonderful sight looking out of my bedroom, which was one orchard and one field away from the end of the runway, towards the runway and seeing the Thunderbolts taxiing up the side runways towards me and glistening in the sunshine,and all grouping before turning on to the main runway and racing away from me towards Sopley to take off for their mission.
When the Americans departed the site they dumped loads of stuff...mainly rubbish..in an area just passed Josses bakery in Neacroft. If you drive to Waterditch the road dips down just passed the bakery and on the RH side there was a gate leading into some common land and sand pits. Just inside the gates loads of their waste was dumped and I remember collecting tins of fruit..dented..to take home. I also found badges/ stripes and a cap that I still have...one of those they wore on the side of their heads..like I had in my RAF days.
P47s of the 506th squadron, 404th FG return to Winkton from a mission, May or early June 1944
(photo courtesy Stephen Tueller)
I am Geoffrey Bennett, aged 71, so I was 13 when the ALG had its few months of glory. I remember some details well since I was an aeroplane-mad kid who lived in Heaven. Actually I was the Bransgore School headmaster's son, so within fairly quick cycling time I could hang over the fences of Hurn, Winkton, Ibsley, Stoney Cross, Holmsley South, Beaulieu or Christchurch. The summer of 1944 was pure bliss.
I was a boarder at Kings College, Taunton, so I could only indulge my passion during the school "holls".
I am surprised to see on the airfield map on your website a suggestion that there might have been a hangar near the east end of the East-West runway. That was the very spot where I once hung over the port cockpit side of a Thunderbolt and, with some coaching from the pilot, operated the switch to start the engine. And there was no hangar there. As it happens I don't remember seeing any of those curved-top temporary hangars anywhere at the field.
Another detail I have not seen mentioned in any stories on the Thunderbolt operations is the colour of practice bombs.
They were painted sky-blue, and were prominently visible when mounted on the bomb-shackles of the aircraft. I found it amusing that the adult friends of my Dad expressed some misgivings that "those planes" were flying low over our heads with bombs. Their misgivings vanished once the planes started carrying real bombs that were bigger, but not so visible. Rumour had it that the practice bombs were dropped on a range on the Isle of Wight.
Incidentally my interest in aircraft later became useful when I joined the Royal Observer Corps, and much later when I wangled pilot-training as a National Serviceman, and later still became a pilot in the RCAF. But that, as they say, is another story.
Philip John Witt
Although the correct name for the field was Winkton A.L.G., it was called Sopley Drome by local people, me included. I lived in Derritt Lane at that time.
I was working at New Barn Cottage during the time that the airfield was being constructed. I can remember the R.A.F. Regiment putting up their Nissen hut in the small field opposite New Barn. This was to be their base whilst preparing the runways, and included tents, tipper lorries etc. We were repairing and redecorating the cottage when I saw what I believed to be the first plane to land, a silver-coloured P47. It taxied up to the far side of the field opposite this was the first Thunderbolt I had seen. What a great thrill for a lad of 15! It struck me how big they were for a single-engined aircraft. I have since read that this wasnt the first, but it certainly was for me.
Derritt Lane was a narrow sunken road that had to be filled in for the runways. Between the road and the fields on the southern side, there were large hollows that stretched from just below the bridge in Derritt Lane to Sopley Cross. The only breaks being the entrances to various fields, which were built-up. In winter these hollows became deep pools. As children we were warned to keep away as drowning was a real possibility. There was a tale of a drunk returning home in his donkey cart running off the road and drowning in one of these pools. Fact or fiction, I dont know.
I was only aware of two hangars:
Number One: - Heading toward Sopley, just over the bridge on the right, halfway between the stream and the new barn.
Number Two: - Off Burley Road, south of Higher Clockhouse Farm, just behind an area known as sheep-dip.
There were also two Nissen huts, built end to end, just over the stream close to Lower Clockhouse Farm. Each had a footbridge across the stream. We bought one of the huts after the war.
The field behind and to the north of the Derritt Lane hangar was used as a store for aircraft parts. The spares were laid out in sections and included auxiliary fuel tanks. The main fuel store for the aircraft was situated on the north side of Derritt Lane at the junction with the Ripley Road. (Sopley Cross)
The Butts were built just to the east of the north/south runway at the northern end. I well remember the massive brick wall being built and also looking for spent ammo afterwards.
Apart from a road closed sign at the junction with West Road, there was no checkpoint in Derritt Lane till just past Rose Cottage. This was probably because several farmers had a few acres of land for which they needed access. (Part of Sopley Camp is now built over this area.) From this checkpoint, down to Merryfield Farm, there was a solid line of vehicles parked on the left. This may have been the M.T. park for one of the squadrons as all sorts of vehicles were there, from 6 wheeled Dodges to Jeeps.
I think there were 16 aircraft to a squadron, 4 flights of 4. I recall seeing 48 coming back from raids in 3 groups of 16. Sometimes one or two might be missing. They would peel off and land quite close together. I can remember one crashing at Crooked Oak, right at the bottom of our garden. The pilot lost his life as he came in too sharp and the wingtip touched the ground. Another crash happened at the junction of West Road and Chapel Lane, where the plane came down on a railway parcels delivery lorry from Highcliffe Garage. Tommy Hopkins was delivering to The Old Cottage at the time and was unhurt - the pilot was also unharmed. They had to build a brick wall to replace the hedge that was flattened its still there as part of the cottages front boundary at the Derritt Lane end.
For long flights the aircraft carried extra fuel tanks slung under the wings, which were dropped when empty. These were made of a type of compressed cardboard and usually painted silver. One plane returned with a tank hanging loose, luckily it fell off as it came in to land. A friend and I spent hours looking for it in the woods near Shirley saw mill. We didnt find anything and I now wonder if someone else beat us to it! There was also a tank made from steel, which was fixed under the fuselage of the aircraft, these could be used many times.
My pal and I were given two brand new tanks that we converted, with hammer and chisel, into canoes. Paddles were made from broom handles and pieces of plywood. We took them down to Avon and successfully launched them on the river there. We had some good times with our canoes until someone took a fancy to them and they disappeared.
The R.A.F. Regiment manned the airfield defences. At the time I drew a rough plan of the gun positions and looking at it now, I see there were eight Bofors guns and seventeen machine gun positions. Possibly, these were twin Vickers machine guns. I expect there were more guns that I couldnt see. Most of the defenses seem to have been to the south and west of the airfield. This could have been because R.A.F Sopley Radar was close by.
I wasnt familiar with Clockhouse Copse, but Barretts Copse and Merryfield Copse were full of tents. These were possibly the living quarters. Merryfield also had a cookhouse on the east side. I remember walking down there with a gallon of beer for the cooks in payment for the waste food given to my friends family for their pigs. The Americans loved this beer I think it was Mild. The brewers were Crowleys and it came from Mrs. Curtis off-license in West Road (the same Mrs Curtis who ran the Smith's Arms beer house in Sopley? - Ed).
All this happened nearly 56 year ago and I hope my memory is as sharp as I think it is!
My Memories of 11th May:
Thunderbolt Crash in Bransgore.
I was just over three years old on 11th May 1944, but this day is vivid in my memory even now. In fact it is almost my first real memory, so let me explain.
It was war time and at Forest Edge, West Road, Bransgore, I had been put down for my afternoon rest in the downstairs room nearest the road. There was suddenly a terrific noise and a huge fireball, it seemed to me, flew past my window. I was very frightened, but then remembered a picture in the bedroom of our neighbours we called Granny and Grampy Young. This was of a Christ figure with a very bright area radiating from his chest. My immediate thought at this young age, was that this was what I was seeing, and somehow I was therefore going to be quite safe. My other memory was of the ‘whatnot’ a piece of wooden furniture: a set of shelves held up by twisted legs. But at that moment my mother (Muffets Pouncy) flew into the room, grabbed me up and rushed me back through the house. I’m not totally sure of the next sequence of events, but I believe I was taken to the Young's in a rather circular route and then I was returned to the house shortly afterwards.
What had actually happened was the crash of a USAAF Thunderbolt that had not been able to take off properly from Sopley (Winkton) Airfield. My only other vivid memory was of being back in our sitting room (or perhaps this happened before I was taken to the Youngs) and several people coming in the front door with a man and gently sitting him in my father’s chair. I was sitting opposite, probably in a chair or on a sofa. I can see the man there, with pale or gingery hair, wearing a flying suit, and I can see and almost feel the material of Dad’s chair, bright blue uncut moquette - I believe the ends of the chair arms were dark wood. This was the pilot of the crashed plan, who was in a state of shock.
An apple tree by a pig sty attached to the Brew House, on the edge of the path from house to the big barn and other outbuildings, was hit and knocked sideways – it lived on but propped up at an angle. The end of the Brew House was damaged and was shored up with wooden planks for the rest of the time we lived there (till 1963). I do not remember much more personally, other than the sickness I felt for years afterwards, whenever I came across some of the twisted partially green coloured metal that had been parts of the plane. From this time on I was extremely nervous of aircraft, eventually being helped by a family friend who taught me aircraft recognition, which had been her job in the ATS. After all this it is perhaps a surprise that my whole working life has been at Hurn Airport, working in the Met Office!
Now to the story as told by my mother. My father (Jack Pouncy) was working in Christchurch at the time, so knew nothing of the crash till he cycled home and saw my mother waving her arms to show she was OK, with a group of people in the road. She had been sitting, she told me, in a chair on the front lawn with her spaniel beside her, enjoying the warm sunshine, when she realised with horror that a plane was crashing and coming straight towards her. As she flew to the door, thinking only to rush to me, the plane somersaulted past her spraying her legs with very hot oil, while the dog sustained a dislocated back leg (all dealt with OK later on). I remember Mum telling me that after she’d dealt with me, when she went into the road, men were just standing there, unsure of how to try to extinguish the flames of the plane on fire. She organised them with buckets from our smallholding, which they passed one to another. The fire had caught hold of the hedge of the house opposite ours – The Thatched House – but miraculously the thatch and house itself did not catch fire, nor did the other thatched cottage – Apple Tree Cottage - on the other corner, or our own which was partially thatched.
Now to my father’s account, written as part of his memoirs in 1995 at the age of 92. The five acres of Forest Edge, were we lived, was being run as a smallholding at this period.
"D day was now approaching and a temporary runway was made for the American fighters. The runway started well down towards Sopley, but ended not far short of our lowest ground, on the south side of which was a thick row of fir trees, of good size, beyond there was a pig farm. The whole runway was made of straw bales covered by heavy steel netting all well secured. The planes left in pairs at 10sec intervals, each plane carried long range tanks. If a plane faltered it had to pull out to the side to allow others to follow in line.
One day just such a happening came about; I was at work [in Christchurch ARP centre] so did not see it. One of a pair had slight engine trouble and pulled out our way, taking the top of a fir tree and, bouncing on our ground, it dropped a long range fuel tank which caught fire and spread flames right up the hedge of a cottage next to us. The propeller was making great gouges into our soil; its engine fell off into a large garden frame. He then hit a huge apple tree of great age and at this point dropped most of his ½ inch machine gun ammunition belts through our pig sty roof. It then hit the stone path from the house to the road, pushing these ancient stones down about 6 inches, bounced over most of our large hedge, hit a lorry on the other side of the road and upended almost against the thatch of the house opposite; the pilot got out almost undamaged.
Muffets had been resting on the front lawn and Frances was in the house. Muffets flung herself towards the house to get to Frances and in so doing, was just missed by the plane though much splashed by hot oil from it. I knew nothing of this as I cycled home and could not understand why the lane was full of firemen’s water hoses and in the midst of all these people, Muffets was waving to no doubt reassure me…….
………..One interesting story allied to this was the fire caused by the plane crash which burnt the whole of our neighbour’s hedge, a large apple tree, a poultry house and the hens therein. He was a charming countryman – a retired thatcher and his garden was a real cottage garden. Sometime later a city dweller came to assess the war damage he’d suffered and said ‘now my man, what variety of apple was it?’ Grampy Young, as we called him, replied ‘I don’t rightly know- it grew from a pip’. This was outside the official’s experience, but I hope he valued it truly."
Postscript The pilot, Ray Langford returned to fly with the 404th and survived the war. He passed away in December 2006 aged 87, and at the time of his death he still had in his possession the now well singed flying helmet and gloves he was wearing when he crashed.
Ray C Langford
The following tale is collated from several e-mails from Bill Winchester.
Bill served with 4768 Flight,5004 Squadron ACS and helped contruct several
airfields including Winkton Advanced Landing Ground
I have read the 60th anniversary special D-Day Edition of Fly Past magazine and found it most interesting as it included articles on the ALG's in Kent,
Sussex and Hampshire. I was a member of 4768 Flight,5004 Squadron Airfield Construction Squadron that worked on Woodchurch, Winkton, Coolham and Chailey in that order.
When we were building Winkton we were based at RAF Ibsley and used two RAF buses to and from the site. We arrived at RAF Ibsley in late March or early April from Woodchurch in Kent. The one memory that is quite clear is the felling of several very high pine trees to clear obstructions from the approach to the North runway. There is a gap on the corner opposite the Lamb Inn at Holfleet that is just about where the tall pines were, and in line with the runway. The trees were taken to a wood yard in Christchurch and cut into various sizes to be used for buildings on site.
The Lamb Inn was run by a Miss Cox and her sister, who refreshed us each morning with a large jug of lemonade. The pub was on the opposite corner to the trees on the road which led to the radar station at Sopley. It wasn't long before one of our sergeants found out and accused us of stocking up the pub with logs. Would we do such a thing, of course we would, but he didn't catch us?
Apart from tree felling we spent days clearing scrub and smaller trees, possibly around the Clockhouse Copse area, but those names meant nothing to
us at the time. Winkton was not the best site for us, an early breakfast, bus to the site, stale bread sandwiches and watery cocoa for lunch, bus back
to camp and some sort of meal about 7pm. We worked hard there and thanked God for the NAAFI Van. Sometimes we thought we were not very organised at all, but I suppose it made sense to those in charge in the higher echelons of the service. We did seem to be the first on sites, we were at Woodchurch, and as far as I recall at Winkton and Coolham.
Our Flight was made up of groundsmen, the NCO's, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, steel erectors and a plant operator. We did do some grading
with the caterpillar tractors and graders, and had dumper trucks to clear it all away. We were all labourers and we did always seem to be tasked with the initial ground clearance work. We did get to lay the Somerfeld tracking as well, hammering in 2 and 3 foot iron pickets every few feet of runway and perimeter track, mostly at Coolham. Swinging 7lb hammers all day kept us very fit, and tired.
We never completed a site anywhere, we always stayed for a few months, then went on to another site, to start it or continue it. We worked hard but we were happy to be out in the country on our own and not have the restrictions of a RAF station, except at Ibsley. It was a great disappointment to me that my Flight was never to see one of our airfields operational.