At First Sight
At Second Sight
BEF Al Faw Video '05
At First Sight
Posted Almost To The Doorstep - Les Seagrave.
with reasonable contentment as an engine fitter at Wyton with 139
Squadron, on Mosquitoes in the latter part of’1943 I was transferred to
“C” Flight when this was formed with a slight surplus of MkBIVs as
later marks were appearing and losses were slight on Light Night
Wyton was a large peacetime station with the customary H block quarters
giving more comfortable living than lesser wartime airfields. It
differed. from other stations in being frequented by the hierarchy of 8
PFF Group, whose H.Q. was only two miles away in Huntingdon and was
very much under the influence of the AOC Air Vice Marshal Don Bennett.
DSO. He was a perfectionist and had numerous ideas about wartime
economy of petrol, in that he was normally observed striding out on
foot, stick under arm, for “pointing out” other people’s errors. He was
a great believer in Euclid 2, which I seem to recall says that the
shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and he
practised what he preached, irrespective of notices such as “Keep off
the grass', and expected everyone else to do the same, much to the
amazement of the SWO.
The discipline and routine at Wyton were slightly excessive, for
instance, a recorded bugle reveille was played at 0700hrs each day over
the station Tannoy system, irrespective of whether you had just turned
in after seeing the aircraft out and in on a night operation.
Suddenly large numbers of new ground staff appeared on the station and
all appeared to gravitate to “C” Flight 139 Squadron. All was revealed
when on 12th November it was announced that “C “ Flight was now 627
Squadron and was moving next day to Oakington, some 14 miles distant.
RAF Oakington, another peacetime station with similar facilities turned
out to be slightly easier in discipline and seemed to be more intent on
winning a war. We took up dispersals on the N.W. corner of the
airfield, but as always with Mosquito squadrons, under the shadow of
the Lancasters of 7 Squadron, the resident giants.
Life proceeded as much as before until 13th April 1944 when we were
uprooted to proceed to Woodhall Spa. “Where?” was the cry all over the
Squadron. “Where the Hell’s Woodhall flippin Spa?”. Yours truly, having
been born and brought up, and living when on leave, in the City of
Lincoln, appeared the only person with knowledge of the precise
whereabouts of Woodhall. “It’s about 15 miles south of Lincoln” I was
able to announce, not that that conveyed very much to the bulk of the
assembled “erk” company, but they appeared contented with the knowledge
that someone knew where it was and that it was not in Iceland or Egypt.
Being a cyclist, Woodhall Spa suited me down to the ground and I must
have been the most contented “Bod” on the Squadron. The quarters at
Woodhall were basic compared with the previous stations, but we settled
in and I made the most of the “home posting”.
A few words regarding the locality might add to the reader’s
appreciation of the
countryside in which we were stationed. In 1944 the airfield was a
constant hive of activity and this was in total contrast to the
surrounding area. It was situated on the edge of the Lincolnshire Fens,
that huge expanse of agricultural land which was a major factor in
helping to feed the nation. The population of the region was very
small, as indeed it is today, 45 years later, and the influx of large
numbers of RAF personnel brought a certain wealth to the nearby small
The Victorian spa town of Woodhall lies one and a half miles to the
north of the airfield and this was very popular, not only for shopping,
but for entertainment. The Kinema-in-the-Woods was the main attraction
- this cosy little cinema is one of the very few which still operates
to this day, in the same structure and almost in the same condition as
in 1944-45, tucked away in woodland just off the main road through the
Travelling south from the airfield “The Bluebell Inn” was very popular
with all ranks. Although money was very short in those days, a little
relaxation could be found under the timbered ceiling of the old pub,
sipping rather watery beer which was the standard brew of the day. This
hostelry still thrives on local and passing custom, and displays a
range of squadron and aircraft photographs on its walls for the
enlightenment of customers. They would even gather that there was, in
fact, a 627 Squadron!
One mile further south stands one of the highest landmarks in the area
- Tattershall Castle, of Norman origin but all that remains is the
keep, a fine rare medieval brick tower with stone mullion windows and
corbelling. This structure must have been a very welcome sight to many
a bomber crew returning from daylight sorties, and the tower’s red
waming lights coupled with the silver ribbon of the River Witham a
useful navigation aid on night sorties. The squadron personnel grumbled
and moaned about the locality at the time, but many of them still have
very pleasant memories of Lincolnshire.
There were numerous incidents which occurred whilst at Woodhall, among
which concemed a smallish white dog, an unofficial squadron mascot who
frequented the dispersals, especially at NAAFI van times. The animal’s
name escapes me after all these years but on one occasion he or she
decided to sit down near one of the aircraft, presumably to wait
patiently for a crumb or two from a “wad”. The poor beast sat fair and
square in a puddle of 100 octane fuel, which is inclined to burn the
nether regions if in sufficient undiluted quantity. Some time later,
when the squealing animal had been caught, it’s rear end was
unceremoniously deposited in a bucket of cold water as a first aid
“A” Flight’s end dispersal pan (Aircraft “A“ “B” and ““C”) stretched
out into a field, annually sown with linseed or corn. Alongside the pan
was a very convenient hedge and path which ultimately lead to the B1192
to Woodhall Spa town, all this out of sight of the Flight Office and
its main incumbent, Chiefie Taylor, or Jock to most people.
The mid-morning routine at this dispersal was for the unofficial duty
“Bun Runner” to shed overalls, leap on bike along the above mentioned
path and collect cakes, buns or whatever the good lady in the bakers
(third shop on left before crossroads) could let us have. Return was by
the same “secret route”. These items seemed much more attractive than
the NAAFI wads dispensed from the mobile canteen, if indeed there were
any left after the van had been round 617 Squadron’s dispersal first,
which was the rule rather than the exception.
This daily operation was a very well kept secret - no one else knew!
One day in mid- summer 1944 Chiefy Taylor had occasion to spend some
considerable time investigating, with us, a hydraulic fault on
“A” Apple. Came 10.00hrs and the dispersal crew was asked quite calmly
and seriously by the said Chief ‘Isn’t anyone going to Woodhall for the
buns this morning? I’m hungry and I’m having my char with you lads if
you have no objection’ (Sorry, the Scots accent does not come out in
print). Such are the best kept secrets!
That small corner of Woodhall Spa airfield which was occupied by our
Squadron during 1944-45 is still in the hands of the Royal Air Force.
Hallowed ground indeed.
Copyright © 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as