Recording the History -
A Brief History of RAF Aberporth
Foreword: As you have explored the site thus far, you probably know that Aberporth airfield is situated near the village of Blaenanerch, which is situated on the A487 along the west coast of Wales, between Fishguard and Aberystwyth, about 5 miles north of Cardigan.
The airfield covers over 118 acres and is around 425 feet above sea level.
In late 1939 after the start of World War 2, work commenced for the Air Ministry on the construction of two large Type 2 hangars and their concrete taxi aprons. The hard surface runway was to follow over 16 years later.
The airfield was originally known as RAF Blaenanerch and re-
The two grass runway headings were 04/22 and 15/33 and in modern times were used by Gliding Clubs from Swansea.
The Royal Aircraft Establishment assumed control of the airfield, buildings and other installations in 1951.
When the camp was re-
The runway until recently was 3003 feet long and 75 feet wide, with two end turning circles of approx 150 feet in diameter.
The hard surface runway headings are 08/26.
In 1968 a hangar apron was extended to enlarge the aircraft parking area, which in 1971 was extended again, to the north, to form a Heli-
Now, where to begin the story? During World War II of course.
In the beginning.....came World War II, and the need to WIN it.
It is important to give credit where credit is due. I make no claim to be the author of the following story. As you will read below, it has been transcribed from the typed notes and pages relating to Log Books and other records of Leslie Scott and the hard work of I.S Dyer who re-
The compiled notes were brought together byI.S.Dyer from 1973, over forty two years ago, so many of those mentioned in these paragraphs are now deceased.
Much more is available than I have listed here. Most readers will not have the patience to read to the end.
So I decided to pass on a “ snap shot” of that early history, by relating mainly the tales of 595 Squadron, its aircraft, and the brave men and aircrew stationed at RAF Aberporth during the war years.
You will be surprised just how important RAF Aberporth was to the “war effort”.
You will read of Fatal crashes, of near misses, of Spitfires & Hurricans, of Polish Pilots and hair raising escapes of new young inexperienced pilots.
And after the war, how Aberporth was home to some 500 polish soldiers billited here for a while, because Poland was taken over by the Russians
There are a few lighter moments to bring a smile to your face too.
Like the local Dads Army, or LDV, translated by some comedians as “Look, Duck and Vanish!” .
And the story of a flight trialing “Window” for jamming German Radar, when the operator was told tp “sprinkle the foil strips out in a stream, not just chuck it out of the aircraft in it’s container”.
My apologies for grammar and spelling mistakes. It is in a similar font to the Gestetner printed notes.
Getting this on-
Here goes........ Enjoy! Mike
The notes for this story, for such it is, of Aberporth airfield were compiled by the late Leslie Scott from log books and other information recorded in the airfield’s control tower, and from personal interviews with a few local residents who were stationed at the airfield as members of the Royal Air Force during the 1939—1945 war years.
Mr Scott was employed by the Royal Aircraft Establishment as an Experimental Flying Control Assistant; first at RAE Llanbedr from 1966—1975, then at Aberporth from August 1975 up to his death, which occurred suddenly on 9 July 1979. He had collected several interesting photographs of old aircraft which had used the airfield or crashed upon it or in its vicinity, but unfortunately none of these pictures could be traced following his death.
This story, now substantially re—written and edited by I.S. Dyer to follow the format of other similar histories of which he is the author*, must unfortunately now be the poorer through lack of the illustrations once held by Leslie Scott, though others have been included in an attempt to assist readers to relate local environment and old aircraft to the text.
The geographical position of Aberporth airfield, with its proximity to the coast, meant that it was often the recipient of aircraft diverted due to weather conditions, un-
Aberporth airfield, it has been said, began its history in 1939, appropriately enough on Dydd Iau Mawr (“Big Thursday”) — a local festival still observed annually. This event dates back to the old rural Welsh Hiring Fairs at which farmers engaged labourers for a 12—month contract, and the labourers in turn congregated to seek new employers on expiry of their previous contracts. Dydd Iau Mawr takes place on the second (usually wet and misty) Thursday in August, and is nowadays marked by an influx of adults and children to Aberporth village.
They hang around, eating crisps and imbibing various beverages, many not quite knowing why they have come, for there is no ‘fair’ as such and no organised events! Old customs die hard in rural Wales.
In 1941 an RAF Station was opened at Aberporth airfield, under the Royal Air Force Army Co—operation Command, to operate target facilities (drogues towed by aircraft, and pilotless target aircraft) required by an Anti—Aircraft Training Unit stationed on a local cliff top site which was later to become known as the Projectile Development Establishment (POE) and, later still, as the Royal Aircraft Establishment Aberporth.
This RAF operational unit known as No.1608 Target Towing Flight and later re—named No.1608 Army Air Co—operation (MC) Flight (Appendix B). No.1609 MC Flight and No.1621 Queen Bee (QB) Flight also arrived at about the same time (Appendices C and 0). All were under the control of No.70 Group Fighter Command with Headquarters at Farnborough, Hampshire.
Other MC Flights were stationed along the west coast of Wales.
These were: No.1607 MC Flight, at RAF Carew Cheriton in the former County of Pembrokeshire (now part of the County of Dyfed); No.2605 and No.1628 MC Flights, at RAY Towyn in the County of Merionethshire; No.1606 MC Flight and No.1620 QB Flight, at RAY Bodorgan, Anglesey. Carew Cheriton was 4 miles west of Tenby near the present—day Templeton airfield; Towyn is now a private air—strip; and Bodorgan (a satellite airfield to the larger and still existing Valley airfield on Anglesey) is no longer in use.
595 Squadron was formed under the command of Sqn Ldr K.O. Sayers at Aberporth on 1st December 1943 on the disbanding of 1608 and 1609 AAC Flights and 1621 Queen Bee Flight. The Squadron was split into three flights:
‘A’ Flight to provide co—operation for 1st Heavy Anti—Aircraft Practice Camp Aberporth and ‘Z’ Anti—aircraft Experimental Battery.
‘B’ Flight for co—operation with 13th Light Anti—Aircraft Practice Camp at Aberaeron.
‘C’ Flight (who were to be detached to RAF Carew Cheriton) to provide co—operation for School of Anti—aircraft Artillery, Manorbier and 61AA Brigade.
During the Squadron’s stay at Aberporth from 1st December 1943 to 26th April 1946, the following aircraft were on their charge, although it must be emphasised that this is not a complete list, as at one time there were 23 Spitfires on the Squadron, but unfortunately the registration numbers were not recorded.
Henley: L3248, L3258, L3279, L3287, L3324, L3336, L3352, L3378, L3387, L3394, L3409 and L3422.
Martinet: EM466, EM699, HP174, HN887, HN888, HN948, HN951, HN962, HPI8O, HP200, HP20~ M5752, M5529, M5682, M5913, PW968 and PX172.
Tiger Moth: R4750 and T5625. Stinson 105 Voyager X 1050. Mustang: AG357. Oxford I LW829. Vengeance 3 aircraft. Hurricane IIC: P3827, KZ792, LB650, LB651, LE661, LE654, LF530, LF550 and LF590.
Hurricane IVC: KW792, KZ325, KZ700, KZ725, KZ842, KZ9IO and LE654.
Spitfire VB: AA881, AB430, BM430 and EN788. Spitfire XII: MB848.
On 15 December 1943 595 Squadron suffered its first fatal accident when Henley L3336 crashed at Kilgetty near Tenby. Both crew members (Elt Lt S. Davies and F/O J.C. Robertson) were unfortunately killed and 5 days later were buried at Saundersfoot Pembrokeshire. Towards the end of the month several cases of sticking valves occurred in Mercury 30 engines installed in Martinet aircraft which, unless cured immediately, would have had serious effects on the Squadron’s co-
During the first month of the Squadron’s existence they flew for 602 hours — a fine total bearing in mind the daylight hours available at this time of the year.
Four more Martinets were flown in during January 1944, these aircraft being collected from RAF Llanbedr.
Four extra Henleys were also allocated to the Squadron due to its heavy commitments, but owing to poor weather these aircraft could not be collected until the first week of February, two from RAF Hutton Cranswick and two from RAE Bircham Newton.
As a slight diversion from routine co—operation flights, several practice attacks were made on an American Army convoy proceeding by road from Pembroke to Aberaeron on 20 February. These attacks were very successful and the practice was much appreciated by the US Army.
The following day Martinets HP180, HP200 and HM962 were flown out to RAF Ipswich upon being transferred to 679 Squadron.
During February 1944 the Squadron flew 700 hours, a very creditable performance considering it was the shortest month of the year.
Target towing operator training was carried out whenever aircraft and pilots were available, the majority of the operators under training being Air Gunners on ‘rest’ after completing operational tours of duty with Bomber Command.
The first two Hurricane TIC aircraft arrived in March 1944, thus allowing the Squadron to participate in high speed co—operation flights with the Army.
An unusual co—operation flight was flown on 25 March when a Henley carried out an oxygen test and it was found possible to stream a target at 24000 ft for 1~ hours. Aircraft of ‘A’ and ‘B’ Flights also successfully carried out sorties for an invasion exercise with the Home Guard (previously known as Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) — these initials translated by some comedians as “Look, Duck and Vanish!” at Cardigan and Liandyssul.
On 30 March Henley L3409 was engaged in co—operation with the Army at Manorbier. En route the oil pressure gauge dropped to almost zero and the aircraft had to make a precautionary landing at RAF Carew Cheriton. Upon arrival the whole airfield was found to be deserted with the exception of Air Traffic Control. All other personnel were engaged on manoeuvres (the general term was ‘playing soldiers’) practising defence of the airfield against enemy attack. RAF Carew Cheriton had suffered several air attacks with associated casualties. After contacting the Engineering Officer at Aberporth and explaining the situation it was decided to refill with oil and make an immediate return to base; an oil leak having been found and temporary repairs carried out. The aircraft eventually landed back at Aberporth, but the proposed co—operation with the Army had to be cancelled.
Aberporth truly became ‘Joint Services’ on 6 April 1944 with the arrival of twelve Fleet Air Arm ground crew for servicing Martinets allocated to the Squadron for co—operation with the Royal Navy and US Navy in the sea areas off Milford Haven. This series of flights for the Navy commenced on 12 April. On the same day Sqn Ldr Sayers the CO tested taking off in both a Martinet and Henley aircraft with a radar and 1000 ft of balloon cable laid out on the aerodrome. These tests were satisfactory, but it was found to be more practicable in the Henley with its better take—off and climbing performance.
The Squadron’s complement of aircraft was further supplemented on 14 April by the arrival of three more Hurricane IIC and an Airspeed Oxford communications aircraft.
On 21 April Henley L3306 took off for an exercise but had to return after 15 minutes due to the sudden appearance of coastal fog. The drogue operator in the back seat was an Air Gunner on Operational rest, Flt Sgt Bob Friend. In off duty periods Bob was an excellent pianist, skilled enough to have innumerable free pints supplied by admirers in the Mess. After the end of hostilities Bob gave several piano recitals on BBC Radio.
Leaflet dropping on 6 May was an unusual coimmitment for the Squadron. In aid of ‘Salute the Soldier’ week, leaflets were dropped over Carmarthen and Aberystwyth, whilst four days later Aberaeron and New Quay received the same treatment.
A further workload was placed on 595 Squadron during May by the withdrawal of 587 Squadron detachment from RAF Carew Cheriton. 595 Squadron were to carry out
587 Squadrons s commitments with two Hurricanes loaned to 595 by 587.
During May 1944 the Squadron flew 939 hours, the best monthly total yet achieved. A new system of Flight Planning is believed to have helped towards this total, not forgetting the sterling work of the ground crews, who during the month carried out no fewer than 20 minor inspections.
On 5 June Mt Sgt Coleman made a successful wheels—up forced landing at Burton near Milford Haven after an engine failure in Henley L3387 whilst carrying out co—operation with 61 AA Brigade.
Three RAE scientists arrived at 595 Squadron on 6 June 1944 to investigate the towing of winged glider targets for the Trials Wing. Tests were carried out at Manorbier on a radar course using a nylon towing rope. Unfortunately bad weather cut short these trials but a different type of winch was considered necessary for the towing aircraft. Also, in June 1944, four Hurricane IV aircraft joined the Squadron from RAE Castle Bromwich, a relief to all in Flight Planning as the allocation and re—allocation of Henley and Martinet aircraft had caused serious interference to the flying programme.
A pleasing feature at this time was the promulgation of ‘Mentioned in despatches’ awarded to Elt It Stewart and LAG’s Hoy and Gale.
It was felt, with the introduction of towed winged glider targets being required by S of M. Manorbier, that Templeton airfield near Haverfordwest would be a more suitable airfield than Aberporth in view of Templeton being equipped with concrete runways. These glider targets had a wing span of either 8 or 16 feet and it was reasoned that they could become airborne more easily from a concrete runway than from the frequently waterlogged grass surface at Aberporth.
During the second week of June five Martinet aircraft were allocated to the Squadron in place of 10 Henleys. Four Henleys departed to RAE Cleave, three to RAF Towyn, and three were put up for disposal. Towards the end of June all the Henleys had gone. The last one, 13306 was flown to Fengam Moors, a unit almost on the shores of the Bristol Channe to the east of Cardiff to be dismantled and broken up. This was a sad farewell and the general consensus of opinion was that the Martinets, still plagued with sticking valves in their Mercury 30 engines, should have been the prime candidates for disposal.
The last day of June was a particularly bad day for the Squadron. A Martinet, just airborne, had an engine failure but managed to force land back on the airfield.
FIt Lt Stewart in a Hurricane IV also force landed successfully on the airfield after an engine failure due to a con—rod fracturing, and to complete a trio of incidents Sgt Gerry in Martinet PW968 landed in a field at Johnston near Haverfordwest after engine failure, and was slightly injured due to the pilot’s seat breaking away from the securing brackets.
The previous month’s record of flying hours was broken by 41 hours. Total flying time for the month being 980 hours of which 694 hours represented co—operation flying. Weather conditions continued to be good and Flight Planning was successfully continued. Would the elusive 1000 hours be reached this Summer? Everyone wondered.
4 July 1944 was a poor day for weather, and a black day in all respects when Polish Sgt Pilot Jurewicz crashed in Hurricane tB650 and was fatally injured. He was buried 3 days later, with full military honours at St Mary’s Churchyard, Carew Cheriton. The Polish Padre conducted the Service and six Polish pilots acted as pall bearers.
Sgt Pilot Gerry, on sick leave after his forced landing 4 days previously, was seriously injured by a flying bomb attack on London and placed on the ‘Dangerously ill’ list in the RAY Hospital, Uxbridge.
On 14 July at 2000 hours a Halifax III 111(338 from 158 Squadron on a cross—country flight from RAY Lissett, Yorkshire developed engine trouble and caught fire at 1800 feet. Four of the crew made parachute descents, Pilot, Flight Engineer and Mid Upper Gunner landed in the sea about fl miles offshore from Mwnt. The aircraft broke up and crashed into the sea. The Aberporth crash rescue service and motor—dinghy were quickly on the scene, but although the pilot was picked up by the motor—dinghy, he died soon afterwards. The Flight Engineer and Mid Upper Gunner were not recovered.
On 2nd July the good news was received that Sgt Gerry had at last been taken off the Danger List. Any pilots who could be spared were utilised in giving ATC cadets familiarisation flights in Tiger Moth and Martinet aircraft. MG cadets from Aldershot arrived for a week’s summer camp.
On 17th August the first of the towed glider trials took place at Templeton with 595 Squadron aircraft, but the trials did not get off to an auspicious start as the first of the gliders crashed on landing.
On 26th August 1944 595 Squadron detachment was withdrawn from Carew Cheriton. ‘C’ Flight returning once more to Aberporth. All the buildings etc that had been used by ‘C’ Flight were officially handed over to No.10 Radio School.
During August 1944 arrangements were made for Hurrvcanes of 595 Squadron to make mock attacks on Halifax aircraft based at RAF Talbenny, Pembrokeshire to ensure that the air-
On 26 August, Hurricanes LE654 and LE661 were briefed for a joint attack on a Halifax. A rendezvous was made a few miles south of Cardigan. The Halifax was taking avoiding action above cloud and suddenly dived into the cloud. The Hurricanes did not follow immediately due to the risk of possible collision. When they did eventually break cloud a few minutes later the Halifax was nowhere in sight, so the Hurricanes returned to land at Aberporth. It was subsequently learned that the Halifax had not recovered from its dive and crashed into the Prescelly mountains, killing all the crew.
The last day of the month again proved a jinx to 595. Martinet M5529 piloted by Fit Sgt MeMillan of the Royal New Zealand Air Force crashed while on a co—operation sortie for 61A.A Brigade at Milford Haven, killing the pilot.
On 4 September 1944 595 Squadron’s flights, Flight Commanders and commitments were reorganized. ‘B’ Flight was re-
Towed target gliders had twice been successfully used for S of AA Manorbier with 595 Squadron aircraft operating from Templeton airfield. The first target was successfully landed. The second target was also successfully landed but swung off the runway causing slight damage. It was considered that towed target gliders would be operated more successfully if towed by Spitfires instead of Martinets.
The month of September 1944 was marred by four accidents. Three pilots overshot on landing at Aberporth, two in Hurricanes and one in a Martinet. A fourth pilot landed a Hurricane with his brakes on. These accidents were all by inexperienced pilots unfamiliar with the Airfield. As a means of preventing further such incidents, it was decided to borrow a Miles Master aircraft. Although very similar in design to the Martinet, the Master was a dual control aircraft and therefore able to offer supervised training circuits to newly arrived pilots.
During October 1944, Martinets of 595 Squadron were engaged in ‘window’ dropping far out over the Bristol Channel West of Lundy Island after a rendezvous with a Royal Navy Battleship. On one of these sorties an over zealous observer in the back seat had to be informed that the ‘window’ should be sprinkled out into the slipstream and not chucked out in the unopened container! ‘Window’ consisted of small metal strips thrown out of aircraft to create spurious radar signals and give the impression of a large number of aircraft showing up on enemy radar. This method was widely in use by RAF Bomber Command during its attacks on enemy territory.
595 Squadron received notification on 5 November 1944 of the allotment of 17 Vengeance and seven Spitfire yR aircraft and the withdrawal of IS Martinets. Sqn Ldr Sayers spent several hours with the Army at Manorbier discussing co—operation generally and in particular informing them of the proposal to open up a detachment at Fairwood Common which when put into effect would allow the small detachment at RAF Manorbier to be withdrawn. The Army representatives pointed out that until all the aircraft working with them at Manorbier were equipped with VHF or some other reliable communication system, they could not obtain anything like full benefit from the flying carried out for them. They also complained that the telephone links between Manorbier and Fairwood Common were very poor, but despite these pleas, the plans had already been decided and were to be carried out. Every effort would be made, however, to re—equip all aircraft with more up to date communication equipment and also Army Signals would be asked to supply direct tie—lines between Swansea (Fairwood Common) and Manorbier. So it was that the three Martinets and pilots on detachment to RAE Manorbier returned to the fold at Aberporth on 13 September 1944. The following day arrangements were made with the CO of RAE Fairwood Common, Wg Cdr Criffiths DFC, for the attachment of five Martinets and five pilots together with associated ground crews. At the same time arrangements were also made with 587 Squadron for 595 Squadron to take over the co—operation flights at Cardiff, Barry, Newport and Flatholm. The detachment of 595 squadron finally left for Fairwood Common on 18 November 1944.
On 19 November Mr Pile and Mr Goodser of International Model Aircraft visited the Squadron to give expert advice on the towing of their gliders.
29 November saw the arrival of the first Vengeance aircraft delivered by a lady Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) pilot watched by many critical eyes, but according to the records she made an excellent landing using only two—thirds of the landing run in light wind conditions.
The advent of the towed target glider still seemed to cause problems even after the lecture by the experts. The first flight from Aberporth with a 16 foot span glider took place on 7 December 1944. Take-
On 18 December three Spitfire VB aircraft were delivered to the Squadron by ATA pilots, this time by mere males, to be followed on 23 December by a Spitfire XII.
From 2 January 1945 onwards a series of co-
On 5 January Flg Off Wood, piloting the new Spitfire XII did two sorties for Trials Wing at 300 miles/h. The Army were most pleased with the results.
Two further sorties of glider target towing took place on 14 January, but in both cases the gliders were destroyed on landing.
On 17 January four more Spitfires 1/B were collected from RAF Harrowbeer, thus completing the establishment of Spitfires allocated to the Squadron.
A meeting of the newly formed Squadron Crest Committe on 19 January 1945 voted unanimously in favour of a design for the Squadron crest, in the form of a winged archery target in flight with an arrow in the gold. The CO’s suggestion for the Squadron motto was also approved unanimously. The motto to be Serti BaLListae.
A Dance was held that night at the Black Lion Hotel, Cardigan, the proceeds to be devoted to obtaining a Squadron Badge.
Glider towing trials still continued, a few with success, intermingled with failures. Typical was a sortie flown by Fig Off Clydsdale, who towed an 8 foot span glider with a Spitfire VB, only to see the glider break away, complete with cable, and crash into the sea.
On 7 February 1945, it was decided to send a detachment of 595 Squadron to RAF Brawdy this station being nearer to Manorbier. Three Martinets and two Spitfires were detached. These aircraft stayed at Brawdy for 3 weeks, carrying out towing sorties with S of AA Manorbier, and eventually returned to Aberporth on the last day of February.
Meanwhile at Aberporth a successful trial was carried out when a Hurricane piloted by W/O Beckwith successfully towed two 16 foot targets, one with 1000 feet of cable and the other with 500 feet of cable for the use of the Trials Wing at Manorbier.
A Martinet was used to photograph rockets fired from a Mustang piloted by Op Capt Baker-
During March 1945 much training had to be done to accustom pilots to the newly arrived Spitfires, a far cry from the more mundane Martinets and Henleys. W/O Davies with more hours than any other pilot at Aberporth in Spitfires was detailed with the task of passing on the ‘gen’ on cockpit drills and demonstrating the landing technique which in the Spitfire was different to any other aircraft met with before. As the Spitfire had no wing tanks, the fuel tank was placed behind the engine and consequently the cockpit was placed well down the fuselage almost level with the trailing edge of the wing. This meant that the pilot was sitting some 13 feet behind the nose. In order to be able to see the airfield on the final approach, a curved approach was then essential, straightening out at the last moment before stalling the aircraft for the final touch down. To taxi the Spitfire meant zig—zagging from side to side so that the pilot could occasionally see around the side of the nose. On take—off the Spitfire would also tend to buck. The reason for this was as it picked up speed, the forward and backward movement of the joy— stick had to be lessened to cancel out the increased airflow over the tailplane elevators. As the undercarriage ‘up’ and ‘down’ control was on the right hand side and the throttle on the left hand side, the left hand had to be taken off the throttle and transferred to the stick before taking the right hand off the stick to raise the undercarriage. All this, together with the very sensitive controls could make many a take—off a nasty experience for the inexperienced pilot, until he got the hang of things.
In March 1945, the Squadron completed 893 hours of flying, a magnificent achievement but nevertheless, a little disappointing as bad weather during the last four days of the month meant that the elusive 1000 hours was not reached. A ‘good party’ in celebration was thus postponed.
This is not intended to be taken as any critical comment on this famous aircraft, surely one of the main contributions to the ultimate allied victory, in the air, but may provide some insight into the problems that its new pilots had to surmount.
Another fatal accident occurred on 5 April 1945. Fit Lt Vickery, a newcomer to the Squadron, was killed when his Spitfire caught the roof of Blaenanerch Chapel at the end of the runway on take—off, causing the port wing to break away. The aircraft narrowly missed houses on the opposite side of the road, before crashing into an adjacent field and catching fire. A very sad ending for such an experienced and steady pilot, who had completed over 1275 hours in fighters, many of those hours being accumulated in Italy.
Around the same time two Canadian officers of 595 Squadron were repatriated to Canada, a further reminder of the many Allied Nationals flying at Aberporth. The previous night’s party at Aberystwyth was thoroughly enjoyed by all concerned (until they woke up the following morning!).
An air—test on Tiger Moth R4750 had to be carried out on Sunday, 8 April 1945 and this task was allocated to W/O Davies. Sgt ‘Dusty’ Miller of Stores had never flown before and asked if he could fly as passenger, this being duly authorised. ‘Dusty’ had always been a little apprehensive about ‘getting his feet off the deck’ but decided to chance it as the weather was first class. He had previously mentioned that he would like to follow the River Teifi from its mouth, so a course was set for Gwbert. As the Tiger Moth approached Newcastle Emlyn the wind began to freshen and because the passenger was feeling the effects of the slight buffeting they were receiving it was decided to set course direct back to base. The aircraft was flying at 800 feet and as they approached Beulab the engine cut out, and the aircraft had to land in a half ploughed field at Maes—y—Celli, famed then by a Mr James. The humorous side of this ‘adventure was that the passenger apologised to the pilot for not having any cigarettes as he was under the impression that they had just landed for a quick smoke! (So much for the ‘open cockpit’ days!) The pilot proceeded to Beulah Square to contact the airfield, and the lady in the shop there allowed him to buy cigarettes and matches as the church service had just finished. Upon his arrival back at the field he discovered that nearly all the congregation was present with Sgt Miller dashing around trying to keep the crowd at bay! Fitters arrived from Aberporth, soon diagnosed a blocked fuel line, and the aircraft was quickly made serviceable. The aircraft was positioned up against the hedge and the throttle opened up with the ground crew hanging on (the Tiger Moth was brakeless). On being given the signal to let go the aircraft surged forward and at the last moment became airborne with the wheels scraping through the top of the gorse bushes, climbing away safely back to base. ‘Dusty’ Miller was never allowed to live down his experience and of course much leg—pulling took place.
On 1st April 1945 the first co—operation flight was made by a Vengeance aircraft for a new battery at the Army Camp, Aberporth. 595 Squadron had by now received three Vengeance aircraft.
A Mr Laird was at that time one of the Meteorological Officers attached to PUE p31 Aberporth. His 6 month old baby was stricken with meningitis and in those days the nearest hospital that could deal with the problem was the Royal Infirmary at Cardiff. The doctors were afraid to move the baby, but later it became apparent that there was only one hope of saving its life, and on 19 April Martinet EM466 and pilot were kept on immediate stand—by from early morning with the pilot dressed in flying kit.
The decision was taken to fly Mr Laird and his young son to Cardiff, so at 1500 hours the Martinet was airborne. The pilot, W/0 Davies had been especially briefed by the GO, Sqn Ldr Sayers to make the take-
Next day a trial was held on the range at PDE when a scientist arrived to view rocket firing from a Swordfish aircraft. Trial photographs were required (some people said it was to see if the Swordfish went backwards when the rockets were fired!). The only aircraft that could reasonably formate with the slow—flying Swordfish (otherwise known as the ‘Stringbag’) was a Tiger Moth, so that task was allocated to Tiger Moth T5625 of 595 Squadron.
The last day of the month arrived and the total number of hours flown during April amounted to 1030 hours comprising 646 hours co—operation, 168 hours training and 216 hours other flying. A very good show, marred by the one fatal accident. The CO had the Squadron paraded and congratulated all concerned. So at last the wraps were taken off the long awaited celebration party!
7th May 1945 resulted in a few co-
This Victory in Europe caused the RAF in the UK to ease off slightly in its commitments, reverting to the pre-
On 2 June 1945 W/G D.W. (Wyn) Davies was awarded a ‘Mentioned in Despatches’, almost exactly 2 years after his unfortunate accident with a Martinet at Newcastle Emlyn when with 1608 AAC Flight.
4 June 1945 was a day of great excitement caused by the appearance on the airfield of a Gloster Meteor jet fighter, which had made an emergency landing due to fuel shortage. This was the first jet that most people had ever seen and it led to many discussions, by aircrew in particular as to the probability of it getting airborne again in the restricted length of grass runway available. Discretion being the better part of valour it was decided to let the Meteor remain at Aberporth until favourable wind conditions prevailed. Three days later conditions were considered to be suitable, and before a large audience the Meteor became safely airborne. All flying crews agreed on one thing, the Meteor would make an ideal Army co-
Weather during June 1945 did not live up to the ‘flaming June’ reputation. Many days flying were lost due to low cloud and rain.
The liaison that must exist between Air Traffic Control Units may perhaps be well demonstrated by the following: A pilot of 595 Squadron on a cross—country flight from Aberporth to Moreton Valence landed at Warton, and this landing was not reported. As a result ‘overdue’ action was taken, a square search’ was organised and six Spitfires scrambled. The landing at Warton was eventually reported and the Spitfires recalled to base, landing just before the arrival of a warm front and a 200 foot cloud base.
On 26 June FIt Lt Cowley had engine trouble in a Martinet but managed successfully to force—land on New Quay beach escaping without injury.
During July, four Spitfires VB and two Spitfires IX were collected from RAF Colerne and RAF Lyneham and the following day a further Spitfire IX from RAF Brize Norton. More Spitfires were collected from various sources during July and August to bring the Squadron’s total to 23 Spitfires of various marks.
15 August 1945 -
12 September 1945 was the Wedding Day of W/0 Forster, with proper celebrations. It is worth pointing out that 37 years later, this same person — employed by the Department of Environment, Property Services Agency at RAF Brawdy is the present CO of the Air Training Corps, 1429 Squadron at Aberporth. He must like the place.
Two days later a Polish pilot had a miraculous escape. A Spitfire IX piloted by Flg Off Swiecicki crashed on take—off, the aircraft completed three cartwheels, but the pilot walked away without so much as a scratch. This Spitfire was replaced four days later by one of the latest Marks of Spitfire to reach Aberporth, a Mark XVI collected from RAF Cosford.
Bad weather throughout October caused severe disruption to the co-
On 18 october 1945 a special Squadron formation of 12 Spitfires was tasked with co-
On 14 November 1945 ‘C’ Flight returned from Fairwood Common and 595 squadron was once more divided into ‘A’ and ‘B’ Flights. All ‘C’ Flight pilots merged into ‘A’ Flight with the ground crews shared out equally.
The following day His Majesty King George VI visited Cardiff and summoned the CO to an investiture, awarding him the AEC — now Sqn Ldr Thomas, DFC, AFC,
The morning of 5 December contained a full programme of co—operation but during the afternoon there were no requirements so an organised sports programme was carried out by the more energetic. Flt Lt Coggins (a Cambridge Blue) showed his paces around the cross country course, completing the course twice when quite a number had not made one circuit.
Exercise ‘Ramrod’ was held on 6 December 1945 when tw~ Sections of Spitfires from 595 Squadron were detailed to escort Mosquitoes. A successful rendezvous was made over Lundy Island before proceeding to a mock attack on Swansea.
On 21 December 1945 FIg Off Davies and lit if Hammon the Equipment Officer took off in Martinet HNSSS en route to Castle Bromwich, destined alas not to arrive. RAE Aberporth was alerted and four Spitfires took off to search, but no trace was found of the missing aircraft. Further searches were carried out on succeeding days, also on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, still without result. On the last day of the year Flg Off Swiecicki reported signs of a crashed aircraft on a mountainside to the NE of Aberystwyth. Contact was made with a local mountain rescue team who said that the aircraft was the remains of a previous crash which had been there for some time. However Flg Off Swiecicki, Flt Lt Radwanski and FIg Off Craven volunteered a search on foot and were then satisfied it was not the missing Martinet. A final search involving six Spitfires was made on 3 January 1946 but still no trace was found of the missing aircraft.
Meanwhile, on 23 December Sqn Ldr Thomas DFC, AFC departed on his first Christmas leave for many years, having been a prisoner of war.
The weather on 10 January 1946 was described as gales, torrential rain and cloud so low it came half way down the necks of seagulls sitting on the airfield.
On 22 February at 2200 hours a report was received from the civilian police at Llandrindod Wells to say that a crashed aircraft had been found near the top of Domen Hill 2000 feet above sea level, and it was thought to be the missing Martinet. The following day this was confirmed, both crew having been killed. It was therefore over 6 weeks before the wreckage was finally located. Both officers were buried at Manchester with full military honours.
A further award was gained by 595 Squadron when on II March 14/0 Payton left to attend a Polish Investiture to receive the Polish Cross of Valour.
A Spitfire piloted by Flg Off Abbot had been diverted into Fairwood Common on 12 March 1946 and as the airfield conditions at Aberporth were bad, it was decided to let Flg Off Abbot fly on co-
On 17 April 1946 a signal was received ordering the move of 595 Squadron from Aberporth to Fairwood Common on 26 April, and on 25 April the advance party left to prepare for the SquadrorYs arrival the following day, when all 595 Squadrons aircraft flew to Fairwood Common. Flying details were airborne at 20 minute intervals. The first detail airborne at 0930 hours comprised six Spitfires. to be followed by six Martinets and a further six Spitfires. Two Oxfords of 691 Squadron returned II pilots to Aberporth to pick up the remaining II Spitfires comprising the 4th and 5th details. To complete the move, the main party left by rail the following day. The Squadron’s stay at Fairwood Common, however, was to be short-
Victory in Europe (yE) Day dawned on 8 May 1945. Half of all the personnel were allowed the day off to celebrate, and that night a cabaret and dance were held. The Motor Transport Section staff must have recovered quickly from their particular celebrations and been at least capable of taking avoiding action from other road users, as on 9 June, as a reward for a ‘clean sheet’ during May, they were granted a ‘liberty run to Aberystwyth.
The phrase: “Duration of the Present Emergency” will surely awaken memories in readers who were wartime service personnel. Apart from those on regular service engagements, everyone else had that somewhat threatening phrase stamped in the front of their Pay Books, together with a demobilisation group number. Demobilisation was basically run on the system of first in, first out, and so it came about, on I? June 1945, that the first servicemen from RAE Aberporth received their demobilisation papers. So departed Flg Officer Jones and Elt Sgt Riding, to select their ‘civvy suits’.
Ever since its formation, RAE Aberporth had been under the care and guidance of 70 Group whose Headquarters were at Earnborough. However, 10 July 1945 saw 70 Group disbanded, and Aberporth then became part of II Group.
Victory over Japan (VJ) day, came on 14 August 1945, with the fate of the last of the enemy forces finally sealed with the first atomic bomb. Celebrations commenced lust before midnight with a hurriedly arranged Dance, and records state ‘all quiet’ over the next few days; perhaps suggesting that this final victory over a most cruel and elusive enemy may have been celebrated over—enthusiastically! A month later, on 15 September, RAE Aberporth held its first ‘At Home’ day, which was attended by 1700 civilians who were entertained with various exhibitions and an air display (Appendix E).
1946 to 1951
A signal received on 15th February 1946 ordered all WAAF personnel to be posted away within the next 4 days, and on 18th February, 34 departed, to be followed next day by the remaining 12.
On 11th April, 20 German prisoners of war arrived to supplement the camp’s labour force; and the final run—down of RAF Aberporth began in earnest on 17 April. On that day, a signal was received ordering 595 Squadron (Appendix F) to move from Aberporth to Fairwood Common, Swansea on 26 April 1946. The advance party left on 25 April to prepare for the Squadron’s arrival on the following day. However, 595 Squadron’s stay at Fairwood Common was to be short lived, as they moved to Pembrey on 22 October 1946. The RAF ensign was lowered at Aberporth for the last time at 1800 hours on 14 May, and with effect from 15 May 1946, RAE Aberporth was placed on a ‘Care and Maintenance’ basis under Coastal Command. Aircraft movements to and from Aberporth airfield did not cease with those changes, however, as Log Books dating from 1946 to date can prove.
As was customary with RAE units, a rear party remained to deal with the closedown, and it had been decided that when the RAE finally withdrew, the camp’s living quarters would be handed over to the Army, who would establish a Polish Army Resettlement Corps Depot at the airfield. Lt Cal H. Spurrell, still a well known local resident of Aberporth, arrived in 1946 to act as Liaison Officer to the Polish Resettlement Corps and remained in this post until the last of the Polish forces departed in 1950.
When hostilities ended in Italy there were in that country several battalions of Polish troops unable to return to their homeland which by then was under Russian occupation. Two of these units — comprising an Officers’ Reserve Corps and a Railway Battalion were posted to the RAE site at Aberporth. The Polish Railway Battalion consisted of some 500 men and was a near equivalent to the British Army’s Pioneer Corps. A first priority was to teach the Poles English, as scarcely one among them understood the language. To this end, 12 teachers, including Catholic priests and schoolmasters, were recruited locally in an effort to make some headway with the task.
One of the main duties of the Polish force was to supply groups pf garrison staff, consisting of a sergeant and 6 men, for vacated military establishments spread over the whole surrounding area, in order to keep out ‘squatters’. These establishments included sites at Pembroke Dock, Haverfordwest, LIanelli, Llandeilo, Aberaeron and Velindre; which were all either satellite airfields or Army bases. This created some ill feeling among certain elements of the local population, who felt they had more right to the camps than the Poles. Lt Cal Spurrell had the task of liaison between the Poles and the local community, and was provided with transport by the Royal Army Service Corps periodically to visit all the bases making up his far—flung empire. The Poles proved to be excellent singers, and their Battalion Choir gave concerts throughout the area. They also overwhelmed the local public houses, whose landlords soon had to ask the Commanding Officer to put their premises out of bounds to the troops! However, the Poles did have other forms of entertainment such as ENSA concerts, two cinema shows every week, and concerts in the village hail. During the Christmas periods of 1947 and 1948 they made toys and gave between 20 and 30 to each local school. They did not shine at sports, but managed to field a football team which played against local sides. The early spring of 1947 brought several snowstorms which lasted several weeks, and the Poles volunteered to clear roads and railways, on which useful work 100 of their men were engaged at a time.
The Poles remained on the Station until the latter part of 1948, when they were transferred to Shobdon, near Leominster in Herefordshire. After this departure, RAF Aberporth again remained on a ‘Care and Maintenance’ basis until 1951, when the RAE took over its operation.
1951 to 1973
During and after 1951, aircraft movements followed a broadly similar pattern to that recorded from 1946. In that year, daily use was still being made of the airfield chiefly by visiting Hudson, Anson and Oxford aircraft with the occasional appearance of a captured German JU 352, logged as on ‘air test’ as well as on occasional flights to its erstwhile homeland (V5lkenrdde base*) and back. Mother former German aircraft, a JIJ 52, also visited on the same missions, and the usual pilot of these captured aircraft appears to have been a Warrant Officer De Little. Other types visiting in 1946 included Harvard, Spitfire, Seaf ire, Argus, Dominie, Vampire I and Wayfarer; and the sari~ kind accounted for most daily movements for the next 7 years, up to 1953. In addition, Dakota and Devon aircraft began using the airfield in 1949, an Athena put in an appearance in 1950 and a Prentice in 1951.
That’s all so far folks, other pages need updating too.