New Forest Airfields Memorial vandalised

The Memorial at Holmsley South was vandalised between 31st August and 3rd September. The damage has now been repaired. A full report is posted on the ‘News’ section of the website.

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The Olivier LeFloch Newsletters – Issue No. 8

This month, I was delighted to meet Olivier LeFloch, when he visited the FONFA Museum with his family (below) on 25th August, exactly 73 years to the day after the USAF 367th Fighter Group’s massive dogfight with the Luftwaffe  – Henry Goodall, Chair of Trustees  This month, we publish the eighth of Olivier’s Newsletters, which chronicle the progress of the American 367th Fighter Group, through training and combat in WWII. If you have read the previous Newsletters, you will have learned about their experiences leading up to D-Day in June 1944, flying from Stoney Cross in the New Forest, Hampshire, England. This Newsletter was originally sent out to the Group’s members in June 2013.

This Newsletter harks back to the Group’s training in California and records details of two pilots, who were later killed in France. Their training base, Santa Rosa Army Air Field in California, was camouflaged to look like a vineyard, with barrack blocks built under trees and runways that were very difficult to see from the air, except just before touchdown.         There the Group carried out basic training on the P-39 Airacobra (photo below), including formation flying, followed by gunnery and bombing training at Tonopah, Nevada. The high altitude of the bombing range (5200 feet) caused engine problems and the group suffered 42 accidents in four months, most of them during take off and landing, with three pilots killed.This Newsletter also includes the stories of two pilots, with a poem written by one, on the day before he was killed. In addition, there is a list of all missions flown by the Group in September 1944 and, finally, a reference to “The Drunken Duchess”, which relates to the ‘Duchess of Bedford’. She was the transport ship which wallowed slowly across the Atlantic in late March and early April 1944, bringing the main body of the Group to England.

Follow the link on the Black Strapline above, clicking on ‘the Olivier LeFloch Newsletters’ title, and this will take you to the list of newsletters, or on the direct link below.   Newsletter 367th Fighter Group_issue 8

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Local MP visits the FONFA Museum in Bransgore

For a report, click on our ‘News’ page headline above.

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FONFA Museum Open Days for Summer and Autumn 2017

The last planned Museum Open Day Sunday for the remainder of 2017 will be on 15th October. On all Open Days the Museum will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On admission, we ask for a donation of £5 for adults and £2 for 10-16 year olds; entry for Under 10s is free.                                                         The adult donation entitles the visitor to membership for the year, which includes all Open Days and Newsletters.                                                                             Please use the post code BH23 8AU for SatNav systems and enter the Heatherstone Grange estate off Derritt Lane, then follow the route on the map below.

N.B. The New Forest Airfields Memorial is in Black Lane BH23 8AB, 3.5 miles east of the Museum by road, on the former WW2 Holmsley South airfield.  Contact us via e-mail at fonfa2010@gmail.com for more information.                  

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New Model Diorama added to Messerschmitt bf110 propeller blade cabinet

A new model diorama has been added to the Spitfire Mk I/Messerschmitt bf110 cabinet in the FONFA Museum, depicting the shooting down of the German fighter at Blackhill, south of West Wellow, by Flt Lt J.H.G.’Butch’ McArthur of 609 Squadron, based at Middle Wallop, at 1745 hrs on 15th August 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain.                         Recent visitors to the FONFA Museum will be familiar with the five feet long propeller blade from the bf110, kindly lent to the Museum on long term loan by Mr Neil Parsons and his family, whose uncle witnessed the end of the dogfight, before the bf 110 crashed killing the crew of two, FF Fw Franz Wagner and BF Uffz Fritz Spörl. The two Luftwaffe airmen were buried at the Cannock Chase German Military Cemetery. Full details of the incident and photographs taken on the day after the crash are displayed in the Museum. Flt Lt McArthur had taken off from Middle Wallop, during the second German air raid on the base in two days, and had already shot down another bf110 at Slackstead, north east of Romsey at 1535 hrs. His combat report then continues, “I turned south and kept climbing until about 2000 to 3000 ft above the party (the large dogfight west of Southampton).     “I picked out another 110 which was straggling a bit and carried out exactly the same attack with the same result except that this time only one engine went on fire but the starboard wing seemed to be burning as well, the ammunition ran out at about 20 yards.” The propeller blade was removed from the crash site the day after the crash and stored in a garage/workshop by the family of Mr Neil Parsons, who still lives in the same house as his uncle did at the time of the crash.                                                                                                  The aircraft was a twin engined Messerschmitt Bf 110C ‘M8+WP’ of 6./ZG76 and each engine had three propeller blades. The blade was stored for 77 years in the roof of a workshop, suspended by chains and only displayed to the public on two occasions at a local village fete.  The chains have caused some electrolysis of the propeller’s metal but the bulk of the blade has remained intact. In addition, there is some trailing edge damage on the blade, which may have been caused either by the crash impact or by gunfire from the pursuing Spitfire.                                                                                                                                     The blade identification numbers are still legible in red paint. The propeller boss is extremely heavy. Damage to the tip is slight, which suggests that it broke away from the engine immediately in the crash, and that either it was rotating slowly or already feathered, i.e. not under power, at the moment of impact. This would imply that it was from the port (left) engine, as this was reported as being on fire before the crash by Flt Lt McArthur, when he closed to ten yards distance in his Spitfire Mk.I, immediately before the impact.                                                                                                                                           The diorama, modelled by FONFA Chair of Trustees Dr Henry Goodall, depicts the moment of impact, when the Messerschmitt struck the ground.

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The Olivier LeFloch Newsletters – Issue No. 7

This month, we publish the seventh of these Newsletters, which chronicle the progress of the American 367th Fighter Group, through training and combat in WWII. If you have read the previous six Newsletters, you will have learned about their experiences leading up to D-Day in June 1944, flying from Stoney Cross in the New Forest, Hampshire, England.

This issue has more details of the dogfights in June and has a complete list of all missions flown in August 1944.  What may surprise some readers is the high percentage of dive bombing missions, with which the 367th ‘Fighter’ Group was tasked in August 1944.

Including one high altitude bombing mission, led by the ‘Droop Snoot’ P-38, the Group flew a total of 123 missions in August 1944. Of these, 71 (58%) were dive bombing missions, not bad for a so-called ‘Fighter’ Group!                                                                      The usual number of P-38Js on every mission was between 11 and 16. The standard load out on these dive bombing missions was between 2000 and 4000 lbs of bombs for each aircraft, which totals to well over 1000 TONS dropped by the Group on the enemy in just one month!

This Newsletter was originally circulated to 367th FG members in March 2013. In addition, it contains an unusual story about ‘Doc’ Livingstone’s P-38 ‘Moonlight Cock-tail’ Nose Art.

Follow the link on the Black Headline Listing above, click on ‘the Olivier LeFloch Newsletters’ headline, or on the link below, and this will take you to the list of newsletters.

Newsletter 367th Fighter Group issue 7 

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New Memorial to WW2 Winkton pilots unveiled in Periers, France.

The unveiling of this new memorial dedicated to Lieutenants Ben Kitchens and Bert Espy, both American pilots of the 404th Fighter Group’s 508th Fighter Squadron, flying from Winkton Advanced Landing Ground on Saturday 24th June 1944, took place in Périers on 24th June 2017, exactly 73 years to the day, after the accident which took their young lives.  The two pilots were killed following a mid-air collision, just after they had completed a strafing run on a German armoured column, near Periers. The memorial contains the armour plate from the pilot’s seat back, the engine and the propeller from Lt Espy’s P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft. The base of the memorial is fashioned in the shape of a P-47 wing, with D-Day stripes and the blue and white star and bar US Air Force insignia.       The memorial is the brainchild of Henri Levaufre and his then 12 year old son Christian, who were sheltering in a farm nearby, when the tail section of Lt Kitchens’ aircraft fell to earth after the collision, only thirty metres from the house. They found the burning remains of the rest of the aircraft towards le Béthelin, south west of Periers, with exploding ammunition and the pilot nearby.  They buried his body in a temporary grave on the spot. The other aircraft fell less than a kilometer away, close by the road to Monsurvent. The remains of its pilot, Lt Bert Espy Jr, were buried by the same family in the garden of their farm, not far away from the spot of the crash.                                                 The wreck of Lt Espy’s plane was located again by Henri and Christian Levaufre in August 1966, half a mile to the south west of the farm. Espy’s aircraft had dived into the ground at a steep angle, with the engine being driven several metres into the ground. After confirming the site of the crash, they left it undisturbed until 1983.                                    That year, the site happened to be designated as the location for a new waste disposal dump for the town. Henri Levaufre, then a city councillor, was determined that the aircraft should be recovered before this happened.                                                                           Finding aluminium panels immediately on initiating a dig, they recovered much of the aircraft, locating the engine, which was buried four metres deep. The engine was recovered and then kept in storage, before being recently renovated and specially treated, to allow it to be displayed as part of the new memorial. Since 2014, they have worked with many others in the town to make the memorial a reality.

This tale of devotion and persistence, spread over half a century, demonstrates once again the deep gratitude and respect that the local people of Basse Normandie have for all the Allied servicemen and women; the soldiers, sailors and airmen, who strove to liberate them from four years of Nazi oppression and slavery in 1944. The kindness and reverence with which their sacrifice is still viewed today throughout this region of France is manifest. Young French children from the age of 4 or 5 are all encouraged to take part in local remembrance ceremonies, to lay flowers, in gratitude to and in memory of their young liberators, from over 70 years ago.

Being occupied is different. For those of us who have not known enemy occupation, it is difficult to understand the full impact and meaning of their loss of freedom and how vital and joyous it was for them to regain it, once again. Their gratitude will continue long into the future, passed down to the generations to come, with reverence and honour.

Lin Nancy Thurmond, Bert Espy‘s niece,  and Major Jason Jarecke, a US Air Force officer representing the US embassy in Paris both gave addresses to the assembled company.       A local marching band and an United States Military Guard of Honor both attended the ceremony.A transcript in English of the addresses given at the ceremony is attached below, together with photographs and a link to a French video record of the ceremony.

P-47. 06.24.2017 US

http://www.tevi.tv/Stele-pour-2-aviateurs-Periers-50_v2066.html

 

 

 

 

 

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