Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day 2020

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of the immediate commencement of a four week ‘Lockdown’, up to December 2nd, there will no formal ceremonies at the New Forest Airfields Memorial at Holmsley South on Remembrance Sunday, November 9th, and Armistice Day, November 11th. The Memorial is open to visitors, so may be visited by individuals, or group ‘bubbles’, within Government guidelines, at any time.

If you wish to leave wreaths, crosses or poppies at the Memorial, you are very welcome to do so, while observing ‘social distancing’ regulations.

If you touch the gate, or any other part of the Memorial, please take care to sanitise the gate with your alocohol wipe, and all other items touched, both before and after your visit, so as to protect yourself and all who follow you. Thank you all for your support and remembrance of our fallen servicemen and women.

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A Heartwarming Story for These Difficult Times

For those of you reading this post, who haven’t heard this story before, the second video link, at the end of the text, will give you the complete picture. The World War II-era ‘Candy Bomber’ turns 100. Those who caught his candy – now in their 80s – say thanks.

Colonal Gail Seymour “Hal” Halvorsen (born October 10, 1920) is a retired officer and command pilot in the United States Air Force. He is best known as “The Berlin Candy Bomber” or “Uncle Wiggly Wings” and gained fame for dropping candy to German children during the Berlin Airlift from 1948 to 1949.

Halvorsen grew up in rural Utah but always had a desire to fly. He earned his private pilot’s license in 1941, at the age of 21, and then joined the Civil Air Patrol. He joined the United States Army Air Forccs in 1942 and was assigned to Germany on July 10, 1948, to be a pilot for the Berlin Airlift. Halvorsen piloted C-47s and C-54s during the Berlin airlift (“Operation Vittles”).

Many of the RAF aircraft involved in this humanitarian operation flew from the New Forest Airfields, from Stoney Cross, Holmsley South and Hurn. Even though this was peacetime, 39 RAF and 31 USAF aircrew died during the operation. The blockade of Berlin, by the Russians, lasted eleven months from June 1948 to May 1949 (323 days).

During that time Halvorsen founded “Operation Little Vittles”, an effort to raise morale in Berlin by dropping candy via miniature parachutes to the city’s residents. He began “Little Vittles”, with no authorisation from his superiors, but over the next year became a national hero with support from all over the United States. Halvorsen’s operation dropped over 23 tons of candy to the residents of Berlin via 250,000 tiny parachutes. He became known as the “Berlin Candy Bomber”, “Uncle Wiggly Wings”, and “The Chocolate Flier”.

He has received numerous awards for his role in “Operation Little Vittles”, including the Congressional Gold Medal. However, “Little Vittles” was not the end of Halvorsen’s military and humanitarian career. Over the next 25 years, Halvorsen advocated for and performed candy drops in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Japan, Guam, and Iraq. Halverson’s professional career included various notable positions. He helped to develop reusable manned spacecraft at the Directorate of Space and Technology and served as commander of Berlin’s Templehof Airport. He retired in August 1974 after logging over 8,000 flying hours. From 1976 until 1986 Halvorsen served as the Assistant Dean of Student Life at Brigham Young University.

‘Hal’ Halvorsen in 1983

It was the summer of 1948 when U.S. Air Force pilot Gail “Hal” Halvorsen noticed children clustered around a barbed-wire fence watching military planes at Tempelhof airfield in Berlin. World War II had ended three years earlier, and Halvorsen was part of an air mission to deliver food and fuel to desperate Berliners after the Soviet Union had blocked land and water access to areas of the country, leaving millions without access to basic goods, known as the Berlin Air LIft. Many of the RAF aircraft involved in this humanitarian operation flew from the New Forest Airfields.

Halvorsen, then 27, decided to park his plane and say hello to the kids at the fence. “I saw right away that they had nothing and they were hungry,” he recalled. “So I reached into my pocket and pulled out all that I had: two sticks of gum.” Halvorsen tore the Wrigley’s Spearmint gum into small strips – one for each child, he said. Then he made the kids a promise: He would return the next day to drop a load of chocolate bars from the sky. Halvorsen recorded that he wanted to do more for the children, and so told them that the following day he would have enough gum for all of them, and he would drop it out of his plane.

Then he made the kids a promise: He would return the next day to drop a load of chocolate bars from the sky. Halvorsen recorded that he wanted to do more for the children, and so told them that the following day he would have enough gum for all of them, and he would drop it out of his plane.

According to Halvorsen, one child asked “How will we know it is your plane?” to which Halvorsen responded that he would wiggle his wings, something he had done for his parents when he first got his pilot’s license in 1941. “I told them that I’d ‘wiggle’ my wings so they’d know which pilot had the goods,” he said. “Then I went back to the base and asked all the guys to pool their candy rations for the drop.”

Following his first sweet mission – hundreds of Hershey chocolate bars were wrapped in parachutes made of handkerchiefs – Halvorsen returned again and again during the 15-month humanitarian airlift. The children of Berlin soon gave him a nickname: the “Candy Bomber.”

And now, some of those kids – now in their 80s and 90s – have sent cards, letters and video messages of thanks to Halvorsen in honor of his 100th birthday on Oct. 10. The legacy of the retired colonel was celebrated at an outdoor reception on his birthday for about 130 family members and friends. In addition to birthday cake, there was a helicopter flyover to drop chocolate bars and other candy to the guests, said Denise Williams, 67, the second oldest of Halvorsen’s five children.

Although it’s a few weeks early for Halloween candy, Halvorsen said he was happy to see another candy “bombing” run. “I’ve always had a sweet tooth,” he said. “But I have to be honest. I’d rather have black licorice than chocolate.” Williams, who now helps care for her dad, said she had initially invited a large contingent of grateful German candy recipients to the party, but then the coronavirus pandemic hit. “There are hundreds of people who will never forget my dad dropping those candy bars during the Berlin airlift,” she said. “He’s beloved around the world for his positive attitude and giving heart.”

Several of those children from the 1940s now live in the United States and shared tributes to Halvorsen via Zoom at the party, Williams said. Ingrid Azvedo of Sacramento was among them. Azvedo, 86, said she was with the group of kids who were handed small strips of gum through the wire fence from Halvorsen that hot July day in 1948. “There was no food or clean water in Berlin; we were starving to death,” recalled Azvedo, who was 14 at the time. “Then along came this tall and skinny pilot, who reached into his pocket to give us all that he had. A kindness like that stays with you for a lifetime.” Azvedo didn’t eat her gum, she said, but instead placed it under her pillow. “I would smell it every night,” she said. “And when he came back to drop chocolate instead of bombs, we could hardly believe it. Nobody had tasted chocolate for a very long time.”

Christel Jonge Vos, who now lives in Keizer, Ore., said she was never able to catch a chocolate parachute because the teenage boys in Berlin ran ahead of her. “But that was not important to me or the other kids who did not get one,” said Vos, now 86. “We knew there was an American pilot called the Candy Bomber who cared about us. He laid the ground stone to the fact that enemies could become friends in Berlin.”

Halvorsen said he grew up on a sugar beet farm in the small city of Garland, Utah, and became a Civil Air Patrol pilot after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, launching the United States into World War II. He later joined the military and was assigned to the South Atlantic Air Transport Command, he said, but when word came after the war that the Soviet Union had blocked West Berlin, he volunteered to fly in supplies on humanitarian missions. More than 2 million tons of food and fuel were airlifted into the city over nearly 280,000 flights, Halvorsen said. But just weeks into the effort, he saw another need. “When I dropped those first candy parachutes and saw the kids racing for them, I knew I had to keep going,” he said. Operation Little Vittles, as it was called, ended up delivering more than 23 tons of candy and chocolate to children throughout western Berlin, he added.

More than seven decades on, the lanky C-54 pilot is still in pretty good health, according to his children, and he flew as a co-pilot as recently as last year in North Carolina during a reenactment of one of his candy bomber flights. “He certainly has his physical challenges, and his short-term memory isn’t what it used to be,” said son Bob Halvorsen, 63. “But he still has a vivid memory of dropping those chocolate parachutes in Berlin years ago.” After Germans had watched American planes drop bombs during the war, to see a pilot drop candy made a lasting impression, he added. “My dad helped to create an attitude shift in Berlin about America,” he said. “I’m amazed at the number of people who continue to write to him about that airlift. They tell him that it’s the one time they finally had hope.”

Dagmar Snodgrass, now 86 and living in Springfield, Mo., is among those regular pen pals. “I was 14 and had seen too much evil to believe in anything good, when the Candy Bomber made a place for himself in the heart of every West Berlin child,” she said. “When a gust of wind carried that little parachute to me, you cannot imagine what it meant,” said Snodgrass, who finally met Halvorsen for the first time in 2015. “Because of [Halvorsen], we started to believe that good could come out of bad.”

Halvorsen said that’s exactly the lesson he had hoped people would take away from his sweet humanitarian missions. “My advice to people is the same today: Don’t hate and don’t be mad at your next-door neighbor,” he said. “If you want to get the best out of life, you have to forgive.” And sharing a bit of chocolate with someone now and then can’t hurt either, he said.

References:

Wikipedia and

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FUNDAISING FOR FONFA TO SURVIVE THE COVID-19 CRISIS

Donate through Give as you Live Donate

Thank you for visiting our Educational Heritage Charity’s website. You may not be aware that FONFA raises almost all of our income from Heritage Centre museum visitors and face to face PowerPoint presentations to interested community groups.

At present and possibly for the rest of this year, these income sources are closed completely, by order of the Government, due to the restrictions of ‘social distancing’.  However, our fixed overhead costs (electricity and gas standing charges, insurance, repairs etc.) continue as normal.                                                                      Our ‘not for profit’ Registered Charity is run wholly by unpaid volunteers and receives no regular National or Local Authority support, except rate relief. Hit the ‘Donate’ Button above, if you wish to donate funds, however small.

We are now facing an existential crisis, like no other. We are now giving ‘Zoom’ PowerPoint presentations about WWII to community groups;      PLEASE BOOK ONE via our Header Link above: “Book a presentation about local WWII history for your community group”.  

In this year when we commemorate VE-Day 75, the WWII Victory In Europe, and give thanks for the deliverance from Nazi tyranny, please give what you can spare, to support us continuing to honour the many thousands of young people, based in the New Forest area, who saved our country by their courage, their determination, their persistence against the odds and their sacrifice, for the freedoms we enjoy today. Thank you.

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” – Edmund Burke (1729-1797) 

In order to survive this open ended loss of our income, we launched an Emergency Appeal on 18th April , to replace our anticipated income for this year and to prepare new interpretation methods, display items and equipment for next year’s 2021 Open Day season at the Heritage Centre museum.                                                                                              The initial response from our Members and supporters has been very positive, but we still have a very long way to go to achieve solvency for the coming year.                                     Our initial aim is to survive this year, come what may, so that we can operate next year, rather than having to close down the Heritage Centre museum permanently.                         

If you are able to support our appeal for donations, please access the ‘Give as You Live’ web page at donate.giveasyoulive.com/fundraising/friends-of-new-forest-airfields-donate

Please also consider making ‘Give as You Live’ your main channel for ALL Internet purchases, however small or large, which will add further small amounts to the total raised, every time you shop.

Thank you very much for reading this message and for your donations. If you have any questions or queries, please direct them by e-mail to fonfa2010@gmail.com.

N.B. SEPTEMBER 2020 UPDATE: The current Government ‘social distancing’ regulations will not allow our Heritage Centre to re-open, due to the small size of the building and the small number of available volunteer members who are not in the ‘at risk’ group. The Board members have therefore reluctantly decided to close the Centre for public visitors this year and aim to re-open in March 2021.

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Fly a Spitfire for Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday on 30th April

Fly a Spitfire for Captain Tom – Biggin Hill’s Spitfire has been refused permission to fly over Captain Tom’s home on his 100th Birthday, by Department of Transport civil servants, who have deemed it “non-essential travel” (!)

We have started a new petition seeking to reverse that decision, believing that the flight will be eminently in the public interest and will raise the morale and spirits of the whole nation at a time of great national peril. We only have two days to make this happen.

Please sign the petition ASAP at  http://chng.it/s8QFtt6r

As Winston Churchill would have demanded, “ACTION THIS DAY”.

UPDATE: 1450 hrs 28th April:

Success! It has been announced this afternoon that there will be a flypast for Captain Tom, including a Spitfire, a Hurricane and the last remaining Lancaster, all from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, based at Coningsby.  So, although the ‘Spirit of Kent’ Spitfire was refused permission to take part in a flypast at his home, the reasons don’t apply to the BBMF.

Overall, a good result; many thanks to all supporters.

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Ron Eden, Long Time Member and Former Trustee of FONFA

It is with sadness that we have to record the death of one of our long serving Members and a Former Trustee, Ron Eden. John Brooks, Honorary Treasurer and former Chairman of FONFA has written a tribute below: Ron pictured at the New Forest Airfields Memorial in 2012

RON EDEN – FONFA Member and Standard Bearer for Highcliffe Branch Royal British Legion, born 1st May 1937, died 2nd April 2020, age 82yrs.

Ron was a former Trustee and helped over the years especially when we took over the standby generator building in 2015. He mounted all the framed pictures in the gallery, often to be seen with his screwdriver.
With his wife Lucy (who acts as our Parade Marshall at our annual Service at the memorial), he was always present assisting with dressing the compound with the flags.
Over the recent years his heart condition finally gave out and he was admitted to Bournemouth Hospital at the end of March 2020.
His funeral was held at the Bournemouth Crematorium on April 21st with a small assembly of his family and representatives of FONFA.
He was often seen helping to maintain the Memorial; see the photo taken in 2012.
Lucy hopes to hold a remembrance service once the COVID-19 restrictions are cleared.
John Brooks a personal Friend

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Heritage Centre Open Days & Events – Covid-19 – October 2020 Update

Following the rapid evolution of the UK Government’s response to the Covid-19 virus pandemic and their advice issued during March, the Trustees suspended all visiting to the Heritage Centre Museum and the face to face PowerPoint educational presentations to interested community groups. This position will now continue until the threat of person to person infection is no longer significant. We have therefore decided to close the Centre to visitors for this year and aim to re-open in March/April 2021.

The safety of our visitors and audiences and of our volunteers, the majority of whom are in the ‘vulnerable’ or ‘shielding’ groups, is paramount in making this decision. We realise that this will disappoint many who planned to visit the Centre this summer and in the coming months.

We are presently offering ‘ZOOM’ Presentations on local WWII topics. If your group has the expertise and technology to arrange one, we would be happy to take part. A list of topics is available via the website header “Book a Presentation about local WWII history for your community group”. Contact us via fonfa2010@gmail.com if you have a query or wish to arrange a Presentation.

To make this easier for all, we are now offering FREE weekly ‘ZOOM’ tutorial sessions on Thursday evenings. If you would like to take advantage of the free training in one of these, please contact us via e-mail: fonfa2010@gmail.com 

However, the New Forest Airfields Memorial at BH23 8EB (Holmsley South) IS OPEN TO VISITORS; please take care to sanitise the gate with your alocohol wipe, and all other items touched, before and after your visit.

Almost all of our annual income comes from these two sources, so their loss for a whole year, including all Open Days and events at the Centre and the service at the New Forest Airfields Memorial, is critical. Most significantly for our Charity, this action will reduce our income throughout this period to nil, and threaten our future financial viability.

Consequently, our Emergency Appeal (see the home page link on this website) was launched in April and has received splendid and generous support. In addition, after a frantic and unfruitful two month long search for possible sources of funds, we have received a grant from the New Forest District Council, which will allow us to survive through to next year. What conditions will be like and whether the public will support us in 2021, as previously, is uncertain at present.

In the meantime, we thank all FONFA Members for their support and loyalty and trust that we will be able to stage Open Days again, from March or April 2021. If anyone has queries or questions about issues relating to our Charity, please use the e-mail address for contact: fonfa2010@gmail.com

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Lockheed Ventura model added to Heritage Centre collection

A 1.72 scale model of the relatively unknown Lockheed Ventura will be available for viewing when the Heritage Centre re-opens, hopefully later this year.                                  The Lockheed Ventura was a twin engine medium and patrol bomber in World War II, used by the USAF for maritime patrols, which entered service with the Royal Air Force in late 1942. The Ventura was developed from the Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar transport, as a replacement for the Lockheed Hudson medium bomber, then in service with the RAF.    It was used mainly in daylight attacks against occupied Europe and as a communications, training and transport aircraft. The Ventura was never very popular with RAF crews. Although it was 50 mph (80 km/h) faster and carried more than twice as many bombs as its predecessor, the Hudson, it proved unsatisfactory as a bomber. By the summer of 1943, the Ventura had been replaced by the de Havilland Mosquito, in the bombing role. The last Ventura bombing raid was flown by 21 Squadron on 9 September 1943. No. 299 Squadron was formed on 4 November 1943 from ‘C’ flight of 297 Squadron at RAF Stoney Cross, equipped with Ventura  Mk. Is and Mk.IIs, as a Special Operations squadron, dropping supplies and equipment to the French and Belgian Resistance partisans, by night. The aircraft served with 299 Sqn from November 1943 to January 1944, when it was replaced by the Short Sterling Mk IV.This model shows the Ventura in the light bomber configuration, which is displayed in the Heritage Centre in a case with a mirror base, to show the bomb load more clearly.

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Sunderland Model in the Heritage Centre, (for viewing when we re-open)

When the Centre re-opens later in the year (we hope sooner rather than later) the will be two new models to be viewed, which have been added to the inventory. The first is a Short Sunderland Mk.I, which was the mainstay of Coastal Command long range surveillance and convoy escort in the first two years of WWII.This Italeri 1.72 scale model is of a 210 Squadron Sunderland based at Oban, Scotland in 1940, Code DA-G, Serial Number L2163. The photograph below shows the aircraft escorting Convoy TC 6, on 31 July 1940. The convoy left Halifax, Nova Scotia on 23 August 1940 and arrived in the Clyde, Scotland on 1st September. The convoy included seven Canadian Troopships, escorted by HMS Revenge, a WWI dreadnought battleship, and the light cruiser HMS Emerald.Sunderlands formed the backbone of Coastal Command’s long range capability in the first years of the WWII. Armed with either 500 lb or 250 lb bombs, or eight 250 lb depth charges, and 7 machine guns, the Mk I saw service in the early years of WWII, hunting U-Boats in the Battle of the Atlantic, from bases along the west coasts of England, Wales and Scotland and from Ballykelly in Northern Ireland. Major servicing and engine changes were carried out at RAF Calshot, when the aircraft flew down for maintenance, landing on Southampton Water and then being beached on a trolley and undercarriage system, to allow the engineering to be carried out on land.Armed with either 500 lb or 250 lb bombs, or eight 250 lb depth charges, and 7 machine guns, the Mk I saw service in the early years of WWII, hunting U-Boats in the Battle of the Atlantic, from bases along the west coasts of England, Wales and Scotland and from Ballykelly in Northern Ireland.                                                                                                      They were susceptible to maritime growth on the hull, which was cured temporarily by a landing on fresh water and the subsequent scrubbing effect of the take off. The North Atlantic weather and sea conditions quickly took their toll on the paintwork of the aircraft, as shown in this model. The anti-submarine force was strengthened later by the introduction of the Consolidated Catalina and the Mk I Liberator in 1941 and later by the B-17 and the very long range (VLR) B-24 Liberator aircraft, which effectively closed the ‘Mid-Atlantic Gap’ in early 1943.

 

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Open Day – Sunday 15th March at the Heritage Centre Museum

Our second 2020 Open Day will take place as usual, from 10 am to 4 pm, this coming Sunday, 15th March. Hand sanitiser will be available for all our visitors, on entry.            We would ask that all visitors use the hand sanitiser, for their own and other visitors’ protection, as well as for the safety of our dedicated volunteers. A toilet is available for frequent hand washing, as required. The interactive displays will operate as usual, with regular checks and cleaning by our volunteers, as necessary. We would only ask you to refrain from touching any models, stair rails, display cases and wall mounted panels, or exhibits, during your visit.

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Annual Glider Pilot Regiment Ceremony – 22nd February 2020

The annual commemoration of the Glider Pilot Regiment was conducted by the Very Reverend Alan Jeans, Archdeacon of Sarum in the Church of England Diocese of Salisbury, at the Tilshead Memorial, on Saturday 22nd February, in the presence of over 100 people, which included WWII Veteran glider pilots and both serving and former Army personnel, including former Army Air Corps, Parachute Regiment and Special Forces soldiers. FONFA was represented at the ceremonies by Dr Henry Goodall, Chair of Trustees, who served briefly in 1oth Btn, The Parachute Regiment, in the 1960s.

Veterans saluting the memorial. In addition to the Annual Service, two new memorial seats were dedicated; one next to the Memorial and the other adjacent to Tilshead Village Hall, in the centre of the village.

Very Rev. Alan Jeans conducts the seat dedication at Tilshead village hall. Tilshead camp was the original residential training base for Glider Pilots in WWII. Training operations were distributed all over Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset, on suitable airfields, notably at Netheravon, Christchurch, Stoney Cross, Beaulieu, Holmsley South and after Operation Overlord in June 1944, a ‘Glider Snatch’ Unit was based at Ibsley, for the recovery of Hadrian (CG-4A) gliders from Normandy.

Glider Pilot Regiment plaque

Parachute Regiment plaque

Literally thousands of training flights were carried out in the New Forest area during WWII, involving gliders and parachute drops, in less than three years, all practicing for the assault operations on the continent, in 1944 and 1945. The original design and testing of the Horsa glider was carried out at RAF Christchurch, before the construction was farmed out to major furniture manufacturers, all over the country. Glider assembly was then concentrated at major centres, notably at RAF Christchurch and RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire.The Horsa (A.S.51) was the main British operational glider in WWII, used in large numbers in Normandy (in June 1944), Arnhem (September 1944) and the Crossing of the Rhine (Operation Varsity) in March 1945. With an 88 foot wingspan and 67 foot length, it could carry 25 fully equipped troops, or a jeep and small artillery piece, plus crew.          The Horsa first flew on 12th September 2041, piloted by Airspeed’s Chief Test Pilot, George Errington, towed by an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, from what is now London’s Heathrow Airport.  Over 3,600 were built, in three and a half years, with over one third  of those being used during actual assault operations. Veteran WWII Glider Pilot Frank Ashleigh’s photograph and extracts from his logbook are shown below:

 

 

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