Olivier LeFloch Newsletter No.16

We have just received the latest edition of Olivier LeFloch’s Newsletters about the American 367th Fighter Group’s progress across France in the late summer and autumn of 1944, following D-Day. For those new to these Neswletters, Olivier is a French aviation enthusiast and amateur historian, with a passion to record the history of the American 367th Fighter Group, whose first station in Europe was at Stoney Cross, in the New Forest, from April to June 1944.

This edition contains many contemporary and modern photographs, with Internet links to additional information and photographs. It traces the advance from A-44 Le Peray airfield, in August, to Saint Quentin (A-71 Clastres), a former German air base, which the 367th FG had previously bombed.

Unusual stories include the finding and defusing of a German V-1 flying bomb, which had crash landed and was intact, and reference to the Nazi SS atrocity in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, on 10th June 1944, in which the SS forced all the men of the village into barns, shot them in the legs, poured petrol over them and burned them alive. All the women and children were herded into the church, which was then set alight and those attempting to escape were machine gunned. Only one woman escaped alive to tell the story. Six hundred and forty two inhabitants were killed in reprisal for the kidnapping of a German officer and Resistance activity in the area.

There is reference too, to the loss of Lts Gillespie and Peters in the dogfight on 17th June 1944. The details of a recent ceremony, commemorating these two pilots, were reported earlier on this website.

This issue is full of previously unpublished photographs, old and new, and gives a vivid snapshot of life in the Group, after D-Day.

Newsletter 367th Fighter Group_issue16

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Vandalism at Friends of the New Forest Airfields – again.

On Sunday 2nd June, four days short of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in June 1944, the brand new temporary signs that we use only on Open Days, to help show visitors where our Heritage Centre Museum is located, were vandalised, first by the destruction of the ‘Airfields Museum’ sign between 0845 hrs an 0915 hrs and again, during the afternoon, when all the signs were torn down and thrown onto the grass at the side of Derritt Lane, Bransgore.This is the second time that our Charity has been subjected to vandalism in 21 months, the first being the breaking of the glass display cabinet at the New Forest Airfields Memorial, at the former World War II airfield at Holmsley South, in September 2017.

Our small Charity exists solely to protect and preserve our local aviation heritage and to help people to learn about the courage and bravery of the many thousands of Allied airmen and women, who died to protect our freedom in our country’s ‘darkest hour’, in World War II. We volunteer for the Charity to remember and to honour their sacrifice, without which, many of those living today, in these islands, would never have been born.

Dr Henry Goodall, Chair of Trustees, Friends of the New Forest Airfields (FONFA)        New Forest Airfields Memorial & Heritage Centre Museum

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New Horsa Glider diorama added to FONFA Heritage Centre Museum

Loading the Horsa –“Left hand down a bit – then, hard right!”Completed just in time for the ‘D-Day 75’ commemorations this month, a new scale model glider diorama was added to the Museum displays. This depicts a very common site on local airfields, during 1944, when glider borne troops practiced the loading of Jeeps and equipment into the large Horsa gliders, in preparation for the massive numbers of British gliders used in the parachute and glider assault on Normandy in June 1944.This new 1.72nd scale glider diorama, inspired by the wartime photograph above,  depicts British Paratroopers struggling to manhandle an Airborne Jeep into a Mk.I Horsa glider, in preparation for the Allies’ assault on D-Day. The combination of a careful driver and manpower was needed to load a Jeep, trailer and ammunition into the glider, via metal gutters, which allowed the Jeep to be driven up to the level of the side entry door. Some Jeeps were airlifted with a small artillery piece, ammunition and the gun crew. On landing in France, the tail section of the glider was removed and the gutters placed so that the Jeep could be easily driven out of the rear of the aircraft. Later, for Operation Varsity in 1945, the Rhine crossing, the Mk II Horsa had a side hinged nose section, which made the loading easier, when the Jeep could be driven straight into the fuselage from the front.

The Horsa model kit, based on the 1960s era Italeri moulding, with more recent Airfix Jeep and Paratrooper figures, won the Poole Vikings Model Club ‘Model of the Month’ in June 2019.

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U.S. Visitors to the Heritage Centre and New Forest Airfields Memorial

Two American visitors viewed the Museum and Memorial on 31st May, as part of their journey to the 75th Anniversary of D-Day commemorations in Normandy. They are part of a group from the Houston, Texas area, who have shipped their vehicles, two restored WWII trucks and a Jeep and trailer, over to Southampton, in the UK, in a shipping container. The group, which numbers almost thirty, will be driving the vehicles around significant WWII sites and museums in Europe, ending their two week trip in Bastogne, Belgium.

Dennis Huebner and Henry Mayo were shown the sites of the WWII airfields at Winkton, Holmsley South and Stoney Cross, as well as the Heritage Centre Museum, by FONFA Chair of Trustees, Henry Goodall. They were very interested in the new interactive displays and were pleased to see so many aircraft models. Henry Mayo volunteers at a WWII Museum near to his home and stated that, although they have vehicles and artefacts, they have few models on display there.

Dennis Huebner and Henry Mayo are pictured below, in front of the New Forest Airfields Memorial. Henry Mayo (right) and Henry Goodall first met five years ago, in December 2014, on a battlefields tour of the area of Belgium in which the Battle of the Bulge was fought, in the winter of 1944-45.

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U.S. Memorial Day Weekend

United States Memorial Day was commemorated again this year, as every year, on Bank Holiday Monday, 27th May, by the lowering of the American Flag to half mast at 0900 hrs, and raising of the flag to full height at noon, followed by the playing of a recording of ‘Taps’ at 1500 hrs. Long serving FONFA Trustee John Brooks carried out the salute to American fallen, who served on and flew from the New Forest Airfields in World War Two.

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Hamilcar Glider diorama added to the Heritage Centre collection

Normandy Arrival – 2115 hrs on 6th June 1944A General Aircraft GAL.49 Hamilcar offloads a Mk. VII Tetrarch light tank of the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment, while Ox & Bucks Light Infantry and Parachute Regiment troops land on the Ranville drop and landing zones (DZ-N & LZ-N), on D-Day. The crew of a Brigade HQ Universal Carrier, landed by another Hamilcar, liaise with the commander and his radio operator, for orders.The Hamilcar was the largest British military glider produced during the Second World War (110 ft wingspan), designed to carry up to 7 tons of heavy cargo, such as the Tetrarch light tank or two Universal (Bren Gun) Carriers.They were first used in action in the Normandy invasion (supporting Operations Tonga and Mallard), when approximately thirty were used to carry 17-pounder anti-tank guns, transport vehicles and Tetrarch light tanks into Normandy, in support of British airborne forces; and again in September 1944, in Operation Market Garden (Arnhem). During the Rhine crossing in March 1945 (Operation Varsity), Hamilcars carried M22 Locust light tanks. A total of 344 Hamilcars had been built when production ended in 1946. This 1.72nd scale model was an old Sanger Hamilcar vac-form kit, with multiple scratch built additions, simulating the glider internal structures and cockpit, and a complete rebuild of the inaccurate undercarriage supplied. The Extra-Tech Tetrarch and IBG models Universal Carrier and Airfix Paratroopers completed the diorama.

 

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Charles McKenzie – FONFA Founder Member and long time Trustee.

Our long-serving Trustee colleague, Charles McKenzie, has passed away on April 7th, after a long illness, bravely borne, aged 78. Please find details of the funeral arrangements below, at the end of this obituary.

The Original Board of Trustees of the Friends of the New Forest Airfields in 2002 is pictured below.

Standing (left to right): Les White, John Brooks, Charles McKenzie.                              Seated: Ann Baily, John Lay, Betty Hockey, Bernard Baily.                                                    (Ann Baily, Betty Hockey, Bernard Baily and Charles McKenzie are all now deceased)

Charles was one of the founder Trustees of the Friends of the New Forest Airfields and a Member from January 18th 1999 until his death on April 7th 2019 (Member No.011).          He was appointed as the Project Manager for the design, materials procurement and construction of the New Forest Airfields Memorial in Black Lane, on the western dispersal area of the Second World War airfield at Holmsley South.

On leaving school, Charles was apprenticed to HM Dockyard, Portsmouth, as an electrician. During his working life, Charles was 78 and after work at King’s College Hospital in London, he moved to the Royal Free Hospital, where he met Professor Patrick Bunning, who was going to set up an Anatomy Department in a new medical school at Zaire, Northern Nigeria, and asked Charles to come out with him to help set it up. Charles and his wife Judy lived in Nigeria for seven years, during which time their two sons, James and Steven, were born.

In 1974, they returned to UK, where he had met Professor Dennis Wright and worked with him at the Medical School in Southampton University.  Charles then acted as the curator of the Medical Pathology Museum at Southampton General Hospital, now the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

He was an expert on the history of reinforcement works and engineering works on airfields.  In retirement, he was always a strong supporter of FONFA and a valuable and much valued companion at Trustee Board Meetings. Charles was a quiet, mild mannered man, a true gentleman, who listened much and spoke only when he had something significant to say. He had a quick wit, a ready smile and a dry sense of humour. He was good company and always looked for the positive aspects of any situation. The members of the Trustee Board extend our heartfelt condolences to his widow, Judy. We shall miss his warm companionship greatly in the coming years.

The funeral ceremony was held at the Woodlands Burial Ground, at Hinton Park, Wyndham Road, Walkford, Christchurch BH23 7EJ at 1230 pm on Tuesday 7th May. Afterwards, there was a wake at the Borough Arms, Avenue Road, Lymington.

 

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