The Olivier LeFloch Newsletters – Issue No. 11

This month’s edition of the Olivier LeFloch Newsletters, the eleventh in the series, contains several Pilots’ and a Crew Chief’s personal diary recollections, written in April and May 1944, and several previously unpublished photographs of 367th FG aircrew at Stoney Cross, in the summer of 1944. It is clear that the Americans were impressed with the airfield but they suffered from being assigned many worn out and badly maintained aircraft, which amounted to around three quarters of the total of 85 aircraft. Many needed urgent modifications to bring them up to operational readiness and the ground crews worked night and day to do so.                                                                                                          As has been previously chronicled here, only three of the pilots (out of a total of ninety) had ever flown a twin engined aircraft, when they arrived at Stoney Cross. They were carrying out combat patrols five weeks later.                                                                                  It also contains the somewhat amusing report that “All the enlisted men in the FG had the bullets taken from them as they spent time off hunting deer, rabbit and fox to supplement the terrible English food. The airfield was considered “Royal Property” and thus the game belonged to the King……” (The airfield location was, and still is, within the boundaries of the New Forest, which was declared a Royal hunting ground since about 1079 AD by William the Conqueror – Ed.).                                                                                                                Following this section, there is a tribute to 2nd Lt. George S. White, 393rd Fighter Squadron. Next is the amazing story of the late Clyde Deavers’ flying helmet. Clyde was tall for a fighter pilot, around six foot four inches. He struck the tail unit of his P-38J aircraft when he bailed out and subsequently had to have a leg amputated, when his Lightning was hit by anti-aircraft fire, on a low level strafing run in France .                                                  The Newsletter concludes with a list of Group Missions flown in December 1944. Newsletter 367th Fighter Group issue 11

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Valete – Squadron Leader Peter Crouch, AFM (Retired)

We record with sadness and respect the passing of a long time FONFA Member and supporter, who knew Bernard Baily, our Founder Trustee, well. Peter Crouch had a long, successful and varied RAF career, covering a multitude of postings and very different aircraft types, which are recorded below.
Peter sadly passed away on 14 January 2018, and is survived by his son Brian, who kindly assisted Ian Potts in compiling this tribute for FONFA.
Born in Reading in 1923, flying was in Peter’s blood – his father had been an Air Observer in the RFC and RAF. Peter grew up in Hazlemere, near High Wycombe, then moved to Oxford and attended the School of Technology, Art and Commerce.
With World War 2 well underway, Peter joined the RAF in 1942 and, following training in Canada on Fleet Finches and Harvards, he was awarded his Wings, promoted to Sergeant Pilot and posted back to the UK. Eventually sent for further training on twin engined aircraft, Peter was then posted to 42 OTU at Ashbourne in Derbyshire, where he was flying Whitleys and Albemarles. The latter didn’t impress him, preferring to fly the Whitley on training  flights, which entailed glider towing and parachute troop drops.
Peter then moved on to a Heavy Conversion Unit, to complete a course flying Halifaxes, with more glider towing and parachute drops. On this posting Peter spent some time towing the ‘monster’ Hamilcar gliders, with a dummy load of 6 tons of concrete blocks(!) to simulate the tank they were intended to carry – Peter described these flights as “interesting”……………
With the war finally ended, Peter decided to stay in the RAF and served with 297 Squadron from December 1945. He and Mary (also RAF, a Flt Sgt(SIB) serving in the RAF Police) married in 1947, and had a son Brian, born in 1948.
Peter was posted to 47 Squadron in 1948, to fly the new Hastings transport, serving some time in Germany, flying in the Berlin Airlift.
Peter’s next move was to No.1 Air Navigation School  in 1949, flying the Anson Mk 21, followed by a posting to the Central Flying School at Little Rissington in 1951, eventually instructing on various types including Prentices, Harvards Chipmunks, Meteors, Vampires and Hunters, with moves to Moreton in the Marsh, Western Zoyland, Worksop, Swinderby and Oakington until 1960, when Peter was officially “grounded”.
At this point in his RAF career, he headed to the Far East, with a posting as an Operations Officer, spending 2 years and 6 months in Singapore, but still flying, albeit with the Royal Singapore Flying Club, logging 600 hours as their Chief Flying Instructor!
Peter returned to the UK in 1962, to complete a conversion course at Thorney Island, flying Argosies, later appointed as an Instructor on this type, at 242 OCU, from 1963 to 1966. In 1966 Peter was posted back to Singapore, to 215 Squadron, still flying the Argosy, moving to Cyprus in 1967 with 70 Squadron, again on Argosies, until 1970 when he was posted back to the UK, to the Air Support Examining Team, with responsibility for Argosy, Andover and Caribou operations, Peter then moved back to Thorney Island and 242 OCU, as Andover Wing pilot, until 1975.
He was posted back to Canada in 1975, as the Detachment Commander at Gander, Newfoundland, returning to the UK a few years later and finally retired from RAF duties in June 1978.
Peter had flown biplane trainers, bombers, jet fighters and four engined heavy transports in his RAF career, logging over 11,000 flying hours, on 75 different aircraft types, and had been awarded the Air Force Medal for his Instructing service in 1954.
Peter continued flying, employed as the Laura Ashley company pilot for 10 years, until 1988. He was actively involved with the Aircrew Association, Bournemouth branch, serving as Branch Secretary and then as Chairman, and also held office at National level, as the Aircrew Association Chairman, being appointed in 1984 and serving in this capacity until 1991.
Peter was always an active and supportive member of FONFA, and enjoyed attending Open Days and Memorial events, happily meeting up with old friends and  acquaintances; his presence, companionship, enthusiastic assistance and anecdotes will be sorely missed.
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New Forest National Park Volunteer Fair – Sunday 28th January 2018

FONFA was well represented again this year with a stand at the important Lyndhurst Volunteering Fair, at the Lyndhurst Community Centre, on Sunday 28th January. Over forty community organisations attended and several dozen visitors stopped by to chat with FONFA Trustees and learn about FONFA, our new Museum at Bransgore and the memories we hold in trust, for future generations.MP for New Forest East, Dr Julian Lewis, pictured here (left) with FONFA Trustees Lynn Coirbin and John Brooks, was one of the dozens of visitors who were interested in the history of the New Forest Airfields and our display of model dioramas, depicting aircraft that flew from the Forest in World War II. Chair of Trustees, Dr Henry Goodall and fellow Trustee, Charles McKenzie, were also on the stand, speaking with many new contacts and networking with other New Forest Voluntary organisations.

Henry Goodall said, “This is the premier opportunity in the year, when we have the time and stage to speak with a large number of people, who have either never heard of FONFA or know very little of our organisation and what we do.  We value this event highly and have made several new contacts. We hope that these meetings will translate into increased knowledge for the people of Hampshire and Dorset about the WW2 airfields and that they will join our Membership, to learn more. Furthermore, we are confident that, when they visit the FONFA Museum and the New Forest Airfields Memorial, they will have a greater understanding of the effort and sacrifices which former generations made, here in the New Forest, and expand their knowledge of this critical phase in Britain’s history.”

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FONFA visits New Milton Junior School – 12th January 2018

FONFA Trustees John Brooks and Henry Goodall visited New Milton Junior School again on 12th January 2018, for our annual meeting with Year Six pupils. They spent around an hour and a half with the children. talking with them about the airfields in the New Forest, during WWII.                                                                                                                                   John Brooks described his experience of being a young teenager in London, growing up amid the V-I ‘buzz bomb’ or ‘doodlebug’ aerial bombardment. John managed to avoid being evacuated to the country, by staying with a close relative.                                        Henry Goodall gave a PowerPoint presentation on the New Forest airfields in WWII, describing the airfields, their buildings, aircraft and several individual pilots’ stories.     The Year Six pupils asked several intelligent questions at the end of the presentations, more than time would permit.

We are always grateful to the Head teacher Kelvin Geary and his staff, who welcome us warmly and continue to support our efforts to spread the knowledge of the airfields to local schools, and to Angie Lilley, who arranges our visits.

Speaking about the children, Henry Goodall said, “This is their heritage. These young people need to know and understand the courage and self-sacrifice of the many thousands of young service personnel and civilians, over seventy years ago, most of them barely out of their teens, who served on the airfields. Without their determination, bravery and persistence, many of the children here today would never have been born, and those living would be second class citizens in a greater German Empire – the Third Reich, which Hitler intended to last for a thousand years.”

In addition, the Trustees showed the pupils model dioramas of both a 52 Squadron Halifax aircraft from Holmsley South, attacking a U-Boat, and of an Albemarle aircraft, based at Stoney Cross, used to supply the French Resistance with arms, ammunition and radio equipment, both from September 1943.                                                                                       The children were very interested to see the medals, which Henry Goodall’s parents had earned in WWII, and asked many questions about them and about the airfields.

The children will now prepare projects, related to what they have heard, as the previous Year Six groups have done, and the Trustees will re-visit the school in February, to assess their progress and view their resulting work.

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The Olivier LeFloch Newsletters – Issue No. 10

FONFA opens 2018 with a bumper edition of the Olivier Le Floch Newsletters about the American 367th Fighter Group, the 10th Newsletter in the series. This contains the second part of the description of their huge dogfight on August 25th 1944, with the pilots of II/JG6. Around sixty aircraft were engaged in this dogfight, all of which occurred at low level, mostly below 3000 feet. There are several personal combat reports and escape stories included and the tally of aircraft and pilots lost, injured and captured.

This is followed by more personal pilots’ stories, and details of Richard Bong’s P-38 in the Museum in Duluth, Minnesota, where his P-38 Lightning has a permanent resting place.

Finally, there is the complete mission list for November 1944, illustrating once again the sheer relentlessness of the missions, the variety of targets assigned, the adverse weather and the attrition in pilots and machines, as the Group fought its way across France, towards eventual victory over the Third Reich. Newsletter 367th Fighter Group issue 10

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FONFA Annual Model Competition – ‘D-Day June 1944’

The annual FONFA Model Competition was held on Wednesday 6th December in conjunction with the Poole Vikings Model Club monthly meeting, at the Royal British Legion Club in Broadstone, Dorset. The subject of this year’s competition was ‘D-Day June 1944’. The entries were judged by FONFA Trustees Tony Prince and Henry Goodall, accompanied by master model maker Kip Watson, a former member of Poole Vikings. Six entries of a high standard were presented and two Gold Awards were made, for a 1/35th scale diorama model, ‘The Road to Caen’, depicting a Firefly IC Hybrid tank and accompanying infantry, and for a model of a 1/72nd scale C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft. The Sherman Firefly tank would have departed from our local shores around D-Day in June 1944. The Skytrain, or Dakota, as it was named in the RAF, dropped many thousands of military parachutists into Normandy at the same time, in addition to towing Horsa and Hadrian gliders, full of troops and equipment, to their Landing Zones in France. We hope to develop closer ties with Poole Vikings, in the future, with active participation by FONFA in their displays at Model Shows in 2018.

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A Harrier at Sopley – an unusual tale from the past

Corporal Denys “Jim” Fail 3504451, a retired Mechanised Transport Driver, has related this unusual tale about the former RAF Sopley domestic site camp, where the FONFA Museum now stands at the western edge of the new housing estate.   Photo Credit – PPRuNe Forums – Harrier GR1 taking off from the St Pancras Railway Station coal yard, London, flown by Sqn Ldr Tom Lecky-Thompson, in the Daily Mail London to New York Air Race in May 1969.

“During the time I was stationed at R.A.F. Bicester, I was called upon to carry out some interesting tasks. One morning, an airman came up to me and said “The ‘old man’ wants to see you in his office”. I went to his office and Said “You want to see me, sir”? “Ah, yes” he replied, “You come from the New Forest area?”  “Sort of”, I replied, “Actually, I come from Bournemouth”.                                                                                                                               “Now, we have a little task in the New Forest, apparently a Harrier aircraft has crashed and needs to be recovered and taken back to its base, Boscombe Down”.

He instructed me to take a Queen Mary Trailer vehicle to Hamble in Hampshire, and pick up a rig which is fitted to the trailer so a Harrier aircraft can be transported by road.             A Harrier aircraft had apparently crashed near Hurn Airport, and my task was to collect the said aircraft and take it back to Boscombe Down in Wiltshire.

Well, off we go, to Hamble and collect the rig, no problems, yet. I might point out that I had not been near my home town for over three years. I didn’t know the A338 had been built (in the late 1960s) between Ringwood and Bournemouth, so I have to go the way I know, via Ferndown & Parley to Hurn. I went in the back way to the Airport, via the engineering side. At the gate, a Ministry policeman met me. I said “Hallow mate, where is the Harrier that has crashed?” “There ain’t no Harrier round here, crashed or otherwise.”

After a short spell, he said “Hang on a minute.” He went back into his office and made a phone call to the control tower, came back to me and said “They don’t know nuffing about a Harrier”. He then said “Ah, Just a minute, if you go down this road” and gave me some directions to the A338, which was a new road, which I didn’t know about. “Then on your left, you will see a gate with a sign indicating there is some experimental establishment within”. I drove in the gateway. And there was a Harrier aircraft sitting on a P.S.P. (metal pierced steel planking) take off area. I was told that the sealing material had been sucked up into the engine whilst the aircraft was attempting to take off, hence stalling the engine.

At this stage, I had to plan my next move; I have to take this aircraft to Boscombe Down. Have I got enough petrol?? I don’t think so. I made a phone call to R.A.F. Sopley; the duty storeman told me “Come back on Monday”. I told him “I have to have fuel today”, he told me there is no chance of getting fuel on Saturday or Sunday. I then ordered him to have the fuel pump unlocked and ready for me within one hour.

With that, the duty officer appeared out of nowhere; it turned out to be a W.R.A.F. Officer. She asked what is going on. I explained I only wanted some fuel, enough to get me to Boscombe Down. She turned to the storeman and ordered him to give me fuel.                      I disconnected the trailer from the prime mover and pulled up at the pump and refuelled. To the best of my knowledge, nothing more was said. I drove through the camp gate to be greeted by the orderly Sergeant, who happened to be a chap whom I knew from way back. “Hello there Jim, you want fuel?” I replied “Yes.” He then said “You know where to go, no need to book in”. As I pulled forward, the wings of the aircraft were 16 feet high from the trailer; down came the telephone and Tannoy cables. The Duty Sergeant then said, “I think you had better book in now.”

I continued on my way to Boscombe Down, when I came across another problem, Fordingbridge!                                                                                                                                 There was no by-pass there in those days and for some reason Flags were erected right across the road through the town, I was just about to drive on and pull them all down when a policeman appeared from nowhere, held his hand up for me to stop, which I did. He managed to get a man to find a broom; then the man climbed on my trailer and hooked the flags over the wings. As I got to the other end of the town, Pickford’s (a civilian transport company) with a high load was waiting to come through in the opposite direction. Well, that’s not my problem!!

I eventually arrived at Boscombe Down with the Harrier, and got unloaded.  Now, as I tried to go out the gate, the guy on the gate asked what I was going to do about the rig I had on the trailer, I explained that I was taking it back to Fairey Aviation at Hamble.       He insisted that it belonged to Boscombe Down, as this was the only place that had this rig for Harriers, as they were a new aircraft and no one else had them. I told him to show me their serial number on this one and then he could have it. There was no serial number, so I took it back to Hamble.”

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