Journey

Everybody has a book in them, or so it's said. But it's something else again getting it onto the page and to a place where it might be shared.

I have been writing since I was a child. Always, my dream was to see my name on the spine of a book. Books gave me life, a dream to live by. Through their portals I could escape easily into other worlds. Books also saved my life ... yes, really!

This is the story of my books and my journey as an author. I hope it will inspire and give hope to writers young and old.

Getting published can be a waiting game. It's hard .. and it's getting harder. But then sometimes it happens in unexpected ways and suddenly, we are living the dream. And we realise that it isn't after all the winning that is important so much as the journey along the way.

I would love to hear from anyone who connects with what is written here. A signed copy of any of my books is available. You have only to write and ask:

janineharrington53@gmail.com







Friday, 5 January 2018

RAF SWANNINGTON REMEMBERED

 *   *   *   *
A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR 
TO ALL MY READERS!!
*   *   *   *

1st April 2018, will mark the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force.

Leading up to this historic occasion, previous posts here have shared the history and stories of RAF 100 Group who served under Bomber Command during World War Two. Based in Norfolk, the Group was made up of hand-picked men and women who worked with electronic warfare in its early stages, carrying secret experimental equipment on aircraft, with a Special Operator in each crew to use this equipment aimed at identifying and jamming enemy Radar. This was their primary function.
     I remain passionate about preserving their history and stories. As a Group, they received neither recognition or reward. Yet so many paid the ultimate price, while surviving veterans today say they remain 'forgotten heroes'. Not even family and loved ones are aware of their vital role in wartime. For more than 20 years, it has been my pride and joy to work with them and their families, sharing their experiences and understanding the important work in which they were involved ... including picking up and dropping S.O.E Agents, linking with the 'Y' Service and Bletchley Park, passing on and acting on coded information, working with the Resistance, and much more. It was they who brought the war to an early conclusion. Yet 70 years on, the name of RAF 100 Group is not widely known, even by the main Royal Air Force, due to the secrecy of their work. It is the reason I continue to campaign on their behalf, and write books aimed at giving them a voice, sharing their experiences, making known their Norfolk airfields now abandoned and neglected which once teamed with life.

Further knowledge and insight can be found in my books, both available through Amazon:  

RAF 100 Group - Kindred Spirits, voices of RAF & USAAF on secret Norfolk airfields during World War Two published by Austin Macauley.

RAF 100 Group - The Birth of Electronic Warfare, published by Fonthill Media.




RAF SWANNINGTON

Haveringland Hall pre-war

RAF 100 Group's airfield at Swannington is of particular significance as it was highlighted on Remembrance Day, 11th November 2017, by an historic event marking the 70th year of its closure. However, before re-visiting that historic day and the reasons behind it, with Mike Hillier, the Event Organiser; we first need to explore its origins and roots to explain why the site was chosen in Haveringland.

Its story begins in an area of outstanding beauty at Haveringland Hall Estate, the ancestral home of Lord de Ramsey and his family. When the Second World War broke out, Haveringland Hall and its beautiful surrounding parkland was requisitioned by the Air Ministry, with outlying cottages and farms being offered for sale, first to tenants, then by public auction.

Haveringland Hall pre-1945
Local people must have wondered what would become of this beautiful place. John Kett in his ‘Haveringalanda Booklet’ describes that time well, with shocking revelations:

'Looking at the Church today, sentinel-like in the bare landscape, it seems incredible that a few years ago it nestled in the shelter of a great forest of trees, oak, chestnut and beech, themselves the glory of a great park stretching through massive wrought iron gates on past the lodge which housed the village post office, through a majestic avenue of horse chestnut trees, beautiful in Spring with their pink candle-like blossoms. A wall some miles in length encompassed the whole. Further afield deep hollows by the wayside concealed a wealth of primroses … while a group of pine and spreading woodland continued far outside the boundary walls.
     All of this was levelled to the ground as an aerodrome took shape. A gap of a mile was torn in the wall, the lodge gates were removed and the lodge itself blown up without ceremony. As runways crossed and re-crossed the greenwood, each primrose hollow was obliterated with rubble brought by countless lorries from local gravel pits. The trees were carried off in mournful procession. The Hall survived for a time, useful for billeting the flying men, then that too was demolished. Gaping cellars and a few outbuildings are all that remains of the great mansion. The church, however, survived as it continues in its mission. The days are gone when its upkeep was attended by carpenters and builders, no more are its floral decorations supplied from hothouses in the Hall gardens, or the altar frontals and cloths stitched by the leisure ladies of the Hall. The dozen or so parishioners left somehow do cope with all the needs. The women by organising sewing parties and social events have paid for a modern heating system. The church is kept clean and the graveyard tidied. So, although the Squires have gone, the church continues to thrive ...'

Hence, things were set in motion for a Fighter Aerodrome to operate from Haveringland, with two Squadrons in residence: No. 85 and No. 157 under RAF 100 (Bomber Support) Group.


RAF No. 100 (Bomber Support) Group

The airfield was completed in early 1944. Haveringland Hall became the Officers’ Mess with most of its remaining Station crew housed in huts on the Hall’s parkland.
     RAF Swannington as it became known, officially opened on 1 April 1944 as part of RAF 100 Group. It became home to 85 and 157 Squadrons, equipped with Mosquito aircraft, which provided 100 Group with long-range capabilities throughout 1943-1945, supporting Bomber missions over enemy occupied territory. These two Squadrons arrived during the first week in May 1944, immediately transferring to the RAF’s No. 100 Group to intercept Luftwaffe night fighters while accompanying the main RAF bomber force, and intruding over German night fighter airfields. They first went into action on the night of the D-Day invasion.
     However, from late July 1944, 85 and 157 Squadrons dispatched large detachments to West Malling in Kent for over a month to combat the threat from German V-1 missiles at night, destroying 70 of them in the process.
     Once back at Swannington and fully operational, both Units resumed their primary bomber support duty and by the end of World War Two had shot down 71 enemy aircraft. Luftwaffe intruders, in retaliation, bombed the airfield on the night of 16/17 March 1945 in what proved to be one of the last attacks on a British airfield during the conflict.
     85 Squadron moved to Castle Camps in June 1945, while 157 Squadron disbanded at Swannington the following August.
  
From October 1945, the airfield became home to No. 274 Maintenance Unit, many Mosquitoes either being stored or scrapped here until both this Unit and the airfield closed in November 1947. North Creake went on to serve as a Sub-Storage Site for the Unit, along with Little Snoring.
     Tentative plans to retain and upgrade the airfield for post-war RAF operational fighter use came to nothing and the site was sold in 1957. The site is now used for agriculture. However, the village sign for Haveringland portrays a Mosquito, a lasting memorial perhaps to all who once served at RAF Swannington.

157 Officers sleep

157 Mosquito II refuelling


 RAF SWANNINGTON (Haveringland)
REMEMBERED

On the 16th August 1947 came the closure and decommissioning of what had been known as RAF Swannington airfield. Before becoming fully operational on 28th August 1944, it was to have been called RAF Haveringland. However, at the intervention of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the name was changed from Haveringland to Swannington, even though the land on which it was built housed the villages of Haveringland and Brandiston. The reason was that Churchill's Aunt lived on Haveringland Estate. He visited regularly, but didn't want the enemy associating these family visits to the very place on which one of the very secret RAF 100 Group airfields was built.

As has already been mentioned, two Squadrons were based at RAF Swannington, the first: 85 Squadron from West Malling.

 Motto: 'We hunt by day and night'
The hexagon was No. 85 Squadron's World War One identity insignia
while the ogress signifies the night

WWI
No. 85 Squadron was formed at Upavon on 1 August 1917. The Station was home to the Royal Flying Corps Central Flying School. Shortly after, the Squadron moved to Mousehold Heath near Norwich under the Command of Major R. A. Archer. During November 1917, the Squadron transferred to Hounslow Heath Aerodrome, and in March 1918, Major William Avery Bishop VC, DSO, MC, took command, carrying out orders to prepare and train for Front-Line duties in France.
     On 1 April 1918, No. 85 Squadron was transferred into the new Royal Air Force. Following this period of training, during May 1918, the Squadron deployed to France. Equipped with Sopwith Dolphins and later the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5A, it flew fighter patrols and ground attack sorties over the Western Front until the Armistice was signed.
     On 21 June 1918, there was a change of command and training methods following the arrival of a new Commanding Officer, Major Edward 'Mick' Mannock DSO, MC. Rather than fight as individuals, the Squadron was taught to act as a Unit during combat. However, during a patrol on 26 July 1918, accompanying Lt. D. C. Inglis over the Front Line; Major Mannock failed to return, thus depriving 85 Squadron of its leader. On 18 July 1919, Major Mannock was awarded a posthumous VC.
     No. 85 Squadron amassed 99 victories during its short involvement in the conflict and returned to the UK in February 1919 to disband on 3rd July that same year.

WWII
On 1st June 1938, 85 Squadron was reformed from re-numbered elements of 'A' Flight, 87 Squadron, and placed under the command of Flight Lieutenant D. E. Turner. The Squadron was based at RAF Debden in Essex, and commenced training using the Gloster (the RAF's last bi-plane fighter). On 4th September, the first Hawker Hurricanes began arriving:

Hawker Hurricane aircraft of 85 Squadron, October 1940
At the outbreak of WWII, the Squadron moved to Boos as part of the Air Component of the BEF 60th Fighter Wing, and their Hurricanes were given the role of supporting Squadrons of Bristol Blenheims and Fairey Battles.
     By 1st November, 85 Squadron's Hurricanes were moved to Lille Seclin. 85 Squadron scored its first victory of the Second World War when Flight Lieutenant R. H. A. Lee attacked a He 111 which crashed into the Channel, exploding on impact while on patrol over the Boulogne area. The Heinkel He 111 was a German aircraft designed by Siegfried and Walter Gunter in the early 1930s in violation of the Treaty of Versailles:

Heinkel HE 111
December 1939 saw a Royal visit from his Majesty, the King, accompanied by the Duke of Gloucester and Viscount Lord Gort, while the onset of winter proved an additional challenge as bitterly cold weather prevented flying, causing damage to aircraft and taking its toll on the health of airmen living in primitive conditions.
     When the German invasion (Blitzkrieg) commenced in May 1940, 85 Squadron became locked in a bitter contest with the Luftwaffe, and with attacks on its aerodromes commonplace, there was no respite from operations. In an 11-day period, the Squadron shot down a confirmed total of 90 enemy aircraft; although there were many more unsubstantiated claims. The final sortie saw the Squadron giving fighter cover to Allied Armies until its bases were finally over-run and three remaining aircraft retired to the UK.
     During intense battles over France, the Squadron lost 17 pilots - two were killed, six were wounded, nine failed to return, marked as 'Missing'. This figure included their new CO: Squadron Leader Peacock, but once again, the Squadron acquitted itself well in the face of many adversities.

85 Squadron re-equipped and resumed full operations early in June 1940.

After taking part in the first half of the Battle of Britain over southern England, the Squadron moved to Yorkshire in September, and in October, following a change in role, commenced night fighter patrols.

RAF No. 100 BOMBER SUPPORT GROUP

No. 85 Squadron transferred to RAF 100 (Bomber Support) Group on 1 May 1944 with a history of successful operations. However, now they were tasked with flying bomber support missions, intruding over German night-fighter airfields, and intercepting enemy fighters by accompanying the main bomber force.

A BOMBERS MOON?
Reminiscences of a Swannington 'Met Girl'
by LACW Dorothy Howard


 I first took an interest in Meteorology when, as a youngster at the beginning of the war, I joined the Women's Junior Air Corps.
     After surviving heavy blitzes on Merseyside - at one stage watching the famous Argyle Theatre burn down - and having passed exams; I decided at the age of sixteen to join the WAAF.
    In due course, I presented myself at Renshaw Hall in Liverpool, my local enlisting office. Naturally, I was asked for my birth certificate. Convincingly, I told the Recruiting Officer we had been bombed out the night before and none was available. I cannot remember how I told my parents I had enlisted. My mother had no objection as she was an ambulance driver and did the same thing in World War One. My father wasn't sure, as my two brothers had been called up at the beginning of hostilities. However, I passed all procedures, eventually landing at Innsworth to be kitted out and moved on to Morecombe where I did 'Square Bashing' ... what a rude awakening!!

My training was in a famous furniture store building in London, where we learned to teleprint c/o GPO Hendon, how to read temperatures, do slide rule calculations, recognise clouds, etc. plot charts, read barometers, sort out the Stevenson Screen and code up Reports. At this time, Meteorologists were civilians. Having passed the Course exams, the time came for Posting. I was asked where I would like to go. My Posting was 250 miles from my choice, to No. 9 Group, Royal Canadian Air Force - Middleton-St-George, Co Durham. They were flying Wellington Bombers on ops. My colleagues realised I was still only a youngster, took me under their wings, and I had a good initiation into life in the Met Office. The weather wasn't always suitable for flying, but we still had to report it. There were nights when I went on duty in fog so dense that one time I was lost on a dispersal point and finished up on my hands and knees crawling around the edge until I got to the office! That was one time I wished I hadn't joined!
     From Durham, I had three other short postings - Croft (now a car racing track), Liverpool Speke (now John Lennon Airport), and Sealand. At Speke, we were contacted by N.W Army HQ nightly to give wind readings for the upper air, this apparently was to enable them to set their guns correctly - I was never quite sure how this worked, but I often wondered if my slide-rule calculations would enable them to sort out any German invasion of Liverpool! I had my uses there too - Irish planes would come in from Dublin and I looked forward to these for they brought gifts of sweets. Nevertheless, I still had to sit on weather charts the Forecasters didn't want pilots to see.
     Life was different at the MU Unit at Sealand. Different aspects of Meteorology were used as there was no flying. One of these was to fill huge white balloons with hydrogen and tie a gondola underneath with a lighted candle, release and follow the light with a Theodolite to work out the upper winds. How I managed not to blow the office up never ceases to amaze me! Nevertheless, I was gaining experience all the time, particularly how to get home without a Pass.
     From Sealand I was posted in 1943 to a new Station - RAF Swannington, where I stayed until 1946 with Mosquito Squadrons 157 and 85. There I met up with my WAAF colleagues and by this time RAF Meteorologist Officers. F/O's Ernie Dearing, Laurie Rendell, Corrigan, and A.N.Other. The WAAF contingent was LACW's Joyce Dobb, Barbara Jeffries, Sylvia Cheeseman, Pam Watson and myself, Dorothy Howard.

Dot Howard far left, Woodrow Pub, Met Group
As far as we Observers were concerned, we worked a three-shift system, 7am to 3pm, 3pm to 11pm and the night-shift: 11pm to 7am. The latter, unless there were Ops, or circuits and bumps, I used to dread. Why? Well, having no running water, we were supplied with a water bowser outside and filling a kettle meant running the risk of rats. There were also the odd occasions when we had tremendous thunder and electrical storms which lit up the whole of the countryside. All at Flying Control were snoring their heads off, and I had to go outside to 'do' the weather! I can be lyrical now when I say that I loved the starlit nights and, dare I say, the 'Bomber Moon' nights. This wasn't a romantic streak in me - it was easier to calculate vision and report weather, which had to be done every hour. Sometimes I might have nodded off if there was no flying, and if I had a phone call from Group, quickly I repeated the last observation, with a slight variation, giving some excuse why I was late!
     Plotting charts became skillful using two pens together, one black and one red, from coded messages received from ETA via the teleprinter. They usually took 3/4 of an hour as speed was often of the essence for the Forecaster. We also had to encode Weather Reports and send via teleprinter back to ETA for the next chart. It was almost an art form! I think we all took pride in producing neat and tidy charts every three hours.
     The office was pretty hectic before Ops, especially on the eve of D-Day when I was on night duty. We were always glad to hear the telling drone of the Mosquito engine when we knew they were safely back. There were sad times too, when any failed to return. They were brave men and my little bit was nothing compared to their efforts.
     Times were helped when we played mixed hockey with the Air Crew. I remember playing a team with F/Lt Chisholm (Chris - his dog lay on the side-line). 'Get back, Howard. I'll play Forward ...' and they used to knock seven bells out of one another. Then off they'd go on Ops. There were also trips into Norwich via the Liberty Bus, one shilling (five pence in today's money!) return. It was good camaraderie and times on reflection I would not have missed.
     I was often posted around the Group to stand in when they were short staffed - but always managed to get back to Swannington. I'd made so many friends and I didn't want to miss the jollifications down at the Ratcatcher's or the King's Head in Cawston.

I still look up at the sky and work out the clouds and amounts, often thinking of the days, some good, some bad, and long gone, but happy to recall; and I am pleased that there is an Association to keep them alive.
     If this epistle seems frivolous in any way with regard my duties, please disregard it, for they were taken in a very serious way, which I was proud to do. It also meant I grew up very very quickly!
  
No. 157 Squadron

MOTTO: 'Our cannon speak our thoughts'

SQUADRON BADGE: A lion rampant chequy.
The lion in the Squadron’s badge denotes fighting power,
& the black and white check the Squadron’s day and night capability

SQUADRON CODES: RS (December 1941 – August 1945)

WWI
No. 157 Squadron was formed at Upper Heyford on 14 July 1918 to be a ground attack Unit equipped with Salamanders, but did not become operational before the end of the war and was disbanded on 1 February 1919.


WWI Sopwith Salamander
The Salamander was a single-engine, single-seat bi-plane based on the Sopwith Snipe fighter, but with an armoured forward fuselage to protect the pilot and fuel system from ground fire during low level operations. It was ordered in large quantities for the RAF, but war ended before the type could enter Squadron service, although two were in France in October 1918.

WWII
The Squadron reformed on 13 December 1941 at RAF Debden as a Night Fighter Unit and, equipped in January 1942 with the latest Mosquito Night Fighter aircraft at RAF Castle Camps, became the first Squadron to use the Mosquito as a Night Fighter. 
     The airfield at Castle Camps was built in September 1939 and opened as a Debden satellite in June 1940. No. 85 and 111 Squadrons had already spent short periods there. 73 Squadron flew Hurricanes from Castle Camps in September, but there were no permanent structures, only tents to live in, and Squadrons left in November 1940 to convert to night flying. Castle Camps was exposed and windy. However, by the end of 1941, better facilities and operating runways were built, with original grass runways replaced with tarmac and hard-standings constructed.

It was in 1942 that the first Mosquitoes started to assemble here in great secrecy for test flying with 157 Squadron. First patrols were flown on the night of 27/28 April 1942 over East Anglia, but the first confirmed kill did not come until 22/23 August that year. They were replaced in March 1943 by No. 605 Mosquito Squadron.
     In July 1943, Castle Camps became a satellite of North Weald and the Mosquito began to be used for Intruder operations, and later for bomber support. Mosquitoes left Castle Camps in October 1943. 527 Radar Calibration Squadron replaced them until February 1944, when Spitfires arrived, then Typhoons, then 486 Squadron RNZAF Tempests, all leaving quickly. The Canadian 410 Squadron again flew Mosquitoes from Castle Camps until April 1944. While from July to October 1944, 68 Squadron’s Mosquitoes arrived together with those of 151 and 25 Squadrons. In 1945, 307 and 85 Squadron flew from Castle Camps airfield also in Mosquitoes.
     Meanwhile, for No. 157 Squadron, after moving to Hunsdon; patrols began on 27 April over East Anglia and in July 1943 some Mosquito VI fighter bombers were added to the Squadron strength to take part in Intruder missions over France and the Netherlands.
     In November 1943, the Squadron moved to RAF Predannack in Cornwall, closer to German bases; to perform similar duties. In 1944 it went north to RAF Valley for defensive patrols over the Irish Sea.
     
It was in May 1944 that 157 Squadron moved back to East Anglia, receiving Mosquito Mk XIXs and joining RAF 100 Group for the rest of the war, based at RAF Swannington. 157 Squadron's role in joining RAF 100 Group was to provide support for heavy bombers over Germany, flying sweeps in search of enemy Night Fighters.

WARTIME MEMORIES
by Byan Gale, 157 Squadron
 
Bryan Gale, 157 Squadron

I joined 157 Squadron when it first formed at Castle Camps in February 1943.  I was previously with 534 Squadron at Tangmere, a turbinlite Squadron where my Navigator and I were one of the Havoc crews.  We served at Camps for a month before the whole Squadron was relocated to Bradwell Bay.  We were the first Mosquito-equipped Night Fighter Squadron in the RAF and the AI equipment  was MK4 and MK5, which was severely limited by height above the ground - the first thing radio waves struck, generating a carpet of ground returns which smothered anything at greater range.
     When the Squadron moved to Hunsdon in defence of London, the Squadron formed a third Flight using straight MKVI fighter/bomber a/c in an Intruder role without any Radar.  At this time, the Battle of the Atlantic was hotting up. We were re-deployed to Predannack, on the tip of Cornwall close to Mullion Cove; where we were employed in an operation called ‘Instep’, which really was us looking for Ju88s which were looking for Sunderlands, etc. which were looking for the  U-boats.
     We flew in ‘Finger 4’ formations at 30 feet above the Atlantic down as far as Cape Ortugal on the north coast of Spain, which was Fascist controlled and not very friendly towards us. We were assured that any fishing vessels we saw there were reporting our position to the Germans, so fair game for attack!!  We had a fair amount of success at this, getting several 88s and a 177 which my Flight Commander and I dispatched. But one of our formation, determined to get a shot in, struck the water and hit the sea, forcing him to ditch, which he did successfully.  We returned to refuel and re-arm at Predannack, before returning to the area to find our downed comrades.  We returned to Base and went back to the area yet again, in company with an airborne lifeboat successfully dropped. We saw two Mossie crews scramble into the lifeboat in which they sailed back to the Scilly Islands in four days, being awarded the DFC and DFM for the Sergeant Navigator.
     In March 1944 the Squadron moved to Valley to re-equip with Mossie 18s, equipped with new centimetric Radar which was not so badly affected by ground returns, and gave much improved range up to over 10 miles at 20,000ft. Eventually, we moved to Swannington, just outside Norwich, in May 44 in time for D-day as we were not allowed to take the new MKX Radar out of the country until then.

My first raid as an Intruder with 100 Group was on June 7, to the airfields of Lesquin-Chievres in France in support of the D-Day landings. We continued to fly in this role until we were withdrawn to West Malling for operations against the Doodle-Bugs; as we were the only thing anywhere near fast enough when refuelled with 150-grade petrol. These were called Anti-Diver Patrols and involved flying just about 10,000ft to be above the target, parallel to the coast, to watch for one flying out of France and turning towards it, well above, while applying full throttle and rolling onto one’s back, pulling through at speeds in excess of 400mph to match them up and shoot them down.  Of course, in those days, flight instruments were all air-powered Gyroscopes which didn’t have full freedom of movement in all planes and were toppled by the A/Cs inversion, forcing you to fly on ‘limited panel’ for the recovery and subsequent kill, which, with 4 cannons, was inevitable
     In September, we returned to Swannington and our role as Bomber Support acting as long range Night Fighters for the Bomber Stream, flying above and below and to either side of them, looking for anything attempting to cross into the stream. This was quite good fun, if ever war can be; with the superior speed of our aircraft we could watch the bomber stream set off and arrive over the target simultaneously, patrolling for about an hour, and still leave with them. I completed more than 40 of these Sorties, completing my Tour just before VE day, before going to Bomber Support Training Unit at Great Massingham as an Instructor. 

I was released in May 1946 to go to Edinburgh University (paid for by the Service, on the understanding that if they wished, I would return afterwards); and in 1952, I was recalled, as I thought, for the Korean war with thoughts of Meteor and Vampire Night Fighters, which is where all my experience had been. But, no, it was to Control Flying School, then at Little Rissington!!  For the next 14 years, I was engaged in teaching people to fly, including the first All Through Jet FTS at Hullavington with the Jet Provost, which I was to meet again at The College of Air Warfare at Manby, before starting my last tour in the RAF with 99 Squadron at Lyneham.
      
I have worked for Airworks in Saudi Arabia at Rhyadh and for CAA, then the MOCA in London and BAA at Heathrow, before becoming Director of Operations at Birmingham Airport, from where I retired to live in Lincolnshire. It’s been a bit of a mix up, but I’ve enjoyed it, except for getting older, which we can’t avoid.

Bryan D. Gale, 3rd front, 157 Squadron, RAF Swannington

Both 85, and 157 Squadron (originally based at RAF Valley) were equipped with De Havilland Mosquito aircraft to support bombing operations as part of RAF 100 Group, Bomber Command. On quite a few occasions, the airfield was strafed by enemy aircraft, and one such event was recently told by a local resident who, at the time, was working at the Hall, shaking crumbs from a tablecloth. An enemy fighter flew overhead, firing bullets all around her. Luckily, she was uninjured and lived to tell the tale!
     On the night of 16/17 March 1945, Luftwaffe Intruders bombed Swannington in what proved to be one of the very last attacks on a British airfield during the Second World War.
     On 27 June 1945, 85 Squadron moved to RAF Castle Camps and shortly after, on 16 August 1945, 157 Squadron disbanded. RAF Swannington had by now been passed over to RAF Maintenance Command and became Headquarters to No. 274 Maintenance Unit. Those Mosquito aircraft that were not serviceable or could not be sold off to foreign powers, were taken to sites nearby and burned. Certainly not a fitting end for any aircraft, especially one which took such an important role in bringing peace to Europe, and was hated so vehemently by the Germans.

2017
All this happened over 70 years ago. Most concrete runways and dispersal points that once shuddered with the roar of Merlins have been torn up, the land returned to fields. What little remains is cracked and patched with grass and moss. The Hall, once the Officers' Mess, is now demolished, making way to accommodate Park Homes and Holiday Cabins. Time marches on, while all that remains of wartime are memories whispered in the wind, and the still solid, dependable Parish Church of St Peter, which stood beside one of the aircraft dispersal points. It still stands proud today, like a ship in a sea of fields. As the Church is all that is left of RAF Swannington, then this surely had to be the place where those with a reason to remember would gather, harvesting memories as minds drifted back in Time.

 
 Parish Church of St Peter, Haveringland
 

It was at the beginning of 2017 that the idea was first mooted - to create, not just a short period of remembrance, but rather, a living memory to all who served at RAF Swannington, those who flew, those who sadly never returned. With most work carried out by RAF 100 Group Squadrons classified 'Top Secret', some still under a 100 Year Rule; it was going to take many many hours of research to identify information relevant to those who served at this Station, especially those who never came back. A challenge then! Those who joined Mike Hillier in that challenge produced in time a list, with the task now being to search out living relatives in addition to veterans, to inform them of the Plan for a Remembrance & Commemoration Service to take place at the very Church which was, in itself, a legacy of wartime, and which had overseen activities on the airfield through wartime and beyond. Dozens of emails were sent out, inviting representation from Groups associated with this airfield, in the hope they would attend this Service, parading their colours, laying wreaths of remembrance.

11th November 2017

Inside St Peter's Parish Church, Haveringland, Norfolk
As people gathered for the service, it was realised that numbers exceeded anyone's expectations! Approximately 300 people packed into the small Parish Church which had been prepared for the occasion. In addition to families of those who served at RAF Swannington, also attending were:
  • the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk as Her Majesty's Representative in Norfolk,
  • Corporal Philip Zandona of the Australian Defence Force,
  • Major Ryan Schiffner from the American Base at Lakenheath.
Lt Col. Tom Moore, Commander of the 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron, 8th Air Force, had attended the RAF 100 Group Association Reunion in May 2017, but unable to fly over again from the States, Major Ryan Schiffner kindly agreed to represent those of the USAF who served alongside RAF 100 Group in wartime.


Standard Bearers also attended from: 
  • Royal Air Forces Association,
  • 100 Group Association,
  • Royal British Legion,
  • Royal Engineers Association,
  • Royal Naval Association,
  • Air Training Corps Squadrons from Norwich and Kings Lynn,
  • Norfolk Constabulary,
  • Norfolk Fire & Rescue Services,
  • East of England Ambulance Service,
Wreaths were also laid by relatives of those who died in Service at RAF Swannington, joined by Cadets from two Air Training Corps Squadrons representing 85 and 157 Squadrons who placed wreaths in their honour. 
     Two pupils in Year 6 of the local Primary School in Cawston, spoke movingly the words of the Kohima Epitaph:
'When You Go Home,
Tell Them of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow,
We gave Our Today.'

John Maxwell Edmonds (1875-1958) is credited as the author of these lines, and in nearly all instances the origin is cited as being the Kohima Epitaph. However, it is worth noting that the words actually predate the inscription on the WWII Memorial, although it is agreed they are some of the most moving words ever written about veterans - stating what it is that each veteran gave to his fellow citizens. 

The children also recited Robert Laurence Binyon's famous words from his poem 'For the Fallen':

'They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.'

This created a powerful and purposeful message to all who listened to these words, which somehow had more meaning and poignancy being spoken as they were on this occasion by young children.

In commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the closure of RAF Swannington airfield in 1947, trees were planted to create an Avenue of Remembrance leading to the Church of St Peter. Two of these trees were planted by relatives in memory of Aircrew and Ground Crew of the two Squadrons in which loved ones served, and for the many supporting Ground Staff in wartime. A further tree was planted by Cpl Zandona of the Australian Defence Force in memory of Australian aircrew members who flew with 157 Squadron:

Corporal Zandona, Australian Defence Force, planting a tree
A Flypast of De Havilland bi-planes dropped poppies as they flew over the Church, in salute of the fallen. These poppies were specially made by local Primary School children on which they wrote the names of those from surrounding villages who never returned home. On the following Monday morning, the farmer in whose field the poppies had dropped, took up the crop and turned the poppies into the soil as a fitting gesture of remembrance.

Courtesy: David
One further Flypast took place during this remarkable and memorable Anniversary - a formation of DH87b Hornet Moths:


Mike Hillier was the main organiser of this Event, and I thank him on behalf of not just everyone who attended and who became involved, but also on behalf of RAF 100 Group veterans and their families for giving them recognition, together with a fitting Memorial which will last the passage of Time ... a place to remember ... to return ... and for future generations to reflect on the many lives lost, and the courage, pride, determination and commitment which once filled RAF Swannington airfield.

Today, our Association is made up of Kindred Spirits of all ages and backgrounds, in a variety of different countries around the world.

We remain a close Family of RAF 100 Group veterans and their families, sharing everyday news, and in contact daily.

Our heartfelt message to Readers is that what you read here needs to be shared that others might come to know of these people, so their names live on, their acts of bravery are never forgotten, and veterans living today can know their legacy will live on long after they are gone. It is so important that they are not 'the forgotten heroes' they believe themselves to be.

During our May Reunion this year, we have been invited to Haveringland and St Peter's Parish Church, to view for ourselves the Avenue of Remembrance, to enjoy an afternoon talking and sharing with villagers over tea and cake, while admiring the displays which will be put back on show. I am also assured that, weather permitting, aviator friends will again take to the skies in our honour and in welcome, to produce a unique flying display of De Havilland bi-planes.

Thanks Mike, for everything you have achieved, and all you continue to do on behalf of RAF 100 Group and more specifically, RAF Swannington. I hope to see you soon.

Painting produced for the occasion by Rory Kent, copyright artist

Wreaths laid on 11th November 2017 at St Peter's Parish Church

The following couple of pictures taken in wartime at RAF Swannington show more of the people of the day in whose memory there is now a lasting Memorial at Haveringland: 


Last of the few, above

  Far back row: 
 ?,  ?,  Gordon Lang,  ?,  John Collins, Bucky Cunningham, Lou Brandon, Oscar Wilde,
Far right side:         
Les Scholefield, Chris Woodcock, Bryan Gale, Laurie Waters, 
Ken Pybus (Intelligence Officer.)
2nd row from back:         
Les Butt, Satch Churches (RAAF), Jimmy Penrose, P/0 Vale (RAAF), ?,  Ron Goss, 
Basher Broom
Far left, standing:             
Radar Officer
3rd row from back:           
?,  ?,  Dennis Crowther, Syd Astley, Geoff Edwards, R.N. Crew, R.N Crew, Alan Brookes
(Two slightly forward of last two persons unknown)
2nd row from front:         
F/O Balderstone, Frank Money, ?,  F/Lt Sumner, F/Lt Tweedale, F/L Hanahan, Bill Tofts, Jimmy Matthews, ?,
Brian Whitlock, F/O Gilbert Davidson
Front row:                   
John Smythe, Steve Stephens, Sqn/Ldr Chisholm, W/Cdr Dennison, S/L Drummond, 
Flt/Lt Benson, Sqdn/Ldr Doleman (Doley)

… not forgetting, Towser, Doley’s Dog!


THE GATES NOW CLOSED
by Mike Hillier

The gates now closed on an era long,
and minds drift to friends now gone,
of memories lived in other times
of olden songs and distant rhymes.

The thoughts of runways long and clean
now holed, broken, patched with green,
of hangars tall and kept with pride
no longer used, so bare inside.

The planes whose engines used to roar
that once took off return no more,
where oft' they taxied, to fly away
now looked upon another day.

Of men and women who would strive
in days gone by, to keep alive
the heart to beat for all to see,
gone forever, but not the memory.

To look across that field so bare
to wish, to think, to say a prayer,
for to forget them would be so wrong,
for the heart may have stopped, but the soul lives on.

Copyright: Mike Hillier
In Memory of RAF Swannington
and all who served there, and other Stations under RAF 100 Group















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