In early 1945 I was told that the dummy air field close to us that had been operated by the U.S. Watton Airbase was being assigned to our base (Shipdham). Our Commanding Officer told me that Watton had had problems and he expected me to see that we had none.|
As I understand it, the GIs that had been assigned to the site really made a good thing of it. Since the field was completely off by itself,the Gis had taken advantage of its isolation. The dummy airfields had quarters underground. The same men had been operating this base for a year or two. They traded rations for fresh eggs,' chickens, etc. and had their laundry taken care of in the countryside. From time to time the local girls stayed with them, and I understand a number of local girls became pregnant.
Since the Commanding Officer told me that we were to "have no problems." I had to be very careful who I assigned to the dummy field. I went out and looked it over. Even though we were always short of men, I had to assign some of them to operate the dummy airfield. As well as I remember, I assigned three men. Two men were to be on duty at all times and one man off duty. Each time that a man went out he took rations with him.
A corporal who was a preacher in civilian life was put in charge. He was known as "Preacher". I also assigned a Staff Sergeant who had recently come over from the States. Later he complained to me that he didn't think it was right for him, a Staff Sergeant, to have to take orders from a corporal. I told him that I agreed witp him, but since there was no way of promoting these men who had been so long in Flying Control, the only solution would be one I certainly wouldn't want, which would be for him to lose his rank.
Generally speaking, I think the men liked the assignment, and as you know they only lighted the dummy field when there was enemy action in the general vicinity.
The dummy airfields were located in sparsely inhabited areas, on unlevel ground with obstructions-. The runway lights were on poles of different heights to appear at night to be on level ground.
As well as I remember, there were nine red lights at the end of the runway to mark it so that Allied aircraft would avoid it.
I know that many of the other Flying Control Officers in civilian life have had very important positions with many responsibilities. With me, being a Flying Control Officer in England is the most important position I have ever had. The intensive training on RAF Airfields and at the RAF School of Flying Control was necessary training for us if we were going to be able to operate in England.
I have gotten so much satisfaction from the fact that Flying Control contributed not only a very important part in the air war over Europe, but also that we, by our efforts, were able to save many lives of both the U.S. Air Force and the British Air Forces. Ours was a job of many duties and responsibilities. It wasn't always easy being a junior officer and operating under rules and regulations that were new to the Army Air Corps Field Commanders. The cooperation of the Flying Control at air bases, whether American or British, was remarkable and we could not have achieved what we did without it.
In no way could Flying Control have been able to do what it did without the dedicated Flying Control enlisted men. They took so much responsibility with their many duties. The Airfield Controller in the caravan at the end of the runway in use, the crash crew , the flarepath crew, the radio operator, and the clerks in the control tower all served in many additional ways. In emergencies, of course, we didn't have enough men, but we made out. The hours on most bases were long for both FC enlisted personnel and officers. We had to be ready twenty-four hours a day for any kind of emergency.
While at Tibenham trying to get the runways in shape and secure needed equipment in place before group planes arrived.I received orders from Division to report to Colonel Suridale,Petroleum Warfare Division,Queen Anne's Chambers, Whitehall, London. I was directed to investigate a fog dispersal system being jointly developed by the British Army Petrolum Warfare Division and the RAF. There I met Colonel Suridale and Wing Commander Golding - Barrett. They sent me by car, a Jaguar, to the experimental location.
When I reported back to Division Headquarters, I was questioned in detail about the system. When I reported that it took one hundred thousand gallons of fuel an hour to lift the fog, the officer asked me if I knew how much a hundred thousand gallons of fuel was. I said,"Yes Sir" ten large tank cars. Since I had worked in an oil refinery, I was aware of the size of railroad tank cars - 8,000 and 10,000 gallons.
* He requested that I submit a written report and I am enclosing a copy that I sent him.