RAF-Lincolnshire.info - the home of Royal Air Force and airfield history in Lincolnshire, including allied and other air services.

 

RAF Digby - RCAF Digby
A history : 1939


Home
RAF Stations & Bases
Full list of locations
Squadrons and Units
A brief history
Aircraft types
Forum
Photographs
Memorials
Crashes
Sqn & Stn Associations
Museums
Maps
Oral History
Books
Search site
Links
Sitemap
Abbreviations
People Finder
Family history & research
About the site
FAQs
Contact us
Copyright
Updates

> RAF Bases

Interactive map
Full list of locations

Alma Park
Anwick
Bardney
Barkston Heath
Belton Park
Binbrook
Blankney Hall
Blyton
Boston Wyberton Fen
Bottesford
Bracebridge Heath
Braceby
Buckminster
Bucknall
Caistor
Cockthorne
Coleby Grange
Coningsby
Cranwell
Cuxwold
Digby
Donna Nook
Dunholme Lodge
East Halton
East Kirkby
Elsham Wolds
Faldingworth
Fiskerton
Folkingham
Freiston
Fulbeck
Gosberton
Goxhill
Grantham
Greenland Top
Grimsby
Grimsthorpe Park
Harlaxton
Hemswell
Hibaldstow
Holbeach
Humberston
Immingham
Ingham
Ingoldmels
Kelstern
Killingholme
Kirmington
Kirton in Lindsey
Langtoft
Leadenham
Lincoln West Common
Ludford Magna
Manby
Market Deeping
Market Stainton
Mere
Metheringham
Moorby
Morton Hall
New Holland
Nocton Hall
Normanby
North Coates
North Killingholme
North Witham
Norton Disney
Orby
Rauceby
Saltby
Sandtoft
Scampton
Skegness
Skellingthorpe
Skendleby
South Carlton
South Elkington
South Witham
Spilsby
Spitalgate
Stenigot
Strubby
Sturgate
Sutton Bridge
Swinderby
Swinstead
Theddlethorpe
Tydd St Mary
Waddington
Wainfleet
Waltham (Grimsby)
Wellingore
Wickenby
Wigsley
Winterton
Woodhall Spa

Updated: 22 Oct 08

Before we deal with the war years in detail, it should be noted that some of the incidents claimed for Digby in this history took place at one of its satellites, Wellingore or Coleby Grange. As these airfields were temporary wartime strips, this seems reasonable. Where squadrons were split (eg No 29 to Shawbury and No 611 to Ternhill), their activities from these locations have not been covered.

In the last days of peace, Warrant Officer (later Squadron Leader) Akhurst was the Station Armament Officer. His responsibilities included Station defence and anti-gas. Not only did he Look after the Service personnel, but gave lectures to families in the married quarters and to civilians in the surrounding villages. During one of his practice raids, the BBC took quite a bit of film, including some of families running into shelters. this footage has apparently since been used in several war films. Akhurst also owned a pet lamb ‘Akhy’; he had great difficulty in preventing some members of the squadron from taking him on an unauthorised flight.

June 1939

In June 1939, the first reservists began to arrive at Digby. Their arrival caused many a headache for the regulars. One can sympathise with the flight commander who received a draftee who described himself as ‘Rigger, Airship’! No doubt the pay accounts people puzzled over that one as well. One reservist reported for duty as a dispatch rider at the age of 67. Whilst the fuss caused by the reservists arrival was subsiding, another arose. All occupants of married quarters were ordered to vacate them so that they could be used to house the WAAFs who were drafted in in August 1939 (read about this in Peggy Balfour's recollections). One can imagine the wives not being very happy with this arrangement’.

July 1939

The Sector Operations Room for "L" Lima Sector, 12 Group, Fighter Command, entered service in Jul 1939. The Digby Station Museum recreates the ops room as well as exhibiting other information from throughout the years of the Station's existence.

September 1939

The first squadron at Digby to see wartime ‘service’ was No 46 Sqn. At 2134 hours on 3 September 1939 they were ordered into the air to intercept an enemy raid which was approaching. They saw nothing and landed, without having done any fighting.

There was an air raid warning on that night. Everyone had been told to expect gas. As Corporal Taylor turfed out the men in his barrack block, he heard one of them coughing badly. He immediately ordered everyone to don gas masks before they ran to the nearest shelter, which was some little distance away. It was only next morning that he discovered that the man concerned was an extremely heavy smoker!

October 1939

On 10 October 1939, No 611(West Lancashire) Squadron RAuxAF (which had Spitfires) joined Nos 46 and 229 Squadrons, which had Hurricanes and Blenheims respectively. Initially, the Squadron flew affiliation exercises with the other 2 squadrons and with Nos 44 and 144 Squadrons, who were equipped with Hampden light bombers. Both sides gained advantages from this practice, if only in aircraft recognition which was often so sadly neglected in World War II.

Later in the month yet another Blenheim Squadron arrived, No 29. With the Squadron came 3 very famous officers; Guy Gibson, ‘Bob’ Braham and Douglas Bader. It seems that the Squadron operated little from Digby; instead, the aircraft and pilots left early each morning for North Coates and returned again each evening. At much the same time, No 504 left Digby.

On 21 October 1939, Sergeant Mather of A Flight, No 611 Squadron — together with 2 Spitfires from No 72 Squadron, Church Fenton, made contact with 10 plus enemy near Mabelthorpe. Mather fired on the flank aircraft, which he saw diving steeply towards the sea. No 72 later claimed 2 enemy destroyed, but 611 made no claim, though it was felt that Mather had made some contribution.

[On 21 Oct 1939, 611 Sqn Spitfire joined Hurricane of A Flt, 46 Sqn, in incercepting and shooting down 7 He-115 biplanes off the Humber Estuary. This sortie is depicted on the plotting table of the Fighter Command Lima Sector Operations Room Museum at RAF Digby.]

FIRST ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ENEMY
21/10/39 The Squadron was ordered to NORTH COATES FITTES, and at about 1415 hours “A” Flight was ordered on patrol. This flight consisted of the following pilots:-
Red Section (1) S/LDR P.R. BARWELL
(2) P/O P.J. FROST
(3) F/Sgt E. SHACKLEY

Yellow Section (1) P/O R.M.J. COWLES
(2) P/O R.P. PLUMMER
(3) P/O P.W. LEFEVRE

The flight was controlled by radio telephony from the operations room at DIGBY, assisted by an R/T tender situated at NORTH COATES. After various patrolling positions had been given, the Flight was in position over SPURN HEAD at 5000 feet at about 1450 hours.
At about 1455 hours an order was received, “Twelve enemy float planes approaching convoy from the SOUTH EAST at 1000 feet. Intercept.” The convoy at this time was about 5 miles EAST of SPURN HEAD and it was in sight. S/LDR BARWELL immediately led the Flight to the EAST of the CONVOY, at full speed, decreasing height to 2000 feet. On arriving in this position, he ordered the aircraft into search formation and very shortly afterwards, he was told by R/T by one of the pilots that an aircraft could be seen on the port beam. Just after this S/LDR BARWELL saw a formation of aircraft approaching from the E.S.E., at about 4000 feet. At this time they were about four miles from “A” Flight and just after they had been seen they were fired at by anti-aircraft fire. The enemy formation then did a right hand turn and proceeded to fly away from “A” Flight, who turned towards them and gained height. No difficulty was experienced in catching the enemy aircraft and the Flight managed to get into position slightly above them, with the sun almost behind. By this time S/LDR BARWELL had ordered the formation into “Aircraft astern”, and on approaching he gave instructions for a No. 5 attack. He attacked the left hand aircraft of the formation telling the other pilots to pick their targets, in order, from the left. The enemy formation was ragged and unevenly spaced; there were eight or nine aircraft.

As “A” Flight proceeded to attack from above, the markings on the upper surfaces of the enemy’s main planes could be clearly seen. They consisted of a black cross on a white background. The SQUADRON LEADER opened fire on his target at 400 yards. His rate of approach was rather high, and as one of the enemy aircraft was rather far behind his own formation and almost abreast of the SQUADRON LEADER, the latter did not throttle back. He broke away under the tail of his target at a distance of about 30 yards from it, having seen flames from the starboard engine. After breaking away he turned back and saw this aircraft diving to the water, where the pilot apparently tried to alight. Just after he touched the water, the starboard wing folded back.

RED 2, PILOT OFFICER P.J. FROST, had attacked the aircraft which was almost abreast of the SQUADRON LEADER during his attack. He saw flames from the port engine of this aircraft and watched it crash into the water.

RED 3, FLIGHT SERGEANT E. SHACKLEY, apparently attacked the same aircraft as Red 2, due to the enemy aircraft changing formation during attack.

After the main attack, the enemy formation broke up and just after seeing his target crash onto the water, the SQUADRON LEADER noticed one of the enemy aircraft diving in a southerly direction. He followed it and fired the remainder of his ammunition, which was about one-third of his full amount, from a range of about 300 yards. The aircraft continued to fly and it was then attacked by three other Hurricanes, piloted by PILOT OFFICER R.M.J. COWLES, FLIGHT SERGEANT E. SHACKLEY, PILOT OFFICER R.P. PLUMMER.

The SQUADRON LEADER watched them attack and it appeared that they were firing from rather long range, so he called up on the R/T and told the last aircraft that he saw attacking to get closer. This he did, and after a repeated attack he saw the enemy aircraft crash and turn upside down in the water. This was PILOT OFFICER R.P. PLUMMER.

After the main attack, PILOT OFFICER P.J. FROST and PILOT OFFICER P.W. LEFEVRE followed and attacked one of the enemy aircraft which tried to evade them by flying in and out of cloud. After chasing him for some time and carrying out repeated attacks, the enemy aircraft came to the end of his friendly cloud-layer, when, after a final attack, he was seen to alight on the water, apparently intact, but with both engines stopped.

The Hurricanes returned to RAF Digby and buzzed the airfield, line astern.

On 24 October 1939, A Flight of No 46 Squadron engaged a force of enemy aircraft which were attacking the docks of Hull and Immingham. Three of the enemy were confirmed as destroyed and one as damaged. As a result of this battle, Squadron Leader R Barwell, the Commanding Officer of No 46, was awarded a DFC in December 1939. [confirm 21/24 Oct data from F540/ORB]

November 1939

On 2 November 1939, King George VI made the first of his 2 visits to RAF Digby. In addition to inspecting the squadrons (see Fig 4 ), he presented decorations to personnel from Digby and neighbouring stations. One of the recipients was Guy Gibson, who received a DFC.

< 1938 | index | 1940 >

location of RAF Digbyin relation to Lincolnshire - click here for full-size map showing all station locations

Digby Squadrons

Blankney

Ashby de la Launde

Scopwick War Graves

Sector Ops Room Museum

Digby crashes

Digby Oral Histories:


Digby - A History
" A history 1917 - 1978"
Foreword
Introduction
1917
1918
Inter-War Years
1919
1920
1922-23
1924
1925
1926

1927-1929
1930-1932
1933
1934-1936
1937
1938
World War II

1939
1939-1940
1941
Jan - Aug 1942
Sep 1942 - 1944
1945
Return to Training
1945 - Jan 1948
Feb - Mar 1948
Mar 1948 - 1953
A cadet remembers
The Signals Era
Jan 1955 - Dec 1961
Dec 1963 - 1978
Curent Day

1955 - the Signals Era


Digby Ops Room Museum
A brief history on Airops website

Buy the local map:
click to buy on Amazon.co.uk1:25 000 (detail)
click to buy on Amazon.co.uk1:50 000 (area)

Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire
(Tourism)

Follow RAF Lincolnshire:
Visit RAF-Lincolnshire.info's facebook page. Like our page and stay up to date with our posts on facebook! Follow us on twitter and stay up to date with our frequent news items

Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com

 

Google+

powered by blueconsultancy