In December 1943, the only real facilities available to land in weather conditions of extremely poor visibility were FIDO and a system known as SBA (Standard Beam Approach).
FIDO, the Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation, was at that time only installed at three airfields:— the PFF stations RAF Graveley and RAF Downham Market, and RAF Fiskerton close to Lincoln.
On 16 December, Graveley was stood down for operations, but due to the terrible conditions elsewhere a number of aircraft converged there hoping to land using FIDO. READ MORE
The Flying Control buildings on PFF airfields were at the centre of numerous dramatic incidents and tragedies. It is good to read of one potentially very dangerous episode at RAF Graveley which ended happily, not to say amusingly, for all concerned. We tend to forget that there could be a comical side to the Air War. See our new page: 35 Squadron, the Erk and the UXB
Referring back to one of our December posts Christmas Eve 1944, 35 Squadron on the loss of the Kenyon crew, we recently had an email from R Maddox who wrote:
Just to add to information about the Christmas Eve 1944 crash at Great Paxton (post ‘Christmas Eve 1944, 35 Squadron’), the Form 540 notes that ten aircraft were detailed to take off in the late afternoon to mark and bomb the marshaling yard at Nippes, Cologne. The companion Form 541 records that Pilot Officer Arthur Kenyon’s aircraft (PB366/’S’) was designated a ‘Supporter’ aircraft. They took off at 15.35.
More information on the incident and crew can be found at: Aircrew Remembered
The Aircrew Remembered site has photographs of six of the crew and states that the aircraft was taking off with the assistance of FIDO and almost immediately crashed into trees. This would fit with the eyewitness report about the aircraft appearing out of dense fog.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were days like any other for Pathfinder and Main Force aircrew.
The village of Great Paxton is just west of RAF Graveley, at perhaps a mile’s distance from the old airfield. The peaceful-looking village scene above was the scene of a wartime tragedy, marked by the blue ‘X’, which occurred on Christmas Eve 1944 at about twenty to four in the afternoon.
Colin Stocker, who as a boy lived at Yelling on the outskirts of the wartime airfield, sent Jennie Gray this photograph around 2007. On the back Colin had written the story.
TL-S Lancaster, 35 Squadron, taking off from Graveley crashed at Great Paxton behind four council houses in London Lane. The wing of the plane ripped off tiles of roofs. Stanley Jackson was feeding his hens, saw the bomber coming through the dense fog and ran into his house. After the bomber crashed, he found all the hens dead.
George Carrol pulled one of the aircrew out of the wreckage. He was just alive. All the others were killed. Bombs were strewn in all directions.
Sadly, the man taken from the wreckage also died.
In Bomber Command Losses, 1944, Chorley recorded the crew as being:
F/O A T Kenyon
Sgt L Williams
Sgt A Thomas
F/S A H Cousins
F/S C L Blundell
Sgt C A Winter
Sgt R F A Yallop