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RAF Stradishall in Suffolk, was one of 20 bases ordered constructed by the RAF in 1935 in response to the growing concerns over German actions and military buildup. The station officially opened on February 3, 1938 as part of 3 Group under Group Captain J.H. Herring, DSO, MC. The first official flight from the base took place on March 4, 1938 by Captain Herring in a Miles Magistar. The station was first occupied by 9 Squadron with Heyfords, and 148 Squadron with Wellesleys, immediately following which 148 received Heyfords and Ansons. Later that year in September 1938, the Munich crisis had Stradishall on full alert with Berlin its tentative target in the event of war.

In early 1939 9 Squadron left to be replaced by the Wellingtons and Ansons of 75 Squadron, they themselves later moved on leaving Stradishall vacant from September to October 1939. After a brief period of Blenheim 1F fighters, Wellington bombers returned on February 8, 1940 with 214 Squadron, "the Federated Malay States Squadron". 214 Squadron became very much the home squadron of Stradishall during the war. They were later joined on the base by 138 Squadron who flew many sorties from November 1941 to March 1942 with Whitley bombers. Stradishall also saw enemy action, with one of the hangers suffering enemy bomb damage in early 1941.

William Walker states that sometime in 1941 a large draft of 214 Personnel received a posting overseas.

In April 1942 214 Squadron converted to Stirlings and 109 Squadron arrived in Wellingtons, followed by Oxfords of 1521 BAT Flight. 214 Squadron left Stradishall in October 1942. In May 1943 Stradishall controlled Ridgewell and Chedburgh and in December 1944 186 Squadron arrived with Lancasters from Tuddenham and operated from here until they disbanded in July 1945.

After the war Stradishall left 3 Group and passed to 48 Group Transport Command and in August 1945 Number 51 and 158 Squadrons arrived in Stirling CV's and these flew until March 1946 when 51 Squadron received Yorks. In September 1946 Stradishall reverted to 3 Group with five squadrons of Lancasters being based here until February 1949.

In the end, it would remain an active station for better than 30 years. The site is now home to HM Prison High Point, but the village itself remains little changed since the war. Numerous sources, edited and compiled by me.

CREDITS: Shiela Bryne - (Peter Scott)

Stradishall, Postmarked 20 Dec 1941 Room 3, Block F


"We moved over to Stradishall still as 3 FTS, and after awhile became 214 FMS Squadron and became operational. I am sure that they were the first Squadron to fly to Berlin".

"Another incident connected with 214 whilst at Stradishall, was during takeoff for operations. One of the Wellingtons fully bombed, etc. must have veered to the right as he took off and his undercarriage clipped the hangar. We were standing outside the end of the hangar when the Wellington came down right in front of us. There was ammo and everything going off, two of the crew were in the fuselage screaming. Everyone was held back by the fire and exploding ammo, and the CO ordered everyone to keep back. However, our crew friend, who was a professional boxer we called Tosh said "if your prepared to stand there, I'm not", and with that he dragged the only man alive out and cut off his clothing with his jackknife. With that the padre, who was on the spot dragged out a non-survivor. For that the padre received the George Cross and it was in all the papers with this photo and citation. I had a copy of this up until recently. Poor old posh never got a mention. We held a protest meeting, but it was obvious that the reason he didn't get an award was because he gave someone a piece of his mind, plus of course, his lower rank".

NOTE: The aircraft that crashed was piloted by Sgt Humphrey John Drummond Smiles DFC, and ocurred in January 1941. He survived the crash. The Padre mentioned was S/Ldr Harrison .

"A further incident happened to me in 40/41which I am sure must be in the Squadron records. I was in the hangar one foggy day when the air raid warning red went. I was looking out of the window when to my astonishment (more like fright) a German aircraft came out of the fog right in front of me to get his bearings. When he realized he was above a runway he pulled back into the fog, and this is where fate steps in. As he pulled back into the fog, a Hampden bomber coming back from a raid came out of the fog to get his bearings. I watched and was actually shouting, according to my mate "pull back, pull back", because I had seen four spitfires, one from each quarter of the drome obviously after the Jerry. They attacked this poor old Hampton line astern and when they realized their mistake they were off. You can't blame them for the incident, because both planes were almost identical. The poor old Hampton came belly down on the grass, I ran out, climbed underneath, opened the door and got everything in my lap. The Hampton was placed in one of the hangars, and from that day on we had nothing but bad luck. A few days later we got our first big air raid and the hangar with the Hampton in it got hit. There were butterfly antipersonnel bombs going off all over the place every time an engine from a lorry or something else started up. The incident is of course, history. It was also a recorded fact that one of the navigators from one of the raiding planes came right down and threw a map of our drome at Stradishall out of the cockpit window during the raid".

The following is an extract from the Stradishall Flying Control Book :

AIR 14 / 2530 RAF Stradishall Flying Control Book

March 31st 1942 "BINE"

Date & Time From Text Action
0005 "Q" light off
0845 Group Confirming "G" figures - 12 a/c 13 crews
0930 Gp No operations today. All a/c to be made serviceable for tomorrow CO - Int. Met OC214 -
1040 GP Beacon broadcast
1445 214Sq X Country: Z/214 Sgt Hamilton. Base 1500-Peterboro' - Lincoln- Peterborough - Kings Lynn -Thetford- landing Base 1630 (Landed 1728.) All green. OK
1550 109 Sq Not operating tonight. Gp. BC
1845 Q Site Reported OK _
1930 Beacon Reported Told to stand by _
2030 Q lights On
2110 --"--- Off

April 1st 1942 "GOLD"

Date & Time From Text Action
0630 Control Blenheim L9273 night flying from Cranfield landed 0630 - returning today - Cranfield informed Cranfield spoken to. Control Gp informed
0145 LONDON ARP MP Have detained AC2 Miller 1236092 of Strad. Request escort Passed all details to Adjutant
0930 3 Group Broadcast - 2 Group have 3 Mosquitos flying East Anglia at 30,000 ft from 10.00 to 1300 hrs. photographing aerodromes G.O.R. OC 214 Now Defence C.O.
1010 Group D/214 over Wells VCDM 0258 RC OC 214 CO
1011 OC214 D/214 in hangar. No a/c out Group
1040 Group Modified operation "line-shoot". Bomb load: Maximum 500 GP. 2 T.I, 2 N.I. 1 Ldelay rem 025 Int. OC214 CO
1105 Group Amended bomb load. Max 500 G.P. I N.I. 1 LD rem 025 a/c not to go further E. than Wurzburg Arm CO
1120 109 Sq 2 a/c on ops tonight Group CO BC
1155 Group Beacon broadcast Navigator
1200 Group Operation : "Modified Lineshoot". Routes may be decided by Sqn but all defended areas such as Frankfurt and Bad Nauheim are to be avoided. Times over target early as possible. a/c to proceed to LOHR (30m ESE HANAU) avoiding defended areas. a/c are then to pick up railway line & fly West towards HANAU carrying out low flying attack on any rail traffic encountered using bomb fused N.I. Long delay bomb to be dropped anywhere on permanent way between LOHR and HANAU. On arrival at HANAU following target to be attacked with remaining bombs :- Road and rail bridges crossing River MAIN ½ mile West of marshalling yards. Should weather be u/s for low flying attacks on targets detailed alternative targets are any railway lines and rail traffic in Germany.
1220 OC214 Prelim sortie inf at briefing time (1730) Group
-" - Briefing 1730 CO and all crews
1225 OC214 Sortie information Group RC
1255 Met Squall warning Gusts up to 50 mph RC Nkt
1256 Group Crews when briefed to be reminded when low flying and meeting other a/c to turn to stbd. Feltwell a/c will be flying right hand side of railway Inf
1330 Grp Will we spread out E.T.A. from 22 30 to 23 30 Adj 214 Jwt
1435 Grp Bombs. Delayed action to be delayed not less than 3 hrs: owing to fact other a/c making attack after ours C.O. Arm.
1515 Grp No "J" beams, Coastal homing beacon is 140 ?Mag Cranesford Sigs.
1545 Grp Instruct Blenheim 69273 from Cranfield to return R.C.
1555 Waterbeach 1 Stirling 19 45 till 22 15 `B' 99 Sqd NKt
1600 R C Blenheim owing to engine trouble unable to return today to Cranfield Cranfield
1655 R C Beacon required from 19 45
1656 214 Sqd 109 Sqd Sortie information passed to Grp R C & Grp
1915 Wtbeach Stirling flying at Newmarket 2045 till 2315 instead of previous times given Nkt
1925 Wtbeach Night flying scrubbed Nkt
1930 Beacon Instructed to flash from 1945
1945 Beacon Flashing
2005 OAC Aircraft "G"/214 airborne
2007 ---"-- " "C"/214 "
2014 " " "A"/214 "
2015 " " "E"/214 "(Z1156 Sgt A Ferguson)
2017 " " "H"/214
2019 " " "F"/214
2030 " " "Z"/214
2036 " " "X"/214
2041 " "O"/214
2045 " " "P"/214
2053 " " "W"/214
2056 " " "S"/214
2058 " " "Q"/214
2101 " " "T"/214
2113 " " "X"/109
2120 " " "E"/109
2351 " " T/214 landed - hit by flak

April 2nd 1942 "FLAKE"

Date & Time From Text Action
0027 " " X/109 landed
0156 " " E/109 "
0237 " " A/214 "
0258 " " C/214 "
0323 " " X/214 "
0330 " " S/214 "
0358 " G/214 "
0417 " W/214 "
0700 " A/C E,F,H,Z,O,P and Q -all 214 - failed to return
0715 " AOC would like to know:- types of flak encountered Any particular spot where flak was encountered heavily and unexpectedly Heights of a/c when attacked and heights at which they were briefed to attack. Spot where G/C Boyles a/c was heavily engaged. S.I.O.
0740 S.I.O. Replies to above:- Mannheim area, 2320 hours, 2,500', intense light, firing along S/L which held a/c for 20 mins. A/C specially reported that he flew 400 miles without a shot being fired until Mannheim was reached. S/Ldr Carr, Lezout, 0202 hours, 500'. Light, from ship one mile off shore. Directed by single blue S/L in shore. Mainz, 2007 hours, 1,200', machine and Lewis guns, not very effective. Average bombing height 1,200' Controller 3 Group
0800 3 Group What was average height along route to target? S.I.O.replied: Very low, less than 3,000'-4,000'. General opinion expressed that trouble was caused by a/c straying off recommended route and becoming engaged in defended area, map reading difficulties accentuating this "straying off", together with low altitude and high wind. S.I.O.
3 Group
3 Group
0915 Grp. When G/Capt Boyle is available, ask him to ring the AOC
0920 Grp. AOC spoke to G/Capt Boyle
0935 Grp "Goodwood" figures are required for tonight. Feltwell & Stradishall AOC does not require those crews that operated last night but would like you to do what you can Adj 214 CO
0940 Adj 214 No crews available who did not, operate last night but can give figures later of those crews if specially required. Controller
1000 Grp Crews that were on last night not needed (No Ops) Adj 214, CO, Met
1120 109 Sqd 2 a/c operating tonight CO,Grp, RC Met
1200 Grp Beacons. 1 Grp Astor, Hope, Sneezy, x Sugar, Oates, Snooks. 2 Grp: Emu, Bustard, Partridge, Rook, Jackdaw. 3 Grp Rich, Sailor, Beggar, Tailor, Baker, Goose, Chaffinch Wren x `J' beams etc Nav.

1600 NMkt Night flying tonight at Newmarket consisting of Stirlings from Waterbeach . 12 a/c Waterbeach `B' 2000 to 2230 and 2 Lysanders from Gravely RC
2000 Q site Reported OK
2030 RC Beacon to flash 2045 till cancelled Beacon
2045 Beacon Flashing
2104 R C E/109 airborne 2103 Group
2107 RC X/109 airborne 2106 Group
2154 DF X/109 QAA 2207 Group, RC S/L Sigs
2214 RC X/109 landed 2214 (failure of special equipment) Group, S/L Sigs
2255 Nkt Finished night flying RC
0137 RC E/109 landed 0136 Group

3 April PLAYERS 4 April WEIGHTS Sid Avent Xcountry P214 1046 - 1330 1108 Grp not calling on Stradishall for operations 5 April CRAVEN Freshman target 6 April FIRE 9 operating gales. 7 April TENDER 8 operating Searchlight used to help take off 8 April INK Nixey Xray 1000 - 1230 9 April 0500 AOC Broadcast to all Station Commanders.

"The percentage of `returned earlies' on a/c with technical failures during target operations after one days. Complete stand down from all ops reflects very gravely on the maintenance staff and organisation of station. The large proportion amongst the Flight Commanders is noticeable and gives rise to the apprehension that air crews and maintenance crews are not cooperating as fully as desirable. I wish SC to give this matter their personal attention."

Flying Control Book Source : Harry Ward's son Harvey Ward

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