Silloth 1940 Flare Trials

Enemy plane bombs Silloth Airfield

Silloth was again bombed on 25th September 1940, put down to the testing of Hampden Flares. The Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), based at Farnborough, believed these flares were needed to visually align an aircraft’s gunsight in order to fire. It was thought safe to test the flares at Silloth since it was believed the airfield would be free of enemy planes.

During the Silloth experiment, a Hampden Bomber with flares fitted under its wings was to follow a Whitley bomber on a test run. The flare was lit, but the Hamden pilot was blinded by the bright reflection from his planes spinning propeller discs. Since the flares were set to last 3 and a half minutes the pilot in the Hampden warned the Whitley pilot to dive and get safely out of the way. At that point, however, ground control warned that an enemy aircraft was nearby. Before anything could be done, the enemy bomber used the light from the Whitley to bomb the airfield. After that experiment and its unintended consequences, training for radar operators was revised so that guns could be fired in the dark with improved chance of success.

Acknowledgement for above information: Gordon Akitt Archives

Whitley Bomber


Example of a Hampden Bomber

Handley Page Hampden of No 83 Squadron with crew seated on a loaded bomb trolley at Scampton, 2 October 1940

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