Category Archives: Stories

Arthur Burleigh

The Maintenance Crew in front of a Dakota aeroplane. Arthur Burleigh is front row, fifth from the left.

Arthur Burleigh worked as a civilian Chargehand Airframe Fitter on the Airfield for twenty years from 1940 until it’s closure in December 1960. He worked on the service and maintenance of the aeroplanes in the hangers. Arthur was also a member of the Royal Observer Corps based on the Airfield. He was Chairman of Silloth Football Club from 1950 to 1960. The team used to play their games at the Bank Ends pitch in West Silloth in a field behind Golf Terrace, next to the golf links. George Doughty will no doubt remember this as he played for Silloth F.C at the time. In 1953 they moved to their current pitch in the Eden Street playing field and a new changing room shed was erected, which Arthur helped to obtain from the Silloth Airfield. These changing rooms were used for many years and will be familiar to players and spectators alike. When the Airfield closed in December 1960 Arthur transferred to Wroughton Airfield near Swindon in Wiltshire, where Betty also later worked.

The Silloth Royal Observer Corps around 1940
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Aircraft on the Airfield during WW2.
Aircraft under maintenance in a hanger WW2
One of the Hangers under construction in 1939.
Arial photo of the Airfield showing the Maintenance Hangers and Control Tower.
Aerial photo of Silloth, showing aircraft parked in the fields around the Airfield during WW2.
A map showing the location of the RAF Quarters sites in Silloth during WW2.
Commemorative stone in memory of Silloth Airfield and all who worked there from 1939 to 1960
 Note:

Arthur and Betty’s house in Silloth 3, Hylton Terrace was bought by Lawrence and Mary Marshall in May 1962.  Arthur passed away in December 2007 aged 96.

Acknowledgement

The above information is from Arthur and Betty Burleigh’s archives. Many thanks to their son, Ken Burleigh, for sending.

Betty Burleigh

  WAAF at RAF Silloth

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Betty Burleigh joined the WAAF in 1942 and was stationed at the Silloth Airfield RAF Camp from 12th April 1945 to 19th October 1945 as a Corporal in charge of the WAAF personnel, who were billeted at the time in The Solway Hotel. She worked in the RAF HQ Office on the Airfield, mainly controlling  the movement of vehicles entering and leaving the Airfield. Betty was demobbed in late 1945.

Airfield Control Tower

 Betty later worked as a civilian Radio Telephonist in The Silloth Airfield Control Tower from 1955 to 1960. There were three shifts, 6am – 2pm, 2pm – 10pm and 10pm – 6am, which were rotated between ten Radio telephonists. They were supervised by Flight Lieutenant Cybulski from the Polish Air Force, who worked days. Betty’s duties were to take messages from pilots to pass onto the Flight Lieutenant, log aircraft in and out and give instructions to aircraft to land and take off. 

One memory of the day was when Cliff Richard landed at the Airfield in 1959. Word quickly got around that he was in the Officers Mess waiting for his aircraft to be refuelled. One of the Airfield Control Tower girls phoned to speak to him and to prove it was him he sang a line over the phone from his hit song of the day Living Doll. The girl then asked the Flight Lieutenant if she could meet him. The Flight lieutenant obtained permission and she was allowed to see him. Betty was on duty at the time and can remember how excited her colleague was when she returned to the Control Tower. Not sure where Cliff’s destination was, but someone might remember. Betty is now 94 (September 2015).

Betty Burleigh (Airfield Control Tower) Photos

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Betty Burleigh in the Operations Room of the Airfield Control Tower 1950’s.
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Betty Burleigh and her colleague Margaret Bilton on the roof of the Airfield Control Tower 1950’s.
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22 Maintenance Unit / RAF Badge presented to Betty Burleigh.
The Fire Crew taken in 1953 in front of the Control Tower.
The Control Tower taken in 1982 before it was demolished.
The Control Tower taken in 1982 before it was demolished.
Note

Betty and Arthur Burleigh’s house in Silloth 3, Hylton Terrace was bought by Lawrence and Mary Marshall in May 1962.  Betty’s husband, Arthur, passed away in December 2007 aged 96.

Acknowledgement

The above information is from Arthur and Betty Burleigh’s archives. Many thanks to their son, Ken Burleigh, for sending.

F/O Frederick Charles Jordan

Flying Accident at RAF Silloth 16th September 1944

Story told by Brian Jordan

F/O Frederick Charles Jordan

After completing his active tour of duty in Gibraltar in 1943, my father, F/Officer F. C. Jordan 171365 RAF, was posted to Hooton Park and then to Silloth for instructional duties, arriving in Silloth in August 1944.

At 21.05 on the 16th September my father took off from Silloth with five other crew members in a Wellington Mk X HF179 to practice Leigh Light homings. Many Coastal Command Wellingtons had a large spotlight fitted in a ‘dustbin’ turret that could be lowered and raised under the fuselage. This light was used at night to illuminate submarines found on the surface, typically recharging their batteries.

The crew on that flight were:

F/Lt Lawrence William Hamilton Coe 120942 RAFVR Pilot (1)
F/O George Edward Lumley 171707 RAFVR W/Op
P/O Harry Chambers Waters 174902 RAFVR Pilot (2)
F/O Oswald John Lander 55093 RAF Navigator

F/O Frederick Charles Jordan 171365 RAF W/Op

A N Other (Still unidentified)

Approximately two hours after take-off, the plane flew into the sea killing four of the crew, my father and one other (unidentified) being the only two survivors to make it to the surface.

The entry in my father’s logbook read: L.L Homings – Crashed in Irish Sea – 5 miles West St. Bees Head – 4 crew killed. Picked up by S.S. Green Isle and taken to Whitehaven Infirmary – No dinghy seen.

My father sustained two broken ankles, a broken arm and cracked ribs and spent until April 1945 in the RAF Officer’s Hospital in Cleveleys.

The RAF 1180 Accident Report Form relating to the crash states the following:-

“A/c (aircraft) flew into sea during Leigh Light Exercises. Pilot homing on a ship burning full navigational lights was seen to fly into sea. Leigh Light not burning at time.”

I assume that the ship that picked the survivors up was in fact the ship being used for homing exercises, and that witnesses on the ship had seen the aircraft crash, without the Leigh Light on.

Another statement said:-

“E of J (Error of Judgement) when carrying out a training dummy attack. Too low, hit the sea. Instructions given not to fly below 300ft.”

Finally, the recommendations from the Air Officer Commanding were:-

“Radio altimeter be fitted. Officer I/C (in charge) of night flying be a pilot. Master of ship be thanked. Two survivors picked up. AOC (Air Officer Commanding) and AOC I/C concurs.”

The resting places/memorials of the crew who were killed are:-

F/Lt Coe                                   Runnymede Memorial, Surrey.

F/O Lander                             Silloth (Causewayhead) Cemetery, Holme Low, Cumberland.

F/O Lumley                            Darlington West Cemetery, Durham.

P/O Waters                           Runnymede Memorial, Surrey.

My father was eventually invalided out of the RAF in September 1945 and passed away in 1996, having only flown once in a Cessna since the accident.

Dad Crash 1 Dad Crash 2

 

Augustus (Jim) Spooner

Augustus, known as Jim Spooner was with the Air Ministry Constabulary who provided security at RAF airfields. The photo below is provided courtesy of his son George, and shows Jim in uniform – taken circa 1940. .

Augustus (Jim) Spooner. Circa 1940. Air Ministry Constabulary. Photo courtesy of George Spooner
Augustus (Jim) Spooner. Circa 1940. Air Ministry Constabulary. Photo courtesy of George Spooner

The short story below was sent to Helen Strickland on email by George Spooner who now lives in Australia.

Continue reading Augustus (Jim) Spooner

Ernie Barrett

He said we had to ‘make do and mend’ as well:

“We maintained Bristol ‘Beauforts’ in the open, and even made spanners for the Bristol ‘Taurus’ sleeve valve engines plug lead connections because we were told that none were available.”

Extracted from RAF Silloth – Wartime memories of the men and women who knew the airfield at Silloth when it was operational. Ed. Maggie Clowes. Retyped by Chris Graham.

A. Kazer

 “After doing the usual rounds of signing in we were allocated to ‘watches ‘ – much of the traditions of the RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service) seem to have survived into Coastal Command. On a morning watch we would parade in the hangar for prayers by the chaplain and then allocated duties. The watch system gave 1 day off in 8. The work was fairly routine – daily inspections, in between flight inspections, refuelling, plug changes but even this could be difficult since there was a general shortage of tools and overalls. Coins of the realm were much in evidence when removing and replacing engine cowlings. There was also a shortage of aircraft covers which often meant leaving aircraft overnight exposed to the elements and in the morning it was virtually impossible to start the aircraft engines without the prolonged use of hot air blowers. One other job I recall was emptying 4 gallon petrol cans into the main station petrol tank – these were leftovers from the unsuccessful Norwegian campaign. On the night watch for our meal we would be marched down to the Airmen’s Mess which was situated about ¼ – ½ mile from the main camp, the meals were good and you seldom needed to make use of the NAAFI. A YMCA van used to call during the night watch.”

Pay parade was near the SWO’s (Jack Sutherland?) office. Coming where he did in the alphabet he said:

“There were so many Johns and Jones I thought my turn would never come.”

Extracted from RAF Silloth – Wartime memories of the men and women who knew the airfield at Silloth when it was operational. Ed. Maggie Clowes. Retyped by Chris Graham.

R. Witton

“One day after returning from leave I was outside C Flight when I saw a little weasel faced Sgt pilot talking to another of our people. On asking who on earth it was I was informed that he was a new pilot, a Pole. His name was Antoni Dradrach, (Tony). He told me much later that he realised straight away that I had been asking about him and that I was far from impressed. He told me that he immediately decided that he must ‘cultivate’ that chap in his own interest. He must have done a good job because we became great friends. In April 1942 Tony came home on leave with me. My mother took to him straight away and she treated him like another son.”

Elsewhere we quote from Elsa Hooper who found herself using sign language and her fingers to communicate with Free French and Polish allies.

Extracted from RAF Silloth – Wartime memories of the men and women who knew the airfield at Silloth when it was operational. Ed. Maggie Clowes. Retyped by Chris Graham.