Aviation => General Aviation => Topic started by: iconic on November 19, 2009, 08:32:06

Title: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: iconic on November 19, 2009, 08:32:06
Hi guys....just thought I'd run this past the site and see what comes back...

My friends grand father, long dead and an ex Marine, whom when home, lived on the Davies estate during WW2 told us the following stories mainly regarding the Rochester airport:-

1/ A shot up P-47 Thunderbolt landed with failed brakes and shot thru part of the Shorts buildings at the end of the runway killing a number of workers...he said the pilot escaped with wounds.

2/ A very flak damaged B-17 landed but the undercarriage failed on landing.....she also had a stuck ball turret with air gunner still inside, the ball turrent was all bar wiped from the bottom of the B-17....he said the workers at the airport hosed out most of the poor gunner remains before the US recovery team arrived.

3/ In the woods down near Concorde Avenue out the back of the Scout hut we used to play in a large crater, called the old bomb hole....well he told us quite a few bombs landed around the Davies Estate area, this was one...a few landed in the Cows field opposite the Fort Horsted/Vale Drive (which wasn't there then of course)

...there are also a string of bombholes at the top of Boxley hill, come up the hill at the top turn right down Pilgrims way and about 300 yards in the woods off to the left, they were there 10 years ago, looking like a stick of bombs had fallen on the farmers field with the last entering the wooded area?...he did some manauvres up there with the Marines, not sure why?


He also said if you see Tarmac down a concreate road most anywhere near Davies Estate you know that's where a bomb landed.! Some house were bombed out, don't know where?

4/ One of the air raid shelters at the airport took a direct hit, but wasn't full, 3 or 4 people died?

so, there you are myths or facts?  
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: iconic on November 19, 2009, 08:36:23
Sorry, forget to add, he said the airfield was mainly used as a emergency landing strip during WW2 with no active front line squadrons stationed there?
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: peterchall on November 19, 2009, 11:32:29
Hi iconic,

No 23 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School (ERFTS) was there from 1938 until it moved out at the start of the war. It gave initial training to RAF and RAFVR pilots, but was civilian run.

Apart from that, it was a Short Bros factory producing Stirling bombers throughout the war, and there were no operational squadrons there.

Designated emergency landing grounds had extra long runways and specialist emergency equipment. Manston, Kent, and Woodbridge, Suffolk being two examples. Whilst any airfield would be used in emergencies, I'm sure Rochester wasn't specifically designated. A B-24 Liberator made a wheels-up landing and slid partly onto Rochester - Maidstone Road about where the caravan site is now. I cycled there with mates to see it and was shocked by the bullet holes all over it, or was it flak damage? I don't know what happened to the crew. This may be the incident that you quote as a B-17 or a different one, and I have no doubt that there were other instances of crash landings.

The Shorts factory was heavily bombed on the afternoon of 15th August 1940 and production of the Stirling was put-back by several months. There were casualties at the factory and stray bombs hit Davis Estate houses. So, yes, stories of bomb craters in that area are fact. One bomb "strayed" as far as Delce Road, Rochester. It was the first bomb damage I saw during the war.
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: peterchall on November 19, 2009, 11:47:20
PS:
Extract from Rochester City Archives, but I imagine this refers only to premises outside the airport:
15th August 1940: High Explosives, Rochester. 5 houses demolished, others damaged. 9 injured
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: Stewie on November 19, 2009, 13:25:42
My Mothers Uncle (now sadly deceased) worked for 'Shorts' and lived in City Way. He told me once that an 'American' bomber landed at Rochester to drop off a wounded crew member before taking off again and presumably continuing back to it's home base.
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: iconic on November 19, 2009, 14:09:10
Thanks for the response guys....that B-24 story sounds familiar, I'm know the aricraft didn't block the runway so must of overshot.....sort of becomes B-17 as a lot of guys thought every US bomber was a B-17, bit like 'Spitfire Snobbery' I've read about maybe?

Having lived almost on top of the airport I'm always shocked by the lack of solid information about 'what' happened and 'when' at the airport, and pictures seem very scarce.


Also, I remember seeing a Luftwaffe aeiral photo looking down on Fort Horsted and the rear end of the airport....there were already buildings occupying the college site....was that part of Shorts too? I did part of my apprenticeship at the old CAV site on Rochester Esplanade once occupied by Shorts, small world!

Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: Riding With The Angels on November 20, 2009, 21:22:43
Iconic - there's a great history and some old pics on here -

http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=264.0 (http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=264.0)
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: Riding With The Angels on November 21, 2009, 01:45:41
Hi guys....just thought I'd run this past the site and see what comes back...

My friends grand father, long dead and an ex Marine, whom when home, lived on the Davies estate during WW2 told us the following stories mainly regarding the Rochester airport:-

1/ A shot up P-47 Thunderbolt landed with failed brakes and shot thru part of the Shorts buildings at the end of the runway killing a number of workers...he said the pilot escaped with wounds.

2/ A very flak damaged B-17 landed but the undercarriage failed
 on landing.....she also had a stuck ball turret with air gunner still inside, the ball turrent was all bar wiped from the bottom of the B-17....he said the workers at the airport hosed out most of the poor gunner remains before the US recovery team arrived.

3/ In the woods down near Concorde Avenue out the back of the Scout hut we used to play in a large crater, called the old bomb hole....well he told us quite a few bombs landed around the Davies Estate area, this was one...a few landed in the Cows field opposite the Fort Horsted/Vale Drive (which wasn't there then of course)

...there are also a string of bombholes at the top of Boxley hill, come up the hill at the top turn right down Pilgrims way and about 300 yards in the woods off to the left, they were there 10 years ago, looking like a stick of bombs had fallen on the farmers field with the last entering the wooded area?...he did some manauvres up there with the Marines, not sure why?


He also said if you see
Tarmac down a concreate road most anywhere near Davies Estate you know that's where a bomb landed.! Some house were bombed out, don't know where?

4/ One of the air raid shelters at the airport took a direct hit, but wasn't full, 3 or 4 people died?

so, there you are myths or facts?  

From Kent Airfields In The second World War by Robin Brooks -

1/ In 1944 a USAAF P-47 Thunderbolt ran into the factory canteen whilst attempting a landing with failed brakes.
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: MedKev86 on November 21, 2009, 04:38:47
I was driving past the 'Cows Field' along Snodhurst Avenue at the top, and because of sunlight on the field you could clearly see where some of the craters that were caused by bombs on the field that is behind the old Mid Kent College. Never noticed it before! Very interesting!
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: fred on January 09, 2010, 20:20:02
Hello everybody,

I am new to this forum and I came across this entry when I was googleing for 'Rochester, bombing'.

I am German and I started digging up the biographies of members of my family years ago. Only recently I could put my hands on the flight-logbook of my uncle. Born in 1920 he was drafted to serve with the Luftwaffe in 1939.

There is an entry for August 15, 1940 stating a flight from Antwerp at 15:10 to Rochester and a return at 17:25. His plane had been a Dornier 17 Z bomber. The details say that the aim had been an airfield and an aircraft production-site. Anti-aircraft and fighter defence had been st
rong with six hits.

The details fit in with what I could read on your forum. My question is, if this airfield still exists and where I would find it.

Thank you for your replies.

 
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: Glen on January 09, 2010, 20:57:31
Hi Fred- welcome to the forum (herzlich willkommen  :)). The airfield still exists in Rochester but is no longer a military airfield. It is used mainly by flying clubs with light aircraft.

Glen
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: merc on January 09, 2010, 21:13:17
Welcome Fred  :)

Rochester Airport has it's own website and there's some interesting reading in the History Section:  http://www.rochesterairport.co.uk/

I believe the airport still has some buildings from the 30's, for the no 23 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School that was run by shorts.
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: peterchall on January 09, 2010, 21:32:23
Hi Fred,

You are more welcome than your uncle was on 15th August 1940. He was one of those who scared me witless! :)

Best wishes,
Peter
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: Paul on January 09, 2010, 21:46:36
HiYa fred :)

Welcome to the forum..

The Airport is here.  http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=51.353329157166975~0.5040787382309873&lvl=18&sty=h
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: kyn on January 09, 2010, 22:53:33
Welcome along Fred, I bet the logbook is a really interesting read!  Any chance you can scan and paste some relevent bits?  It would be nice to have the other sides view of things!
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: WildWeasel on January 10, 2010, 01:43:05
Welcome Fred....A very interesting post....
I learned to fly at Rochester in the late 80's so it holds a lot of memories for me...
I worked for GEC Marconi Avionics who where based there at the time

One thing I remember is that the airfield was Mined ( Pipe Bombs ) so that it could be disabled if the expected invasion happened...
These where cleared as late as the late 80's definatley after I had made many ( heavy :-) ) landings on the grass runways....

Excellent !!!

WW
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: colin haggart on January 10, 2010, 10:39:59
Detling Airfireld too had pipe bombs.

I mentioned on this forum sometime ago that the A249 to Maidstone was blocked off in order to clear some pipe bombs that were found at the airfield, this too was in the late 1980s.
I remember my friend and I drove from Sheerness to the M2 roundabout to have a look, all the traffic was being turned round at the roundabout.
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: peterchall on January 10, 2010, 11:08:50
Hi Fred,

I had hoped to provide a Luftwaffe photograph of Rochester Airport, with handwritten notes in German on it. It could even have been used as a target map for the 15th August 1940 attack. I have seen it quite recently but cannot find it now. I thought it was on he forum somewhere - can anybody help?

I have a book which shows II/KG3, equipped with Dornier 17Z, located at Antwerp-Duerne on 13th August 1940. Commanding officer was Hauptmann Pilger. I assume this was your uncle's unit. Do you know what his job was; pilot or gunner, etc? Did he survive the war?

Regards,
Peterchall
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: rossco on January 10, 2010, 14:27:19
Hi Fred, I posted up a list of bombs dropped on Rochester here: http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=388.0 (http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=388.0) Has an entry for the 15th August, check out the photos at the top of that link too, certainly might be of interest... :)
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: bromptonboy on January 14, 2010, 12:37:49
If you can get hold of a copy there is a book entitled 'A Brief History of Rochester Airport' by J Preston and Malcolm Moulton and published by the Medway Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 1992. It is full of interesting information about the airport and has some cracking pictures, including one of an experimental Euro-Fighter overflying the towers at almost zero-feet! The book covers the early 'Short Years' of aviation at Sheppey before moving on to concentrate on Rochester. The Flying School. Although it was managed by Shorts at the instigation of the Air Ministry it was in practise run by RAF staff. Opened on 1st April 1938 its first Chief Instructor was Flt Lt RC Chambers assisted by four instructors. No 23 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School was enlarged in July 1938 to train Fleet Air Arm personnel with Lt Cdr H Spencer-Cooper RN as Chief Ground Instructor assisted by sixteen flying instructors. The school transferred to Belfast on September 2nd 1939.

Amongst the many photographs in the book is one aerial one from the NE showing Fort Horsted and the airfield. In it you can clearly see bomb-craters in the field beside the Mid-Kent College and also the course followed by the Military Railway.

All info from the excellent book I have mentioned above.
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: Merv on January 29, 2010, 01:53:02
I had to post this, a picture of my  Grandad complete with remnants of his  shorts card.
He was at Rochester During WW2 and was getting on a bit.
I know little of his History there and never met him only bits and bobs my Father told me.
I know around the airport was riddled with Bomb Holes
I do know some time earlier he was a Royal Navy Stoker petty officer during WW1 and a Boxing Champ for the Navy.
I also know he and Nan were Bombed out if there house down Ordinance Street,chatham way, and both he and Nan were buried under the rubble for a week.
Weird old world isn't, Fred's Uncle is bombing it my Grandad down below ducking and diving :)
PS for Karl! no it's not me with dyed hair

(http://i677.photobucket.com/albums/vv137/merv2009/DennisSnr.jpg)
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: grandarog on June 09, 2010, 22:09:29
Spotted these items through the fence of the demolition site amost opposite Asda Entrance on A229 Maidstone Road. I am pretty sure the Airfield spread right up over this area before Bridgewood interchange etc was built.  So.  Would they be relics from the airfield or are they more recent parts of what ever was demolished here.

(http://i637.photobucket.com/albums/uu92/grandarog/Wartime%20Stuff/100_1917.jpg)

(http://i637.photobucket.com/albums/uu92/grandarog/Wartime%20Stuff/100_1916.jpg)

(http://i637.photobucket.com/albums/uu92/grandarog/Wartime%20Stuff/100_1918.jpg)

(http://i637.photobucket.com/albums/uu92/grandarog/Wartime%20Stuff/100_1915.jpg)
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: PeterAtJET on June 15, 2010, 14:42:44
Hi guys....just thought I'd run this past the site and see what comes back...

My friends grand father, long dead and an ex Marine, whom when home, lived on the Davies estate during WW2 told us the following stories mainly regarding the Rochester airport:-

1/ A shot up P-47 Thunderbolt landed with failed brakes and shot thru part of the Shorts buildings at the end of the runway killing a number of workers...he said the pilot escaped with wounds.

so, there you are myths or facts? 

I worked for Marconi Avionics (
as was, BAE these days) 1980-1984 , and I remember the framed B+W photo showing what looked like a basically intact P47 sitting in the remains of the canteen, which had come off second best in the collision. The photo was on display in the canteen as I remember. (which had clearly been patched up at some point in the intervening decades)

I wonder what happened to the photo?
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: Flying_John on July 15, 2010, 20:46:52
The website at www.rochester-airport.co.uk (http://www.rochester-airport.co.uk) gives a much better view of the airport as it is now and also some good history including some quotes from the Aviation historian Robin Brooks.

I have personally been involved in digging out the entrances to some of the old air raid shelters at the southern end of the airfield, but sadly no history or artefacts to be found.

John

www.rochester-airport.co.uk (http://www.rochester-airport.co.uk)
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: interested on April 06, 2014, 18:04:17
Thanks for the response guys....that B-24 story sounds familiar, I'm know the aricraft didn't block the runway so must of overshot.....sort of becomes B-17 as a lot of guys thought every US bomber was a B-17, bit like 'Spitfire Snobbery' I've read about maybe?

Having lived almost on top of the airport I'm always shocked by the lack of solid information about 'what' happened and 'when' at the airport, and pictures seem very scarce.


Also, I remember seeing a Luftwaffe aeiral photo looking down on Fort Horsted and the rear end of the airport....there were already buildings occupying the college site....was that part of Shorts too? I did part of my apprenticeship at the old CAV site on Rochester Esplanade once occupied by Shorts, small world!

My late father remembered the B24 nearly going into Rochester Maidstone Road and told me that the kids were shooed away by the RAF who were guarding it. However he also remembered a B17 crashing down the dog track end of the airfield which he said looked as if it tried to land, realised they wouldn't make it and pulled up but clipped the trees and went down, this plane was covered in kids as the American airforce were guarding it my father said he nearly took one of his friends head off when he swung on the waist gun he also said the floor was covered in ammunition.
In the book A Brief History Of Rochester Airport it has a small photo of the P47, mentions the Liberator and also mentions 2 B17s that crashed while attempting to land at the airfield, one ended up in Snodhurst Bottom, this one came from the 100th bomb group, the other clipped trees and ended up by the site of the Greyhound track.
Hope this helps.
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: interested on April 06, 2014, 20:59:29
Just an update on the B17 that crashed at Snodhurst Bottom. This is a diary entry from one of the crew, the second part "our longest mission" concerns the crash.

Feb 3, 1945, Berlin Raid

By Leroy J. Edwards

350th Sqdn. 100th Bomb Group (H)

England, Feb 3, 1945: We had our usual early breakfast about 4:00 a.m. After breakfast, we proceeded to the Operations Room. After settling down, the curtain was drawn showing the route to the target and back. The ribbon showed that Berlin, Germany was the target again. Grunts and groans came from everywhere. Everything was planned. Weather information given. Clear sky, they said. Armament officers informed us that we would carry ten 500lb bombs. Out targets were given. Our fighters would be composed of five groups of P-51s, all the way over and back, except that fighters would not stay around when flak was present. The officers told us that the flak would be thick. We were told that there would be around 1700 to 2500 88mm guns trying to get a bead on us. But this would be a maximum effort by the 8th Air Force, so just maybe you would not get shot at. They informed us we had eight hours of flying time--we had all the information we needed.

We mounted the trucks and headed for the planes. This time our plane was #613 and this would be the only time we would fly it. Getting all the 50 cal. guns out and assembled was the crew's job. The guns were assembled and the plane was checked. An OK from the ground crew chief and we climbed aboard to check our turrets and positions. We climbed into our flying suits, which were electrically heated by the planes electrical system. Now we were ready to start the engines. Our pilot, 1st Lt Edward C. Hansen and our co-pilot, along with T/Sgt Leroy J. Edwards, ran over the checklist and proceeded to start the engines. Radio Operator, Sgt. James R. Mugridge was busy getting the call letters and code words of the day. Ball Turret operator, Sgt. Andrew C. Paulo, was checking out the turret. Waist gunner, Heinz A. Wolf was seeing to his work. Tail gunner, Richard J. Mullaney was also getting ready. Up front, navigator, 1st Lt Kretschmar and Togglier, Sgt. Bill Shirley, were checking charts, guns and toggle switches.

 Then we started the engines and proceeded out on the taxi strip to get in line for take off. After about 10 minutes, we got the green light from the control tower. We were probably in the middle of the group for take off. Down the runway we went. Airspeed climbed up to 100-120 mph. The pilot pulled back on the stick. The wheels came off the runway. We raised the wheels and were on our way. After we climbed and circled over Splasher Six, we picked up on our leader and formed up. We got the squadron together and formed up with the group. The navigator gave the lead pilots the heading and we were on our way to Big "B". Slowly, while we were circling Splasher Six, we were climbing for altitude. The engines use less gas at altitude. As we crossed the North Sea, headed for Germany, we climbed to an altitude of 26, 000 ft.

I didn't know it then, but our bomb run would be from west to east. A bomb run is when the bomb sight flies the airplane with the use of the auto-pilot. The run has to be about 5 min. long, to let the bombardier line up the sights with the targets. The bombardier picks up the target and guides the plane to the target.

As we approach the target, we were downwind in the jet stream. At that time I didn't know what the jet stream was, but now I know that the jet stream is a river of air that flows around the world in a west to east direction. Thus, we would have a 150 mile tailwind. When our airspeed and ground speed were computed, our airspeed was 150 mph, plus the jet stream acting as tail wind, gave us a ground speed of about 300 mph. I am sure that was what saved us that Feb 3rd in 1945.

The bomb run being 5 min. long, meant the plane would be flying in a straight line and that would give the anti-aircraft gunners time to train and fire their 88mm anti-aircraft guns on us. I was in the upper turret from the time we got near the German coast. I was looking back and could see aircraft all over the sky. We were all approaching the target on about six or seven different angles. Each group was expected over the target just minutes apart, so we had to be on time. So there I was, astonished to see so many planes, and by now on our 23rd mission. Should I have learned to get a little scared? Hell yes, a lot scared!

Looking back, I could see the black puff of flak behind us. Maybe it was 300 to 500 yards, but 5 minutes is enough time for the gunners to make corrections and hit us. They could see by using optical instruments. We were the lead element of the squadron of the group, so that meant we were flying in the middle of a diamond shape formation of 12 planes, with 12 more a little higher and to the right, 12 lower to the left, and 12 more behind us and higher. That made us the group, the 350th in the lead, the 349th lower left, the 351st high right, and the 418th higher and behind us. Steadily, they were making corrections and catching up with us. I informed the pilot that they were catching up. By the time we dropped the bombs, they had caught us.

We were in the low element of the lead squadron. So, with the flak at our altitude, we were about to get our tails shot off. Four planes were in the lead and four were in the high element. The flak cut thru the right side of us. One plane was hit in the right wing tank and was burning. It slid across just below us. The plane behind and below us had the paint scorched on it. The flames were that close, barely missing us. We had just gotten rid of the bombs when they hit us. One more plane exploded, nothing was left of it. We saw the lead plane catch fire and guys were bailing out. That was Rosenthalís. "Rosie Riveters" was the crew's name. Things were so hectic that it was hard to see all that was happening.

Our pilot put the plane into position, like a wing standing on end. We dropped 2, 000 feet real quick, and got the hell out of there. In all we lost eight planes out of the twelve in that group. We were the fourth plane flying in the low element. We lead what was left of the 350th back that day. I have told how important the tail wind was going into Germany. When we were coming out of Germany, we had a ground speed of 50 mph flying into that wind. I checked the bomb bay, and found we had one bomb left. So when we were out over the North Sea, I went back in the bomb bay, with the bomb bay open, and released the bomb into the sea. I had to unhook my oxygen and heated suit to get to the bomb bay, so I hurried so that I would not pass out from lack of oxygen.

Once on the ground, we broke our guns down and cleaned them. Then we were transported to the debriefing tent. There we gave them all the details that we could remember about all we saw, such as, planes we shot down, how good was the fighter cover, how many chutes we saw, what the weather was over and around the target area, and if there were any enemy planes, what they were and how many.

We were given two shots of whisky, hot coffee, and doughnuts from the Red Cross truck. With breakfast at 4 a. m. and just a pack of gum and a candy bar to eat, we were pretty hungry. With two shots of whisky on an empty stomach, we were all pretty jazzed up by the time we got to supper about 6 p.m. After supper we all went to the barracks to listen to the radio, shower, clean up, and hit the sack.

We hope that tomorrow, just maybe, we will get an easy mission, maybe a milk run, that's one with no flak, no fighters. Tonight we can dream of home, girl friends, people we know, and what we will be doing when this damn war is over. Iím sure we party every night. You never know when it will be your time to sacrifice. They told us when we came into this, that there were times when the life of a gunner was about 10 min. in combat, so you have to keep your wits about you and have the P's with you at all times, a pray and a parachute. You needed the good Lord to keep watch.

 OUR LONGEST MISSION

This is another mission that stands out in my mind. After an early morning breakfast, we were briefed on what was to be my longest mission in time and distance. We sat in the briefing room and looked at the big map. We were headed for Bohlen, deep in the heart of Germany. But, due to stormy conditions we hit the target of last resort at Chemitz, Germany. We had a full load of gas and bombs. They were ten 500# bombs. We had good fighter cover. They were mostly P-51's and P-47's. We bombed at an altitude of 24,000 ft. We tried to climb over the storm. At the first target we went to 31,000 ft. it was 68 degrees below zero. Boy was it cold, Brr! Then we went on to the target of last resort at Chemitz, Germany. Of course, we then let down to 24,000 ft. It was considerably warmer since we were also out of the storm area. It was a good thing we didn't run into any fighters as I didn't have a very big hole to sight through. The reason was due to frost from my breath inside the upper turret. The turret was operating okay, but frost was so thick I could not see out very good.

 The storm was good for that day, as we didn't see an enemy plane all day. However, we did see some flak and some ground rockets. By flying to the target of last resort and that if we had climbed an extra 7,000 ft to 31,000 ft, it would make one of the longest flights we went on. Our plane, ole 437, was using a little extra gas. As we were coming back we could see that we were going to be short on gas. So we received permission to pull out of formation and head back across the channel so we could find a base we could set down and pick up gas, then go on home. Well, that was the plan. But as plans go wrong sometimes, this one was going to go wrong. Only we didn't know it, yet. With letting down and throttling back the engines, we thought we would save enough gas to get in alright. When we arrived over the English shore there seemed to be a slight fog with about 1/2 mile visibility. So that made finding an airport to set down, at best difficult, unless you can hit the airbase right on the head. With that low visibility, naturally we missed our points of reference as we were down south and east of London in territory that was unfamiliar even to our navigator. After about 10 min. of low flying our gas was getting lower by the minute. We were beginning to fear we were running out of gas. I pumped the gas back from the tanks with the most gas to the tanks with the least. I was trying to keep them all balanced. Now we were flying at about 300 to 500 ft. and in hills that were almost that high. A couple of times we had to pull up as we went over the hills.

We finally did find and came right over the field we were trying to find. It was an airfield at a factory where they made Short Sterlings, a British 2-engine bomber. Just as we were coming over the field, one engine ran out of gas and on the other side of the field was the town of Rochester, England, a town with a population of about 30,000. I told the pilot, Ed Hanson, I didn't want to be scattered in the town and to get it out to the country. Of course, I was sure we were going to crash. I don't know about the rest of them but I was scared. So with one engine out and prop feathered, we were still flying, not very good, but flying. We continued on around on, the traffic pattern. We were getting ready to turn on the final leg when we lost another engine. With two left, there was nowhere to go but down. There was a big, long ridge and hillside on a valley below the top of the hill. With the hillside coming up fast an losing airspeed we were coming down and at the last minute the pilot lifted the wing up. And with the crew in crash positions, we hit the muddy hillside. This field was planted with wheat, this was Feb. 6, 1944. The winters are warmer in the west so the field was soft, and we had the wheels up. I don't suppose we slid any more than a city block, but we sure tore up a wheat field. Being a farmer, I didn't think he has a very good stand, so I expect the U.S. paid more than the wheat would bring.

After sliding to a stop with the plane mainly intact, we all started getting out in a hurry as an empty tank is just as dangerous as a full one. An empty one has fumes and a spark would explode it very easily. Being frightened, everyone was clear in about 5 seconds. I was about the last one out. I knew the navigator was behind me when I got out of the hatch in the radio room. I waited on top of the plane for him. When he didnít show up I jumped back down into the radio room (by that time I knew the plane was not going to explode). I was going back to see what had happened to the navigator. I got back to the cockpit and dropped down to go into the navigators and bombardiers compartment. There was the navigator. He was lying on the floor with a large cut on his head. It was a good thing he kept his sheepskin flying helmet on. He had hit his head on something sharp. It had cut the flying helmet also. We had the job of getting him out of the plane.

By this time, the people at the factory and nearby town began to appear at the crash site. They saw us in trouble when we went over the town. They brought an ambulance and a small fire truck to the scene. The hill was so steep; they drove down, but had to go about a 1/2 mile down the valley to get out. The only way or the easy way to get the navigator out was straight out of the plexi glass nose. At least that's the way we had it figured. I went up and started to kick out the nose glass. It was pretty hard, but we succeeded and we took him out that way. Well, we made it down all right. We either had a lot of luck or someone up there was looking after us. An hour afterwards we were eating and drinking coffee up at the factory. We were all shook up quite a bit, just thinking what might have happened.

We began to get things together. We had to find a place to sleep and stay until they came after us. We began by seeing just how much money we had as we didn't have our regular clothes, just our flying suits, winter underwear and no shoes in most cases and as for money, digging through ail pockets, we finally came up with about $19 (American). I forget what that was in English money. It wasnít much when you figure there were 8 of us to live on that with the navigator in the hospital nearby. We found a hotel in town to stay in. The room came with breakfast and was very reasonable. I think we stayed two nights and three days there. I have never seen a town more friendly. During the day we would go out to the bars. When we came in our old dirty flying suits, we couldn't buy a drink, every one was buying. They invited us to a dance one of the nights. Of course, it was no admission for us. Boy, did we have a lot of fun; still dressed in our scroungy flying clothes.

On the third day, the truck finally showed up to take us home. After riding for about 10 or 12 hours, we finally arrived back at the 100th base, four days after we took off for Germany. We were very tired when we arrived. When we got to the barracks, we sure were surprised as we didn't have a single piece of clothing on our clothes rack. We realized what had happened. We had a deal made up with the rest of the barracks if we went down over there. If you could get to the clothing that was your size before the quarter master got to it, it was yours to wear. So all that they knew was that we were down, so they cleaned us out, but all our personal stuff was there. As soon as they found out we were back the clothes started to appear. One guy would bring back a shirt or pants. Next, one would bring back a blouse or shoes. Yet, when all was over, I couldn't find a single thing I was missing. Then we understood why, when we were new to the base, the guys were always asking you what your shirt, pants and shoe size was. So, we half expected we wouldnít have any clothes left when we got back. 

So, that's how I remember the longest mission in time and distance. By the way, just maybe if we had stayed with the group, it might not have happened. In checking what time the group landed we found out that we crashed some 20 minutes after the group had landed but we wouldn't have had this adventure if we hadn't made a mistake by leaving the group.   
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: peterchall on April 06, 2014, 21:28:28
An absolutely fascinating find :)
As one living in Rochester throughout WW2 I thought I knew of most of the big events, but this is the first I've heard of that.
Does anyone know exactly where the B17 finally came to rest?
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: interested on April 06, 2014, 21:39:15
I only know that it crashed at Snodhurst Bottom from his diary, I guess they hit the hillside though I don't know which one. I have a small photo but was asked to keep it quiet by Rochester airfield management, as they sent it to me. I don't think I should post it on here. The B17 in question was unnamed, its serial number was 43-38437 (the 43 is the year in which the money was made available for it to be built. It belonged to the 100th bomb group flying in the 350th bomb squadron. That's pretty much all I have.
The B17 I am interested in crashed near the dog track site, my late dad went all over it, I have tried tracing it and have a couple of possibilities. I shall post more about it when I am a bit more certain.
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: lutonlad on April 06, 2014, 21:49:13
Thanks for that, very good story.  :) Nice to know the locals took good care of them.
Title: Re: Rochester airport myths or fact and bomb holes!
Post by: lutonman1 on December 14, 2017, 09:03:19
While cycling near Rochester Airport, near the end of the war, I saw a B17 Flying Fortress, flying very low across the airport, south to north, then I saw a green flare explode in the air. I must have assumed the airport had means to fire a flare or that the aircraft pilot fired it. I heard no more about it, I assumed it flew on to Gravesend, I continued to Maidstone. It amazed me that one B17, crash at Snodhurst Bottom, and one near the dog track. Maybe this was a another B17.