Biggin Hill - Photos from the Early 1950's 1,2,3 (Merged)
Following photos are scanned from 3˝ x 2˝-inch prints in my album so are not of ideal quality. Original negatives were lost in a 1970's house move - which is a pity.
Biggin Accommodation Blocks
Taken from the back seat of a 41- Sqn Meteor T7 as it returned to Biggin from a Target Towing air-to-air gunnery practice mission over the English Channel. The A233 Bromley to Westerham road runs right to left in the middle with the officer’s mess and married quarters on the far side of the road. I was billeted on the first floor of the block with the bright face just in front of the Meteor's left engine nacelle. The pre-fab type huts to the right housed the Biggin Hill Operations briefing rooms. See next photo for the same scene over fifty years later!
Queen Mother - Biggin Hill April 1955
As their Honorary Air Commodore, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, visited Nos. 600 and 2600 (City of London) Squadrons at Biggin Hill on Saturday 23rd April 1955. She flew from Smith’s Lawn, Windsor Great Park, to Biggin Hill in a Westland WS-55 "Whirlwind" helicopter of the Fleet Air Arm, making her first helicopter flight. HM was received by AVM H. L. Patch, A.O.C. No. 11 Group. Later she reviewed a parade of both squadrons and watched a formation fly-past of No. 600 Sqn aircraft and a demonstration of Bofors gun-drill by No. 2600 Sqn.
Biggin Hill - Queen Mum Visit to 600 Sqn RAuxAF - April 1955
Taken as the Fleet Air Arm Westland WS-55 with the Queen Mother aboard departed from the helicopter pad on the station parade ground on her return to Windsor Great Park. Her visit was not a particularly nice for one airman in the guard of honour when she pointed out to the SWO (Station Warrant Officer) that the airman's shoes were not as shiny as the others with the result that he was confined to camp of 14-days - this "offence" was the talk of the Station and was not received very kindly and left a somewhat bitter taste. It was also the occasion I believe when the then Under Secretary of State for Air, George Ward, who was present, was seen to be wearing socks of two different colours, one blue and one brown. When this discrepancy was pointed out, he famously commented: "I have another pair with the same colours in my wardrobe at home”!
41 Sqn Meteor 8s
41 Sqn, the one regular squadron at Biggin Hill was equipped with Meteor F.8s, both camouflaged and with bare metal finish as shown here. They re-equipped with Hunter F.5s in August 1955.
As I looked in 1954
Biggin Meteors Stream Take-off
Not sure which squadron these are from, possibly 600 or 615 – during a practice for AOC’s visit — I think.
Biggin Meteors Stream Take-off
600 & 615 Sqn Meteors flypast
Biggin Hill based Auxiliary squadrons Nos. 600 (City of London) and 615 (County of Surrey) flypast for the AOC's Annual Inspection 1954 or 1955.
600 & 615 Sqn Meteors flypast
Auxiliary squadrons Nos. 600 (City of London) and 615 (County of Surrey) do a formation break during their flypast for the AOC's Annual Inspection 1954 or 1955.
41 Sqn Hunter
41 Squadron re-equipped with Hawker Hunter F.5s in August 1955. This photo was taken looking south from the old control tower alongside the northern taxiway which runs parallel to the A233 road. In the left background can be seen the Gilfillan AN/MPN 4 Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) equipment. I had a collection of colour transparencies showing the GCA in action, with both inside and outside shots and with the talkdown operators working inside. Sadly they we lost in a 1970’s house move and are no longer to be found - a pity.
The Hunter photo almost looks like the scene today. The hangar in the backgrond and apron at the front of it still look like that, albeit with different aircraft types parked. The tree and 'blast pen' area to the right of the hangar has been developed over the years and is now a line of hangars. (although I can still remember it looking like that in the early 60's)
In the early 1950's it was the custom for a variety of RAF, RN and USAF aircraft to be flown in so the Royal Observer Corps and the Army Anti-Aircraft Command (then an integral part of the UK’s air defences) could examine up close on the ground the friendly aircraft they were expected to recognise in the air. I took the following photos at the 1954 Recognition Day.
First photo is of a 56 Sqn (Waterbeach - based) Swift F1 WK207 ‘N’ complete with squadron red and white checkerboard markings. The Swift was introduced into the RAF in February 1954, becoming the RAF's first swept-wing aircraft, but unfortunately, because of major control problems when flying at high altitude which resulted in several accidents, they were grounded for a while in August 1954 whilst attempts were made to sort out the aircraft's problems.
As can be seen it was the object of attention for Biggin based airmen (and others) normally used to Meteor Mk 8’s.
Boulton Paul Balliol T2
This aircraft was from 288 Sqn Middle Wallop and used by the Fighter Command Control and Reporting School (also based at Middle Wallop) as the target for practice interceptions by Brigands of 238 OCU (Colerne) that trained radar operators for night and all-weather fighters.
151 Sqn (RAF Leuchars) Meteor NF11
RAF Neptune MR1
This Neptune MR1 WX547 was from the Fighter Command Vanguard Flight (1453 Flight) based at Topcliffe in Yorkshire. Vanguard Flight Neptunes carried out some of the initial Airborne Early Warning Radar trials over the North Sea.
HMS Centaur-Based Sea Fury FB11
Although based on the aircraft carrier HMS Centaur, this Sea Fury FB.11, WF617 of 810 Sqn Fleet Air Arm flew in to Biggin from the Royal Naval Air Station at Culham not far from Abingdon. At the time RNAS Culham (HMS Hornbill) was home to reservists, the FAA version of the RAF's Auxiliary Air Force of part-time week-end flyers and was equipped with Sea Furys like this one.
Fairy Firefly from RNAS Lee-on-Solent
RN Ford-Based Attacker
RNAS Ford (Sussex), based Supermarine Attacker F1
USAF Manston-Based F86F
In 1954 Manston near Ramsgate in Kent was a USAF base that housed the USAF 406th FIW. Manston had a variety of aircraft on strength. This rather battered-looking F86F Sabre is one of them (look at the wrinkling of the fuselage and the iffy paint job).
Sculthorpe-based USAF B-45 Tornado
Looks as if something's missing from the end of the wing
RN Fairey Gannet - not sure from where
Auster AOP6 of 661 Squadron RAuxAF
Avro Shackleton Mk2
Shackleton Mk2, serial number WL743, of 42 Sqn, St. Eval (Cornwall). Sadly this particular aircraft went missing on the night of 11 January 1955 and is assumed to have collided with WG531, also from 42 Sqn, south-west of Ireland. Both aircraft were declared Cat.5 (Missing) the same day. In total eighteen crew died, nine in each aircraft.
Break for Landing
These Vampires visited Biggin for an event, but not sure why, or the station from which they came.
Last edited by Warmtoast; 15th Jul 2009 at 00:06.
Reason: To amend captions
I was under the impression that 1959 Flight was detached to Henlow at some stage whilst 1957 & 1960 Flights were based at Kenley.
An Appendix to 661 Squadron ORB shows the dispersals to Henlow, Hendon and Kenley early in 1950 (but unfortunately TW577 is not one of the Austers listed) so by 1954 arrangements may well have been amended.
Great Pickies, thanks v much for posting. I think you are correct when you suggested the Sabre could be Canadian. Did you, during your time at Biggin, encounter any of the ghosts which are said to roam those parts?!
I think you are right in suggesting the Sabre is Canadian. The fin marking is not a style I can remember seeing on any RAF type and the design of it looks to me like 441(F) Sqn RCAF, just below the chequerboard you can just make out the Canadian flag, which was used as a tail marking.
It is probably worth noting that indeed most pilots were Army - from the Glider Pilot Regiment - and all squadrons were AOP (Air Observation Post) and were used extensively after D-Day suffering very heavy losses. The Austers also flew in the Far East.
If you get the oportunity to visit the Army Museum at Middle Wallop you will find it most rewarding.
Location: Quite near 'An aerodrome somewhere in England'
Great photos from the days when the UK's Armed Forces had a decent number of personnel, aircraft and aerodromes.......
I was once at Biggin for a few months and we moved a filing cabinet in OC GD's office. It can't have been moved very often, for out from behind it fell a piece of yellowing old foolscap which was a copy of the notes of a Flight Safety meeting of about 1955! It included gems such as 'Airmen are not to use the wings of taxying Meteors for personal transportation around the aerodrome', a terse note reminding pilots that the minimum altitude of 50 (fifty) ft agl was to be strictly observed in the low flying area - and a comment that Biggin Hill was one of the 34 stations in Home Command in the south of England which would be holding a Battle of Britain At Home Day that year!
What's "missing" from the wing-tip is the tip-tank that was usually fitted, but the Venom flew perfectly OK (if not for very far or long) without them. What a great set of shots ! Brought back vivid memories of great days (specially the Vamps and Venom). Many thanks ! Thinking about the service registration, I wonder if WE382 wasn't one of the early Venoms which had some fatigue problems and whose wings were "red-banded" to make it clear that strict "g" limitations applied. Later Venoms, after production moved from Hatfield to Chester, were suitably modified and Pilots' Notes contained the statement that "this aircraft has no "g" limitations" (which was asking for trouble !) and a "g"-meter was also fitted, so you could see (and show later) how much had been pulled (though trimming fully back and getting an impressively high "snatch" reading was considered cheating ...).