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RAF Bovingdon - 1960s

Old 7th Jun 2011, 08:38
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I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of broadcaster and Cantabrigian Keith Fordyce, who lived close to Bovingdon in the mid-60s. One of his daughters was at my primary school. I never knew he was ex-RAF man who, with a passion for planes, went on to run an aviation museum in the south-west.

I wonder now if, in choosing the farmhouse he moved into in Ley Hill, he didn't simply ignore the constant low-flying of Ansons, Pembrokes and Devons, but positively sought it out.
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Old 7th Jun 2011, 13:36
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You may be interested to see a shot of present day Bovingdon in this thread:
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Old 16th Oct 2012, 13:08
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Any Old Photos?

Can anyone dig out some old photos or dredge up a few memories which have yet to be aired about Bovingdon? Not really interested in Drag Racing, Massive Market or Her Majesty's Rest Home.
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Old 17th Oct 2012, 03:41
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Keith Fordyce was often seen shopping in Chesham, my home town.
There was a rumour that shortly after he moved into the farm in Ley Hill, he opened up a barn which had not been opened for many years. Inside in pristine condition was a 50 odd year old Ford car, with practically no mileage on it. Story was the previous owner of the farm had bought two, meaning to drive one until it 'died' then use the other, but he himself had died and the second car was forgotten.
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Old 22nd Oct 2012, 09:38
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The only good thing that I can remember about my Prep School,where I was incarcerated in 1955, was the sight of a Handley Page Marathon departing from Bovingdon. How I wished I was on it! I recall a year or so later alighting from the green 353 bus at Ashley Green after another terrible day at school to be welcomed home by the sight of a C47 downwind for Bovingdon with nav lights aglow and undercarriage down,disappearing into the gathering winter dusk. It was a sight and sound that is as fresh to me today as it was all those years ago.

We lived in a tiny cottage under the downwind leg of R/W04. My poor father dreaded the arrival in the sky of any strange, unidentified aeroplane for I was a spoilt brat and pestered him mercilessly to ring up ATC to find out what it was and where it had come from. I think it was this constant badgering that resulted in a tour of the airfield which included the control tower and various aeroplanes. I marvelled at the wicker seats in the Italian Air Force SM102 which lurked in the corner of one of the hangars and seldom flew. Finally I was driven out to the GCA Caravan close by the runway where a bored gum-chewing American peered into a very blank scope and attempted to impart the intricacies of radar to my equally blank and uncomprehending brain.

Suddenly one wonderful day there was an unfamiliar rumble and three B17s were distantly seen flying in formation under the afternoon sun - The War Lover had arrived. A month or so later I was shocked to see the wreck of one of these old bombers being carted away for scrap along the Chesham Road on the back of a couple of huge Queen Marys.

At one time I had a crush on a pretty girl, a passion which was not requited. All was not lost however for although romance was out of the question her father was the Producer of 633 Squadron. Thus on a fine hot summer's day I found myself on location at the side of 04. I was not much interested in The Stars who were sitting around sweating heavily under layers of seemingly impenetrable make-up. My eyes were on the Mosquitoes as time and again they roared off down the runway and tore round the circuit. What a sight and sound! The excellence of Location Catering proved to be another revelation.

Mention of grub reminds me of an Open Day at the airfield when there were plenty of aeroplanes to see but sadly nothing flying. It was on this wet day that I discovered Hot Dogs and sampled Salami for the first time.

Well the years passed and one evening my pal David and I clambered over the airfield gates at the Bourne End end of the runway. We had never been to this end before. We settled in the grass near the threshold to watch a lone Devon performing circuits and bumps and wondered idly whether the pilots would report our presence to ATC. The airfield had always been a great place for watching desk-bound pilots performing circuits and bumps in order to keep their hands in but now it was becoming a shadow of its former self. Nearby on this high ground were the woods where one night in 1948 a civil DC3 had crashed with its cargo of French fruit and all aboard had perished.

In its twilight years the airfield became, to me, less interesting. It was difficult to summon up any great enthusiasm for the newly arrived, strangely named Bassets. By this time I was working in the Ops Room of Autair at Luton. What a pity, I thought, that we couldn't divert an Ambassador or two into Bovingdon when Luton fogged out instead of sending them to Stansted or Heathrow - that would liven the place up a bit - but in reality it was just a fantasy.

One day after the airfield closed David and I wandered over the dispersals on the western side. Here we found fragments of Ansons and bagged a section of elevator to take home as a souvenir of many happy years of watching. Incidentally there is a very fine example of a Bovingdon Anson VL349 in The Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum at Flixton.
My last visit to Bovingdon was a year or two later. The place was completely deserted and I set off to walk the main runway. I was about halfway down when a distant helicopter suddenly changed course and dived towards me. The Jet Ranger nearly took my head off but I stood my ground. In truth it was more Billy Bunter than James Bond and I expect the bastards laughed their socks off.

I've never been back but I sometimes still dream about Bovingdon and there I am by the traffic lights and the airfield is stuffed with aeroplanes, many weird and unidentifiable and the place hums with activity.

Last edited by OUAQUKGF Ops; 22nd Oct 2012 at 13:59.
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Old 22nd Oct 2012, 11:56
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OUAQUKGF Ops let slip......

"All was not lost however for although romance was out of the question her father was the Producer of 633 Squadron."

Cecil Ford, gentleman and Producer of note! Which daughter was it? Such a nice family.

"one night in 1948 a civil DC3 had crashed with its cargo of French fruit and all aboard had perished." Including the fruit presumably..... sorry!

Another gem.

I so wish that Producers with the skills of Cecil Ford were still around instead of some of the pen pushers/accountants we have today.

We had 4 Mosquitos for Mosquito Squadron [not the greatest movie!] and we were at Bovingdon with 4 Mossies and our camera plane, the Farnborough Shackleton when the Battle of Britain Aerial Unit arrived plus gaudy B-25 and we were all parked together. Sadly an ex wife destroyed the only pics I had of the Bovingdon apron.

If anyone has a picture of that time I would love to see it posted - hint, hint.
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Old 22nd Oct 2012, 12:53
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I was a pilot on the Coastal Command Comm Flight when the War Lover was being filmed at Bovingdon. Of the three B17 used in the film only one was destroyed when it was used to film a wheels up landing after being badly damaged during a bombing sortie. The other two B17's were flown back to the USA.
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Old 22nd Oct 2012, 12:59
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John Crewdson flew the really low level one in the movie I gather. Solo too if his engineer wasn't telling fibs! Just in case......
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Old 22nd Oct 2012, 13:07
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Here it is:

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Old 22nd Oct 2012, 13:43
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I've just found an excellent short history of Bovy: www.watfordwayfarers.org.uk and try and find 'Bovingdon - The Post-war years.' If that doesn't work just Google the title.
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Old 22nd Oct 2012, 14:01
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Thanks Brakedwell I've made a correction- I'm a bit hazy these days! I think you will find that only one B17 made it back to America. Cheers Tom.
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Old 22nd Oct 2012, 14:16
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They had problems with all three aircraft on the eastbound ferry flight after adding the wrong type of engine oil in the Azores. Several engines had to be shut down due to frothing and I seem to remember they diverted into Lisbon. Both remaining B17's were due to fly back together, but due to one being badly unserviceable John Crewdson flew the good B17 back to the USA, leaving the other one behind. I understood it eventually left a month or so later, but I could be wrong. Memory is a fickle thing, but I recall a story about the rudder falling off one of the B17's when it was taxying at Manston!
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Old 22nd Oct 2012, 18:25
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Martin Caidin wrote a book about the recovery from the desert and the delivery of those Flying Fortresses entitled "Everything but the flak." Since he actually participated in the flight, it's possible that the story is not quite as embroidered as his other "historical" works.

Last edited by 54Phan; 22nd Oct 2012 at 18:26. Reason: to add clarity
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Old 27th Oct 2012, 14:57
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Hello all you brave flying souls. I wonder if you could help me.
I am very keen to pinpoint the exact location of where anything was buried at Bovingdon Airfield. Somebody mentioned a Lightning, I didn't know if it was a P38.
Did the Americans dig a big hole in 1947 or on their second leaving in 1962? And what is definitely there?
I live in the area and am prepared to spend time and money resurrecting the past and honouring all the servicemen involved. Obviously I have just retired and wish to pursue a long held dream.
Please excuse my ignorance as I have only just started researching the history in earnest.
Any stories or contacts on either side of the Atlantic would be gratefully received.
Many thanks.
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Old 28th Oct 2012, 08:48
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Mid 50s I was travelling to Hemel Hempstead on the 'Rover' from Chesham and there was a fighter type (US markings) with tricycle undercarriage parked on one of the circles adjacent to Whelpley Hill. All the adults on the bus seemed to remark about it.
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Old 28th Oct 2012, 18:56
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I remember a double-decker on that route being knocked over close to there by the the 04 threshold. Was the early fifties. I don't remember the type of aircraft, but it was a nasty accident, fatal I believe. Went up there in the Standard Vanguard to ghoul. I recall they put traffic lights in after that and went back to GS single-deckers.
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Old 29th Oct 2012, 02:40
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Been trying to remember the number of the London Transport bus which did this route; was it 335 Amersham to Hemel Hempstead? It alternated with the Rover Bus service although the Rover went along Whelpley Hill to the caravan site and back which the LT service didn't. It wasn't the 336; this was Chesham to Watford in special 'low' double deckers as there were one or two bridges on the route which weren't high enough for 'standard' RTs.
Corrections thanks to OUAQUKGF Ops for sending me a link about London Transport:
It was service 316 Amersham to Hemel, and the special low double deckers were RLH.

Last edited by chevvron; 29th Oct 2012 at 17:32.
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Old 17th Mar 2013, 16:50
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andre jeziorski and G-AGZP!

Hello there! How on earth did I miss this chunk of interesting gen and pics on the LAC/Bovingdon era ! Strangely I discovered it, not directly through a PPRuNe hunt but by entering Andre Jeziorski on Google! The longtime Chief Hostess in LAC/Skyways was, as you probably know, Kate Fewings. Kate is now 98 and looking fine. A couple of days ago I visited her and discovered that she had lost contact with Andre who we last saw at her 90th birthday party. First question is do you know the current whereabouts of Andre who lived in the West End at one time? And the second question is - do you have any gen on copyright covering the three/two engined landing G-AGZP? The other day I had an exchange with Eagle Aviation elements in the matter of dear old Pancho Villa - it's great that some of these earlier pilots are still remembered which is what I am seeking to ensure, in a small way, through my book. If it's easier, my email is [email protected]. I really do look forward to hearing from you having a high regard for your Dad Ray. Kind regards John W E Newby.
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Old 18th Mar 2013, 01:47
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In 1947 the bus you were trying to think of was the 316 green London Transport double decker that ran every hour from Hemel Hempstead to Chesham the other bus was the blue "Rover" single decker that ran the same service half an hour later sharing the route
sorry it has taken so long but have not seen the thread for years .
my father worked for BOAC at Bovingdon and got me an apprentice post with them and we left Bovingdon in the middle of 1948 when we transfered to London Airport taking our converted Halifaxes [Haltons] with us .
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Old 2nd Apr 2013, 20:35
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RAF Bovingdon

I served at Bovingdon as a National Serviceman from 1957 to 1959 working in the Fighter Command Communication Squadron. I was able to take flights many times with several pilots based there or from Fighter Command HQ in different types - Anson, Chipmunk, Varsity, Meteor, Devon and Pembroke.

The only photograph I have is of a Meteor that overshot the runway and finished up across the road.

We were billeted a mile or so away down a lane by a pub. We used the village cricket ground in the summer and often went to another pub in the village. I enjoyed my 18 months there.

USAF was very busy there in those days and I have a list of the numerous types I saw plus other air forces, RAF and civilian aircraft. I still have some RAF maps and the famous RAFAC.
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