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RAF Bovingdon - 1960s

Old 15th Dec 2008, 17:48
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RAF Bovingdon - 1960s

Does anyone know of any photos of general RAF activity at Bovingdon in the 1960s? Nostalgia has hit me hard in my fifties, and I’d love some visual reminders of an airfield I often spotted at when I lived nearby as a boy between 1965 and 1967 (yes, bad timing, missing out on filming of two Mosquito movies).

For me, Bovingdon was Ansons, Devons, Pembrokes and Bassets. Okay, not as exciting as living near a fighter or bomber base, but fascinating nonetheless. During school holidays, I’d cycle up between the ATC-controlled traffic lights on the road by the south-west of the base, lean my bike against the fence and crouch down facing the main runway to enjoy the take-offs right over my head. I can still hear the skylarks during the quieter moments…

I recall some unusual visitors, including a Shackleton. In hindsight, I’ve wondered if its presence was anything to do with Coastal Command top brass at (relatively) nearby Northwood. Can anyone confirm? Then there was the occasional appearance of a Fouga Magister. I have recently read that it lodged at Bovingdon for the use of French air attachés from their London embassy. Again, can anyone confirm? I also remember the excitement one summer Saturday morning (15th July 1967) when the Reds brought their Gnats to Bovingdon for lunch prior to performing at the Elstree air show.

I always had the impression Bovingdon was a happy station, well placed to enjoy London and the local countryside. Anyone here who was stationed there in its twilight years? Perhaps you’ve got a pic or two to satisfy my nostalgia!

Thanks!

Last edited by XV490; 12th Feb 2009 at 16:54.
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Old 15th Dec 2008, 18:19
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Bovingdon

There is a very good feature on RAF Bovingdon in the October 1968 copy of Aircraft Illustrated.Several photos including US Navy Martin Mercator and Italian Air Attache SM.102.Would be happy to copy it and send it to you if you E Mail me.
MELVYN.
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Old 15th Dec 2008, 19:11
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I was posted to the Fighter Command Communications Sqn at Bovingdon in April 1956, but only spent a couple of months there before being posted to FEAF at Changi.

In 1956 RAF Bovingdon was a busy station. In 1956 it housed both the Fighter Command and Coastal Command Communications Squadrons equipped with Avro Ansons and DH Devons. Servicing was carried out by civilian contractors with only a few RAF ground staff.

In addition the USAF 7531st Air Base Squadron had a detachment based here to service the frequent flights with personnel and freight to the USAF HQ 3rd AF in Ruislip from various USAF bases in Europe. USAF C47s and C123's were regular daily visitors. Also attached was a communications detachment from HQ 3rd AF in Ruislip to provide long-range ATC communications for the USAF.

The USAF departed in 1962 and the RAF left the airfield in January 1969. What used to be the airfield is now occupied by The Mount Prison.


Whilst I was there many of the pilots posted to desk jobs at the Fighter and Coastal Command HQs (RAF Stanmore and Northwood respectively) kept up their flying hours by flying the Avro Ansons based at Bovingdon.
The rather smart DH Devons on strength were used as VIP transports to the flying stations in their commands by the C in Cs, AOCs etc of Fighter and Coastal Command and were not available for casual hours building flights.












And here's a view of nearby Berkhamsted in 1956. The LMS main line to Birmingham and the north can just be seen as it passes through a cutting and tunnel in the centre top. Also visible is the Grand Union Canal which runs part of its course alongside the railway.
I took this photo for my then girlfriend who lived in one of the large houses at the bottom of the photo.

Last edited by Warmtoast; 22nd Oct 2012 at 11:50. Reason: To reinstall moved photos.
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Old 15th Dec 2008, 19:37
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Bovingdon

Thanks very much for the information, pictures and offer.

Come to mention it, I do recall seeing a few RAF staff cars with top brass in the back pulling into the main entrance - no doubt off in a DH Devon to some far-off airfield.
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Old 15th Dec 2008, 22:39
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XV490. This thread brought back some memories!!!. I used to do the same as you on many occasions. I remember being at the traffic lights, watching a Meteor 7 landing too long, failing to get airborne again, swerving off the runway in a huge cloud of dust across the eastern skyline, and coming to rest minus it's port gear. I was young at the time, and my parents disbelieved me, until they saw a small report in next days 'Daily Telegraph'.I also saw a USAF A26 Invader, a T.33 C119, and of course the resident C.47s. I was allowed round the hangars on one occasion, in one of which was a 'Skyways of London' Constellation. I was approaching the airfield on one occasion, and saw nothing less than a B.45 Tornado climbing away to the west., Happy days!!.
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Old 15th Dec 2008, 22:46
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I was an Air Cadet in the 60s and we had a number of Wing Parades there. I remember having a great march past when the Battle of Britain fleet were based there - Heinkel III and the Mitchell film aircraft.

In 1968 my Gliding school moved to Bovingdon and I did my first solo there.

I overflew it recently en route to Duxford. It is still there, just..
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Old 15th Dec 2008, 22:56
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Great website with photos of aircraft at Bovingdon. Official Bovingdon Village Website click on history then Bovingdon airfield ,scroll down script click on the blue "more" to access the airfield web page.
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 00:05
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bovingdon

Is there anyone out there who worked at the airfield in the middle 40s the days of American European air transport E.A.T.S. Lancashire Airways ,B.O.A.C and the R.A.F. Comm Flt which had the World air speed record Meteor EE??? on charge the airfield had over a dozen H.P Halifax/ Haltons there of B.O.A.C /Lancashire Airways .B.O.A.C left about 1947to go to L.H.R. the things that sticks in my mind was the cold winters it was warmer outside than it was in the hanger first thing in the mornings and living in ex service duffle coats , naval sea boot socks and wellingtons
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 11:02
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Thanks for the links. I did hear someone was planning a book on Bovingdon's history, but it's yet to materialise...

It seems my time locally ('65 to '67) meant I missed out on the Fighter Command Comms Squadron days, when there was a Meteor or two at Bovingdon. In my time, it was the piston twins of the RAF Southern Communications Squadron, which presumably had combined the fighter and coastal comms units (for brass hats at Stanmore and Northwood). Daily flying seemed incessant in those days - there was always something in the circuit over my village (Ley Hill).

Given how small it was, it amazes me that Bovingdon played such an important role in WW2 for the US 8th Air Force's technical team - for example, in developing drop-tanks for fighters. I'm surprised there's not a memorial nearby to mark its wartime roles, including the B17 missions flown from there.

Earlier this year I embarked on a small crawl of the local pubs (one Diet Coke in each) to see if any had any commemorative photos of the base. Unless I missed a hostelry, there were none. Shame - here in East Anglia, many pubs near old airfields have at least one reminder on the wall; one went the whole hog and called itself The Flying Fortress (near Rougham).

Which raises the question - has there ever been a thread here devoted to pubs with photos/memorabilia associated with local airfields? While 'modern' landlords might see fit to clear history from their walls, some are happy to celebrate it anew. For example, a couple of years back, the owner of the Thatcher's Arms at Mount Bures (near Wormingford airfield) asked me to source photos of the USAAF's 55th Fighter Group for a permanent display. The late, great Roger Freeman was happy to help me, supplying some previously unpublished shots.

Off the beaten track, I've found quite a few photographic gems - for example, the huge photo mural in the Chequers pub (near Matching airfield) of a B26 dropping bombs - hardly PC, I'd have thought, among the contemporary decor in such a cosmopolitan establishment. But bless 'em for keeping it there.

Anyone got any more worth visiting?
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 14:00
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has there ever been a thread here devoted to pubs with photos/memorabilia associated with local airfields?
A brilliant idea for a thread XV490!

The honour of making the opening post for it is yours. My chart and pencil are ready to take notes!

Cheers,
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 15:19
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Bovingdon pictures

T-21 - thanks for the link. After a bit of messing about on that site, I found a great collection of photos during the RAF's tenure of Bovingdon at: http://www.bovingdon-airfield.co.uk/
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 15:23
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Evileyes - might this quest merit a new thread to itself?
I'd say so, and might be deserving of a sticky too!

Back to Bov, didn't they film "The War Lover" there? Excellent shot xists of John Crewdson bring a B-17 across the airfield at height which made Don Bullock look quite conservative...
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 15:31
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New to this lark, so I don't know what a sticky might be. Doubtless I'll be put right soon.

Yes, the War Lover was filmed at Bovingdon. I've today found a few colour shots of the movie's B17s on location: go to http://www.bovingdon-airfield.co.uk/ and select aircraft gallery/USAAF/more (and more!).
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 18:27
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Pubs

At moderator Evileyes' suggestion, I'm going to open a new thread to continue gathering details of relevant pubs. Thanks for your contributions so far!

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Old 16th Dec 2008, 19:38
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Bovingdon Memories

I was deputy Satco at Bovingdon 67 to 69 and while there I worked closely with the MOCA civil Fire Crew who had been there for years previous. They told me that before the USAF left they buried tons of spares in the grass areas as well as burying a complete Lightning aircraft adjacent to the fire ground. I never got to excavate, but there will be some interesting finds if ever it is dug over. When the Battle of Britain filming finished the film company buried their dummy bombs in the grass adjacent to what was the underground avaition fuel storage facility. The fuel tanks were removed in 69 by flooding the gravel pits in which they were buried, then the empty tanks floated to the surface for removal. The largest aircraft that visited when I was there was a DC6 which came in to have seats fitted by a local firm. The Fouga Magister was resident as were Bassetts Ansons Pembrokes & Devons. The Ansons were sold off from Bovingdon in 68 and two went to Biafra flown by some intrepid pilots from Elstree who did their tail dragging conversions with the RAF before departing. Another Anson set off in the hands of a PPL accompanied by an air hostess from Luton for the States and on the first leg to Prestwick ended up in Ireland. I don`t know if they ever crossed the real pond. My time at Bovingdon was interesting as 3 films were made there during my time these being Mosquito Squadron, Battle of Britain & 633 Squadron. Mitchell, Messerschmit, Spitfires and Hurricanes were all mustered by Grp Capt Hamish Mahaddie as needed.
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 21:48
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I remember my Dad taking us to Bovingdon in what must have been the late sixties. A whole bunch of a/c had flown in, one of which was an orangey/red thing, a bit like a Lanc as I remember, and my Dad told me that a camerman fell out of it, obviously, to his untimely death !!.

Incidently, XV490, you will obviously know 'The Swan' in Ley Hill. Did you know that the pub scenes in 633 Squadron were filmed there ?

Anyway, now I live in Chesham, just down the road from Bovingdon. A lot of Chesham girls ended up moving to the USA, because Chesham was the main town where the 8th Airforce boys spent their dosh.

I fly out of Denham, and generally return there via Bovingdon thanks to it's VOR. Many others use it too, and on a saturday or sunday when the weather's good aircraft are like the proverbial flies round a cows a*se, so I always transit the area at an irregular altitude. (Not that I can hold regular one !!!!!!)
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Old 16th Dec 2008, 22:23
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A whole bunch of a/c had flown in, one of which was an orangey/red thing, a bit like a Lanc as I remember, and my Dad told me that a camerman fell out of it, obviously, to his untimely death !!.
That sounds like the B-25 "Psychodelic Monster" used in BoB - camera man who fell out of one was John Jordan who fell out of a B-25 around the same time filming Catch 22 in Mexico.
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Old 17th Dec 2008, 09:26
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Hi. WiILLHUNG. As you say,BNN VOR was like bees round a honeypot. Like you, I used to fly at 2337 feet, 'cos nobody else does. Sad fact is that one did. Miserable day, looked up, blue Cherokee at same height and head on very close. I banged the throttle and turned hard right, he banged the throttle and turned, yes, you've guessed it.......HARD LEFT. VERY close. Taught me to talk to radar that did!!!.Happy days.
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Old 17th Dec 2008, 09:30
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WILLHUNG Slight thread creep. I married a delightful girl from Chesham Bois. Her mother worked in the Post Office there.
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Old 17th Dec 2008, 09:46
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Will Hung - I know The Swan at Ley Hill well. But according to the landlady of the The Three Compasses at Aldenham, it was her pub that was used in 633 Squadron. See <h2>The Three Compasses</h2>

As for the wartime Bovingdon GIs, I once read that a 'Propyhlactic Station' was provided in Chesham for their benefit. I had to look that one up in a dictionary.

Last edited by XV490; 17th Dec 2008 at 10:20. Reason: grammar
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