Wevelgem flugplatz (The Allied story)

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Arneken, Feb 19, 2008.

  1. Arneken

    Arneken Member

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    already opened a topic about the german side and this is his Allied counterpart.

    RAF Squadrons operating out of Wevelghem.

    No.2 Squadron.
    15 May 1940 Detachment. (Lysander II)

    No.74 Squadron.
    17 September 1944. (Spitfire LFIXE)

    No.329 Squadron.
    17 September 1944. (Spitfire IX)

    No.340 Squadron.
    17 September 1944. (Spitfire IX)

    No.341 Squadron.
    17 September 1944. (Spitfire IX)

    No.345 Squadron.
    1 November 1944. (Spitfire HFIX)

    The Allied forces liberated Wevelgem in 1944. Soon after that they found the airfield interesting for their own warfare. the damaged airfield was repaired and soon after that the first squadrons arrived.

    Groupe de chasse 1/2 cicognes where one of the 2 French squadrons who staid a while in Wevelgem.

    A piece about wevelgem airfield viewed from No. 151 Repair Unit.

    The Merlins, Alisons and Griffons roar,
    The Sabres Rattle,
    The Wasps Sting,
    The Cyclones Blow,
    and
    The little Lycomings purr away.
    These engines left our good unit for those on high, flying above and around us.
    In their going out and their coming safely back, the Aircrew thanks go to 151.
    The story of 151 enshrines the past,
    As leaf by leaf,
    So day by day,
    Year by year,
    Reunion after reunion,
    The stories of our lives unfold.
    Our eyes grow dim, our hair turns grey,
    Could we, but have read when 151 began
    That the story of our works would stand?
    Through all our days and all our nights
    Until the enemies were put to flight
    - Epitaph to No. 151 Repair Unit (Aircraft), 2nd Tactical Air Force,
    Wevelgem, Belgium, 1944-45, by Harold E Jacobson, ex. 151RU(A)

    In September 1944, three Queen Mary lorries, each loaded with an aircraft engine test bench, and a Hillman Utility loaded with emergency rations, arrived at Wevelgem Airfield, near Brussels in Belgium. This was an advance party from No. 151 Repair Unit (Aircraft) - or 151RU(A) - a detachment of the 2nd Tactical Air Force.
    Wevelgem itself had had a pedigree flying history, having been used by German flying ace Baron Von Richthofen during WW1, and from 1942 by the 'Top Guns of the Luftwaffe', the JG26, under the jurisdiction of legendary Jagdgeschwader General Adolph Galland.
    But in 1944, Wevelgem was back under Allied control, initially under a Free French squadron of Spitfires. By the time the main unit of No. 151 Repair Unit (Aircraft) arrived in October 1944, the advance party had already established three aircraft engine test benches in position and ready for work. Eventually, there were six benches;

    1. two for the Merlins
    2. one for Wright-Cyclones
    3. one for a Pratt and Witney Twin Wasp
    4. one for a Lycoming
    5. one for Griffon engines (for the Spitfires of 610 Squadron)

    In addition, a Hawker Typhoon EJ693 was adapted by 151 RU (Repair Unit) as a test bench for Napier Sabre engines. All in all, the unit was able to service nine aircraft of the 2nd Tactical Air Force, four British and five American.

    1. Spitfire (British)
    2. Typhoon (British)
    3. Mosquito (British)
    4. Tempest (British)
    5. Mustang (US)
    6. Boston (US)
    7. Mitchell (US)
    8. Marauder (US)
    9. Auster (US)

    Standard propellers were used with a depression box to take the engines up to their rated altitudes. Notably, this was the only engine test bench facility in the 2nd Tactical Air Force and played a vital role in keeping the aircraft flying. And from the first engine test in November 1944, the two Merlin benches worked three shifts a day, day-in, day-out, until beyond VE Day, 8 May 1945.
    During that period, at Christmas 1944, the men of 151RU(A) gave a festive party for the 2,000 or so children of Wevelgem. It was the same time as the Ardennes Offensive.

    'We served the children carrying our Sten Guns and two clips of ammunition, whilst serving the children with currant bread and cocoa as the Germans dropped their troops behind our lines. One of the young children, Anny, sang God Save The King, in English. She is now is a very close friend of ours, and her husband Etienne Vanackere is now curator of the Wevelgem Airfield Museum.'
    - Harold E Jacobson

    Harry Jacobson formed part of the advance party arriving at Wevelgem from RAF Odiham in September 1944. With his wife Min, and uniquely for an English couple, he was invited to and attended a Luftwaffe reunion from 12-15 May 1994, there meeting up with members of the old JG26 who had used Wevelgem from 1942-44. The speech he gave, whilst exchanging plaques with ex-JG26 Luftwaffe flier, Gottfried Schmidt, at the reunion was approved by then British Prime Minister, John Major.
    Harry also revisited Wevelgem Cemetery on 18 May 1997, laying there a wreath to commemorate those who lost their lives during WW2. Over 2,000 RAF and Commonwealth aircrew are buried in Belgium, some of whom share the same Flanders soil as their relatives who died in 1914-18.

    A hartwarming story wich my grandfather and grandmother still remember (they were about 12-13 years old then) The y are still thankfull to those fine English soldiers.

    After the war Wevelgem remained an important "RAF- repair" airfield.
     
  2. Arneken

    Arneken Member

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    A small mistake in the text. Actually Markebeke was the airfield where The red baron took off. Marke(beke)(Marke is the town beke stands for the small river that passes next to the castle of Bethune.) is just 10 kilometers from Wevelgem and on a clear day and if you look in the good direction you can see wevelgem from the place where Markebeke once was.


    Greetings.
     
  3. Arneken

    Arneken Member

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    Suprises me that I didnt got any reactons on this topic? nobody has got anything to ad?
     
  4. Marshall_Stack

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    I didn't think that Mitchells (At least those of the USAAF) operated in the ETO.
     
  5. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Nice to hear a little bit about Wevelgem, Arneken. Before I caught this stupid disability (Rheumatoid Arthritis), I used to do a bit of flying, and the Popular Flying Association in Britain organised a number of fly-outs to places 'across the Channel'.It was a bit of a long hop for us in the North of England, but a number of aircraft flew from my club to Wevelgem each year. I had the pleasure of doing one trip, as P2 in a Jodel, I think in the summer of 1985 , and I remember we all enjoyed fantastic weather, and had a great long weekend with marvellous company. Happy days! Wish I could still do it, but I couldn't even climb into the cockpit these days!
     
  6. Arneken

    Arneken Member

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    interesting remark.

    B-25 did saw action in the RAF: Mitchell with Royal Air Force
    that wasn't a secret for me either.

    Maybe the mitchells weren't in acive duty? or didn't preform armed operations?

    is that a possibility of somekind?
     
  7. Bernhart

    Bernhart <b>2012 Forum Fantasy Football Champion</ b>

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    the free french used the Mitchells too I believe
     
  8. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    Dutch 320th navy squadron was equiped with B25 Mitchells and saw considerable amount of action in western europe.
     
  9. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    The U.S.A.A.F. used Mitchells in the southern part of the E.T.O., over Italy, but technically, as far as 'theatres' go, the area would probably come under the M.T.O.
    There were also about three Mitchells used by the 8th A.F. in the U.K. at one time, ex-15th A.F. machines, for courier/V.I.P. work, plus an undetermined number used on clandestine ops., leaflet dropping, and associated with E.C.M. work. These aircraft were, as far as I know, painted gloss black on the undersurfaces, with O.D. uppers, with one at least having N.M.F. uppersurfaces. So far, details on the latter group of aircraft have proved sketchy, but no doubt someone out there knows more!
     
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