Heritage: A strange Christmas at RAF Fairlop
- Credit: Archant
Christmas at war time was very different to the home comforts we enjoy every December. David Martin writes about the 1944 festive period at RAF Fairlop
While we have enjoyed Christmas and the New Year, in the past there have been others not so fortunate, during what should be a joyful time.
Henry Petre, a trained architect and pilot, made a pioneering flight in 1911 from Fairlop to Brooklands in Surrey.
He flew in an open cockpit, wooden-framed aeroplane nicknamed the "Yellow Peril" after its anti-corrosion paint.
His brother Edward, also a pilot, was not so lucky.
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He died on Christmas Eve 1911, flying to Edinburgh.
On Christmas 1940, Mary Hurd, a resident, walked to the fields at Claybury and watched London burning after an air raid.
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When Fairlop opened, she used to count Spitfires out and felt sad when some did not return. She did not know about planes, but could distinguish between the RAF and Luftwaffe by the sound.
Mary thought it stupid having an AA Battery next to an airfield!
Christmas Eve 1944 saw two contrasting events take place at Fairlop.
195 Squadron were on an air firing course at Hutton Cranswick in the East Riding of Yorkshire, until January 4 1945.
Flight Officer Kenneth Trott flew one Typhoon a distance of 220 miles to Fairlop for routine inspection, collected Christmas mail and hampers for RAF personnel and returned to Hutton Cranswick in another.
Ken admitted that the routine inspection was used as excuse to fly down to Fairlop to collect Christmas mails and parcels.
With two sacks of mail he took off to find he had no radio or airspeed indicator.
At Hutton Cranswick, he twice attempted a formation landing with another aircraft, to judge correct airspeed, to see a red warning flare from Ground Control to overshoot.
The third time he ignored the red flares, landed and nearly overshot the runway.
Ground crews later established the radio had no tuning crystals fitted and the airspeed indicator was disconnected!
Four days later he celebrated his 21st birthday!
On the same day, at RAF Station Fairlop, a Boeing B17 Flying Fortress Captained by F/Lt P.H Donohoe USAAF forced landed on the airfield due to engine trouble. The crew of nine were entertained during the Christmas Festivities by the Officers' and Sergeant's Messes.