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Crossbow, No Ball and Rhurbarbs: Everyday life at RAF Fairlop

PUBLISHED: 15:00 18 January 2020

Francis Dennison, 22, with Maureen Harvey. Picture: David Kolody

Francis Dennison, 22, with Maureen Harvey. Picture: David Kolody

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Local historian David Martin shares more tales of what life was like for pilots flying out of RAF Fairlop

From the end of 1943 until the end of January 1944, Crossbow, Noball and Rhubarbs were part of every day life - and death - at RAF Station Fairlop.

Crossbow operations were against V1 flying bomb launch pads.

RAF fighters also attacked German airfields and aircraft (e.g. at take-off or landing) at the time the Luftwaffe fighters would be scrambled.

No Ball target was against enemy V1 missile launchers, bivouac areas, field headquarters, enemy supply/logistic points in support of field operations and concentrated areas of troop and weapon marshalling.

Rhubarbs were fighters crossing the English Channel which would then drop below cloud level to search for opportune targets such as railway locomotives and rolling stock, aircraft on the ground, enemy troops, and vehicles on roads.

Here are some of the entries from logbooks at RAF Fairlop:

30 December 1943. Eight (Hurricane IV) aircraft to attack 'Crossbow' No. 24. Attack 
made from 13/8,000 feet - hits observed.

Two Escorting Typhoons (possibly from 137 or 198 Squadron), collide over target.

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Campaign to Hesdin - 'No Ball' target - attacked this afternoon by 8 A/C led by F/L Howarth.

The undoubted success of the operation was marred by the loss of F/O Dennison who crashed into the sea on the way back some 20 miles SE of Dungeness.

A naval launch was on the spot 20 minutes later and recovered his body. No one knows quite what happened to 'Denny'.

He may have been hit by flak - or it may have been engine failure.

It is said that he made an attempt to bale out before his A/C landed on the water.

No Matter - he's gone and the boys have lost a good pal and the Squadron a good pilot.

2 January 1944. Aircraft attempted Rhubarb, but cloud over target prevented target being located. 4 aircraft in formation machine gunned flak position and claims destruction of gun post and 4 guns.

5 to 13 January. Stationed at Twinwood Farm airfield, Bedfordshire.

14 January. Back to Fairlop.

21 January. Firing in the morning on the Goodwins. (Goodwin Sands, in the English Channel, six miles off Deal, Kent).

25 January. 8 A/C attempted to prang a 'Noball' target but 10/10ths cloud prevented the attack.

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