The RAF's revenge - or A Spring Saturday and how I nearly missed supper


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Mar 20, 2003
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Probably in the office. Again.
The RAF’s revenge - Part I - RAF Windrush
Sunday 18th August 1940.

By August 1940, the Battle of Britain was reaching its conclusion. On that single day, the RAF shot down or severely damaged thirty-six Luftwaffe aircraft. That day, 129 Germans died. The cost to the RAF was eleven pilots and aircrew.

One of the men who died that day was Sergeant Bruce Hancock. He had almost finished training with No6 SFTS at RAF Little Rissington and was about to go on leave. He was 26.

Hancock had just taken off from RAF Windrush in his Anson L9164. It was dark, and Hancock was practicing night flying. At four minutes to midnight, he collided with a Heinkel HE111 of the Luftwaffe's 5/KG27. The plane had been detailed to attack RAF Brize Norton, ten miles SE of RAF Windrush, but the pilot had mistaken Windrush for Brize and attempted an attacking run.
Hancock's body was not found until the following day, lying 100 yards from the wreckage of his plane. Local firewatchers who found his body claimed that had more of an effort been made to find him on the night of the crash, he may have lived.

The German plane came down at Blackpits Farm near Aldbourne (now just off the A40). The four German flyers were buried with full military honours at Northleach Parish Church. Hancock was buried in the RAF cemetery at Hendon.

But what happened? Did Hancock deliberately use his Anson to ram the German Heinkel, or was it a simple mid-air crash?
Reports from ground observers at the time say that the German plane opened fire on Hancock’s Anson. They also say that he slowed his plane, allowing the German aircraft to overfly him. Then, once the Heinkel’s pilot was committed to the manoeuvre, Hancock climbed, ramming the German plane out of the sky.
Although the RAF never recognised Hancock’s action, he had apparently told his brother-in-law that he would be quite prepared to 'deliberately ram an enemy aircraft' if he had to...
Hancock has two memorials today - one on a plaque in Windrush Church, the other on the control tower at RAF Windrush. It was the latter I set out to find...

A gorgeous Saturday morning. Too good to head into the office, so instead I decided to head out and do some history. I’m lucky enough to live in probably the most airfield-dense part of the country. There are around thirty disused RAF stations around Oxfordshire and into Gloucestershire. I’ve always been fascinated by them, so I often get on the bike and end up standing on an old concrete peri track, somewhere in a field - all that’s left of an old training base or satellite strip.
So, the Panzermoto saddled up, I primed the GPS and headed off to find RAF Windrush.


It’s a bit of a challenge as it’s not on any roads anymore. In fact, you get to the old airfield on a track off the A40 that links Cheltenham and Witney:


It’s a gorgeous ride, with views over the countryside for miles. It doesn’t take long to realise you’re on the right track for an airfield - here’s one of the link roads between two parts of the old camp:


And this, believe it or not, is all that remains of an old air-raid shelter:


The roof’s gone, but you can see the banking and internal structure here:


The accommodation and domestic sites were to the North West of the landing ground, some close to the A40. To the North West of the site, other concrete and brick buildings were training facilities. Plenty are still there, dotted around the site:


Not all in such good shape now though:



During 1942 RAF Windrush was somewhat modernized. A concrete perimeter track was constructed, and two Sommerfeld Track (Steel net) runways were laid. This gave the station a vestige of all-weather capability. At the same time more permanent accommodation was built for the Airmen and WAAF's detached to Windrush. Nine Blister hangars were also erected, allowing some degree of cover for maintenance crews working on aircraft. A standard RLG Watch Office (Control Tower) was built to the north of the landing ground.

The control tower is still there, restored


The runways are still there too, although now used as a dump for old farm machinery (and, in this case, a more modern agricultural machine):


They’re still intact though - or at least, the North/South one is:



You can see from the air how the runways and peri were laid out:

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It's certainly an atmospheric place:

Just by the old control tower you can see a pillbox:



It’s in pretty good shape inside:



And it seems to have an observation area for aircraft-spotting - or maybe an emplacement for a Lewis gun:


But the control tower itself is in great condition. The concrete letters were the airfield’s callsign:



And there, on the side of the control tower, is the memorial to Sgt Hancock:


It was odd. Standing there in brilliant sunshine, gratefully remembering a man I’d never met, but who’d died sixty-eight years ago.

It’s a shame that so many old airfields like this, all with stories to tell, are just left to rot. No memorials, no marking of the past, no sense they’re even important. But they are - they’re a vital piece of the UK’s history.

I’d planned to ride on a few miles to RAF Broadwell, back in Oxfordshire. It was one of the major launch sites for the D-Day Horsa gliders. And, as I discovered, the RAF still has a long reach - even nearly seventy years from the past...
There's an interesting piece on the BBC's WWII site here from a relative of someone who rented the airfield after the war.

Thanks for the report Mark :clap
Nice report, a great day out by the sounds of it :clap
Cheers Mark.

Did a bit of flying in the Oxfordshire area in my younger days. Amazing the number of airfields and satellites that are around. One that might make a nice trip out is near to Leafield. Street.htm

It's about 2km south-east, and I landed on it in a glider, and here's the Wikepedia entry:

The airfield was built over a Roman road, that's the "Akeman Street"of:

2000 years of history neatly combining :clap bet it gave the Germans something to think about where the airfield was actually located :D

Nice report.

Have you been over to Chalgrove to have a look at the Martin Baker Ejector ramp??
The New Forest is another place for airfields/ Littered with em.

My piccy gives away me ex background.:augie

cheers strobingred

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