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RAF STATION FELTWELL – some amendments
(Article two in the RAF Feltwell loop)

By a strange quirk of fate a Mr Bill Marshall of Northwold was sitting in the waiting room at the vets looking through August’s edition of the magazine when he came across the first part of the history of RAF Feltwell. What is strange about this coincidence is that Mr Marshall was an electrician working for 37 Squadron from 1939-1941both at Feltwell and later in Egypt. Having read the article he contacted me to point out some inaccuracies in the official history as related to his squadron. What follows is a collection of amendments to ‘RAF Feltwell. a Definitive History’.

No. 37 squadron was formed from B flight of No. 214. In fact some electrical equipment was cannibalised from 214 in order that 37 could became operational.

In 1939-40 Bill recalls that some aircraft were dispersed into the area behind the old mill on the other side of the Wilton Road. In addition he remembers being part of a detail to chop down some trees on the Old Methwold Road so that the planes could be dispersed properly in that area. At the time Lord Haw-Haw broadcast that the "Wellingtons were hiding in the trees." (Has anyone got any pictures of these planes?

No. 37 was dispersed to Methwold, not ‘working from’. Bill knows this to be correct as he recalls a "train load of bombs being pulled by tractor up to Methwold. These were loaded onto a Wellington but it was too heavy to take off, the wheels had sunk into the ground!" Consequently Wellingtons did not fly out of Methwold whilst 37 squadron was there. This was experiment number one.

Wellington 1As were in fact introduced in mid 1940 to both squadrons.

Experiment number two involved loading a Wellington with bombs in a pit to minimise the risk of damage to other planes should something go wrong with the loading. Sixteen 250lb bombs were loaded but no available tractor was strong enough to pull the plane up the slope of the pit! No other choice existed but to load the planes on the airfield where they stood. Which brings us to the photo of the wreckage, which is not the result of a crash, but rather of an accident. The event pictured happened in 1940. In Bill’s words, "seven aircraft were bombed up for a Saturday night raid. Unfortunately an armourer pulled the pin of a photoflash bomb and all seven planes were damaged in the resulting explosion. The pilot of the plane was a Jock Watts. He was more upset by the loss of his mascot, a pair of boxing gloves, than by the loss of his plane."

The Schillig Roads and Wilhelmshaven attacks took place on the 18-20th December 1939.

On the 12th November 1940 No 37 squadron was moved to Egypt, not Malta as previously quoted - the planes refuelled in Malta and then flew on - the rest of the personnel went by sea aboard HMS Manchester, part of the Mediterranean fleet. Whilst sailing through the Med the fleet engaged the Italian navy in the first sea battle of the war at what became known as the Battle of Cape Spartivento (see map) and Bill has a certificate to prove it. The date was November 27th 1940. Bill claims that the official history of the war does not acknowledge that this battle took place. The fleet docked in Alexandria on the 30/11/1940 and 37 squadron was taken by train to Fayed which was declared open on 1st December 1940 under Wing Commander W. Merton. From here they moved to Shallufa. It was from Shallufa in 1941 that the first Wellington of 37 squadron to crash flew. After much effort and many communications with the RAF Bill has found out that the crash occurred in Menidi, Greece. He was particularly keen to find out what had happened as his best friend John (Jack) Casey was on board. Jack was one of 6 on board this flight, 5 died outright; Jack suffered severe burns and died in hospital a few days later. The second crash occurred in Egypt.

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