January 8, 1945


Still nothing from Wayne . . . . . . .

In England, Verne wrote in his diary . . . ..


Had an inspection by a couple of Generals today. All flying was cancelled for it. Sure seems strange that they stop the war for such nonsense. Rumors have it that Sidden1 will not return as our pilot but nothing definite as yet. Third Div has become a separate outfit under guidance of 8th Air Force. Anxiously waiting for flight pay. No mail.

While Verne thought that it was “. . . strange that they stop the war for such nonsense”, the Headquarters 390th Bombardment Group thought otherwise and with reason.2

This month’s is the most important event was the visit of Maj. Gen. E. E. Partridge3 and his staff. January 8, 1945 was chosen as the day of inspection. The morning was directed to visiting the 568th Bombardment Squadron site, 570th Bombardment Squadron site, Red Cross club, bomb dump, motor pool, Rocker Club, etc. All places visited were found in excellent condition and many favorable comments were received from the general. In the afternoon, a personnel inspection was held in Hanger Number 2. All the units assembled in their own areas and were marched to the hanger where a combined personnel inspection and presentation of awards was held. Gen. Partridge presented the Silver Star to Colonel Joseph A Moeller, the commanding officer of the station, and Master Sergeant Dewitt E. Dunn, an aerial gunner in the 569th Bombardment Squadron. A number of Distinguished Flying Crosses were also presented by the General. The final rating given the station by the inspection party was excellent plus.

Gen. Partridge’s visit to Station 153 may have simply been a routine visit to a heavy bomber base of the 3rd Air Division. On the other hand, he may have come because of it was the closest heavy bomber base in England to enemy territory and an important diversionary base. Battle-damaged USAAF and RAF aircraft diverted to Station 153 as did aircraft whose home base was closed due to weather. The number of aircraft coming into Station 153 is unknown, but its extent is suggested by comments in the Station’s monthly unit histories about having to scrounge enough blankets for crews having to stay overnight or about having to prepare extra meals for diverted crews. The Station, because of its role as a diversionary base was “…one of the most completely equipped bomber bases in the United Kingdom” with regard to flying aids.

Flying aides

Station 153, located only 8 miles from the North Sea, is closest to enemy territory of any heavy bomber base in England – and one of few with a 2,000-yard runway. Thus, it is designated as a diversionary base of the first importance for aircraft returning from operational missions over the Continent. As such, it has been made, with regard to flying aids, one of the most completely equipped bomber bases in the United Kingdom.

These comprise two major categories – radio aids and visual aids. Under radio, the most important are three command sets for RT (Radio Telegraphy) contacts: (01) “Darky” frequency, for all bomber aircraft in the United Kingdom. “Darky” is an RAF term for procedure used by lost aircraft in calling ground stations to determine position or for permission to land. (2) Station frequency, for the 390th’s own planes. (3) Diversion frequency, primarily for the RAF. A new diversion frequency has recently been assigned, eliminating radio interference from other nearby stations.

In addition to the regular RT contacts, a VHF (Very High Frequency) set provides for channels or frequencies, Channel “A” foe 390th and 13th Wing bombers, Channel “B” for Third Air Division, Channel “C” for 8th Air Force fighters, and Channel D for Air-Sea rescue.

HFDF (High-Frequency Direction Finding) contact – WT (Wireless Telegraphy) or code – is provided for passing weather information and other important messages to aircraft and to supply QDMs to the base. A “QDM” is the magnetic compass heading an aircraft is directed to fly in order to reach the base. The code letters “QDM” are part of RAF bomber code. A VHF DF (voice) set works in conjunction with the VHF set and is used primarily for homings. Its range is more restricted than that of HFDF – 100 miles and 9,000 feet. The latter is effective as far as 200 miles at 9,000 feet.

A talk-in system, employing a portable transmitter, permits a control tower officer to direct the landing of aircraft from an advantageous position at the end of a runway.

Buncher 11, a radio beacon located near the west end of the long runway, transmits on a frequency to which returning pilots can tune the radio compasses, a homing device more commonly used than any other. Splasher beacons, similar to bunchers but with greater range, are strategically located along the South English coast and are employed as homing aids by aircraft deep in enemy territory. Most fields have their own bunchers.

SCS-51, the blind landing system, consisting of runway localizer and glide path, becomes more widely used each month. All aircraft are equipped for localizer and 18 have receivers permitting use of the glide path.

Outstanding radar aid to navigation is the Gee box installed in all aircraft; the beacons involved have no connection with the installations on this field.

Visual aids comprise the “pundit”, an “occult”, three complete field lighting systems, flares, rockets and mortars and the signals area, including the windsock and designations showing condition of the airdrome and visual landing instructions.

The “pundit”, a double, high-intensity red signal light, is keyed to omit the Morse code characteristics “F” – “M”. It is in operation daily from dusk to dawn. The “occult”, a single white light, located some distance from the field and serving several stations, is used largely in connection with “Darky” procedures.

The British Mark II (Drem) lighting system consists of a ring of white lights circling the field, with a string of lead-in lights from the ring to each runway, a series of three fog funnels at the ends of the runways and strings of lights outlining the runways and perimeter track. In addition, a series of red, green and amber lights installed between fog funnel and end of runway are so beamed that a pilot can maintain correct glide angle by following their guidance.

The high intensity lighting system – USA Incandescent – indicates runway and approach lights only. Approach lights are red, beginning of the runway green, and the balance of the runway white. The system has five brilliancy settings and is similar to the Drem system in that the lights are visible only on approach and landing.

The third system is regular B-2 portable lighting run by an energizer. A fourth system – contact strip lighting, consists of colored signal lights along the runway that can be seen aloft – is projected and may be installed at a later date

Flares-with a vertical range of 100 feet, rockets that can reach to 1,000 feet and mortars with a 1,500-foot range complete the list of visual flying aides.

Although of no direct connection with Station 153, the emergency landing strip at Woodbridge is so much a part of the local flying system that it merits description. The strip provides 4,000 yards of prepared runway with 1,000 yards of hard gravel surface at either end. It is three times as wide as the ordinary runway. The two right-hand strips are reserved for wheels down landings, the one on the left for belly landings. The landing area is provided with Drem lighting and “Fido”, a fog dispersal system, intended to disperse radiation fog up to 200 feet through burning of low-grade petrol in pipes installed at the ends and edges of the runway.

British Civilian airways are now coming back into operations, with eight lanes already restored to use, including one from London to Paris. Lanes are set up visually and do not employ radio beacons as in the States.4

Notes & Commentary

1 2nd Lt. Charles W. Sidden, the pilot of Combat Crew #87.

2 Adjutant’s History for January, 1945. Headquarters 390th Bombardment Group (H), February 1945, microfilm B0426, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 966-967.

3 Major General Earle Everard “Pat” Partridge was the commander of the 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force.

“Earle E. Partridge,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Earle_E._Partridge&oldid=620396851 : accessed 31 December 2015).

4 “Flying Aids,” Historical Report for January, 1945 Headquarters AAF Station 153, microfilm B0426, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 963-964.

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4 Responses to January 8, 1945

  1. gpcox says:

    The base was a tad too close to the enemy for my taste, but then again – what do I know? My father said the same in the Pacific as far as inspections – 1- they took you away from whatever you were doing and 2- why was there a warning about the visit, the general should want to see the unit in action, as they are on a day-to-day basis – not after 24-48 notice to get everything spit-polished.


  2. suchled says:

    I’m a bit worried about Wayne.


  3. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Flying Aids information is most precious.
    I always thought RT was for Radio Transmission. Now I know what it stands for, all a whole lot more.


  4. Interesting as always, Allen.


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