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Last Updated May 2012


New Beginning for Bottisham Airfield Museum
April 29th 2012

The museum re-opened its new home at the Royal British Legion in Bottisham with a special open day on April 29th 2012.

The museum was given notice to leave its old site on Tunbridge Lane, Bottisham by its landlord who hopes to develop the site for housing.

The museum took the opportunity to show off several new exhibits such as its 361st FG fighter pilot mannequin.


Photo: Courtesy of Rob Carter

For more information on the museum please visit the museum website.

Jason Webb.
Chairman Bottisham Airfield Museum

361st Fighter Group Webmaster


Bigger, better Open Day for Bottisham Airfield Museum
September 25th 2011

The date of the next event at Bottisham Airfield Museum has been set for Sunday 25th September 2011 10.30-4pm.

We hope to build upon the success of previous open days with more attractions & displays.

For more details please call Jason Webb on 07791 971 799 or email jasonwebb361@btinternet.com

Jason Webb.
361st Fighter Group Webmaster


More donations keep landing at Bottisham

The Museum was honoured to be visited by Laurent Wiart. Laurent has done alot of research into 361st FG crash sites in France, especially that of Colonel Christian on August 12th 1944.


Laurent Wiart handing the goggles to Museum Curator Steve Gotts.

Laurent was kind enough to donate the B-8 goggles that had been given to him by a French farmer, who had recovered them from the wreckage of Lt. Merle Rainey's P-51 of the 375th FS, 361st FG that also came down on August 12 1944.

Merci Laurent for returning the goggles after a 67 year absence from Bottisham!

Jason Webb.
361st Fighter Group Webmaster


Bottisham Airfield Museum launches an appeal to raise 30,000 pounds for a permanent home

Bottisham Airfield Museum has launched an appeal to buy a new, larger building on its current site.

The Bottisham Airfield Museum is applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the 50,000 pounds purchase price of the building. However we still need to raise 30,000 pounds to refurbish the building and put on an educational programme.

The new building would allow us to:-

  • Display more exhibits

  • Have a dedicated classroom for education

  • Conserve the existing exhibits better

  • Include larger exhibits as the new building has better access

  • Provide better facilities for the disabled & elderly

  • Have better visitor facilities including toilets

To find out more please contact Jason Webb on 07791 971 799 or email jasonwebb361@btinternet.com

Jason Webb.
361st Fighter Group Webmaster
Chairman Bottisham Airfield Museum Group


Important Visitors at Bottisham Airfield Museum

We were very pleased to welcome Ken & Mary Anderson to the museum this week. Ken is the son of Harry Anderson, 375th FS armourer.

Ken was anxious to see the museum and donate some of his father's wartime photos. We were amazed to see to some previously un-seen photos such as Skybouncer sitting on the field at Bottisham and even more amazed when Ken told us he had over 20 reels of film still to develop!

We are very grateful for this most generous donation. Thanks Ken & Mary.

Jason Webb.
361st Fighter Group Webmaster
Chairman Bottisham Airfield Museum Group


Everyone swings at Bottisham Airfield Museum

We held a successful fundraising dance on May 21st with approximately 80 people in attendance. Everyone swung to the wonderful sounds of Barry Smith's Big Silver Bird.

Thanks to everyone who attended and to Bottisham Legion for being such good hosts.

Jason Webb.
361st Fighter Group Webmaster
Chairman Bottisham Airfield Museum Group


Bottisham Airfield Museum Open Day
Sunday April 10th 2011

Bottisham Airfield Museum Group Open Day on Sunday 10th of April will not only mark the unveiling of the Museum's P-51 Cockpit project but also mark the formal opening of the museum on a once month basis.

The museum will also unveil a number of new exhibits including the fuselage of an original USAAF Link Trainer, a P-47 Supercharger and a P-51 Canopy.

As with the previous open day we hope to attract a large number of military vehicles and re-enactors. Other attractions will include a book stall, refreshments and face painting for the kids.


Picture Geoffrey Wooster - Last October's Open Day

For more information in regards to the open day please get in touch.

Jason Webb.
361st Fighter Group Webmaster
Chairman Bottisham Airfield Museum Group


Bottisham Airfield Walk "hailed as a great success"

Bottisham Airfield Museum Group's Airfield walk has been hailed as a great success by its members.

Over 25 people attended the event which raised significant funds and awareness for the new museum at Bottisham.

The day started with a preview of the museum building & its contents and a talk by Dr Howard Tuck on Operation Bolero/the buildup of the 8th AF.


The inside of the museum building

We then proceeded on a tour of the airfield led by Steve Gotts, author of "Little Friends." Military vehicles and private cars were used to ferry the group from place to place.


A Willys jeep provides an authentic backdrop!

One of the highlights of the tour was to have an actual eyewitness account of the mid-air collision which took place over the field on August 18th 1944 between a 78th FG P-47 and a 361st FG P-51. Peter Dawson was only a young boy when he witnessed the collision but was kind enough to recount his vivid memories to the group near the site of the collision.


Peter Dawson giving his eye witness account

The tour ended in the village with a site not seen in Bottisham high street for over 60 years.


A Dodge Ambulance parked near the church & the old infirmary

Bottisham Airfield Museum Group would like to thank all those who helped on the day and all those who made generous donations.

Jason Webb
Bottisham Airfield Museum Group &
Webmaster 361fg.com


Trip to Boisleux au Mont/ Arras

Ever since my involvement with the group began back in 1995 it has always been my intention to visit the last resting place of the group leader, Colonel Thomas Christian.

Col. Christian came down and was lost on August 12th 1944.


Colonel Thomas Christian

For many years I have corresponded with French historian Laurent Wiart, who has tirelessly researched all allied losses near Arras, especially that of Col. Christian.

As my best friend owns a house in Hesdin, only an hour from Arras the opportunity presented itself to finally accept one of Laurent's kind invitations to visit.

My friend, Russell Hammond and I met Laurent at the library at Arras and Laurent was kind enough to take us first to the crash site of Col. Christian's P-51 "Lou IV/Athlene" in the village of Boisleux au Mont.


The field in which Lou IV/Athlene came down

Laurent has researched the crash and has several eye witnesses who saw Col. Christian attack the marshalling yards at Boisleux au Mont. One of the wings of his P-51 was seen to come off prior to the impact with the ground.


The station - part of the marshalling yards

We then moved to the church where there is a beautiful memorial to Col. Christian.


Laurent and myself in front of the memorial

After which we drove to the WW1 cemetery at Arras, Colonel Christian's last resting place.

Due to bureaucratic errors Col. Christian's grave was unable to be verified and the 361st FG Association provided a marker stone dedicated "in tribute to our loyal leader  beloved hero who gave his life for freedom's cause."


Co. Christian's marker stone (centre)

Laurent has done much research into Col. Christian's burial and believes his final resting place lies under a un-marked grave in the cemetery.


Col. Christian's actual resting place?

Many thanks to Laurent Wiart for giving up his time so generously and answering all our questions.

Merci Laurent!

Jason Webb
Webmaster 361fg.com


Bottisham Airfield "Then and Now" Airfield Walk
April 25th 2010

Bottisham Airfield Museum Group are putting together a fundraising event to help with much needed funds for the new museum.

Details as follows: -

Bottisham Airfield "Then & Now 361st FG" Airfield Walk

Sunday 25th April 2010 - Starting 11am

  • Tour of the airfield led by Steve Gotts 361st Historian and author of the groups history "Little Friends."
  • Tour booklet with comparison photos
  • Preview of the new airfield Museum
  • Trips round the airfield in period military vehicles
  • Talk by historian Dr Howard Tuck on the build-up of the 8th AF & Operation Bolero
  • Coffee & Donuts

Minimum donation 10 pounds - all proceeds to the new Bottisham Airfield Museum.

Contact Jason Webb at:-
jasonwebb361@btinternet.com  Telephone 07791 971 799

If you are planning to come please let us know in advance as we need to allow for catering etc.

Jason Webb
Bottisham Airfield Museum Group &
Webmaster 361fg.com


Bottisham Airfield Museum Group

Bottisham Airfield Museum Group was recently formed at a meeting of Dr Howard Tuck, Steve Gotts and myself with a view to driving forward the museum project at Bottisham.


The Stars and Stripes fly once again at Bottisham with assistance from Steve Gotts and Shaun Levitt in the new museum building.

We are indebted to the support of our landlords at Crystal Structures without whom the project would not get off the ground.

Progress on the building has been fast with the interior now clear and ready for some tidying up prior to decoration - with a survey of the electrics and the roof paramount in our minds.

Our first priority has been to get the exterior right before the worst of the British winter sets in. The trees and branches have now been removed, the walls have been pressure washed and the windows, doors and door frames are being stripped of paint. The rendering is being patched in preparation for exterior painting.

Meanwhile we have also been working on exhibits. Steve Gotts & Howard Tuck have pledged a significant amount of items. But we have also been offered other items such as the fragments from the P-47/P-51 collision over the airfield in 1944, a significant collection of Home Guard items and a number of relics and murals that were saved from parts of the base prior to demolition.

At present we hope to open in spring 2010. We received some donations of financial support at the recent 361st FG reunion but significant funds still need to be found to make the project a reality.

We are particularly searching for display cabinets to house exhibits or the funds to buy them.

We are also still searching for additional exhibits and would welcome donations of photographs, flight gear, uniforms and memorabilia.

We are currently planning a fund raising event, hopefully based around an airfield tour for the new year.

Thanks must also go to the following for their support so far: -

Peter Dyer
Gary Watson
Peter & John Dawson
Shaun Levitt
Ken King

Jason Webb
Bottisham Airfield Museum Group &
Webmaster 361fg.com
 


New Museum at Bottisham - Help!

Advanced negotiations are under way for a museum in one of the remaining original airfield buildings in Bottisham Village.

The museum will be predominantly be focused on the 361st Fighter Group but will also commemorate the RAF presence at Bottisham.

Work has already begun on clearing the site with much work needed to get the site to a display standard.

To make the museum a reality WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Help will be needed with: -

1. donations to pay for the refurbishment work, display cases, security system, exhibits etc 

2. the refurbishment work so if you can help us with painting, electrics etc please contact us

3. exhibits - we are on the look out for 361st FG memorabilia, photos, documents, uniforms, aircraft parts etc

If you think you can help with any of the above please get in touch at jasonwebb361@btinternet.com

Jason Webb
Webmaster 361fg.com


 


Impatient Virgin wins best  P-51 & Phoenix Award at Oshkosh

Hats off to the team at Pacific Fighters after Impatient Virgin picked up the best P-51 and the Phoenix Award at the EAA Convention at Oshkosh.

Pacific fighters have done an amazing job of bringing a part of 361st FG history back to life.


Photo: courtesy of NAA551WB on WIX

Jason Webb.
361st Fighter Group Webmaster


Impatient Virgin Has Flown!!STOP PRESS

From Kevin Larson of Pacific Fighters " Impatient Virgin has made about three flights thus far. All is well & the guys in the shop are making some minor adjustments & last minute applications to the aircraft. "


Picture from Mustangsmustangs.com

Jason Webb.
361st Fighter Group Webmaster


Impatient Virgin STOP PRESS

Kevin Larson from Pacific Fighters has been in touch & has confirmed Impatient Virgin  is approximately 2 weeks out from its 1st flight and is currently undergoing engine runs.


Impatient Virgin under going engine runs Photo: Kevin Larson - Pacific Fighters

Steve Gotts (Group Historian) is currently busily researching more details on the aircraft's history for Pacific Fighters.

Jason Webb.
361st Fighter Group Webmaster


Impatient Virgin to fly again?


Impatient Virgin under going taxi trials April 2008 Photo: John H WIX/Allan Cook Pacific Fighters

When Flight Officer Wade C. Ross of the 376th Squadron, took to his parachute in June 1945, after his P-51B 42-106638 suffered a catastrophic coolant loss, he must of believed that his aircraft was on its final journey.

In an amazing postscript to our earlier story "Hilgay P-51 Recovery" (see story below right) we have learned that Impatient Virgin is to fly again nearly 63 years after it originally crashed at Hilgay .

The aircraft has recently had taxi trials after a 2 year restoration by John Muszala's Pacific Fighters of Idaho Falls.


John Muszala by the cockpit of Impatient Virgin  Photo: River City Weekly

Muszala was sent the plane's remains in 2006 and in an interview for the River City Weekly he said "Our passion and our customer's passion and financial (backing) is able to bring this plane back," Muszala said.

Also Muszala said he's motivated by bridge building, filling the gap between those who saw World War II and the new generation. Rebuilding the planes, most of which were scrapped following the war, inspires conversation. "By '49 everybody was going, where did the airplanes go? Fortunately there were some who kept them around. We build these airplanes because they're storybook kind of airplanes. And the story is too great to be forgotten," he said.


Impatient Virgin during the restoration by Pacific Fighters  Photo: River City Weekly

It is believed the aircraft is owned by John Sessions and will move to his base at Paine Field after the completion of the test flights.

Jason Webb.
361st Fighter Group Webmaster
(with quotes from the River City Weekly)


361st Fighter Group Commemorated on Memorial Day in England, 28th May 2007

In atrocious conditions the annual memorial day service was conducted under the auspices of the United States' Embassy and the 100th Refueling Wing, in co-operation with the Cemetery Staff and was was held at the American Military Cemetery near Cambridge.

 As on many previous occasions, the service was well attended by both American and British servicemen, their wives and families, various groups of Second World War veterans and British friends. The focal point of the service was the presentation of floral decorations. This year, a total of 114 wreaths were paraded by US Air Force personnel along the Wall of the Missing, prior to their placement by the various representatives.

On this occasion, the 361st Fighter Group Association was represented by Jason Webb & Steve Gotts, with Jason laying the memorial wreath. The service included a number of stirring speeches, some beautiful music from a bagpiper and a bugler, the firing of Volleys, Flag Raising and Taps. Unfortunately no aerial flypasts were possible due to the high winds, driving rain and the low cloudbase.


Text by Steve Gotts & Jason Webb


P-47 Identification

Can you help us identify this P-47- marked E9-Z?

Steve Gotts thinks it is the mount of Billy D Welch of the 376th FS - can anyone confirm this?

The query has been raised by Michael Rodgers of the 457th Bomb Group Association who is researching the photo for a B-17's crew members family. It pertains to the mission of the 11th April 1944.

He writes "The 457th Bomb Group was based at Glatton (Station 130) about 8 miles south of Peterborough, England.  It was part of the 94th Combat Wing, First Division, Eighth Air Force.

The April 11, 1944 mission to Sorau, Germany was the Group's 25th mission of the war. The target was the eastern complex of the FW-190 aircraft factories located at an airdrome near Sorau. Overall, a thousand heavy bombers and eight hundred escort fighters were involved in the operations of the day. Remembering the occurrences of 9 April, the Group expected a tough mission. The mission was flown at an altitude of sixteen thousand feet.

The 457th supplied twenty-four aircraft to compose all the high and part of the lead box of the 94th A Combat Wing. Major Rod Francis was Air Commander of the high box with pilot Lt. Edward M. Bender.

On the way to the target, heavy flak was encountered in the Hanover area. Two planes, piloted by Lt. Marsden W. Mattatal and Lt. Adrian W. Seabock, were knocked out of formation and returned to England badly damaged. However, five of Lt. Seabock's crew, including the navigator, parachuted.  Frank T. Ingersoll, the ball turret gunner, parachuting down close to William B. Woodell, the radio operator, landed in high tension wires and was killed instantly.  The other four crew became prisoners of war.

The lead aircraft was also hit, had to salvo the bombs, but stayed with the formation. As they emerged from the flak, Me-109s were waiting, but escort fighters and gunners kept them away.  The primary target was covered with clouds; so the formation headed north for the Politz Oil Refinery, the secondary target, where clouds and other wings prevented bombing. Targets of opportunity were bombed; and the aircraft took the Baltic Sea, Denmark, North Sea route back to Glatton, completing a ten hour mission.  Thirteen craft sustained minor, and eight major, damage.

The P-47 was photographed by Francis E. Cornue, the tail gunner of B-17G serial number 42-97088 flown by Adrian W. Seabock.  This was the Seabock crew's 15th mission.  The two pilots, bombardier, engineer and tail gunner were the five crew who did not bail out.

According to the son of Francis E. Cornue, Lt. Seabock's airplane was escorted back to the UK by this P-47.  He said his father remembered at one point the P-47 using its wing to lift the wing of the hard-to-control B-17.  Eventually, the aircraft made an emergency landing at Ludham, an RAF base assigned to the USAAF, about 10 miles west of Norwich, England.  None of the crew were injured in the landing.

Lt. Seabock and crew, including five replacements, went on to complete a 35 mission tour.

The damaged aircraft was repaired and returned to service.  Exactly three months later, on July 11, 1944, B-17G 42-97088 exploded over England while forming up for a mission, killing three crew."

Any help would be much appreciated in identifying the pilot and perhaps shedding more light on yet another example of the fantastic job the 361st did in protecting their 'big friends.'

Jason Webb & Steve Gotts 361fg.com & Michael Rodgers 457th BG Assoc.


Little Walden Tower Becomes a Family Home


With emergency vehicles on standby, Little Walden tower stands ready for another day's operations at AAF Station F-165 in the Spring of 1945.

Having been built to a standard Air Ministry design in 1943, when Little Walden airfield was constructed between Hadstock and Little Walden villages in Essex, the airfield's control tower stood derelict for over thirty years after the end of World War 2 while, apart from developments around the old technical site and the other T2 hangar, the airdrome itself was slowly but surely broken up for hardcore and reclaimed for agriculture.


The focal point for those who "sweated out" many a 361st mission during the war; the view from the balcony today is of cultivated farmland.

It seemed that the old tower would go the way of so many other disused airfield buildings but, in the early 1980s, was given a new lease of life when it was acquired by Roger Lynn Associates (architects) and fully restored as drawing offices. A few alterations were made, notably to a balcony door and a few windows and with the addition of double-glazing, but essentially the tower regained its wartime appearance, largely due to the enthusiasm of the new owner. In fact, it was Roger's interest in the history of Station F-165 that brought about the unveiling of the 361st Fighter Group memorial plaque in June 1984.


A converted window now provides a new front door, while timber decking adds a touch of modernity for those outdoor family gatherings.

Today, Little Walden tower is under new ownership and has been converted once again by local businessman Adrian Thomas, this time into a family home for himself, his wife and two young sons, but also incorporating a studio area for the design of ladies wear. Inevitably, this involved a number of changes to the internal layout but, perhaps surprisingly, the building still retains most of its original external features, as shown in these pictures taken in September 2004. Altogether, they present an interesting comparison with the photograph taken sixty years ago.
 


The Dodge ambulance has given way to the family car, while the wartime weathervane has been replaced by television aerials and a satellite dish!

(With thanks to Mr & Mrs Thomas and family.)

Photo and text by Steve Gotts


Hilgay P-51 Recovery

In November 2004, the remains of one of the 361st Fighter Group's longest serving aircraft were recovered near Hilgay in Norfolk, almost sixty years after it crashed during a low flying training mission on 22 June 1945. Piloted by Flight Officer Wade C. Ross of the 376th Squadron, P-51B 42-106638 suffered coolant failure, resulting in steam entering the cockpit, injuring the pilot. However, F/O Ross baled out safely and later received treatment for his burns at RAF Ely hospital.


P-51B 42-106638 Impatient Virgin photographed over Cambridgeshire in July 1944.

Originally assigned to the 376th Squadron in May 1944 at Bottisham, the Mustang was named Impatient Virgin and carried the squadron codes E9:R. In July of that year, the aircraft featured in a number of official publicity photos taken of 361st formations over England, during which time it was flown by Lt. Victor E. Bocquin. Later that year, it was assigned to Lt. John B. Bricker, recoded E9:B and subsequently modified with the installation of a British made Malcolm "bubble" sliding canopy, plus an additional fin fillet.
 


P-51B 42-106638 Eva parked at airdrome A-64 St Dizier, France in January 1945.

Although the crash-site was located in 2002 by aviation archaeologists David Wade and Jeff Carless, it was not until November 2003 that the first exploratory dig, by hand, was carried out. Even so, the results were spectacular. Items recovered included the windscreen armour glass, canopy cover and the pilot's dinghy, which was in such good condition that it was capable of being inflated! Further digging also revealed a well preserved K-14 gunsight and the complete, but damaged, instrument panel bearing the radio call plate, confirming the aircraft's identity.


Main instrument panel, with radio call plate fitted in centre. (Scale = 6 inches)


K-14 gunsight, with lamp housing displayed, recovered in November 2003.

Delayed by the sugar-beet harvest in late 2004, a full-scale excavation with a mechanical digger revealed yet more finds, especially from the cockpit area including the radio set, rudder pedals and pieces of the control column. Of special interest was part of the right side of the cockpit with the canopy crank handle and release lever still in position and, as a poignant reminder of the pilot who, it was later revealed, had sadly died in the 1960s, F/O Ross' flying helmet was also discovered, left behind in his haste to escape the stricken Mustang.


F/O Wade C. Ross' A-11 leather flying helmet, as found.

Unfortunately, the Packard Merlin appeared to be beyond the reach of the digger, even though parts of it were found, along with sections of the engine bearers. However, another attempt at recovery may be made at a later date. Meanwhile, restored items from this 361st Fighter Group veteran will eventually be added to the displays in the 93rd Bomb Group Museum at Hardwick, in Norfolk.


(L-R) Jeff Carless and David Wade searching the excavation in November 2004.

 (With thanks to David Wade, Jeff Carless and Wade C. Ross, Jr.)

Photo and text by Steve Gotts