Around Aberford :: Aberford's contribution to the war effort in WW2

The header picture is courtesy of This file is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License The author of the photograph is Chowells, Noise reduction and shadows lifted by Diliff (wikipedia)

At around lunch time today, looking up towards the sky at Parlington whilst talking to the post lady as she brought our mail; a Spitfire was seen flying approximately north - south. Could this have been a flypast to commemorate the life of Harry Patch who was buried today? [Thursday, August 6th 2009]

This reminded me of the contribution that the inhabitants of Aberford made during the Second World War when they contributed towards the cost of a Spitfire, the story is below.

During the Second World War the inhabitants of Aberford, contributed towards the cost of a Supermarine Spitfire and in June of 1941 an aircraft, a Mark Vb serial number: P8640 was delivered to RAF Brize Norton. A recent enquirer, Johnny Lyttle of Aberford asked if I knew anything about the aircraft.

Being off topic I had not pursued the history of the plane, however I recalled a picture of the plane in a book produced some years ago, titled "Aberford in Times Past" by A.G.Bennett, T. Hayton, K.Hewitt. The entry gave a serial number for the aircraft, so I passed this to Johnny with the suggestion that the MOD might be able to provide more information on the life of the plane. He took up the baton and has been successful in discovering some of the history of the aircraft.


The image is courtesy of Aberford in Times Past, a Countryside Publication, which for those interested has an ISBN number of 086157 115 0

The following is what the RAF Museum sent about the plane:
"Probably named after the village of Aberford, West Yorkshire, Mk. Vb P8640 was taken on charge at No.6 MU Brize Norton on 2 June 1941 and delivered on the 26th to No.609 (West Riding) Sqn at Biggin Hill, engaged on sweeps and bomber escort operations. These duties continued with its transfer on 6 September to No.92 (East India) Sqn, also at Biggin Hill, until being sent to No.610 (County of Chester) Sqn at Leconfield on 15 November for convoy patrols.

On 26 March 1942 Plt Off S. Lanunski P0419 (Polish) of No.1 Delivery Flight collided with a stationary lorry on the narrow perimeter track at Kidlington, being unable to zig-zag in the usual manner in order to see ahead. Although the damage was only classed as Category A, it was flown to No.1 Civilian Repair Unit later the same day for repairs, returning to No.6 MU Brize Norton on 1 June to be despatched on the 20th to High Ercall.

On 12 September it was allocated to No.308 (Polish) Sqn at Heston, but as this unit was away at armament practice camp, it joined No.302 (Polish) Sqn also at Heston, coded WX-G, engaged on sweeps and bomber escort duties. On 8 November P8640 was Category B damaged while being flown by Flg Off E. Horbaczewski P0273 when it was struck by the propeller of W3702 (WX-A Category A, Plt Off M. Muszynski P2011) while returning from Circus 235. Both aircraft returned safely to Heston where W3702 was repaired on site and P8640 sent on the 17th to Air Service Training for repair, awaited collection on 8 February 1943 then delivered to No.15 MU at Wroughton on the 20th.

On 13 May it was sent to Vickers for fuel system modifications, being delivered to No.33 MU Lyneham on 21 June, then returned two days later to No.15 MU Wroughton, being issued on 7 July to No.416 (RCAF) Sqn at Digby for Ramrod and Rodeo operations. It was taken to No.3501 Servicing Unit at Cranfield on 15 July, returning to No.416 Sqn three days later only to be involved in a minor accident on the 20th and repaired on site. It had joined No.2 Tactical Exercise Unit at Grangemouth by 9 November, when the engine failed and a forced landing was made, Category B damage being repaired at a civilian repair unit. It is next recorded with No.186 Sqn at Tain on 10 February 1944. This unit was renumbered No.130 (Punjab) Sqn at Lympne on 3 April and began operating bomber escort duties and also patrols.

On return from a patrol on 28 April Flt Sgt C.H.T. Clay swung on landing to avoid an overshoot and hit a floodlight post, Category Ac damage being repaired on site by 23 May. P8640 was then sent to Scottish Aviation at Prestwick on 8 June, to be waiting for collection on 15 July and delivered to No.8 MU Little Rissington on the 25th. The aircraft was despatched on 2 May 1945 to No.6 MU Brize Norton, from where it joined No.1 Air Gunnery School at Pembrey two days later. On 15 June it was relegated to No.33 MU Lyneham, being despatched on 4 September to Portsmouth Aviation to be struck off charge six days later."

From Gifts of War: Spitfires and other Presentation Aircraft in Two World Wars. Henry Boot and Ray Sturtivant, I.S.O. An Air-Britain Publication. RAF Museum Library Ref: X003-9116.

One snippet of information that has never been corroborated is that during the First World War an aircraft landed in Parlington Park, reputedly from the aerodrome at Headley Bar, just north of Hazelwood Castle. One of the hangers is still in existence!

Headley Bar Aerodrome [Update 2014]

The local airfield, Headley Bar Aerodrome/RFC Bramham Moor/RFC Tadcaster to give it the full title was used by the Royal Flying Corps, later RAF. The official name for the station was RFC Bramham Moor. The site is on the north side of the A64, before the A659 to Tadcaster and there is still a hanger from those times on the site! It can be seen as you drive eastward after the A1 junction, having a large curved roof with external timber buttresses spaced down the length of the walls.

Incidents at the Aerodrome

A Lieut T H French was stationed at the aerodrome. His fate is ironic as he was witness to an accident on the 10th January 1917 when Pilot Captain R Burdon and passenger Lieut F H Turner came down at Bramham Moor, the aircraft having one of its wings clip a tree. The craft hit the ground killing both instantly amidst a considerable fireball. Lieut French was first on the scene, he later described the accident at the inquest (must have been almost immediately after the event) "Opening up the engine to go round again, and with the aircraft six to eight feet off the ground, the pilot appeared to leave his climb too late to clear a wood. A wing tip caught the top of the trees. The machine then rose above the trees until it lost all speed, and then nose dived into the ground, catching fire on impact."

Lieut T H French died in a similar fashion, at the inquest into his death it was stated that he died of multiple injuries sustained when his aircraft came down as he tried to land in a snowstorm, the aircraft hit the tops of some trees while performing the manoeuvre. There is a memorial in the chapel at Lotherton which gives the location as Ringhay Wood, which is only a few hundred yards south of Lotherton Hall. The telegram sent concerning the accident in the usual abrupt fashion stated: "250 ROLLS ENGINE PILOT 2ND LIEUT T H FRENCH RFC CRASHED NEAR ABERFORD YORKS AAA PILOT KILLED AAA ACCIDENT BELIEVED DUE TO ENCOUNTERING HEAVY SNOWSTORM AAA PIOT AND MACHINE BURNT AAA NO PASSENGER +"

Vickers FE2

vickers fe2

Both accidents were in FE2d aircraft, these I believe were FE2d originally designed by Geoffrey de Havilland at the Royal Aircraft Factory in 1911. Picture courtesy of Wikipedia. The aircraft were pushers i.e. the engine was rear of the pilot and passenger facing the stern and therefore the full weight of the engine and the rotating blade would have been a dreadful killer if you had the misfortune to land nose down! There is a lot of useful information here on Wikipedia: Royal_Aircraft_Factory_F.E.2

The aerodrome was disbanded after the war in 1919. How the one remaining hanger (of four originally on the site) has survived is strange but a very good thing as it a rare piece of timber engineering, termed a Belfast truss roof, it is Grade Two listed!

Other WW1 and WW2 Articles

Various other war related items are scattered around the site.
Here are pictures of the troops convalescing at Lotherton during World War One, lower down that page are pictures of troops in Parlington Park during the war.

Then there are the details of how Parlington was utilised during the second world war and the sad death of Douglas Gascoigne in 1944, during the Normandy Campaign here.

Extra Parlington Links

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