Welcome to the personal accounts page of the website.  The aim is to provide a reference of personal accounts and memories of those associated with the 55th Fighter Group.  I will continually add to the page as I get sent stories and material.  My thanks to all those who have very kindly offered support so far and I look forward to hearing from anybody with stories to tell (e-mail me).

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Working in Flying Control - Fred Hoxey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Working in Flying Control - Fred Hoxey
Wormingford Station 131 near Colchester, where the 55th F.G. was stationed.

I worked in flying control. The officers I worked with were as follows: (Since I don't recall the rank of all of the officers, I'll give last name only); Bracken, Botti, Rogers, Wahl, Bailey and Davidson.

I want to explain how poor the telephone switchboard reception was. I remembered one time I was on the phone and pilots would call in because they could not make it to home base. There were many reasons; low on fuel, A/C heavily damaged and needed to land at the nearest base he could reach. Sometimes it would be the weather; our home base may be closed due to fog. I remember one time we had a P-47 group land on our base besides our planes. They were from the 56th FG at Boxted six miles away. Their base was closed due to the fog. Our field was close to being closed. We didn't have many parking spaces for them. We had probably close to 20 A/C of theirs.

I remember one time a pilot called our base and was trying to explain who he was and where he landed. Because of the noise in the room or A/C noise outside the tower and poor reception, I could not understand his name or where he was. I had to plug one ear with my finger. I finally had him spell each letter of a word so I could get his name and where he landed. All of us who worked the switchboard had the same problem.

Our other jobs were to keep a mission blackboard to record the pilots name, A/C he was flying, and squadron letters on his aircraft. After the mission was over we sweated out their return. One person stood by the mission board inside the tower room. Another person was on the roof of the tower with field glasses to get the A/C letters off the landing A/C and he called down to the other person at the mission board. The squadron letters were 38th -CG, 338th - CL, 343rd -CY. Each A/C had a third letter that could run from A-Z. These letters were on the side and on the tail section. We needed to know which pilots were returning as soon as possible because there were other personnel standing by to see who returned.

Another job was to have a person cover the midnight shift even though we did not fly at night. The reason we stood by at night was we might get an air raid alarm. We waited by the switchboard in case we received a call from "Marks Tey" which was the air raid headquarters. They would call and say a V-1 buzz bomb was headed our way or a German air raid was headed our way. An officer had a bedroom next door in the tower. We would wake him up and get on the "Tanoy" (PA) system and give the red alert to the base and to take cover. We had some V-1's that came close by. Then we waited for the all clear and would announce that.

One other job on the night shift was to clean and wax the floor.

Another interesting job was to record all transit A/C in a log. There were some interesting people and A/C that came to our base.

Another job was to keep a record of all of our U.S. and RAF bases about the status of these bases. These were called NOMADS that gave the latest information on construction or lighting systems, runway length or radio contact, etc.

Another job was to copy on rice paper the code of the day from a secret codebook. Each day had a different code. If British anti-aircraft guns challenged the pilots, the pilot would fire a flare of the right code for the day and it was more than one color. The reason the code was put on rice paper was if they were shot down over enemy territory and captured they needed to destroy the secret code right away. So they put it in their mouth and swallowed it. It would melt in their mouth with no harm. The rice paper was about 2 inches square.

Another job was to work with the mobile-checkered control tower that was stationed at the head of the active runway. Their job was to monitor the landing A/C that may not have his landing gear down or locked, and if this were the case the operator would shoot up a red flare so the pilot would have to go around and solve the problem some other way by contacting the control tower. If there were a problem we would send out the crash crew out to the mobile tower to stand by. In most cases they would make a belly landing in the grass next to the active runway. I remember a P-38 making that kind of landing. He was returning from a mission. He could not get his landing gear down, and he had one engine out also. he made a good landing and was not injured.

Normally when pilots were on a mission they kept radio silence (not to make any radio transmissions). Later on in the war when the Luftwaffe was scarce there were no restrictions to transmit. There were times we at home base could hear our pilots make comments about things that were going on as they were engaged in combat with the Luftwaffe. one time we heard two pilots flying P-38's involved in a mid-air collision. One A/C pulled up into the other one above him. I don't recall if either plane went down and crashed or one survived.

My wife and I visited the airbase in 1982. The tower was torn down around 1980. The flying control tower was just a pile of bricks and rubble that sat there for two years. The gentleman that drove us to the airbase (I don't recall his name) worked for the mayor of Colchester. He took time from his job to take us to the train to London.

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