The Thurlows

Village News & Information

Another airfield

The airfield at Wratting Common was nearing completion and my uncle, who was stationed at RAF Ridgewell, told my brother Michael and me when the Stirling bombers of 90 Squadron were moving from Ridgewell to Wratting Common. It was on a Sunday afternoon in May 1943.

We cycled up to Carlton Green, and went down to the dispersal area where we saw the bombers land and taxi to the dispersal points, and the ground crews getting out of the aircraft and unloading their kits and bicycles. I was surprised at the size of the bombers, and they had very high undercarriages. RAF Stradishall now had the Stirlings, so we now had aircraft from two airfields circling over Thurlow. Wratting Common was also used for storing the Horsa gliders to be used in the invasion of Normandy. Both Stradishall and Wratting Common were used as Operational Training units to replace the heavy losses suffered by aircrew.

The Hurricane fighters at Castle Camps had now been replaced by the Dehavilland Mosquito, an all-weather night fighter.

There was much more activity at night as the bombing raids on Germany had increased. I used to stand at my bedroom window during the early hours of the morning, not being able to sleep because of my asthma, and listen to the planes returning and then circling while waiting to land. The flight path was directly over the village, turning over Gt Thurlow and following the Sowley Green road onto the runway. Sometimes the searchlights would be sweeping the sky to help guide the bombers in. If there were enemy aircraft in the vicinity, the landing lights on the airfields would be switched off and the homecoming planes would continue to circle, often short of fuel. Several of the bombers were attacked by these intruders. I always knew when it was 5.30am, as Vic Marsh on his way into the bakery would give Mr Rutter a knock on his front door to let him know it was time to get up to start work. By this time the cockerels would start crowing. Whichever one was first, he was the signal for all the others to start up – a welcome chorus. I then knew it would soon be time to get up.