Arrival of the 486th, chaff and baseballs

Michael Hills (interview March 2009):

 

Lt Senseney's B-24 Liberator on hardstand 38 in which his crew flew 19 combat missions before converting to the B-17

Lt Senseney's B-24 Liberator on hard stand 38 - his crew flew 19 combat missions before converting to the B-17

“I remember when the Liberators arrived on the airfield in April 1944. It was supposed to be top secret but my father knew because he was chief of the local ARP and had advance notice. In the event lots of people seemed to know and made their way up the Waldingfield Road to witness the spectacle. I cycled up with some friends to the first of the two gates across the road. It was closed because the planes were going to come in low across the road. We went under the gate and sat under the hedge for a grandstand view and those mighty aircraft roared in over our heads. Nobody stopped us when we crossed the road and went right up to one of the planes when it came to rest on its hard stand. 

Many planes were written off in training and offensive operations and the wrecks were put into a large dump behind Chilton Grove. This became a regular treasure trove for local children – you could even find live ammunition there!

At the top of the hill on the Newton Road, where Chelsea Court is today, there was a large field which the Americans used as a store. It was full of large wooden crates. We boys used to go up there and if you talked nicely to one of the guards he might open a crate of ‘chaff.’ This was what was dropped by the bombers over Occupied Europe to confuse enemy radar – thousands of small parachutes and hanging from each a narrow roll of aluminium foil which unrolled when it was dropped. We used to throw them in the air and watch them drift in the wind. However, one of my friends was trying to throw one over the power cables on Friars Meadow and he was electrocuted.

 

1 Quay Lane- the former 'Beam Ends'My aunt had bought and renovated the old timber-framed house on the corner of Friars Street and Quay Lane. (She called it ‘Beam Ends’ because she had spent so much money on it she was almost on her beam ends financially!) I used to sit at an upstairs window and watch the Americans playing baseball on the cricket ground and praying that one of those white, soft leather balls would drop into her garden. They never came to retrieve them, just took another one out of a box. They were much prized by local boys!” 

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