THE HEROES OF AMERICAN EAGLE SQUADRON 133
This gallant band of volunteer pilots came to fight from these shores long before America became involved in WW ll. They came from sunny California, the farmlands of Idaho to the streets of New York and ten other States of the Union in between.
They arrived at RAF Biggin Hill on May 3rd 1942, unfurled their National flag affectionately known as ‘Old Glory’, and went in search of a good pub! They did not have far to travel for to the east of the airfield was the historic village of Downe, blessed with a church and two pubs. They settled at the Queen’s Head, where the locals were friendly and the beer suitably warm as it always was in those far off days. No Coors or Bud’s – and coke was something the Brits threw on the fire to keep the beer warm in the wintertime!
The Squadron had been formed in December 1941 just a few days before the attack on Pearl Harbour, which brought the whole of the American nation into the war.
133 initially flew alongside battle hardened pilots of 72 Squadron and later accompanied American B-17 bombers on their early raids into occupied France. Sadly 7 pilots had already been lost before they were called upon to give air support to the abortive invasion of the French port of Dieppe, which resulted in the loss of 3,500 ground troops in a single day and over 100 RAF aircraft losses.
133 returned unscathed only to be detailed a few weeks later for escort duties on a bombing raid to Brest in Brittany. The fighters followed the bombers who were given a weather forecast saying a wind of 100 mph was blowing from the south, whereas in fact it was from the north. For blind-flying above cloud by dead reckoning, an accurate knowledge of wind speed and direction is essential to plot ground speed and time and hence distance. The fighters broke cloud expecting to be back over Cornwall but in fact they were still over France. Now out of fuel, the Squadron was wiped out. Eleven never made it back to England while the twelfth crashed onto the cliffs of the Lizard in
The names of the heroes of 133 Squadron live on forever at the Biggin Hill RAF Chapel of Remembrance together with the 454 airmen of so many nations who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
They will never be forgotten
A ROSE FOR MY ROSE...
During 1968 I was still working at the Aptitude Testing Section enjoying my sport, the plentiful Airshows (even the Battle of Britain ones where we had to work on some task or other) and the proximity of the Biggin Hill camp to London’s attractions. I had been married for a couple of years to Diane and at last we were able to move out of our Bromley flat into married quarters at Vincent Square. Because the candidate procedure took three days, our working week started on a Sunday and ended on a Thursday. Working on a Sunday when all about us was relatively peaceful and quiet was something that I never quite got used to.
Anyway, the Aptitude Testing Section was located next to the exercise hangar and immediately overlooking the perimeter track of the airfield. It was an old prefabricated looking building that ran the length of the adjacent hangar and the sides that faced the airfield were adorned by many established rose bushes. They were of all colours, yellows, whites, reds, pinks, etc and during the Summer months, heavy with blooms. It didn’t take me long to work out how to score many brownie points whenever required…
When on a Sunday the testing, marking and scoring was finished and most of the staff had gone home, I sometimes found myself having to lock up the building and hand the keys into the guardroom on the way home. So, taking the slightly longer way around the building, I made a point of walking past the rose bushes and carefully extracting one bloom from each bush. In no time at all I had a carrier bag full of multi-coloured roses to present to Diane on arrival home. I can’t remember what the staff in the guardroom made of it, but I do know that our house was full of perfumed roses in many of the rooms and my ‘brownie’ points total was suitably rewarded!!!
I wonder what became of those rose bushes? The building, I believe, is now gone, so too must they be.
'Eddie and his late wife Diane were both at RAF Biggin Hill 1965 -1969'
OUR IMPORTANT VISITORS
Legend has it that after the disastrous fire which destroyed the original St George’s Chapel on RAF Biggin Hill’s South camp in 1946, a fragment of the Visitor’s Book which survived bore the signature ‘Winston S Churchill’
Winston or Sir Winston as he rightly later became, visited this simple chapel many times both officially and unofficially. The official visits are no doubt well documented but on his unofficial visits on his way to his home at Chartwell, he would simply arrive with his chauffeur who waited outside whilst Winston spent a few moments in contemplation. Perhaps that is why he was so fundamental in helping to raise the necessary funds to build the fine Chapel we have today.
Glancing through the present Visitors’ Books and reading the comments is a truly moving experience. Understandably the majority of visitors are from the local area but scattered throughout the volumes are names from every corner of the world.
It would be intrusive to ask why they came to St George’s. Are the American visitors perhaps relatives of the Eagle Squadron which had pilots from 13 different States and suffered such heavy losses during 1942 or what of the Polish visitors who simply write ‘Polska’ then a few words in their own language or, as one recently wrote ’it’s good that you are still thinking of us’. They came from so many nations to fight at our side against the forces of evil.
Some will remain here for ever.
Today the Visitors’ Book remains an important part of the Chapel, providing fragments of history which perhaps otherwise would not be recorded and private thoughts not otherwise written down. Not everyone is as well known as Winston Churchill, but is equally important in the continuing history of St George’s RAF Chapel of Remembrance,
WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR VISIT
Send us your Squadron’s story of its time at Biggin Hill and 11 Fighter Group, or you personal anecdote in 500 words or so for possible inclusion on our website or The Friends of St George’s Newsletter.
We look forward to hearing from you!
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