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Thread: Query on the formation of No. 125 Airfield HQ - June 1943

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    Default Query on the formation of No. 125 Airfield HQ - June 1943

    I am seeking some clarification of what exactly is meant by the residue of 65 and 122 Squadrons in the formation of No. 125 Airfield Headquarters in June 1943

    Up until recently I have always accepted the formation date – from the 125 Airfield ORB – as 24 June 1943 with the knowledge that on 20 June 1943 19 Squadron flew in from Matlaske in Norfolk, and 132 (City of Bombay) Squadron flew in from Perranporth in Cornwall and No. 125 Airfield was formed on 24 June 1943, within No. 83 Group at RAF Gravesend, the two Squadrons both operating Spitfire Vb’s and Vc’s – but now I have sourced the RAF Gravesend ORB which tells a slightly different story, with, to me an intriguing question.

    125 Airfield ORB

    24/6/43

    At R.A.F. Station, GRAVESEND, on 24th June 1943, No. 125 Airfield Headquarters was formed incorporating No’s 19 and 132 Squadrons. The following officers had reported on posting:- S/Ldr E. J. Praill, C.T.O. – F/O’s W. J. Watts, E. J. D. Young, Engineer Duties – P/O G. R. Curry, Adjutant, and P/O E. G. Burkett, M.T. Duties – S/Ldr C. H. Hartley S.Admin.O. – F/Lt H. L. Humm, Equipment. F/Lt Green, Records Officer, Gloucester, visited the Station for the purpose of arranging the posting of airmen personnel. A preliminary Conference was held in the Station Commander’s office, at which Group Captain Eeles, Org.H.Q.F.C. gave a rough outline of the functions of an Airfield Headquarters to the officers already assembled of No. 125 Airfield Headquarters, including the Squadron Commanders, S/Ldr. V. H. Ekins, DFC, No.19 Squadron and S/Ldr J. R. Ritchie, No. 132 Squadron, and stated that the target date aimed for was July 1st when it was hoped that the Airfield would be in a position to move. No Establishment had yet been issued, but for guidance a copy of the establishment of No. 121 Airfield Headquarters was supplied with certain amendments. S/Ldr Mahoney, P2 Headquarters No. 83 Group was present. R.A.F. Station, GRAVESEND, were particularly helpful and furnished every facility that would assist in the formation of this new Airfield Headquarters.

    But I have now sourced the RAF Gravesend ORB, which on 20 June 1943 states:

    RAF Gravesend ORB

    20th June 1943 Movements.

    Formation of No. 125 Airfield at Gravesend. No. 132 Squadron with residue of 65 Squadron, and 3056 S.Echelon moved from Perranporth. No. 19 Squadron with residue of No. 122 Squadron and No. 3020 S. Echelon moved from Matlaske.
    The residue of No’s 65 and 122 Squadrons and 3056 and 3020 S.Echelons to be medically examined ‘fit averaged’ and drafted by Records on the Station to form No. 125 Airfield Headquarters.

    According to Jeffords “RAF Squadrons” 65 Squadron were at Selsey from 31 May 1943, moving to Kingsnorth on 1 July 1943 and for 122 Squadron, they were at Bognor from 1 June 1943, moving to Kingsnorth as well on 1 July 1943 – so I don’t have any clues as to why the respective Squadrons had residue at Perranporth and Matlaske – nor do I have any clues as to why the RAF Gravesend ORB gives the formation date as 20th June 1943, whereas the 125 Airfield ORB quite clearly shows the formation date as “At R.A.F. Station, GRAVESEND, on 24th June 1943, No. 125 Airfield Headquarters was formed incorporating No’s 19 and 132 Squadrons” but with no mention of any residue from either 65 or 122 Squadrons?

    I am also placing this query on the TOCH forum

    many thanks

    Allan
    Last edited by allan125; 18th February 2014 at 18:00.
    Allan Hillman

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    Default No. 125 Airfield HQ

    G'day Allan

    If it is any help, R.A.F. Gravesend in September, 1944 was home to No. 23 Balloon Centre and a number of balloon squadrons in the 900 series range. There was no No. 125 Airfield H.Q. there by then.

    Cheers...Chris

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    Hi Chris

    Thank you - by late September 1944 some advanced ground elements of 125 Wing (including Dad) were up in Holland at B.82 Grave, by the bridge, whilst the aircraft of 132, 602, 453, and 441 Squadrons, and the remainder of the ground echelons, were still in Belgium at B.70 Antwerp/Deurne - but my quest, for once, is on the very beginning of their story. But thank you anyway.

    Allan
    Allan Hillman

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    Hi Allan

    I thought you might have had a response by now from one of our members who know a bit more about the RAF bureaucracy. There is clearly a difference between the formal establishment date and an Airfield becoming operational.

    I can’t answer your specific questions about 125 Airfield but I have delved a fair bit into the formation of these airfields in the context of Ex Spartan and the disbandment of Army Co-operation Command into Fighter Command and then the formation of 2TAF. From that experience I would say that it is unlikely that you will nail this one as precisely as you want to**. I believe that formally the date comes from the Establishment Letter/Circular - “…No 125 Airfield will form at Gravesend on xx June 1943…”. The reality is that nothing much that was tangible might have happened at Gravesend on that date. The Circular gave the authority for personnel etc to be posted in to 125 Airfield. On the day the formation might have been signalled only by a F/Off arriving and looking for somewhere to hang his hat. As I am sure you are aware many ORB writers seem to have had as little knowledge of RAF bureaucracy as me and so they might record the event when a W/Cdr arrives or when a Squadron arrives. From my experience the time from Feb/Mar 43 to Jul/Aug 43 was very fluid: Airfields were formed; Sqns were posted in; Airfields were re-located; Sqns were posted away to a different Airfield; Airfields often took some time to acquire the personnel to be operational and often Sqns were taken off ops because the Airfield had no maintenance personnel.

    ** Are there ORB Appendices for 125 Airfield? If there are it might just be that the Establishment Letter/Circular has been preserved in that. Alternatively you might find some more detail in the 11 Group ORB or the 83 Group ORB (off the top of my head I am not sure when the latter was formed?).

    Steve

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    Hi Steve

    Thanks for your comprehensive reply, your findings as to how the airfield system evolved after Spartan are exactly the same as mine - I hold all of the 125 Airfield / 125 Wing ORB, and some appendices like convoy movement orders etc. Plus some I found on the Australian War Memorial website for the period 453 Squadron RAAF was part of 125 Wing (including the convoy movement order that showed what Bedford 3 tonner Dad was on, and a photo of him at RAF Ford getting an injection "to fight germs as well as Germans"!) - but nothing showing details like my request. No doubt plenty was destroyed pre-war or cannot be seen at the NA.

    83 Group was founded officially on 1 April 1943, it came out of Blue Group, which evolved from Exercise Spartan's Z (Composite) Group - Dad was there from Day 1, having started in Z (Composite) Group HQ for Exercise Spartan but the only mentions I have ever seen of Blue Group a a) from him and b) in the official history of 122 Wing published post-war in Denmark after they replaced 125 Wing there, it doesn't even feature in either the 1970 version of 2TAF or the more recent publications.

    The answer is probably out there - but as to whether the "residue" would be mentioned in either the 65 or 122 Squadron ORB's I have no idea, unless somebody can come up with the answer here or on TOCH - or somebody can do a quick view whilst at the NA for me.

    Allan
    Allan Hillman

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    Default Query on the formation of No. 125 Airfield HQ - June 1943

    With no further input to my “residue” query I did some further research amongst my own books and documents – I now believe that when the squadron ground crews were taken away from them and placed in service echelons, with just the basics sticking with the squadrons, that this is where the “residue” has come from.

    Doug Tidy covers it off perfectly in his book “I fear no man” – the history of 74 Squadron, and it is also covered off in the 122 Wing history, and the two squadrons adopted a new establishment when they were allocated to 122 Airfield when it formed in February 1943.

    “On 4th May 1944 a new establishment came into force on 74 Squadron by which the Squadron strength became sixteen officers, twelve senior non-commissioned officers and one other rank. The only non-flying personnel were the Medical officer, Intelligence officer one sergeant and the clerk. Of the rest of the squadron personnel, 173 were attached to 6074 servicing echelon and 62 to North Weald, pending posting. F/O Rex Fround, a pilot, took over the duties of Adjutant. So the Squadron died as an autonomous entity.

    The new arrangements came at an inconvenient moment, as everyone had to make new working arrangements and the system, says the Operations Record Book, “had to shake down”. It is questionable if it ever did, for the corporate spirit of the Squadron was lost to the ground crews in the echelon. The days of the great teams of pilots, air gunners and ground crew seemed far away indeed”.

    Now I realise that this took place 10 months after the formation of 125 Airfield HQ, it’s squadrons and their servicing echelons, but it still produced 62 spare bods – the residue – who stayed at North Weald “pending posting”, an identical situation to that of the “residue” of 65 and 122 Squadrons that arrived at Gravesend with 19 and 132 Squadrons, and their own service echelons

    And the reason for the delay, 74 Squadron had been out of the UK from approx April 1942 – April 1944, so they took on board the 2TAF establishment as soon as settled back here.

    Steve Brooking has kindly supplied me with ORB extracts from July 1943, that tell a similar tale to that which happened when 125 Airfield was formed in June 1943:

    No 168 Sqn 7 July 1943: A large number of postings of airmen and NCOs has come through - to Airfields and elsewhere...our work has been seriously handicapped and the result will be less flying, both operational and non-operational until we go on to an Airfield Establishment ourselves.

    No 231 Sqn 9 July 1943: New establishment for squadron reduced strength from 300 odd other ranks to 10. We are to retain W/Cdr, S/Ldr, 4 F/Lts and three flights of 8 pilots. All maintenance, arming and rearming etc is to be done centrally by the Airfield organisation...with the Squadrons...as purely operational flying units with no organisation or administrative responsibilities.

    No 430 Sqn 15 July 1943: New Establishment dated 1 July 1943 calls for 16 pilots, one adjutant, one MO, one clerk: GD, one sgt fitter I.(E) and 6 photographers.

    No 168 Sqn 17 July 1943: Except for air testing operational aircraft, no flying... owing to the Airfield not being able to maintain aircraft... The Squadron...has only its aircraft, Pilots and 10 men... Servicing personnel...attached to the Squadron from the Airfield...are under the Command of the Airfield CO and not the Squadron CO. The problem of sorting the...influx of men...arrived into the Airfield and then re-distributing them to Squadrons was a big task and the Squadrons are finding it difficult to adjust these new men and the lack of them to meet operational requirements which come from HQ 35 Wing.

    My sincere thanks to Steve Brooking for his helpful research on the subject

    Allan
    Allan Hillman

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