A Ghostly Story: THIS HAPPENED AT WARMWELL R.A.F.

A while ago we heard of a story from RAFW that makes you wonder. I have taken the liberty to post it here, because I have heard of other tales…..

JA 714 Squadron Warmwell June 1941-October 1942

Extract from a letter to JF in Tasmania dated 25 February 1989

You ask about the ghost which I followed across the airfield. Was it human form?

YES.

It was very thick fog and no wind as you ask about.  You also ask were there any animals there. I can only say that I have never yet seen an animal of any sort on an airfield and certainly not that one.  What happened was that I was on Gun Post on the opposite side of the airfield to where my billet was.

This was 24 hour duty Gun Post.  When we took it over after parade at 8 am we had to walk about 1 mile if not more around the perimeter of the airfield to reach it and were there for 24 hours until relieved at the same time next morning.  There were only two of these Gun Posts on the drome and all of the others were manned from 1 hour before dawn until 1 hour before dusk.  The gunners on these could then stand down and go back to their billet until 1 hour before dawn next morning.  Each gun post (about 12 in all, was connected by phone to Battle HQ).

On this particular night the fog came down very early and was so thick that it was impossible to see even one yard in front.  This was in the dead of winter, but I am not sure after all this time which month it was.  Either December or January.  I was quite surprised when the phone rang and was told that the forecast was that there would be no let up in the fog for the next 24 hours, and that if I wished I could stand down and go to my billet if I could find my way.

Of course I jumped at the chance of spending the night in my bed instead of out there, but was not going all that way round by road.  I had once or twice nipped across the airfield by starlight to the billet but not by the moonlight as it was forbidden to cross the airfield at any time.  Nobody would worry if someone was killed whilst crossing the airfield, but we were told we could easily be replaced, but not so easy to replace an aircraft or pilot if involved in a crash with someone crossing.

This of course made sound logic.

From my gun post to the billet at “AKERMAN’S RAND”  as it was called, was no more than 500-600 yards as against a mile or even 1 ½ miles round by road.  On a starry night one could pick out a set of stars over the billet and find one’s way very easily.  On this particular night as I have said, one could not see more than 1 yard.

I scrambled over the road and got on the airfield and set off at a slightly left hand angle which I felt sure would get me there. I could not even see the ground.  After walking for about 10-15 minutes I thought where the devil am I.  I should have been there 5 minutes ago.

Then suddenly out of the fog there loomed a Spitfire.  I had landed up in dispersal which was about ¾ mile down on the right hand side of the drome, the same side I had started from.  I had gone round in a half circle to the right instead of the left.  By this time I was sweating with all my equipment.

I felt my way on the perimeter wire to where my gun post should be and set off again bearing much harder to the left this time.

After about 15 minutes again I suddenly found myself confronted by a Hurricane so that now I was further away still.  Hurricane Dispersal was about half a mile further down to the right than the Spits.  By this time I thought “Oh hell, what’s the use, go back to the gun post and stay there”.

Then suddenly out of the fog there appeared a Pilot in all his flying kit and striding out.

He said what sounded like a Yankee drawl. “Hi fella, are you going to the Rand?”, and I said yes and started to follow him.

The strange part was that all around us for about 5 yards I could see quite clearly.  I could see him.  I could see the ground and above a few stars.  Outside of that area though, it was solid fog.  I was really sweating trying to keep up with him.  He did not seem to be walking or even running.  I can only describe it as gliding across the ground.  I had on my uniform, greatcoat, groundsheet, gas cape, tin hat, respirator, two side packs, rifle and bandolier with ammunition, so had a fair bit of weight to carry, thus the sweating and almost galloping.

It seemed just a few minutes before we were by my billet and coming off the airfield was a bank about 3-4 feet high a big slice carved out of it just there. As we got there I started to scramble up the bank this fellow just disappeared and the fog clamped down so that I could see nothing again.  Also I felt very cold just as if someone had poured ice cold water down my back. I knew exactly where I was though, right outside the hut door with the stump of the tree just outside.

I am not sure of the time, but believe it was perhaps just after 9pm.  I opened the door and went in, shut the door and stood with my back to it.  Someone in the hut said “Christ Jimmy, what’s the matter with you?  You look as if you have seen a ghost”.

For a few seconds I said nothing then I said, “ I think I have just followed one across the airfield”.  He said “Don’t be daft; you couldn’t have come over the airfield in that fog”. I then explained what had happened.  The next morning a couple of us tried to work out exactly where I had crossed.

Now I will go back to the 11th November to be exact.  That was a very foggy morning and I had just come off the 24 hour gun post, very cold and damp. There were several others in the hut also off the same shift of gun post and guard duty and just wanting to get into bed and get warm.  It must have been abut 9-9.15 and just in front of my bed was one of those stoves with a metal chimney going up through the roof.

I expect you know the sort I mean.  You put the fuel (coal, coke or whatever) in a round hob on the top of the stove and let it through an opening at the bottom.  On the top of the stove and cast into the metal was a figure of a tortoise.  Does that ring a bell?  We also when we wanted hot water to wash etc  put a metal bowl over the hole on the top.

Well I had just set this stove ready to light and get a bit of warmth in the hut and was thinking there will be no flying this morning either by us or by Jerry so it should be a quiet, peaceful morning and able to get some sleep.

I was just bending down with my lighter to set light to the fire, when suddenly there was the roar of a plane approaching and I yelled out “My God, where has he come from? He’s going to hit this roof in a minute” and at the same moment there was an almighty crash, a ball of orange flame and about 10-15 feet disappeared from the end of the hut.  What happened to me I don’t really know as I gradually came round and found myself half under my bed and against the wall of the hut and felt as if I had a broken neck.

I must have been out cold for some seconds as, when I got my bearings again, I was the only one in the hut and it was deadly quiet for a second or so.  There seemed to be bright flames flickering somewhere and then I noticed this big gap at the end of the hut and where there had been a tree outside the hut there was now just a stump about 3-4 feet high and this was on fire.

Suddenly I was aware of some awful screams.  I got to my feet and looked out of the window by my bed and could see flames going up from the next hut which was surrounded by a blast wall of some 7-8 feet high.  I was unable to see the hut of course so scrambled up  this wall which was built of earth, perhaps 10 feet thick at the bottom and tapering to about 3 feet at the top, so that it was not sheer and one could scramble up it.

I will never forget the sight that met my eyes.  This was a Nissan hut with the brick wall end facing me, except that there was no longer a wall there.  On the ground between the blast wall and the remains of the hut was one of our own Hurricane fighter planes burning fiercely together with what was left of the hut.

Now this hut had been the ammunition hut for a company of the Dorset Regiment who had several other huts adjoining. 10 thousand rounds for 303 rifle ammo, 10,000 rounds of Tommy Gun ammo, and 3 dozen cases of hand grenades, and this stuff together with the ammo in the Hurricane was exploding all over the place.  I must leave the rest to your imagination.

Six men died in that inferno that morning including the Pilot and one more died in hospital that night.  The pilot was a Canadian by the way.  Now what he was doing in that plane at all no one ever knew, and in any case no plane ever took off or landed across the narrow part of the airfield.  Always the length of the airfield either north or south according to wind directions, also as I have described it was much too foggy for flying.

Upon trying to trace my journey across the airfield that night my friend and I worked out that we had crossed the exact route from Dispersal to our hut as that plane took on November 11th.

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Make what you like of all that but it most definitely happened to me.  Up until a few months ago I had never mentioned this experience to anyone, but one weekend when my daughter and son-in-law were here and my daughter was reading a paper or magazine, she said they were offering a prize for wartime stories.  She said, “I expect you could tell a few”.

I said I most certainly could and especially one about nobody would believe it.  After a bit of cajoling on their part I told them about the night I followed a ghost across the airfield.

I am not sure to this day if they believed me and that is why I doubt anyone else would.

J A 714 Squadron Warmwell June 1941 – October 1942


Comments

A Ghostly Story: THIS HAPPENED AT WARMWELL R.A.F. — 2 Comments

  1. hi I can’t see if there has been any other reply’s to this post so I may be saying what has already been said.
    since summer last year I have started taking pictures of the remains of ww2 buildings around the local area which includes Warmwell,
    while I have been researching what is around and what I have found I came across this story and found it very interesting so thought I would try to look in to it,
    I have the 1946 maps of the airfield and have tried to pin point the area of the crash but with no start point this is tricky but going on just what was said of directions walked I think I have now done this,
    I also believe the pilot that crashed that morning was sgt Howlett,
    so at lest this part of the story is true,
    people have their own views on ghost stories but I tend to believe this one,
    thought I should pass on what I have found

  2. Many thanks Mark

    I’m afraid I had ommitted to add the Latest Comments and posts to the column – please take a look and see what has appeared now…

    Many thanks for your input here…

    Bye for now
    Mike

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