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Brief History of The Rafwaffe (Flight 1426)

by sally_bennett

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Contributed by 
sally_bennett
People in story: 
Charles David 'Dave' Bennett and personnel of Flight 1426
Location of story: 
England
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A8404382
Contributed on: 
10 January 2006

1426 (EAC) Flight - The Rafwaffe at RAF Collyweston on 3rd September 1943. (My father, Dave Bennett, third from left in front row.)

Brief History of No. 1426 (EAC) Flight

In late 1941, the RAF set up a Flight of German aircraft to assist military personnel in recognition and to study the aircraft under operational conditions. My father, F/Sgt Charles David Bennett was assigned to this Flight which operated from November 1941 until January 1945. He was given permission to record the history of the Flight.

During the 3 years and 2 months the Flight was in existence, it met with many maintenance difficulties, due to the lack of spares and maintenance details. Tools and equipment had to be specially made and all engine and airframe spares had to be obtained from crashed and unserviceable aircraft. It was also necessary to assemble aircraft that had never previously been in Great Britain and about which little was known from a maintenance point of view. This then is the history of No. 1426 (EAC) Flight, nicknamed the Rafwaffe.

1941

The unit was formed at RAF Station Duxford on 21st November 1941 when F/O Forbes, F/O Kinder, P/O Lewendon and F/Sgt Gough were posted from AFDU to which they had been attached for eleven days for flying experience on German aircraft. All the pilots had been in 41 Group as Maintenance unit test pilots.

The aircraft were allotted to the flight early in December, first the Heinkel 111 on the 7th, then the Messerschmitt 109 and the Junkers 88 on the 11th.

The Heinkel 111, which had been flying for about two years came from RAE Farnborough, the Messerschmitt 109 (captured in France), from AFDU and the Junkers 88 from RAF Station Chivenor, where it had recently landed, at night, almost intact, the crew having lost themselves. A Monospar was delivered to the flight on 17th December 1941 for communication purposes and collecting spares. The posting of maintenance personnel commenced on the 22nd of December 1941.

1942

In January 1942, some of these ground crews were sent to RAE Farnborough for instruction on the maintenance of German aircraft. The Me109 was allotted from the unit to be packed for the USA. Sgt. Barr was posted to the unit for full flying duties on the 2nd of February.

The first tour of RAF stations commenced on 11th of February and the flying demonstrations were carried out at RAF Stations Lakenheath, Watton, Coltishall, Bircham Newton, Docking, Sutton Bridge and Wittering and returned to Duxford on the 27th of February. During the month of March, a Messerschmitt 110 was taken over from RNAFDU. The Me110 and He111 were flown for recognition photographs, a demonstration for the Army at Travellers Hill, and some sound recordings for the RAF Film Unit.

A second tour commenced on the 1st of April and flying demonstrations were carried out at RAF Stations North Luffenham, Cottesmore, Saltby, Cranwell, Digby, Waddington, Hemswell, Kirton-in-Lindsey, North Coates and Snaith and returned to Duxford on the 18th of April. On the 28th of April, a Me109 was delivered from Hucknall in a dismantled condition for the flight to assemble and fly.

The third tour commenced on the 4th of May and the following RAF stations were visited: Church Fenton, Holme-on-Spalding Moor, Breighton, Leconfield, Catfoss, Driffield, Pocklington, Marston Moor, Linton-upon-Ouse and Dishforth, and returned to Duxford on the 24th of May. On the 31st, some aerial photographs required by the Air Ministry were taken of the Ju88.

The fourth tour commenced on the 15th of June and visited RAF Stations Cranfield, Bassingbourne, Twinwood, Waterbeach, Stradishall, Newmarket, Wattisham, Debden, Castle Camps, North Weald (where some photographs of all aircraft were taken by a Naval Photographer), Bunsdon, Hornchurch, Bradwell Bay, Fairlop, West Malling and Detling, and returned to Duxford on the 3rd of July. During the month of July, the Two Cities Film Company took some photographs of the Ju88 for use in the film, “In Which We Serve”, and later in the month, the RAF Film Unit took a sound recording of the He111, low-flying over the recording apparatus.

The fifth tour commenced on the 25th of July and visited Stations Biggin Hill, Gravesend, Kenley, Redhill, Atcham, Heston, Northolt and Boscombe Down (where test pilots flew the aircraft and the Ju88 was flown at night for exhaust glare photographs for recognition purposes). The flight then visited USAAF Stations Bovingdon and Molesworth, and returned to Duxford on the 21st of August.

The sixth tour commenced on the 4th of September and the following Stations were visited: USAAF Station Atcham, RAF Stations Ibsley, Old Sarum, Andover and Colerne, and returned to Duxford on the 16th of September.

The seventh tour commenced on the 14th of October and visited the following RAF Stations: Charmy Down, Weston Zoyland, Church Stanton, Exeter, Harrow Beer, Chivenor, Netheravon, Hullavington and Castle Combes, and returned to Duxford on the 2nd of November. During the month of November, the Metro Goldwyn Mayer Film Corporation took some photographs of the Ju88 and Me110 for use in the film “Sabotage Agent”, later named “The Adventures of Tartu”.

The eighth tour commenced on 30th of November and visited RAF stations Aston Down, Chedworth, South Cerny, Abingdon, Bicester, Upper Heyford, Chipping Warden, Bovindon and returned to Duxford on 20th December.

1943

During the month of January, the ME110 was flown on a ‘ground strafing’ exercise for the RAF Regiment.

The ninth tour commenced on 24th February 1943 and visited USAAF Stations Debden, Castle Camps, Bassingbourne, Thurleigh, Chelveston, Molesworth, Alconbury, Honington, Hardwirk, Bungay, Shipdham, Horsham St Faith, Swanton Morley, Foulsham, West Raynham, Great Massingham and Marham and returned to base on 9th April. The unit had moved from Duxford to Collyweston which was to be our base. During the month of April, the Ju88 was flown for photographs for the film “The Re-Discovery of Britain” made by the Crown Film Unit. In May, the Ju88 and He111 were flown for the Army Film Production Unit who were making a film about the African Campaign. On May 27th, the flight proceeded to RAF Station Digby and were inspected by Their Majesties The King and Queen.

A Henschel 129 aircraft arrived from the Middle East in a dismantled condition on 2nd July. This aircraft was to be assembled and flown by the Unit. On 7th July, the Ju88 and He111 were flown to USAAF Station Polebrook to enable Captain Clark Gable to take an Instructional Film for air gunners. Some photographers from Verity Films Ltd. visited the flight on the 17th of July to take some interior shots of the He111 for the film “Movement by M.T.” which they were making for DAK War Office. On 10th August, some members of the Enemy Aircraft Non-Ferrous Materials Committee and representatives of the firm High Duty Alloys visited the flight to study the materials and construction of the Henschel 129.

During the month of September, Mr. Lacey of RAE Farnborough visited the unit to make a report on the electrical systems of the Henschel 129. Later in the month. two members of MAP at Orfordness came to photograph the Henschel 129, also Mr. Jenkins of MAP took photographs for the magazine ‘Aircraft Recognition’. On the 28th of September, the flight collected a serviceable FW190 from RAE Farnborough. In October, some Polish aircrew were taught how to fly German aircraft and the Ju88 was flown again for the RAF Film Unit on 18th October. An Oxford MkII was delivered to the flight to use in place of the Monospar for communication purposes. On 5th November, the Me109F was flown for MAP for air-to-air photography with a Hudson flown by F/Captain Mollison for the ATA.

The tenth tour commenced on 6th November and visited USAAF Stations Goxhill and Grafton Underwood and arrived at Polebrook on 10th of November. Whilst landing at Polebrook, the HeIII crashed killing the pilot F/O Barr and six members of the ground crew, and injuring four other ground crew who were travelling as passengers on the aircraft. The tour was then cancelled and the flight returned to Collyweston. During December, two more FW190s arrived in a dismantled condition. One was assembled to fly, and the other was to be used for spares.

1944

The eleventh tour started on 31st December and the following USAAF Stations were visited: Molesworth, Chelveston, Kimbolton, Thurleigh, Poddington, Bassingbourne, Steeple Morden and Cheddington, returning to Collyweston on 1st February 1944. On 4th February, a Me109G arrived in a dismantled condition to be assembled and flown. On 15th February, six newspaper reporters, two Paramount film cameramen and three Movietone Newsreel men visited the flight for publicity purposes. On 20th February, a party from the Nettlefold film unit visited the flight to take some shots to be used in the film ‘Fighter Room’. Later in the month, the Me109G was flown for comparative trials with aircraft of AFDU and RNAFDU.

The twelfth tour commenced on 23rd March and visited RAF and USAAF Stations: Hullavington, Bovingdon, Chipping Ongar, Stansted Mountfitchet, Great Dunmow, Great Sailing, Earls Colne, Rivenhall, Ridgewell, Wattisham, Boxted, Raydon, Martlesham Heath and Framlingham, returning to Collyweston on 5th May.

On the 9th of May, the flight moved to RAF Station Thorney Island for five weeks attachment to the RAF and USAAF Air Circus for recognition exercises over the invasion fleet on the South Coast. On 8th July, the Me109G was flown for some ground-to-air shots for the RAF Film Production Unit. On 25th July, the Ju88 was flown for the Realist Film Unit who were making the film ‘Tinker Tailor’. This was completed on 28th July. On 9th August, the flight commenced a special recognition exercise for the Mosquito Squadrons at RAF Stations West Raynham and Little Snoring, returning to Collyweston on 11th August. On 3rd September, the Ju88, FW190 and Me110 were taken to Hatfield for nine days’ display organised by DeHavillands in aid of the RAF Benevolent Fund. Also on 3rd September, the Henschel 129 was flown on its initial air test by F/Lt Forbes. On 18th September, the aircraft were flown to USAAF Station Chipping Ongar, where they were to be used for instructional purposes for the USA Disarmament School, in the maintenance and temporary immobilisation of German aircraft. On 23rd September, the aircraft were flown to Leavesden for a two days’ display for the ROC, then returning to Chipping Ongar. On 24th September, F/Lt Lewendon flew a Ju88/S1 from Villacoublay in France to England to be used by the flight. On 27th September, F/Lt Forbes, officer commanding, was posted from the flight to No. 61 OTU, prior to going to an operational squadron. F/Lt Lewendon assumed command of the unit. On 13th October, whilst carrying out local flying at Collyweston in a FW190, F/Lt Lewendon was killed.

F/Lt Gough assumed command of the unit. On 1st November, the aircraft on attachment at Chipping Ongar returned to Collyweston. On 9th November, F/Lt Roberts flew the Ju88/A6 to RAF Catterick for photography with the Two Cities Film Company. This was cancelled because of weather and the Ju88 returned on 25th November. On 5th December, the Ju88/S1 was flown for an affiliation exercise with a Lancaster from RAF Woolfox. On 18th December, the Ju88/S1 was flown to RAF Ossington for recognition purposes, returning to Collyweston on 30th December.

1945

On 14th January 1945, the Ju88 was flown to RAF Kenley for instructional use at the Disarmament School by F/Sgt. Bennett on the temporary immobilisation and maintenance of German aircraft. A working party was also sent to RAF Ford to change an engine in the Me410 for FIDS. On 19th January, a working party was flown to Antwerp to collect 2 Me109s. On 21st January, official notification was received of the disbandment of No. 1426 (EAC) Flight with effect from 17th January 1945.

End of Brief History of No. 1426 (EAC) Flight, written on 2nd February 1945

****************

Sally Bennett
2 December 2005

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