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RAF Driffield in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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RAF Driffield


Squadrons stationed at RAF Driffield

  • 77 Squadron. 1939 to 15 April 1940 and 4th May 1940 to 28 Aug 1940
  • 102 Squadron


9th Sep 1939 77 Squadron Whitley lost

23rd Sep 1940 Whitley Lost

8th Jan 1941 Tragedy on Landing

23rd Apr 1941 405 Squadron formed  No. 405 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force was formed at Driffield, Yorkshire, on the 23rd of April 1941, equipped with the Vickers Wellington.

23rd Apr 1941 405 Squadron formed

23rd Aug 1941 Aircraft Lost

29th Sep 1941 Aircraft Lost

12th Jun 1941 405 Squadron operational

15th Jan 1942 Aircraft Lost

10th Apr 1942 Wellington Lost

14th Apr 1942 Wellington Lost

9th Apr 1945 Halifax Lost

If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

Those known to have served at

RAF Driffield

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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F/Sgt. George Ollerhead W/op 102 Sqd.

My grandad, Georhe Ollerhead trained at Blackpool from 17th January 1941 when he joined the RAF and later went on to Driffield and was assigned to 102 Sqdn. He trained through Wymeswold and Litchfield from 1943 onwards to the early part of 1945 from were he was posted to Karachi with 194 SQdn. He was a Wireless opp air gunner and made it to Flight Sargent. I am very very proud of this fine man and only have one photo of him the day he joined up, aged 21. I would love to know if anyone out there remembers him.

Mark Haselden

Cpl. John Charles Sharpe MID. 37 Sqd.

my father, Jack Sharpe served with 37 squadron in the Middle East and Italy from September 1940 to September 1943 as an airframe fitter having been with 102 squadron at Driffield from July 1938 to to August 1940 (some of this time as an air gunner). He appeared in an article in Americas Life magazine dated 10th June 1940 entitled "The RAF fliers are young and brave", where he is pictured in the rear turret of a Whitely.

Michael Sharpe

F/O William "Wiggy" Wigham DFC. 102 Squadron

Memoirs of a Tail-End Charlie, William (Bill) Wigham 1910 - 1975 by his wife Olive Wigham nee Lancaster

As the war is about forgotten (1939-1945) I thought I'd try to write down some of the things Bill told me about when he was a rear-gunner in first a Wellington Bomber and then a second tour in a Halifax. He had just started to buy an insurance round (C0-0P), which was costly, and couldn't wait when war was declared to enlist and I took over his job which meant I had to lodge there and disliked the job anyway.

He had to do a lot of training & his first lot of ops were with 101 Squadron from near St. Neots in a Wellington. At that time we didn't have a big air force so they were the main planes for getting to Germany. His first pilot was a New Zealander aged about 21-22, but as all crews did they worked well together and were always doing night raids. The average life was reckoned to be about 9 weeks! So, they were lucky to survive. As I can't remember what happened on the first flights I have just put down what Bill told me between leaves. His log book just states where they went but not the details of the actual raids etc.

At first we didn't have plenty of bombs & Germans were raining bombs down on London, so they used to fly over Germany and drop empty sauce (& pop) bottles because they made the same screaming noise and they hoped to upset the Germans when thrown among the bombs. They also dropped leaflets to let ordinary Germans know exactly what was happening as they only had the propaganda that told them they were already winning the war.

The first thing that Bill found on his first posting was that all the manhole covers (drain covers) had been removed from the station and they were warned where to walk. Apparently, the Americans had eventually joined in and were flying day raids and the rear-gunners had decided protection wasn't strong enough and used the covers to sit on!

Bill liked the Wellington - he said it was covered with fabric and it still flew riddled in bullet holes. He was moved to the station and was a Flight Sergeant when he met George Snaith, having met him at home, and they were delighted to meet up on duty. When he wasn't on ops - George & he used to play darts with the locals, and if he had to land on other airfields George said the locals were very upset and he got a real welcome the next time he could play darts.

They bombed the factories in Germany that were making guns etc. but had trouble in dodging the fighters. Bill and crew had to ditch the plane anywhere they could make it and at one GI station they had the best meals since joining up! At first there weren't many planes could carry enough fuel to get to Berlin, so they bombed all the factories they could reach and were very lucky to survive the first 9 weeks over Hamburg.

On one occasion when being chased by fighters he thought he had been hit because he couldn't feel his legs and was very cold, but when they got home he found a bullet had severed the connecting wire in his flying suit that was the heating circuit, so with a sigh of relief he was mobile.

After completing the session of ops he was sent to Scotland to instruct gunnery. I joined him in a bed-sit and we felt we were really married at last and it lasted for a year, so we were both relaxed for the first time and made friends, one of whom I write to after 60 years.

He was commissioned to Pilot Officer and had to get used to being saluted. I found I was expecting a baby so on his last leave I stayed at home and he was posted to Driffield and back flying again with 102 Squadron.

At some time there he did a daylight trip and was amused to see the cars & vans with gas bags on top as fuel in Belgium. The planes always went in with incendiaries before the bombers so there was fires already burning before they arrived. The German fighters were waiting so they still lost planes. His batwoman got the telegram to him to say I'd had the baby & he had difficulty in getting leave as he was down on battle orders. He managed to swap and while he was home his crew made a trip and were very badly shot-up, the mid-upper gunner had his head shot off and they were very lucky to get back over the coast. When Bill went back his pilot said he would refuse to go if any of the regular crew were missing.

Bill got a cold with sinus trouble and the GP said he was not to fly and to Bill's amazement the crew didn't fly until he was able to carry on. The pilot was just 21 and knowing Bill had been through the worst relied on him and took any advice Bill gave when attacked from the rear. I said to him didn't he feel any pains on the Friday morning when I was in labour but at 8.00 - 8.30am he was too busy getting rid of fighters!

The worst job was mine-laying. One episode lasted long after the war was over. He was coming out of anaesthetic after an operation on his knee and started to talk. All he kept saying was "They said there would be no searchlights. You can read a Bl**** newspaper" they had to fly very low and as they got to the target the whole place lit up and they were in full view the whole time. The mid-upper gunner was panicking and Bill had to tell him to shut up and start firing at the lights and put out as many as they could. Usually when they crossed the coast on the way home they would all talk but this time no one said a word. The next morning Bill went out to see about more ammunition. He had used every bullet and the armourer remarked "you must have had a busy night Sir" and Bill said yes he would need more bullets. The armourer said "you need four new guns" - the rifling had been taken off every barrel and the guns were useless.

The new Halifax's & Lancaster's were on Special Mission and I think the pilots were on Sealed Orders, until they took off and were en-route to Berlin.

Eventually the Germans got what they had done to London, Coventry & Liverpool. He was on the first of two massive 1000 bomber raids and he never forgot the sight. Bombers of all sorts were wing-tip to wing-tip. It must have been a horrifying sight from the ground - it is always the ordinary people of either side who do most of the suffering.

There were some lighter moments too. Bill said they were flying in a large squadron and the pilot said he didn't know what was wrong but every time he tried to keep position the others either side moved away. It wasn't until the bomb-aimer went to seek the target he found they were flying with the nose-light on. Bill said maybe that's why they weren't hit - the Jerries thought it was one of theirs!

Eventually after completing another sortie he was sent to Rufforth as Assistant Adjutant and got on very well with the rest of the men. He enjoyed his time there and its in the records of a congratulation memo for the way he had organised the move of a whole squadron so efficiently. He was given the DFC which didn't actually arrive until he was home. The King was very ill and Bill & I were disappointed at not getting a trip to the palace. Bill also got the Gold Star (for Europe) and another with no note for what.

No one remembers the war now, as time goes by and we oldies are few, but sometimes I wonder if any of it was, or is, appreciated. Children are not aware it happened and its not in the history lessons at school. So many lives given but the thought of what Hitler would have done with them is beyond belief. They would have been brainwashed against the Jews and turned into proper little Nazis. There were lots of things that happened to Bill, but these are the only ones I can remember.

Olive Wigham January 2001

Wigham Howard

Francis Joseph Higgins

Frank Higgins served as an RAF Aircraft Maintenance Engineer at Driffield during the Second World War. He used to have a drink at the Bell Hotel and married his dance teacher. For Frank the War didn't finish in 1945 and nor did it for the enemy and there was no more the reassuring rumble and roar of Spitfire engines and the RAF couldn't help him. He died betrayed by the Allies, some might think, forgotten and misrepresented and in action on 3rd September 1978 the same month date the War had begun. One day soon a Spitfire might fly over Manchester to remember him and the freedom from control and value system that so many died for.

Kieron Higgins

LAC. Thomas Archibald "Nick" Nicholls 466 Sqdn.

Leconfield Circa 1943 photograph by Tom Nicholls

Driffield 1942

Taking a break - Leconfield

Good luck mascot used by unknown 466 pilot

I often wondered why my mother called my dad Nick, when his name was Tom. The reason was that it was his nickname in the RAF during the war when they had first met. My dad was a ground crew mechanic in the RAF and worked with the RAAF Squadron 466 at both Driffield and Leconfield. He worked as an aircraft engineer for the rest of his life. He told me that he enjoyed going up for a 'spin' with the pilots when they weren't on missions - apparently it was customary (given the time) for pilots to offer mechanics a quick flight after they had been working on a problem engine. If they declined they would be told 'get back under the bonnet and take another look, when you're ready to go up then it's fixed'! When my mother heard about these 'spins' she made him a tiny bear, no bigger than a matchbox, as a good luck mascot. One of the pilots took a shine to it and borrowed it every time he went on a mission, he would sit it on the dashboard in the cockpit so it could 'see' where it was going. It must have brought him luck as the pilot returned the bear and himself safely home every time. My dad said he was the proud owner of the only bear that ever bombed the Nazis.

I'm afraid I don't know the names of anyone else in his war-time photographs. Sadly he passed away in 1994 and, as is often the case, I wished I'd asked him more about his war-time experiences because I don't even know the name of the pilot - but I still have the bear.

Lynda Nicholls

P/O. John Adam Philp 76 Sqd. (d.4th Jun 1942)

John Philp served with 58 and 76 squadrons operationally flying Whitleys and Halifaxs. Details from his Pilots flying log book state: John Adams Philp was born on 28th February 1921 at 44 Henleage Avenue, Bristol. He attended Dover College and then the Medical School at the University of Bristol where he volunteered for service with the RAFVR. His flying training commenced at No.17 EFTS (elementary flying training school) RAF North Luffenham on 19th April 1941, where he flew DH 82As, finally flying solo and then being assessed as a pilot with average proficiency after 51 hours 30 min flying time on 30th May. After a period of leave he continued at the EFTS from 8th June to 18th June where he received further training flying DH 82As. On 19th of June, John transferred to No 6 SFTS at RAF Little Rissington achieving flying A/S Oxfords. His first solo flight in an Oxford was on 3rd July. He qualified for the award of the Flying Badge as a Pilot on 30th August 1941, after a total of 136 hours 35 minutes flying time. John was then posted to No.19 OTU (officers training unit) at Kinloss on 18th September for further training, this time on Whitley IV and Vs to 6th November.

John then joined 58 Squadron `B’ flight on 20th of November 1941 at RAF Linton on Ouse and, after further training practice including 5 days at No.2 BAT Flight Driffield, he flew his first nine missions on Whitley Vs. These included bombing operations to Stavanger on 6th January 1942, Brest on 8th January, Emden on 10th January, Rotterdam on 28th January, Mannheim on 11th February, Le Harve on 14 February (abandoned operation due to failure of aircraft to climb plus bad icing and suffered a forced landing at Digby with bombs still on board on his return), Emden on 12th March (Johnny missing) Boulogne on 13th March (docks targeted 16.250 lbs bombs nickels) and on Paris 26th March (nickel raid).

On 7th April 1942 he commenced a Halifax conversion course, completing this on 17th May when he was posted to 76 Squadron `A' flight on 19th May 1942. His first mission with 76 Squadron was on 30th May 1942 and was part of the 1000 bomber raid on Cologne; he was to fly Halifax 11 F-W1104. The Flight crew of F for Freddie were F.O. Philp - Pilot. F.Sgt Mullhauser - Wireless Operator, F.Sgt Ormerod - Obs/Navigator, F.Sgt – Lofts Bomb Aimer, Sgt Watson - Rear Gunner, Sgt Battersby - Flight Engineer, Sgt Hart - Mid-Gunner. He noted in his log book; `aircraft on target in biggest raid ever whole Cologne area ablaze and fires seen for miles. Our load dropped well on target'. His second operational mission with F-W1104 was to Essen on 1st June.

He was killed in action on only his 3rd mission with F-W1104 of 76 Squadron (his 12th operational) on 3rd/4th June 1942, flying on a raid over Bremen. His log book was noted as missing and stamped ‘death presumed’ by his commanding officer. John Adams Philp was aged 21 years the son of Leslie and Evelyn Philp of Bristol and is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

Tim Kirby

Peter Curtis Rees

My uncle, Peter Rees, trained in Falcon Field, Arizona, graduating from there on 1st April 1945. He later served in the Far East. Peter was killed in a flying accident in 1949 at Kirkburn, near RAF Driffield Advanced Flying School. He was in a Gloster Meteor VII at the time of the crash. I have a good photo of his Flight at Falcon Field. Any information would be appreciated.

Dave Rees

Sgt. William Thomas Ross Stephenson 104 Sqdn. (d.17th August 1941)

Sgt Pilot William T R Stephenson was shot down by a German 'night intruder' as he took off from Driffield around midnight on August 16th, all seven aboard were killed.

Michael Stephenson

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