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

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RAF Rufforth



   RAF Rufforth is situated 4 miles west of York. It was a purpose built bomber airfield built to Class A specification, Rufforth was constructed during 1941 and opened on the 10th June 1942. The first operational squadron to arrive was 158 Squadron, who transferred from East Moor, No. 1663 Heavy Conversion Unit was formed at Rufforth in March 1943 and tutored Halifax crews until disbanded in late May 1945.

In the early post-war years, Rufforth was retained by the RAF for use as a gliding school and by other minor units. A motor racing track was buit on the site opening for racing on the 28th March 1959. It closed in 1977. Rufforth was used by No. 60 Maintenance Unit for storage before the RAF finally departed in November 1974 and the airfield was sold in July 1981.

Today the site is used for gliding and microlights and for aggriculture. The control tower survives having been used in the TV drama series Airline during the 1970s. It is also used for airshows and regular car boot sales.

 


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



Those known to have served at

RAF Rufforth

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

  • Dark D.F.M.. Dennis Harold Gilbert. W/O
  • Furniss John William. Sgt. (d.11th December 1942)
  • Gilverson Albert Edward. Sgt. (d.19th Aug 1943)
  • Mewis Les.
  • Ravine Donald Charles. Sgt. (d.19th Aug 1943)
  • Read Frederick David. (d.19th Aug 1943)
  • Sibbley Cyril. Sgt.
  • Toogood .
  • Widdowson Alan Charles. F/Sgt.
  • Wigham DFC.. William. F/O

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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W/O Dennis Harold Gilbert "Darky" Dark D.F.M.

In My fathers log book he was at 1163 C.U. Rufforth from the Feb of 1944 to the 25/02/1944...The Pilots at the time he was flying with are
    S/L Kofoed.
  • F/O Hewlett..
  • F/O Chambers and a
  • Sgt Chippings
..At the time he was doing Circuits and landings Sea Search/Cross Country and F Affiliation..All in Halifax..

.Is this information of any use to any one? I would also be greatfull if any one has any information on my father's name.

I am in the process of finding out as much info as possible as to what my father had done in the war.He served from 1940 till 1945 and all I have is his Flying Log book from 1943 to 1945. A lot of info missing.

Christopher John Dark



Sgt. Donald Charles Ravine 1663 HCU (d.19th Aug 1943)

I have been researching a Collision between two Halifax Bombers, one from Riccall and one from Rufforth, on 19 August 1943.

DG420, The Rufforth Aircraft was Piloted by Sgt Donald Charles Ravine (569748), known crew are Air Gunner Sgt Albert Edward Gilverson and Frederick Read. Possible codes and letters for the aircraft are OO-? Or SV-? Maybe H as a letter, it was built by Rootes Securities, Speke as part of a contract of 150 aircraft, Contract number ACFT/637, requisition HA3/E11/40. It had previously served with 76 Squadron under the markings MP-Q flew 4 operations, then sent to 1663 HCU, Rufforth.

Pilot Sgt Donald Charles Ravine,on right, with others, not known.

R9497, The Riccall Aircraft, was Piloted by Sgt Terrance Claude Ashley (1337699) possible codes and letters, TT-? Or ZB-?. It was built by Handley Page Ltd, Cricklewood and Radlett as part of a contract of 100 aircraft. Contract number 69649/37, requisition 102/E11/37. It had previously served with 10 Squadron, Melbourne under markings ZA-V, then sent to 1658 HCU, Riccall

Jim Sotheran



Sgt. Albert Edward Gilverson 1663 HCU (d.19th Aug 1943)

Albert Edward Gilverson, RCAF

Air Gunner Sgt Albert Edward Gilverson was killed in a collision between two Halifax Bombers, one from Riccall and one from Rufforth, on 19 August 1943.

Rufforth Crew, Air Gunner Sgt Albert Edward Gilverson 2nd row back, middle

Air Gunner Sgt Albert Edward Gilverson on left

Jim Sotheran



Frederick David Read 1663 HCU (d.19th Aug 1943)

Air Gunner Frederick Read was killed on the 19th of August 1943 in a collision between two Halifax Bombers, one from Riccall and one from Rufforth, which I have been researching.

DG420, The Rufforth Aircraft was Piloted by Sgt Donald Charles Ravine (569748), known crew are Air Gunner Sgt Albert Edward Gilverson and Frederick Read. Possible codes and letters for the aircraft are OO-? Or SV-? Maybe H as a letter, it was built by Rootes Securities, Speke as part of a contract of 150 aircraft, Contract number ACFT/637, requisition HA3/E11/40. It had previously served with 76 Squadron under the markings MP-Q flew 4 operations, then sent to 1663 HCU, Rufforth

R9497, The Riccall Aircraft, was Piloted by Sgt Terrance Claude Ashley (1337699) possible codes and letters, TT-? Or ZB-?. It was built by Handley Page Ltd, Cricklewood and Radlett as part of a contract of 100 aircraft. Contract number 69649/37, requisition 102/E11/37. It had previously served with 10 Squadron, Melbourne under markings ZA-V, then sent to 1658 HCU, Riccall

Jim Sotheran



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



Sgt. John William Furniss 158 Squadron (d.11th December 1942)

Sergeant John Furniss (1575389) was an Air Gunner (Rear Gunner) in 158 Squadron. He was originally from a farming family in rural Northamptonshire, before joining the RAF during World War 2.

On December 11th 1942, his Halifax Mark II bomber (Serial DT579 Code NP-V)took off from RAF Rufforth at 1645h, as part of a formation of 82 aircraft on Operation Torino (destination Turin). Many of the aircraft had to turn back however due to icing on the wings. Sadly John's aircraft was hit over central France by a heavy barrage of flak. The aircraft crashed near the village of Villeneuve-en-Montagne, with debris spread over a wide area. All crew were lost - John was 19 years old when he died. The villagers attended the crash site and hid the bodies of the crew from the Germans, before giving them a burial in their village cemetery - Only 2 of the bodies were identifiable due to the situation of the crash. To this day all 7 crew lay in a collective grave in this quiet rural corner of France. Their sacrifice is regularly honoured by the local community.

Anne-Marie Walduck



F/Sgt. Alan Charles Widdowson 158 Sqdn.

I am lookng for information regarding my grandfather Alan Widdowson who was a pilot. I believe he was stationed at RAF Rufforth, Yorkshire around 1945. Anyone who remembers him please contact me.

Update

If your grandfather was Alan Charles Widdowson, 158 Squadron, F/Sgt Pilot, who went on to RAF Lissett from Rufforth, Halifax mark 3 bomber, he may well be my father's good friend and that of his crew, including Sgt Cyril Sibbley and Les Mewis. (David Towers)

Update

My father was the navigator in this crew. (Neil Toogood)

K Guest



Sgt. Cyril Sibbley 158 Sqdn.

Sgt. Sibbley was a member of an aircrew along with Les Mewis, Alan Widdowson and Toogood.




Les Mewis 158 Sqdn.

Les Mewis was a member of an aircrew along with Sgt. Sibbley, Alan Widdowson and Toogood.




Toogood 158 Sqdn.

Sgt Toogood was a member of an aircrew along with Sgt. Sibbley, Alan Widdowson and Les Mewis.








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