Back and Forth, and Back Again…

Frisky had fairly well settled down to a routine of commuting from Bisterne to fly at Ibsley, when on May 14, 144, the order was given to bring the planes back to Bisterne. The flying surface had been repaired, carefully inspected, and was ready (again) to receive.

Airmen shoo cows off the advanced landing ground prototype field at Bisterne, a cow patch turned into an air patch (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O., via Francis E. Madore)

Airmen shoo cows off the advanced landing ground prototype field at Bisterne, a cow patch turned into an air patch (The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O., via Francis E. Madore)

So Frisky bid goodbye to the hard flying surfaces at Ibsley, USAAF Station AAF-347, and the P-47 Thunderbolts of the 371st Fighter Group returned to the pastoral setting at Bisterne Airfield.

Scale model of Ibsley Airfield (Courtesy of   )

Scale model of Ibsley Airfield (Courtesy of Airfield Information Exchange website)

Today little is left of Ibsley to show its existence as a fighter airfield. The facility was closed in 1947, and gradually redeveloped for commercial purposes. The airfield was largely dug up for gravel, and the excavations gradually became man-made lakes. However, the control tower (technically referred to as a Watch Office, Type 518/40) remains, if in poor condition, overlooking one of these artificial lakes.

Derelict control tower at Ibsley Airfield, which is planned to be preserved and converted into an aviation museum (Courtesy RAF Ibsley Historical Group)

Derelict control tower at Ibsley Airfield, which is planned to be preserved and converted into an aviation museum (Courtesy RAF Ibsley Historical Group)

Of important note is a memorial to the airfield and the units and Airmen that flew there located nearby the old control tower. It was dedicated on 24 April 2000.

Original memorial at Ibsley Airfield, dedicated in April, 2000 (Courtesy RAF Ibsley Historical Group)

Original memorial at Ibsley Airfield, dedicated in April, 2000 (Courtesy RAF Ibsley Historical Group)

Appreciatively, it does mention the 371st Fighter Group’s presence at the field in 1944. In fact, this monument may be the ONLY airfield monument in the E.T.O. which remembers that Frisky flew from it during World War II.  If anyone knows of another airfield monument for the 371st Fighter Group, please advise this blog.

The 371st Fighter Group's wartime service at Ibsley Airfield in the spring of 1944 is remembered on the memorial plaque (Courtesy RAF Ibsley Historical Group)

The 371st Fighter Group’s wartime service at Ibsley Airfield in the spring of 1944 is remembered on the memorial plaque (Courtesy RAF Ibsley Historical Group)

On 4 May 2009, an important addition to the memorial was dedicated before veterans and visitors, the “Roll of Honour,” consisting of two plaques flanking the original stone plinth memorial which carry the names of those Airmen lost at Ibsely.  The ceremony included an impressive flyover by a Supermarine Spitfire fighter,  Of note, Ibsley Airfield was featured in the 1942 movie “First of the Few,” which told the story of R.J. Mitchell’s development of the famous British Spitfire fighter.

The spring weather cooperated for the flypast of the Ibsley Airfield Roll of Honour unveiling by a Spitfire similar to this Mk. Vb one flown by the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (Courtesy Southern Daily Echo)

The spring weather cooperated for the flypast of the Ibsley Airfield Roll of Honour unveiling by a Spitfire similar to this Mk. Vb flown by the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (Courtesy Southern Daily Echo)

Among those attending the ceremony were former Spitfire pilots Bob George and Des Smith, who joined councillors, Royal British Legion members and air cadets. The 371st Fighter Group was represented by Capt. Willis R. “Wally” Walling, 404th Fighter Squadron P-47 Thunderbolt pilot, who made the long trip across the Atlantic to help dedicate this new part of the memorial at an airfield which represented something very personal to him, as well as the 371st Fighter Group.

The Roll of Honour, dedicated in May, 2009, flanks each side of the Ibsley Airfield Memorial. (Courtesy RAF Ibsley Historical Group)

The Roll of Honour, dedicated in May, 2009, flanks each side of the Ibsley Airfield Memorial. (Courtesy RAF Ibsley Historical Group)

With Capt. Walling was another Ibsley veteran, Ms. Shirley Simmonds, a Mechanised Transport Corps driver who served at Ibsley in 1941. Together they unveiled the Roll of Honour. Names from Britain, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, and France are now honored at the Ibsley memorial.

Ms. Shirley Simmonds and Mr. Willis Walling at the unveiloing of the Ibsley Memoiral Roll of Honour, May, 2009 (Courtesy Bournemouth Daily echo)

Ms. Shirley Simmonds and Mr. Willis Walling at the unveiling of the Ibsley Memoiral Roll of Honour, May, 2009 (Courtesy Bournemouth Daily echo)

Willis Walling addressed those assembled at the dedication, and managed to get a laugh for his British audience when he gave an apology for crashing his P-47 Thunderbolt plane into a house at Ibsley on 11 May 1944 (see ”When a Thunderbolt became a Thunderbeast,” posted on this blog 11 May 2014). Walling also remembered the “…warmth of the people of Ibsley to the American servicemen.”

C3471st Fighter Group, 404th Fighter Squadron P-47 pilot Willis Walling speaks to the crowd at the Roll of Honour unveiling at the former Ibsley Airfield (Courtesy Mr. Willis Walling)

371st Fighter Group, 404th Fighter Squadron P-47 pilot Willis Walling speaks to the crowd at the Roll of Honour unveiling at the former Ibsley Airfield (Courtesy Mr. Willis Walling)

These days, a group of aviation history-friendly people is trying to secure the future of the derelict control tower near the memorial, which is perhaps the most prominent remnant of the military airfield, and restore it into an aviation museum. There are other fragments, as described at the RAF Ibsley Historical Group (formed in 1992) website. In January, 2012, the Airfield Heritage Trust, formed in 2010, signed a long-term lease for the control tower with the owners. We wish them success in their efforts, and hope that as in World War II they will save a little space at Ibsley for the 371st Fighter Group.

References

Pendlebury, Fiona, “War Heroes Remembered,” Bournemouth Daily Echo, 4 May 2009, at: http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/4341326.War_heroes_remembered/

“Spitfire tribute to war heroes,” Southern Daily echo, 9 May 2009, at: http://m.dailyecho.co.uk/news/4354949.Spitfire_tribute_to_war_heroes/?ref=arc

RAF Ibsley, Wikipedia entry, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_Ibsley

RAF Ibsley Historical Group, at: http://www.rafibsley.co.uk/index.html

RAF Ibsley Airfield Heritage Trust, at: http://www.ibsleytower.info/

RAF Ibsley Airfield Heritage Trust, Facebook page, at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RAF-Ibsley-Airfield-Heritage-Trust/326963387314081

R.A.F. Ibsley Memorial – Cross Lanes, Mockbeggar, Hampshire, UK, images and text of inscriptions on the memorial plaques, at: http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM9P1K_RAF_Ibsley_Memorial_Cross_Lanes_Mockbeggar_Hampshire_UK

Mechanised Transport Corps, Wikipedia entry, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanised_Transport_Corps

Colour Image of Model of Ibsley Airfield, at: http://www.airfieldinformationexchange.org/community/showthread.php?261-Ibsley/page7

The New Forest RAF Ibsley WW2 airfield, at: http://www.newforest-life.com/New-Forest-RAF-Ibsley-WW2-airfield.html

“First of the Few,” Wikipedia entry at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_First_of_the_Few

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1 Response to Back and Forth, and Back Again…

  1. sallymacogay says:

    Nice title! Like it personally!

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