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RAF Duxford 80 years ago: a typical fighter station between the wars

Wreckage of Gloster Grebe Mark II, J7293, which crashed in March 1928 killing the pilot, Sergeant Trillick

As we get closer to opening Historic Duxford to our visitors on Thursday 28 March, we look back to life at RAF Duxford as it was in March 1928, 80 years ago. This snapshot of life is taken from RAF Duxford’s Operations Record Book (ORB), a daily diary which was completed by every squadron and station in the RAF and which lists all of the main events that happened on each day.

In just one month, we can see what life was like at a typical RAF station.

March commenced in sombre mood, as RAF Duxford dealt with the aftermath of a flying accident:

2.3.28 Court of Inquiry assembles to enquire into the circumstances of accident to Grebe J7293, which resulted in the death of Sgt H. Trickett of No 29. (F) Squadron. President: Wing Commander. R.P.Willock, o.c. R.A.F. Station Kenley. Members:- Flt Lt F.R. Wynne M.B.E. 32 (F) Squadron, Kenley, and F/O G.W. Tuttle, 19 (F) Squadron, Duxford.

3.3.28 Body of the late Sgt H Trickett conveyed to Duxford Station for burial in his home town. Full parade of 29 (F) Squadron to escort the body to station.

Note: This was a mistake by the compiler, not corrected by the Station Adjutant or Commanding Officer, because it was actually Whittlesford Station. That was the nearest railway station to RAF Duxford, because Duxford village did not have a railway station.

This solemn occasion proved that although over a decade had passed since aerial combat had become an integral part of military warfare, flight training was still a dangerous and often deadly undertaking.

After this tragic accident, life seemed to return to normality:

9.3.28 Flying Officer P O’Callaghan returns to duty from sick at home.

11.3.28 Flying Officer J.P. Cave proceeds to RAF Station, Upavon, on Court of Inquiry duty.

13.3.28 Flying Officer J.P.Cave returns from Upavon on completion of Court of Inquiry duty.

Sports activities were a good way of bringing people together, creating teamwork and allowing RAF personnel to let off a little steam. Popular sports included boxing, rugby, cricket, football, hockey, and athletics. RAF Duxford had a tennis court, squash courts and sports fields. Competitions were organised between stations, and between squadrons and other teams on the station.

14.3.28 Semi-Final RAF Inter-Unit Rugby Club played at Cambridge – Duxford v Leuchars – Result:- Duxford 27 points Leuchars NIL points.

During this time, RAF Duxford played an important role in showing the RAF’s capabilities to royalty, the press and the public:

17.3.28 Machines from No 19 (F) Squadron and No 111 (F) Squadron proceed to Hendon to take part in R.A.F. Display in honour of King Amanullah of Afghanistan.

Machines return P.M. on completion of R.A.F Display. (A.O.C. Fighting Area sends telegram congratulating all units of Fighting Area on the very fine show put up for King Amanullah, and states His Majesty was most gratified and impressed).

We’ll be tweeting the remainder of this month’s Operations Record Book diary entries and posting them here on the blog, so do look for daily updates.

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