Image of Imperial War Museums Logo Image of Historic Duxford title
Archive
Buildings and structures

A page from the Duxford Diary showing the aftermath of the 19 July 1944 crash.

This month marks the 70th anniversary of one of Duxford’s most tragic events – the crash of a visiting B-17 of the 95th Bomb Group, which killed 14 men. We’ve been back through the 78th Fighter Group’s records to add some different perspectives to this well-recorded incident.

19 July 1944 began much as any other for the 78th Fighter Group. After breakfast in the Officers’ Club and a briefing in their room on the south side of what is now Hangar 4, the pilots strapped themselves into their P-47s. By 0709, 49 were airborne, led by Major Ben I Mayo. Two hours later they were in action, strafing airfields. Several enemy aircraft were destroyed by the Group’s pilots, but not without loss: at approximately 0930, Major Norman D Munson, was killed. His wing man, 1st Lieutenant Kinsolving, later described what happened:

‘Major Munson came around again for a second pass. This time he set another twin engine aircraft on fire, but just as he did so, his plane was evidently hit by flak for his ship nosed down, hit the aerodrome at a slight angle and burst into flame. The flaming wreckage slid 100 yards off the aerodrome.’

Norman ‘Doug’ Munson, son of Warren and Sarah Munson of Plattsburgh, New York, was 24 years old.

The 78th arrived back at Duxford a few minutes after noon. As the Duxford Diary reported, ‘as usual after a big day, nearly everyone on the base was feeling pretty good.’ Around 1400, a B-17 landed. Its captain, Lieutenant Sasser, a friend of one of the 78th’s pilots, offered to take some of Duxford’s men for a ride in the aircraft – ‘Ready Freddie’. Several jumped at the chance, and by around 1430 were airborne.

What happened next caused the largest loss of life in a single incident in Duxford’s four decades as an operational airfield.

Captain John E. Lingenfelter’s 1042nd Signal Company submitted a report which described the tragedy:

‘Men from the base…climbed aboard a visiting bomber for a ride around the field. The bomber careered off the neon beacon on top of one of the hangars; lost its wing which crashed in front of the officers’ club; dropped one of its rubber auxiliary tanks through an empty Nissen hut and then crashed into the barrack of the 83rd where it burned, killing all on board and one man in the barrack. The barrack was completely demolished and all aboard the plane were burned beyond recognition.’

As well as the bomber’s crew – Sasser, Victor L Mintz, James A Heil Sr. and Francis J Bradburn – there were eight of Duxford’s men inside the B-17: Martin H Smith Jr., John B. Putnam Jr., Donald M. French, Ellsworth J Seesz, John F. Hamilton, John D. Gorman, Anthony C. Loguidice, Frank L Wojcicki, and Wilbur K. Edwards.  Ernest Taylor was in the barracks when the aircraft hit.

Identifying the dead proved to be a harrowing task, as the 1042nd report describes:

‘The accident…had caused considerable confusion in identification of the bodies whose dog-tags were melted with the heat or were lost in the crash. To eliminate any further difficulties along that line a check on dog-tags was made in the mess hall on the twenty-first by Colonel Williams and Major Floyd. Anyone unable to show his tags was ordered from the mess hall to get his dog tags.’

The deaths affected everyone on the station. This was reflected in the reports submitted by each section at the end of the month. Staff Sergeant William H Roberts wrote:

‘It is with the deepest regret that I am closing this month’s contribution on a note of sadness. The tragic accident that happened on our field… affected us very deeply, inasmuch as two of the three men lost from our squadron worked in our department. As a eulogist I am sadly lacking, however I would like at this time to express the department’s felicitations and high esteem for S/Sgt Donald French and Pfc. Wilbur K Edwards. Both men were of the highest moral character and as such accorded our respect. Their ability and willingness to work was exemplified by the proficient manner they performed their duties. They have departed in body but their ethereal presence will always remain.’

The Orderly Room’s Bill Brennan paid a moving tribute:

‘Death took one of the finest members of the squadron this month. A soldier whose quiet manner and devotion to duty will never be forgotten by any of us. Cpl Anthony C  Loguidice was an average G.I. He came from Albany, New York. He had been with the outfit ever since it was activated down at Esler Field. His duties were with the Transportation Section, where he worked diligently for a year and a half. Two days before he was killed he was promoted to the grade of Cpl.  A promotion which he sweated out for nearly a year. His death was one of those strange unexpected events that no-one but the Almighty can explain…To us it seems strange that “Tony” should die in this way because he always wanted to be a gunner so he could get a crack at the enemy. He had excellent grades and was an expert with a gun. A new regulation put out by Fighter Command stating that no one would be taken for gunnery duty if he wasn’t trained in the States prevented his being a gunner. Many things we will forget about “Tony” but never his quiet efficient manner, his hearty smile, and his always ready to lend a hand attitude.’

Sergeant Jacobs of the Transportation Section also remembered Tony Loguidice:

‘This month of July 1944 will  always live in the memories of Sgt Jacobs and the men under his supervision for it was Wednesday…of this month that Tony Loguidice, one of the original gang in this section lost his life in the tragic crash of the Flying Fortress. With the loss of Tony we also lost Johnny Gorman of the Transportation Section of the 1671st Ordnance Co., along with eight other enlisted men, the co-pilot of the B-17, Lt Putnam and one other pilot of the 84th Fighter Squadron. Loguidice will always be remembered by the Transportation Section as a man who was not only a perfect soldier but also a shining credit to his family and his home town Albany, New York.’

A page from the Duxford Diary: ‘Memorial service was held in Chapel following Sunday’

The funerals on 22 July were moving experiences for the men who attended, as Captain Lingenfelter’s company’s report recalled:

‘The usual Saturday morning inspection of the twenty-second was eliminated so that members of the field might attend a funeral mass at 0730 hours in honour of the men who died in the disaster of the nineteenth. That afternoon all men who desired to attend the funeral were relieved from duty and a convoy of ten or twelve trucks left the field for the Cambridge Military Cemetery at 1500 hours.

The members of the field who attended the funeral will long remember the scene with its…flag-covered coffins; its volleys and taps and many a man thanked God, as he left the cemetery overlooking Cambridge in the distance, for protecting him who might even then be slowly sliding from beneath the flags to rest in the soil of England.’

Duxford today, showing the site of the destroyed barrack block.

With thanks to Anne Hughes for archive research. To read more about the tragedy on 19 July, please also see this website, run by 78th Fighter Group historian Curt Shepard. It contains several pages of the original accident reports, and photographs of some of the men who lost their lives.

 

Read More

As most of you guessed, we haven’t really become convinced of an ancient Egyptian connection to IWM Duxford. We took advantage of April Fools’ Day to highlight a little piece of IWM Duxford’s hidden history. There really is a scarab beetle etched into the ground in front of Hangar 2: Flying Aircraft, but it didn’t originate in Africa 2,000 years ago.

The hangar that used to stand here belonged to No. 64 Squadron, and their badge features a scarab beetle. This is because the squadron spent some time in Egypt in the 1930s. They were based here from 1951 to 1961, flying Gloster Meteors, then Javelins.

The beetle was placed here by squadron personnel to show just whose territory this was!

I included a few clues in the previous post – did you spot them? It’s not really ‘64’ feet from the scarab to the hangar entrance, and the reason I included the phrase ‘firm of purpose’ is because this is a translation of the squadron motto – “Tenax propositi”.

However, it is possible to argue that the scarab is here because of a meteor – a Gloster Meteor, to be precise…

Read More

Duxford from the south east. By permission of the Imperial War Museum, IWM Q 114047

This photograph of Duxford was taken from the east, near where the M11 motorway is now. It shows the airfield soon after it was built. Many of these buildings survive today.

Duxford was built to a standard layout. Buildings were planned within two main groups: the technical group, and the domestic group. At Duxford these sets of buildings were separated by the Royston to Newmarket road.

The domestic buildings were on the north side of the road. They provided accommodation for some 850 men and women. Buildings included a hostel for the airwomen of the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF), and messes and quarters for officers, sergeants and airmen. The photograph below shows a mix of the different sorts of personnel stationed here!

Members of the Royal Air Force and Women's Royal Air Force at Duxford, at the end of the First World War. By permission of the Imperial War Museum. IWM HU 40579

The technical group of buildings was on the south of the road. These structures housed all of the services needed to keep the station running, the repair shops, aircraft sheds (hangars) and training buildings. Below, you can Duxford band in 1918, posing in front of one of the hangar doors.

The Duxford band, 1918. By permission of the Imperial War Museum. IWM Q 096087

Several temporary hangars, made of wood and canvas, were also constructed in 1918. They were known as Bessonneau, or Type H hangars. They housed many of the aircraft based here.

Read More

Air shows have been happening at Duxford since the 1920s. This photo is of Empire Air Day, 1937. Thousands of people flocked to Duxford, just as they do for our air shows now.

Empire Air Day 1937, IWM neg no. HU048146

On Empire Air Day visitors were taken on tours of the site. They were also treated to flying displays of the latest RAF aircraft. These included aerobatic training displays, an air fight and even a blind flying demonstration. In the photo you can see Avro Tutors parked on the flight walk, just as you see the aircraft lined up at an air show today. Also open for inspection by the public were the station sick quarters, workshops, canteen and games room, dining room and kitchen.

Today, the air shows still hold the same fascination and excitement for visitors, as they did for visitors over 80 years ago. The aircraft though, can be a little different! The development of faster and more advanced aircraft such as the Hurricane and Spitfire and then the later jet aircraft all feature in the shows now held at Duxford. I think visitors to the 1937 Empire Air Day would be astonished at the range, speed and capabilities of the aircraft on show today.

This photo is also great if you like “people watching”. Have a really close look at some on the individuals on the ground. What are they doing? What are they looking at? What things do you like to do and see when you go to an air show?

Read More

The north side of the site here at Duxford is where people lived, ate, slept and socialised. It is separated from the technical side by the A505.

Now most of the buildings are occupied by museum departments and other companies but the feel of the place is amazing!

Did you know there was a cinema there which is still kitted out with stage, screen and seats (although not the originals)? Like all RAF station cinemas, it is called the ‘Astra Cinema’. This is taken from the RAF motto “Per Ardua ad Astra” which can be translated in different ways, but in relation to the RAF is often reported as: “Through Struggles to the Stars”.

Cinema at Duxford

The building that housed the cinema was also used as a gymnasium and church. It was built in 1940 and extended in 1941. An annexe, to house the projection equipment for the cinema, was added in 1955. In more recent years, many staff remember it as being a rather grand location for meetings and presentations!

the cinema building

If you want to see this intriguing place for yourself then you can book on an ‘Unseen Duxford – North Side tour’. It is well worth a visit and the guides that conduct the visits have some great stories to tell!

Read More

Toilet block between 3: Air and Sea and 4: Battle of Britain

If you use the block of toilets between 3: Air and Sea and 4: Battle of Britain, be aware that it started life with a very different purpose in mind! Research indicates that this building was where all the batteries used on the station were cared for, maintained and charged. Just thought you would like to know…

Read More

George Unwin and his Alsatian Flash. By permission of the Imperial War Museum,IWM CH 001343

Sarah pointed out some time ago how often dogs appear in photographs of Duxford.  Dogs and other animals were a key part of station life.

There are lots of accounts and photographs of pets and mascots at Duxford: the unnamed First World War donkey (below), the Station Commander’s horse, Flash the Alsatian (above), Rangy the Spaniel and No. 609 Squadron’s famous mascot “William de Goat” to name a few.

Read More

Hangar 3: Air and Sea and the Watch Office. By permission of the Imperial War Museum, IWM_SITE_DUX_000317

Phase 1 of the interpretation of Historic Duxford will take place in what is currently known as Building 89. This building was used in the 1930s as a Watch Office, where the duty pilot or officer on watch would be stationed during flying activity.  It was built in 1917/1918, along with Hangar 3: Air and Sea. These are the first 1918 buildings that visitors encounter on their journey through the Museum.

Read More