Military History Tours On Tour - Bomber Command (RAAF in the UK) 7 July 2012
Not many photos today as the weather in the UK was very bad indeed. We left Salisbury at 09:00 and headed to Zeals where we were to have morning tea with Kevin Byrne in his home that was an original Control Tower at Zeals Airfield.
This airfield was a grass field and very important to the defence of London and for the support of many activities leading up to the support of the D Day landings. Zeals had the Spitfires that supported the Bostons on smoke-laying sorties over the landing beaches at Dieppe to cover the withdrawal of the raiding force.
It was an airfield that had many Squadrons fly from here before in 1943 when Zeals was allocated to the American 8th Air Force’s Tactical Air Depot Area. This was being established to support the large number of units expected to arrive from the USA over the next few months. However the weight of the American aircraft made the grass runways not suitable for their C47 activity so they moved to an airfield with tarmac runways and the Station reopened as a forward fighter base on 20 April 1944. Many Squadrons and a variety of aircraft operated from Zeals until the end of the war when it was decommissioned. Kevin bought the tower many years later and has converted a derelict building into his home.
We said goodbye to Kevin and headed to Sutton Veny where we visited the Church there and the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery that it has in its grounds. This area, on the edge of the Salisbury Plain was the location of a major hospital during WW1. The wounded came here by train into a large tented hospital and when convalescing were sent to various Manor Houses in the district to complete their recovery.
At the end of the War there was the Flu Epidemic that devastated the world and Sutton Veny did not escape the disease. Most buried here were victims of this epidemic and include the Matron, nurses, doctors and other medical staff associated with running the hospital. Not many visit this well kept site but those who can, should do so to ensure those interred are not forgotten. We then travelled via Stonehenge to touch the past.
The Army Air Museum at Middle Wallop was our last visit for the day. This Museum has an excellent display of all aspects of Army Aviation and the exhibits are well displayed especially the gliders that were used during the War to drop men and equipment behind the front line. Many bought books from the library there before boarding our coach for the trip to our hotel in Salisbury. Tomorrow we will visit the Fleet Air Arm Museum and all will enjoy this museum with its specialised aircraft.
Colonel Graham Fleeton.