Twin Bases - RAF Bentwaters, RAF Woodbridge


Memories of the Twin Bases, contributed in 2002


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25 December 2002
Tihamer Fenyoe
I wish I would have searched out Bentwaters/Woodbridge sites earlier... wow, does it bring back memories. I was stationed their as a young (17 year old). Security Policeman for 3 years. Now, 11 years later, I'm still in the USAF, mainly because my experiences in Suffolk were so incredible. I plan on going back this summer, so thanks for a place to start. Happy Holidays!
Sincerely,
Tom C. Fenyoe, TSgt, USAF
Officer Accessions RIC

USAFE

17 December 2002
Robert Cushman
Hog wall art by Robert CushmanI just had to email you after being referred to your site by an old Air Force friend of mine. I have fabulous memories of my years at Cripple Creek! Not only did I spend 5 years their from 77-82, but I subsequently returned to the UK in 83 after just 15 months stateside. I then proceeded to spend 11 years at RAF Upper Heyford! Gosh... 16 years of my 22 year career were in the UK... can I say more! I was just telling my girlfriend about some of my memories this past weekend when today my friend gave me the link to your website. I can't thank you enough for preserving that little part of history which means so much to so many! I in fact was married to a lady from Leiston, and her mother still lives there. Though since divorced... she and I remain good friends.

Note:
Robert Cushman was, unknown to him, already a contributor to this site,
with his wall art in Hangar 74.

USAFE

2 December 2002
Floyd & Pauline Kracke
Thank you so much for contacting us. The following is a brief history of my association with the 81st Ftr. Incpt. Wing.
I was assigned to the 81st at Moses lake washington in 1950. I transferred with the wing to Bentwaters RAF Station in August of 1951. I was assigned to the 81st Field maintenance Squadron as a jet engine technician. I worked at the jet engine test cell located across the taxiway from the field maintenance hangar.
In 1953, I was operating a jet engine installed in the test cell when the engine blew up (disintegrated) and caused a fire and a lot of damage to the test cell. Fortunately neither I or my working partner were injured.
In may of 1952 I married a lovely lady from Felixstowe and we celebrated or 50th wedding anniversary this past May.
We returned to the U.S. in sept. of 1954. I retired from the Air Force as a Master St. on 1 June 1970.
FDK

Chris BouwhuisUSAFE

22 November 2002
Chris Bouwhuis

Linn,
Here's a picture I'm sure you've never seen.
The year was 1953, I was 20 years old. We were so young and brash, but by that time we had learned that the idiosyncrasies of the Brits were not that bad.
We learned to love the Brits as they learned to tolerate the Yanks. Few people left there to go back to the "Colonies" without very fond memories of the land, the people, the culture and the friendship.
I lift a toast to you, all of you.
Chris Bouwhuis

 

 

 

USAFE

UK Driving License

26 November 2002
Ray Wright reweigh(a)pacbell.net

Ray contributed some pictures of Wheelus and Shepherds Grove, plus this, which I could not resist posting.

I had the NEXT version, which had a red linen cover.

Linn Barringer

 

USAFE

6 November 2002
Ed Jewry FastEd AZ(a)aol.com

I was the NCOIC of Base Operations '90-'92.
We spent our two years living on Tunstall Green...11 Tunstall Green!
Had my first kippers at the Green Man Pub. Have a couple pieces of pottery from the shop on the corner! We have so many great memories, I almost get "homesick" when I think on our times/friends in the UK.
Ed

USAFE

October 20, 2002
Thomas Gates A MSt 115FW/LGMCE

Linn; the picture in on the Bentwaters Parks Ltd page, under "Buildings/Runways", then under "Hardened Aircraft Hangers". The picture is of a HAS with the doors open. I remember the job of painting that well. There was about three of us. One supervised; not me since I was only an airman, and another person who I don't remember, (It's been 15 years). My job was to trace out the images and paint the doors. I was using a deicing truck with a bucket to lift me up into the steel beams to trace out the thunderbolt and roman numeral two. I then painted the doors brown, then the images. The other guy painted the doors below me, he had no ladders so just did the ground level stuff. If you want to use my name that is great, but I did have help, I was just one of three. I was there from August 1985-Aug 1988.
I just loved the base and England!, and I sure miss them both. My mother- and father-in-law still live in England up by Harrogate. The arrived in England around the same time I did to work at RAF Menwith Hill Station and liked it so much the stayed in England and now are retired up there. It's sad to see the base like that now, in such bad shape. I have so many fond memories of my years there. I hope when we fly over to see my wife's parents; in a year or so, to drive down to see the what's left of the place and see Ipswich too.
I read a lot of the building were to be demolished. I still have many pictures of the place and I find myself looking through them a lot Anyways thank you so much for your hard work and efforts to preserve history. It is appreciated!!
Tom Gates
834 Lum Ave
Waterloo, Wi 53594. USA

USAFE

April 18, 2002
Joe Williams
Shepherd's Grove
Subject: F-86 photos

Hi Linn,
Thanks for your interest in the photos on the Bentwaters web site. Interesting story behind the F-86 number 162 (See the pictures and Joe's additional captions here.)

Linn, as far as I am concerned, my 5 years with the 81st were the best years of my air force career. When people ask me where I am from, I tell them I was born in New Jersey, but raised in the 81st Fighter Wing.
I really enjoyed our stay in England, our two daughters were born there and I think you British are the world's greatest hosts.

Thanks for all your effort in keeping the 81st alive and well.

Warmest regards,

Joe Williams

USAFE

March 16, 2002
Ward B Becker becker_w(a)cox.net 
Bentwaters, Woodbridge, July 1974 - July 1976, A1C/Sgt 81st Avionic Maint Sqdn, Inertial Nav System Shop
Now: 191 College Cove, Niceville, FL 32578

...terrific memories of our years in England.

USAFE

March 14, 2002
Kim Brokaw (kbrokaw(a)marykay.com) 
Bentwaters, 1979 --1981, 81st AGS
Now:
My new address & phone:
Kim Brokaw (former Mrs. PHILLIP WEBSTER)
303 S. Second Street, Walnut, IL  61376      (815) - 878- 9665

You have created an incredible site that I know is bringing back many wonderful memories for those who lived there. 

My first husband, (Phillip Webster) was stationed at Bentwaters from Dec. 1979 thru Dec. 1981 and was part of the 81st AGS as an aircraft armament systems specialist (462x0?) for the A10 aircraft. We married in Sept. 1980 so I became the young Air Force bride. We did not live on the base but rather lived in Great Horkesley, a little village on the outskirts of Colchester so that we could be near the great Church my husband had found previously.

We had great fellowship with other Christians there, as well as really enjoyed living "the English life" with the coal man every two weeks, the milk man daily, the messy coal burner in the kitchen, etc. and having English neighbors all round about us. We were 20 at the time, and I'm sure our English friends talked about the "young American lovers" at the end of Exeter Close! We "grew up in England." They just "adopted" us as their own, and when our first daughter was born (at Lakenheath) they loved and "adopted" her too.

Now, almost 21 years later, my daughter and I are planning a return trip to England in mid-May. Her father and I were divorced in 1987 but have remained very good friends.  After all this time, I doubt that much (if any) of it will even look familiar to me, especially since I didn't live on the base but only went there for events and groceries, etc. But, it would be wonderful to see that "part of my life" again, and to show what remains of the base to Julia.
(Phil said he'd love to join us, but we both laughed that that would be most inappropriate since we are both happily remarried with families!! :)

USAFE

February 1, 2002
Tom Gaither, Woodbridge, 12/62 - 12/65, A1C Weapons Loading. 78th Sq. / 81 TFW
Now: Gaither's Studio/Gallery, 336 Elm Street, Ludlow, KY. USA 41016

A photo (c.1965) of a small, thatched-roof cottage in Melton, at the fork of the road (left Bentwaters, right Woodbridge) was posted on your site. When I hitched a ride to base from Ipswich it seems I was always picked-up by someone going to B/W who dropped me in front of that house to wait for a ride to W/B. Your snapshot reminded me of a special place in my past which had become completely forgotten for over 35 years.

With your photo to prod my memory, in the fall of 2001, I completed a watercolor painting of the building as I remember it.  I would like to thank you for your efforts in beginning and maintaining what has become my favorite trip back in time.

[Linn Barringer: ...and now folks, here IS that watercolor]

Thatched cottage by the river Deben, Suffolk, England, watercolour painted by Tom Gaither.
Thatched cottage by the river Deben, Suffolk, England, watercolour painted by Tom Gaither.
This cottage still exists.

 

USAFE

January 29, 2002
Henry (Hank) Titone htitone(a)pica.army.mil
Bentwaters, August 1969 to February 1971, SSGT, 81st Avionics Maint. Squadron
Now: Flanders, NJ

One of the best assignments possible during the Vietnam War.
I enjoyed the work and the people of the Air Force and England and would enjoy hearing from the airmen and civilians I came in contact with.

USAFE

January 10, 2002
Dan E. Scott (TSgt Ret) danscott305(a)msn.com  
Shepherds Grove, 1951-1953, TSgt 92nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron - Crew Chief - F86-#209
Now: 119 CR 7721 Natalia, Texas 78059

I have located some old orders (April, 1951) assigning us to gunnery training at Wheelus Field, Tripoli. I have found a picture of our hut (#394) and one of the Hawker Hunter at Dunsfeld when we were there running comparison test between it and the F-86's. As soon as I get the names of personnel I have on the orders and post them in hopes someone can make contact.

USAFE

January 5, 2002
Dennis Ulkins Denandbert(a)aol.com 
Woodbridge
1965-1966
A2C Comm. Squadron(Air Traffic Controller)
Now: 60 Upland Dr. Irondequoit, NY 14617

Served from Sept. 1965 to Dec. 1966 at RAF Woodbridge. Sent TDY to Lakenheath where I was subsequently permanently assigned. Stumbled onto this web site this evening and have been transported back four decades to one of the most enjoyable times of my life. I have mentioned to my wife on so many occasions how much I wanted to get back to Woodbridge someday. Your web site may be the push I need to do so. Thanks for the memories!!! I can practically smell the JP4!!!

USAFE

Dan Scott scott_retired(a)hotmail.com 
December 30, 2001 7:07 PM

Hi Linn,
I have viewed your pictures of Shepherds Grove and adjacent areas and would like to thank you for providing that look into my past. I came in with the 81st FW and was in the 92nd FS as a crewchief. I left there in October 1953 however left many friends (both Brits and Yanks).

We initially lived in Thetford (when my wife arrived) then later moved to a place called "The Rookery" just outside Bury St. Edmunds and later into a "Caravan" (Mobile House Trailer) just outside the back gate of Shepherds Grove on the way to Stanton, onto some old foundations of Quonset huts that was just behind the farmhouse adjacent to the NCO club and enlisted Quonset huts. Several of your pictures were buildings that I was familiar with.

While stationed there, I had the opportunity to be on a team that went to DeHavilland to phase-test the 110 Fighter (later known as Sea Vixen) and to Hawker to phase-test the Hunter fighters. I also got to personally meet one of you famous Test-Pilots, Neville Duke and was at two of the Battle of Britain airshows with our fighters.

We were also there when Queen Elizabeth was crowned and got to see the event. England is such a pretty country and I thank you for taking time out to bring memories back to us via your photos.

Dan Scott, TSgt (Retired)

  USAFE

AWOL for a Thatcher (but not Margaret...)

Larry Pegg l.pegg(a)worldnet.att.net 
December 25, 2001

I was telling war stories the other eve with a couple of old buddy's and ole BUSTER reminded me of how I almost got charged with being AWOL from WOODBRIDGE.

I was on my way to work one morning leaving DEBENHAM and as I drove thru one of the smaller towns, I seen this crew of men installing a new THATCH ROOF on a BUNGALOW. I pulled over to watch for a few minutes and I was just amazed at the skill and workmanship going into that project, I watched them cut in a very nice pattern into the roof, I just could not leave, I sat there watching and the next thing I knew it was lunch time, I could not find a call box so took my chances and headed on to base.

It so happened that 3rd AIR FORCE had called an ALERT EXERCISE, and I was no where to be found on BASE, OLE COL SIMPSON was madder than HELL at me, I had planes in my hangar that he wanted out and my crew was standing around with their heads up you know what. When I got to the MAIN GATE I was informed that SIMPSON was looking for me, I knew then that I was in deep do do.

I called COL. SIMPSON on the field phone and told him I was present for duty and would roll the planes as fast as we could put the panels back on. Needless to say he had a few choice words to say to me and told me to report to him as soon as the alert was over.

Thank goodness the alert was cancelled before we got scored and so there fore we got a passing inspection from 3rd AIR FORCE. OLE LT. COL CHARLES SIMPSON was out to burn my young butt and bust me down to airman basic, I was saved by COL ADRIAN E. DREW, he happened into my hangar to have coffee with me and I told him that SIMPSON was after my ass, COL DREW stepped in for me and cooled COL SIMSON down and I got by with just a good ole butt chewing.

However even if I knew I was in trouble, I would probably do it over, I was and still am amazed at that crew putting that roof on that house, that is one of the things I will look for when I come back, I will remember that house when I see it.

Editor's note:
Go to www.oldpond.com to find a wonderful video of that whole process of growing the special-height wheat, to laying the thatch.

  USAFE

JATO Powered 6x Truck !

Ausch(a)aol.com 
December 21, 2001

I saw an article written by Walter O'Toole wotoole(a)dswebnet.com requesting any information on a test of the runway barrier at Bentwaters by a truck outfitted with jato bottles.  I tried to send the info to him but email is rejected, so here's the story... 

I was one of the tower controllers on duty at that event and witnessed the whole test. The 81st. Fighter/Bomber Squadron fitted the front of a six-by truck with the nose gear and the main gear of a F-84 in order to perform a test on the barrier's operation. The truck also was fitted with jato bottles to give it the necessary speed that they were trying to match to the F-84's landing roll to see if the barrier would engage the nose/main gear at the correct angle and subsequently stop the aircraft before it ran out of runway. The barrier was a nylon webbing that stretched across the overrun of the runway 27 and while not in use, lay flat on the surface.

The controller could push a button in the tower, if the pilot or controller deemed it necessary, that would cause the webbing to pop up and hopefully engage the aircraft while dragging 100 feet of chain (each chain loop was 2 feet long and weighed 45 pounds) on both sides of the runway, causing enough friction to stop the aircraft.

The engineering part was completed and it was built but the theory had not been actually tested after it was completed so they needed to test it in as near conditions as possible, thus the six-by truck that was about the same weight as the F-84 but lacking in speed.

First of all, they had to find someone to drive the truck and they did. I believe his name was 2nd. Lt. Critchfield, one of their newer pilots just arrived from the States and was eager to please his superiors.

The truck was taken to the other end of the runway and heading west on 27 at full speed (from the tower it looked like it was hardly moving) and probably at a top speed of around 70, the pilot lit the jato bottles at about the halfway section of the runway.

All you could see was this cloud of smoke where the truck actually was with the nose gear visible in front.  It was a sight to be seen and they also had a Mercedes SL 120 convertible running along side of it taking movies of the test.

The jato bottles quit just as the truck hit the barrier and the truck stopped almost immediately, dragging only about 1/3 of the chain across the tarmac after barrier engagement.  The webbing had indeed engaged the nose/main gear at the proper angle and it was approved for immediate use.  I can imagine the g-forces that young pilot experienced, but nothing was ever said about it later.

Anyway...that barrier did save a lot of aircraft while I was stationed at Bentwaters and it also caused one fatal accident on a F-84 that engaged it at too high of a speed causing the chain links to whip and throw the webbing up over the cockpit preventing the pilot from escaping when it caught fire. One of the chain links penetrated the side of the GCA unit with no one being hurt.

After that ordeal, they put a maximum speed of engagement at 140 knots I believe. 

 


 

Collecting and sharing contributions about the Twin Bases of RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk, England since 1995. Copyright © 1995-2009 Linn Barringer, All Rights Reserved.