We are always amazed by the interest and history that people bring when they visit us. During the last Volunteer day we had a visit from Janet Dye, who came to have a look at the Beaufighter. Here is her review of the day and an insight into the history of RAF Strubby:
“A visit to Duxford is always a joy, but my visit on the 26th Ocyober was one of research for a future project close to my heart.
I live near one of many “forgotten” airfields of WW2; RAF Strubby sits on the east coast of Lincolnshire, and it was built during the second part of the war because of it’s proximity to Europe. It was a Bomber Command station housing five squadrons, utilising Lancaster Bombers as one of several types of aircraft stationed there. There were also two squadrons of Bristol Beaufighter Torpedo Bombers that made up what was to be called The Strubby Strike Wing; these squadrons regularly joined up with other Beaufighter squadrons from nearby airfields, to mount attacks on German shipping in the Southern North Sea, and they were very successful.
For my project, I wanted to get a feel for these aircraft and what the young men who flew them had to deal with on a daily basis; hence the Duxford visit. It houses one of the few Beaufighters left. This aircraft deserves it’s place in history, for it’s crews tenacity in the job they had to do. It wasn’t an easy aircraft to fly, but men as young as 19 were tasked for this, and took to it well.
In particular, a young 19 year old called Peter Le Brocq, who lost his life in a Beaufighter on 21st July 1944. He was one of a contingent of aircraft getting ready to take off that summer evening. As this aircraft left the ground, and climbed, one of the engines failed. He made the decision to find a safe place to release the torpedo, and return to the airfield.
As he came in to land, his remaining engine failed, and the aircraft crashed onto the runway. Many people saw what was happening and ran to assist the crew, before the aircraft caught fire, bearing in mind the tanks were full. They managed to get the navigator out, and were attempting to extract the pilot, when the aircraft burst into flame. Peter’s legs were trapped by crushed metal, but despite valiant attempts to release him – causing his rescuers severe burns – he couldn’t be saved. A tragic accident in terrible circumstances. As with any loss of a young life, this caused immense shock to all who were there.
There is a small memorial just inside the main gates at Strubby, which has a plaque placed on it to commemorate his short life. It is cared for by a small group of people who have come to know his remaining family. Phil Le Brocq, his nephew who lives in the Channel islands, instigated the placing of the plaque in the 1990’s, has become close to Peter’s airforce colleagues over the years, few of which are sadly left. Peter’s life will not be forgotten, and his memorial stands next to a striking new memorial built to honour ALL who flew and were lost from Strubby during those last terrible years of war.”
You can find out more about RAF Strubby in this Facebook Group, which is run by Janet: https://www.facebook.com/groups/475149302600348/
Janet in front of our Beaufighter.