Sunday, 9 September 2012

Haunted Airfields

There are numerous reports of haunted airfields around Great Britain, stretching back for a great number of years.  There are reports from locals who have claimed to have heard the throaty roar of aircraft engines over airfields but yet there's no sign of any craft. There are tales of sightings of Airmen going into old aircraft buildings and simply vanishing through walls. There are reports of a ghost Spitfire at Biggin Hill -one of the main airfields during the Battle of Britain and then there are numerous reports from people who experience a 'presence' or 'disturbance' at such deserted bases, some of which have since been turned into museums following the end of WW2.

GHOST STATIONS™ CLASSIC ... True Ghost Stories by Bruce Barrymore HalpennyOne particular airfield which has been attracting the attention of paranormal investigators, especially recently, is RAF Scampton.

Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC, led the Dambusters raid on the night of 16th May 1943 from his base at RAF Scampton. It was to be known as Operation Chastise. Just hours before, his beloved black labrador Nigger, was run over and killed instantly just outside the base. Guy was devastated but continued with his duties, leaving special instructions for the dog to be buried outside, by his office at midnight -the same time as he was leaving for the raid. His dog had been the mascot for the Squadron and often accompanied Guy on training flights. The name of his Labrador was to be used as a code word by the Squadron once one of the Ruhr dams was breached. Gibson gave strict instructions that none of the Squadron were to be notified of the dogs death in case the men saw this as a sign of bad luck. It was to be business as usual.

Guy Gibson 2nd from left

It was the development of the bouncing bomb by Dr Barnes Wallis that made the Dambusters raid possible. Out of 19 Lancasters and 133 crew, 8 planes and 53 men were lost. Three men survived when they bailed out of their Lancaster which was engulfed with flames and became prisoners of war.

RAF Scampton is now home to The Royal Airforce Aerobatic Team, more commonly known as the Red Arrows. There is a station museum and the grave of Guy Gibson's dog is visible to all visitors, and it is very well kept which is lovely.

Guy Gibson was killed in 1945, failing to return home following a raid on the 19th September 1944, on Rheydt. He was flying a de Havilland Mosquito XX of 627 Squadron. Both he and his navigator were killed when their plane crashed near Steenbergen in the Netherlands. Some time later, upon discovery of the wreckage, it was thought that the craft had a fuel tank fault. However, in 2011, there was a claim that it was the result of a friendly fire incident.

A British Sergeant who was a rear Air Gunner in a Lancaster Bomber, claimed to have mistaken Gibson's plane for a German Ju 88, which was of a similar form, and he claimed to have shot it down. The Sergeant had died in 1992 but had given his wife a taped confession and she had passed this on to researcher, James Cutler. Mr Cutler had previously discovered a report in the National Archives by the Lancaster crew describing the incident. He was thus certain that this was a truthful account and the reason for Gibson's crash. Guy Gibson was 26 years old at the time of his death. He was a great pilot, courageous, inspiring and a born leader of men.

There have been many reports of a sighting of a black dog at the base, in the years following Gibson's death. Paranormal investigators, given permission to investigate the base claim to have detected paranormal activity with their equipment. They claim to have heard unexplained growls and also detected a cold spot on a wall, approximately 18 inches high, the right height for the Labrador.

The first sighting was back in 1952, when a mess waiter claimed to have seen a phantom black dog. Since then there was an incident where a picture was taken at a memorial service in the 1980's at the base and after it was developed there appeared to be a  black dog among the mourners. The Labrador's ghost is reported to be guarding his old master's office at the base.

Whether you believe in ghost sightings or not, these stories always raise a hearty debate and I find them riveting -probably because I do believe. Besides, if you have faith you can't really be a sceptic, can you? One thing I do know is that you won't catch me having a guided tour of an old control tower or aircraft hangar. Would you be willing to spend a night in such a place?

 Heroes of the RAF - Guy Gibson VC (Hereoes of the RAF)Enemy Coast Ahead (Bomber crews)