Return Route Kelly Field

Return Eastward Route ~ Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas

3rd August (California to Texas) Saturday

LancastersGoodwill46.jpgOn the Return Route from Long Beach, the Squadron 1st visited Kelly Field Air Base, San Antonio, Texas on the Saturday 3rd to Thursday 8th August.
15 Aircraft led by the Squadron Commander A J L Craig left Long Beach at 07.45 en route to Kelly Field, Texas arriving at 16.00hrs. The Route was via Indio, Blythe, Gila Beno, Tuscon & El Paso on the Mexican Border.  The last 400-miles of the Flight was particularly devoid of any Navigational Aids other than Sun Shots, as the so-called Topographical Maps of this area just show Green for land and Blue for water, but even the Lakes that existed did not appear on the Maps and therefore it was felt a considerable achievement that the Land Navigators were able to keep up their usual standard of timing and bring the Squadron over Kelly Field (The ‘Cranwell‘ of USAAF) within 15-secs of the Estimated Time of Arrival.  The Flight was very hot and since by this time, nearly half of the Thermos Flasks were broken everyone landed in a rather dehydrated condition.

One Aircraft TL-O (Oboe) TW-882 – F/O Haig & Crew W/o Tipper, W/O Brooks, W/O Reeve & W/O Stevens remained at Long Beach awaiting a Starboard Outer Engine to be ferried in from Mitchel Field Long Island, NYC by the Avro York which left for Mitchel Field on 7th August with complete Aircrew & Servicing Party to load a Starboard outer power plantIt also ferried back Sgt Grayson, Cpl McDuff, Cpl Gumbrell & LAC Upsher from the Mitchel Field Base.  On arrival at Long Beach, the Engine is to be replaced under the Supervision of Sgt Grayson and when Serviceable the Lanc & the York are to proceed to Andrews Field, Washington.

The now customary Parade Ceremony was held on Arrival.  The Squadron was greeted by Brigadier General Beverley and his Staff, & the Mayor of San Antonio. The latter said that he wouldn’t formally give the City’s Keys to the Squadron because the City was wide open to them, and they could consider themselves Texans & Citizens of Antonio during their stay.  All Personnel were confined to Camp and spent a fairly quiet evening in their respective Messes, although a Formal Reception for the Officers was given in the Officers Club.

Imperial War Museum Film – Reel 4: Back in the USA, Parade on Apron accompanied by US Military Band, inspecting US Military Personnel, RAF Officer makes a speech. San Antonio Air Depot Sign on a building.  Boeing B-29 (521845) Superfortress & Lancs on the Apron.  Aircrew & Ground-Crew marching & forming up in Ranks. Speeches & VIPs in attendance.  Lancs taxi out to take-off.  Another Airfield, marching to the Band, forming up into Ranks, meeting US Officers by Commanding Officer 35 Sqdn W/C A Craig.  Band March Past, shots of Lancasters on Apron, Formation Flight overhead by 12 Lancs. Landing at the Airfield (as seen in Reel 1), Group Captain RCM Collard speech, Civil Dignitaries giving speeches.  Welcoming Addresses by Brig Gen George H Beverley and Mr A J Lewis Acting Chairman of the Military Affairs Committee with the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.  Group Commander R C  M Collard gave an Address of gratitude.


4th August (Kelly Field, Texas) Sunday

At 08.30 hrs all Personnel were taken to the Hills of Bandera where a Reception and a short non-denominational Church Service was held.  After the Service, the Squadron was split into Parties which were taken to various Dude Ranches amongst which were the Bar M Ranch, Lost Valley Guest Ranch & the Mayan Ranch.

It was found that a ‘Dude’ Ranch was an old ‘Real’ Ranch which by virtue of Swimming Pools and other Amenities had been turned into a Holiday Ranch. After some cooling drinks at these Stops with the Owners of the Ranches and their Guests, the Squadron was taken to Bandera Park which was part of a Real Ranch.

There the Squadron all went Western in a big way trying on 10 Gallon Hats, rolling their own Smokes, riding Cow Ponies, Ropin’ Calves & other feats of the Open Range.  Fl Lt Gerry Dawson was asked about the Texas Drawl which he suggested if they talked faster they would sweat more.

They were Entertained to a Barbecue Lunch by the Owner of the Ranch whose only name seemed to be Uncle Leo.  Some 33 sheep had been killed & dressed the previous day and were sizzling over the open charcoal fires when the Squadron arrived.  It can well be imagined that this amount of food between the 200 Members of the Squadron and an additional 100 Guests meant that at least a whole shoulder of Roast Mutton was an individual portion.

After the Barbecue the Bandera Cowboys from miles around gathered together to put on a Rodeo Show for the Squadron. This was certainly the real thing and proved to be a most thrilling Show of Skill albeit the Brits were baking in the Sun.

This excellent & fulsome repast was attended by 2-Captains of the Texas Rangers. It is a rare sight to meet 2 because the Force is only 46 Strong and they have to Police an area 14 times the size of Great Britain.

The County Sheriff W H Burns attended the Rodeo and at a small ceremony, General George H Beverley & Grp Capt RCM Collard were duly invested as Deputy Sheriffs of the Medina County and were issued with Guns while the 2 Texas Rangers looked on.  The Squadron returned from the Rodeo at 18.00 hrs and after the dust of the Stampede Compound had been washed away, the Officers, NCOs & Airmen were entertained to Formal Parties in their respective Clubs.  All these were on a Grand Scale and fortunately in Air-conditioned Rooms.  (103°F on an average day & 80°F at night).  A Dinner Dance was given in both Clubs.

Flt/Lt Bullen‘s hiding behind the evidence among Crew & friends at a mixed Base Party.  TL-R F/O John Robinson’s Crew: W/O Sparling, F/O Wilson, F/S Angel, F/O Robinson, F/L Bullen, F/S Watson, W/O Vaughan.

5th August (Kelly Field, Texas) Monday
A Squadron Assembly was held at 08.30 & at 12.00 hrs all Personnel were conveyed by Buses on a Tour of San Antonio. The Alamo was the 1st call.  This was the scene of the Last Stand made by the Texans in their War with Mexicans for the Texan independence.  Although this Battle was Lost and every Texan slaughtered it proved to be the turning point in the War which was won by the Texans the following year. The Texans, therefore, hold this Old Church (now a Ruin) as Sacred to their History as the Englishmen hold Westminster Abbey to theirs. Other old Monasteries & Beauty Spots were visited, the end of the Tour was made attending the San Antonio Zoo.  At 17.00 hrs all Officers & Men were entertained to a Picnic in Koehler Park arranged by British War Brides Association.  Dancing in the Open Air followed the Picnic and after 21.00 hrs the rest of the Evening was free.  Transport returned to Camp at 23.30 & 23.59 hours.


In the Evening they were Guests at a Picnic at Keoler Park given by the British War Brides Association and met the General Public.

thealamoalan2On the Monday, a Group of Officers went to the Alamo & other Historical points in San Antonio. C-in C Bottomley 2nd Left, W/C A J L Craig Centre, Group Collard Right

Alamo1854The Alamo, an abandoned Spanish Mission, located in what is now San Antonio. It had been established in 1724 to convert the local Natives to Christianity.  Here, in 1836, a Defending Force estimated at between 180 & 260 awaited the arrival of the advancing Mexican Army trying to recover Mexican Texas.  Led by William B Travis their number included 2 Legendary figures in American History, Davy Crockett & James Bowie. The men within the Alamo were under no illusion.  They knew that their defence could not succeed without the rapid appearance of reinforcements.  Arriving on February 23, 1836, Santa Anna’s Troops surrounded the Alamo, laying a 10-day Siege to its defenders. The Mexican Army began to bombard the former mission with Cannon Shot in an effort to systematically reduce its protective walls to rubble.  The assault began in earnest during the early morning hours of the 6th March as Mexican Soldiers swarmed the walls of the Fortress. The Alamo Defenders successfully repulsed 2 Attacks but were overwhelmed by the 3rd.  The Combat was characterised by room-to-room fighting in which all but a handful of the defenders were killed.  The ferocity of their defence is underscored by the fact that it resulted in the death of an estimated 600 Mexicans.

conceptcionwindowSquadron Personnel were taken on a Tour of San Antonio (Alamo City) which incorporated visits to:-
The Alamo, San Antonio Zoo, Mission Concepcion, San Jose Mission, La Villita

The Mission of Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción was transferred from East Texas in 1731.  The Church looks essentially as it did in the mid-1700’s when it served as the Mission’s centre of Religious activity.  Colourful geometric designs that once covered its surface have long since faded.

The Missionaries strove to replace traditional Indian Ritual with Religious Festivals teaching Christian beliefs.  Carvings of the Saints & Objects of Adoration were popular representations of Catholicism among the Indians. Morality Plays and Religious celebrations were common methods of instruction.


W/O Sparling 2nd Left

potterylavilleta6th August (Kelly Field, Texas) Tuesday

All Royal Air Force Personnel were guests of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce at a Reception & Mexican Lunch held in the Courtyard of an authentically restored 200 yr old Indian village “La Valitta” which was the Foundation of San Antonio.

Many Army & Air Force Generals attended.

An Exhibition of Mexican Dancing was given, and a most interesting and enjoyable time was had.  Wing Commander Craig replied to the Speeches of Welcome in a suitable, if light, vein.

The afternoon was spent Shopping or back at the Camp on the Field’s excellent 9-hole Golf Course, or in one of the 3 beautiful Swimming Pools put at the Squadron’s disposal by the Commanding Officer of the Field.

AJLC_LaVillitaEntertains.pngThey were not sorry to be leaving Kelly Field for Andrews Field (Washington) despite the magnificent hospitality as it was heavily overshadowed by the great ‘heat’ experienced.  They also had their Departure was delayed for 24hrs due to a 700ft Cloud Base cover over Andrews Field which would have ruled out Formation Flying.

7th August (Kelly Field, Texas) Wednesday
Take off for Andrews Field was postponed owing to prevailing weather conditions.  Personnel spent the day on Camp taking full advantage of all Base Facilities. In the evening a Stag Party had been arranged in the Officers Club.  After Dinner a Cabaret Show was given which consisted mostly of Striptease Acts.  After the Cabaret, the whole Club was converted into a Mock Casino and every form of Gambling Game was set up. The Silver Dollar was the basic Gambling Unit.  The Squadron officers, however, left after the cabaret to rest for the morrow’s flight.

8th August (Texas to Washington) Thursday
Only 14 Aircraft left Kelly Field at 07.40hrs for Andrews Field (formerly Camp Springs a Fighter Station) and arrived there at precisely 13.00 hrs EST.  One Aircraft TL-H TW878 (F/O Lamb) remained at Kelly Field owing to low Oil Pressures on the Starboard Inboard Engine.  Flying Officer Barker & Crew remained to fly the Aircraft to Andrews Field when Serviceable.  The Flight was the Longest Leg of the internal part of the Tour, and once again it was very hot (mostly for the 1st part it was 107⁰F in the shade), and everybody landed feeling very thirsty.

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Scribner’s Statistical Atlas of the United States
In 1880, a Volume was produced which sought to capture the “State of the Union”, using data gleaned from census and other records to produce visual representations of the Nation.  Scribner’s Statistical Atlas of the United States uses a mass of information on topics as diverse as Population, Literacy, Agriculture & Religion to literally Map out the whole of the developing Country.   Using just one example from Scribner’s Atlas charting the distribution of Corn Production across the entire United States, it is clear that the general pattern of development is East to West.  The Eastern Areas are much smaller and more populous than the wide expanse of the “unsettled parts” – referred on the Silver Screen as “the Wild West”.  Another key aspect of the Map are the Areas denoted as “Indian Reservations” – specific Territories designed to allow some limited freedom of movement to the indigenous Populations finding themselves under increasing threat from multiple generations of European Settlers. Within the numerous Reservations, some recognisable Native American names are visible – Sioux, Cherokee & Navajo; however, many are less familiar and much more were either under threat or had entirely disappeared – such as the Wampanoags of the original “Plymouth Thanksgiving” of 1621.  Scribner’s Statistical Atlas of the United States was a vast undertaking of data management completed in a simpler age of pen & ink. The detail provided in the snapshot offers readers an intriguing glimpse at the development of one of the most powerful nations on the planet today. 


LAC?  Ground Crew at Kelly Field Quarters


LAC Colin Earnshaw on Step left with fellow Ground Crew at Kelly Field Quarters

TL-P Ground Crew – Diaper, Johnstone, Taverner, Wood, Wright, LAC Colin Earnshaw (Top) working on the Maintenance of H2S Radar Equipment on board the 16 Lancasters – All Flying on  TL-P