Many years ago Roger Freeman gave me a VHS tape (remember those) of some colour film taken at Raydon during the war by Don Kammer, a 350th Squadron P-51 pilot. Roger was instrumental in getting the film preserved at the East Anglian Film (EAFA) Archive at the University of East Anglia along with Kammer’s complete flight suit which is still on display at Duxford. Sadly I lent the VHS tape to someone and never got it back – a lesson learnt! I wasn’t too bothered as I knew EAFA had a copy and they have recently put it online. It’s a great piece of film and gives you a good idea of what Raydon looked like when operational. It can be viewed on the below link and I thought it would be useful if I include some viewing notes.
Click this link to see the film: Raydon Film
0.10-0.18 Three unknown 350th pilots (I’m working on this, but ideas welcome).
0.32-1.36 This is John Balason, an original pilot with the 350th, who was kicked out of the Squadron by Ben Rimerman when he found him asleep in the Link Trainer at Baltimore after a heavy night out. Balason flew a tour of duty in the Aleutians and then (as a friend of Wayne ‘Blick’ Blickenstaff) came back to the Squadron October 29, 1944. The film must have been taken at some point in 1945 (because of the eight rows of chequers on the aircraft nose), but before February 22, 1945 when his aircraft ‘Miss Betsy D’ (a/c LH-J P-51D10-NA 44-14793) was hit by flak and he became a POW.
1.37 Interestingly this shows LH-U which is a code with a long association with Blickenstaff. The end serial number seems to be 353 which does not fit with what I currently have so I’ll have to wait until I reach that point in the chronology to confirm.
1.46-1.49 Balason’s aircraft again.
2.13 Note the nice shot of the ‘RA’ identifying Raydon.
2.21 Balason’s aircraft again.
2.26-3.38 This is Don Kammer – the pilot responsible for taking the film. I can’t say whether this is his aircraft ‘Baltimore Belle (a/c LH-F P51D-20-NA 44-72096) as there is no name painted on it and no serial visible. There was another LH-F in the Squadron until Bill Tanner bailed out of it on March 27, 1945, so rather than attempt to be conclusive here I’ll leave it for future discussion.
3.53 This is the ‘Thunderbolt Theatre’ on the main airfield mess site (another picture of the complex is on the ‘other units’ page banner).
3.58-4.06 This is Ed Rosentretter, 350th Intelligence officer. Rosentretter was known as a bit of a whizz at table tennis and often played in the fierce competitions held in the Squadron ready room.
5.21 This seems to be an earlier roll of film as the Mustangs taking off have three rows of chequers. Where the Mustangs come into view is roughly where the airfield memorial is now.
6.26 The famous ‘cart shed’ in Little Wenham (now demolished). Famous both for being sketched by John Constable and for ‘Killer’ Spriggs of the 350th driving a jeep under it!
6.56 I assume this is the RAF Air Sea Rescue station at Great Yarmouth as pilots would often visit for familiarisation trips.
9.15 Ed Rosentretter.
9.48 Don Kammer.
A 350th Squadron war weary P-51c1-NT (a/c LH-M 42-103302) makes an ever so brief appearance in the following film taken at the 447th Bomb Group base at Rattlesden. It is available to view on the Internet Archive website.
Enjoy the show!