“Cockle Calling” – 353rd Fighter Group Flying Control

The close watchers of some of the pages will have noticed I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs rather than posting for the last week. I’ve managed instead to complete a couple of updates to the ‘Other Unit’ page – namely some photos of the Medical section and some information and photos of Flying Control.

Capt. Henry H. Zielinski (SFCO)

Flying Control was vital for Group operations at all its

1st Lt. Saul Jaffe (Control Officer) on the Control Tower balcony.

bases and the page section aims to give a brief description of these functions and the personnel involved. Lt. William Snell and Lt. Walter Williams first established Group Flying Control at Metfield at the start of August, 1943. The Group Senior Flying Control Officer for most of the war, however, was Capt. Henry H. Zielinski. He (and the other flying control officers) kept a daily log book recording all activity concerning aircraft movements on the airfields. Luckily, Zielinski had the foresight to keep the log and

1st Lt Karl R. Ulrey (Control Officer)

passed a copy on the Roger Freeman who let me have a

Cpl. Carmine E. Ciampa (Control Clerk) with Mortar Cover

copy (yet another reason to thank Roger). It’s a fascinating record of operational station life from the mundane to the tragic. It’s also very funny at times – you can read the frustration of the control staff as they try to maintain

airfield discipline in the face of the GIs best efforts to circumvent it. Aircraft regularly go the wrong way or try to land ‘wheels up’, people walk around on live runways and, at one point, resourceful cyclists even get a cheeky tow from a passing P-47.

Sgt. Charles ‘Arthur’ McCray in the Crow’s Nest

The log is not the only record of life in Flying Control. Cpl.

Cpl. Henry C. Jiminez

Henry C. Jiminez worked on the Flarepath Party and then the Alert Crew. In the last role he used the black and white chequered ‘Follow Me’ Jeep to guide visiting aircraft to the correct revetment and then ensured they were refuelled and had any other requirements attended to. Henry is still with us and enjoys remembering his time in the service. He  also ensured that the Library of Congress Veterans History Project preserved a wonderful record of his experiences (including some nice photos). You can view the documents and a video interview at the following Henry C. Jiminez link.

Sgt. Charles ‘Arthur’ McCray on the Control Tower roof

Now, I’m sure you haven’t missed the wonderful colour photographs peppered throughout this post. They were taken by Sgt Charles ‘Arthur’ McCray, a Communications Specialist and Radio operator in Flying Control. The photos were discovered in Oklahoma in 2007 by Ray Sims who sent them on to Rob Truman – the producer of the Control Towers Website.  If you haven’t seen Rob’s excellent website I recommend you take a look to get a much broader picture of the scale and extent of both airfields and flying control in the United Kingdom during WWII. The colour pictures are reproduced here with Rob’s kind permission and help.

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