Newchurch Village > History > Newchurch in WWII > Ground Crew at Newchurch

Ground Crew at Newchurch

Edward (Eddie) James Musselwhite

Eddie was born at Bermondsey in Londonon 18th June 1921, and then lived all of his childhood in nearby Kennington. When he started work it was at Jackson’s, the makers of Cossar Radios at Tooley Street in Bermondsey, where he also met his bride-to-be Margaret (Peg) Coakley, with the couple duly marrying in August 1942.

He was keen from the outset of the war to join the RAF, so when he did in March 1942 it was naturally as a Flight Mechanic (Wireless Engineer). He was sent to the New Zealand 486 Squadron, reporting to Kirton-in-Lindsey in Lincolnshire in March 1942. He then moved with them that year to Wittering in Sussex, then to North Weald and Malling in Kent, lastly that year to Tangmere in Hampshire through to early 1944. After that it was for a short time to Beaulieu in Hampshire, then briefly to Drem in Scotland and back via Castle Camp in Cambridgeshire to reach Newchurch in Kent during April 1944.

There then followed a brief sortie to Matlaske in Norfolk, before leaving in September for Grimbergen in Belgium in support of the Allied advance. After that they went to Volkel in Holland and three postings in Germany, before ending up near Copenhagen in Denmark from May to July 1945, then again to Germany before coming home.

After the war he worked for the London Electric Company for some years, later managing the Brent Tanner Garage at Wandsworth, but in 1975 the family relocated with a new job at Lansing Bagnall, the fork-lift truck maker, where he was Transport Manager through to retirement in 1986. Sadly, just before that Peg had passed away, so he took a part-time job with a Travel Agency run by a good friend, and also often accompanied parties of pensioners on the holidays they developed for them, indeed right through to his 90th birthday!

Because of his wartime experiences he always said life should be lived to the full, and it was only after a fall on a holiday when 92 that he reluctantly agreed with his family to hang up his passport and forgo his annual jaunts to Spainor Morocco. He passed away in his 93rd year in March 2014, really quite fit and capable until a final short illness.

He and Aubrey Smith had joined 486 at the same time and remained in touch, as indeed did both of them with other members of the old squadron, even attending New Zealand reunions. It was therefore rather fitting that although only a very small English element in the squadron, Eddie was the penultimate survivor followed by his friend Aubrey.

              eddieaubrey-sm.jpg         Eddieand486squadron-sm.jpg
              Edward (Eddie) Musselwhite (on left)  with his friend and
486 SQN colleague Aubrey Smith
        Eddie Musselwhite with 486 Squadron

 

Photographs and story supplied by Eddie's nephew Paul Lacey 

Douglas Palmer

An RAF Ground Crew Member stationed at Newchurch in 1944

I was a young RAF ground crew member stationed at Newchurch through April-August 1944. Our living conditions were very Spartan, just tents in a field. Our main job was to deal with the V1 flying bombs. The V1 campaign started just after the ‘D Day’ invasion on June 6th and more or less ended in September when our armies overran the launching sites in France and Belgium.

Looking through some old correspondence I found the letter from Mr. Stickles, who I believe is the son of the farmer who owned the Newchurch Airfield. He said the occupants of the cottage damaged by the V1 who we helped from the cottage (I had jumped in the ditch at the time) were ‘Waggoner’ Will Punyer and his wife. I understand from Mr. Stickles he was a man of status in the village and his cottage was called ‘Black House’. He died in 1947 and his wife about ten years later. As a young lad of about ten Mr. Stickles watched us refuel and rearm the Tempest aircraft. 

Our Wing HQ was in the existing cottages on the east side of the road towards Oak Farm and our tented accommodation alongside the garden of the cottages, now the site of a house. We used the churchyard in the village for our motor transport depot and the airmens’ mess and cookhouse was in the farm buildings of Brooker’s Farm. An army gunsite was located at the north end of the airfield and we had several machine gun mountings near our tents for use against the V1s.

The Spitfire could only just keep up with a V1 but the Tempest, according to our Wing Commander Roland Beaumont, could make 530mph in a shallow dive. Roland did a very good job at Newchurch, keeping all the squadrons operational and ending up with the wing destroying 638 V1s. He went on to a career in test flying. Once he tried to break the altitude record during the time of ‘The Cold War’. The people on the ground were anxious to know the height he had attained, but  Beaumont was cagey as the Russians could have been listening in He just said “there’s no one else up here.”