Tonight marks the 75th anniversary of a rather unusual landing at RAF Chivenor.
During the Second World War, RAF Chivenor was part of Coastal Command and it was their job to find and destroy the U Boats which posed a constant threat to the naval supply lines. During a night-time training exercise on th 26th November 1941 new pilots were practicing their take-off, landing procedures when it became apparent that an extra aircraft had joined their group in the air.
The duty Flying Control officer had noticed there was an extra set of lights amongst the group and was unable to identify it. Despite the risk it was an enemy aircraft as it had not yet fired upon the other aircraft on manoeuvres he ordered it should be allowed to land.
On landing it became clear that it was a German Junkers 88 aircraft. The Operations Room was quickly alerted and the perimeter guns put on standby to act. The pilot and crew of the enemy aircraft realised their mistake to late and after a quick burst of machine gun fire they were dissuaded from trying to escape.
The crew were taken prisoner and on interrogation it was learned the Ju88 had been on a bombing raid in the Midlands and was returning to base. They became disoriented when they strayed over Wales and seeing the Bristol Channel mistook it for the English Channel. Having assumed they had crossed the English Channel they landed at the first airfield they saw thinking it was part of Occupied France. By the time they realised their mistake they had handed the RAF an intact aircraft and crew!
The aircraft was later repaired and flown to Farnborough under escort to prevent “any unfortunate misunderstandings” where it became part of a flying circus of captured enemy aircraft. It returned in October 1942 to give flying and ground demonstrations as part of the circus, it had even been given a fresh paint job.
This remarkable story was well known in the local area but was not reported on in the local newspapers for another 22 years when Leslie Hunt wrote about the story in the North Devon Journal-Herald after attending a Guest Night at the base.
The story also appears in one of several albums which make up part of our RAF Chivenor Collection.