What were the World War 2 Aircraft kept at RAF Bassingbourn?
Today, my Dad’s memoirs talk about the planes he maintained including the King’s Flight.
At Bassingbourn were stationed two Bomber Squadrons and King’s Flight. The Bomber Squadrons were one of Lancasters and one of the American Lieberator bombers. These aircraft has been converted into troop carriers and most uncomfortable passenger carriers they were.
We were responsible for the maintenance of the aircraft’s emergency dinghies located in the wings and also for the parachutes carried by the reduced crew. The war being over there was no need to carry the three air gunners and the bomb aimer who were paret of the crew. They thus carried pilot, co-pilot, navigator, engineer and wireless operator. In addition, they carried one or two aircraftmen unskilled who is this day and age would be called cabin crew.The interior of the aircraft had had all wartime fittings removed and had had canvas seats fitted along the fusilage. This enabled about 30 soldiers to be carried in most uncomfortable circumstances. The purpose to bring back to England quickly those troops who had been involved in the war against the Japanese in Burma and involved a flight to Singapore and back. The planes left England empty and flew the following route with refuelling and overnight stops at Rome, Cairo, Bahrain, Karachi, Calcutta and Singapore, a total of 6 days flying. The return journey would have the same touchdowns. Hence the round journey took about a fortnight when the plane was serviced and then repeated the trip.
King’s Flight consisted of a number of aircraft not as the name implies solely for use of the king (King George VI) but also for a variety of VIPs. The aircraft for use of the Royal Family were the aviation version of the American C47 (Dakota) a twin engined propeller driven plane. There was one for the King, one of his Queen and one for the two Princesses. The Royals did not fly in the same plane. In addition to these three Royal planes there were other planes, a mixture of Dakotas, Avro Yorks and Auro Lancastrians and a sprinkling of other types which were used by dignateries e.g. Winton Churchill, Clement Atlee (PM) Ernest Bevin (Foreign Sec) other Ministers and then the leading military people. President Jan Smalls of South Africe, Field Marshall Montogomery and others.
In addition, there were about ten Dakotas for the use of the United Nations Heads of State.