Clark Gable in Britain 1943
Or Goat-Hill as the American Airmen unofficially named it.
Goxhill was not the most luxurious of Airbases, nor the most suitable as a command base, so much so, despite being used by the Royal Flying Corp in the First World War, at the onset of World War II, it’s sole purpose was to be the site of a Barrage Balloon with the sole intention of providing a defence mechanism for the nearby ‘East Coast Town’ of Kingston upon Hull.
In 1940 Goxhill was transferred to RAF Bomber Command and was planned and rebuilt as a Class-A bomber airfield. The base was equipped with three intersecting runways, the main runway at 1600 yards and two secondary runways of 1100 yards. Three hangars were built – two T-2’s, one J-Type and four blisters and fifty aircraft hardstands. Temporary accommodation was provided for 1700+ personnel.
Its location, however, was too close to the air defences of Kingston upon Hull to be used for that purpose. Its first occupant was No. 1 Group that took up residence on 26 June 1941. The mission of No. 1 Group was towing practice targets with Lysander bombers, its first operation beginning on 25 October.
1941 Goat - Hill 2011 Goxhill
In December 1941, RAF Fighter Command replaced the Bomber Command training unit with No. 12 Group, flying Spitfires from No. 616 Squadron at RAF Kirton in Lindsey. Fighter Command operated the base until May 1942.
The base was relegated to satellite field use by near by RAF Kirmington until August 1942, when it was taken over by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). The transfer ceremony was attended by General Dwight D. Eisenhower and thereafter it known as USAAF Station 345.
The facilities at Goxhill, however, had a lot to be desired. Three wooden barracks were supplemented by a number of metal fabricated buildings (aka: tin cans) for living quarters. Typical of the RAF bases of that period, living quarters and mess facilities were 1–2 miles from the hangars and flight operations area.
The USAAF used Goxhill as a training base though the balance of the war, with several squadrons using it after their initial deployment to the UK, then moving on to a permanent facility for their operational missions.
Both the USAAF 8th and 9th Air Force utilized Goxhill. Units which trained there.
Amongst those trained at Goxhill during the period it is said was actor, Clark Gable. Though exact evidence of this is unconfirmed , we can place ‘William Clark Gable’ in Britain in 1943, as pictured.
Although Goxhill was used as a training base there was still the tragedy of the loss of young men’s lives – 23 young men lost their lives in air related accidents.
In 1944, the propeller blade from a P38 which suffered mechanical failure taking the life of it’s pilot Lieutenant Lane A. Ferrara actually forms part of the memorial statue shown in the picture which pays tribute to all those who served at RAF Goxhill.
Curiosity encouraged me to find out a little about those who served and died at Goat – Hill.
Second Lieutenant Lane A. Ferrara died on 26th May 1944 , the reasons are stated :
‘Caught Fire in the Air, Crashed 1 Mile North of the Airfield’
He was flying a P38 Lightening. Curiously, involved in an accident the same day, in the same aircraft type was Pilot Willard G Erfkamp and as I trawl through the list of Airforce accidents and deaths in 1945, I see many accidents that occurred over Lincolnshire and notably many at Goxhill, in total 44 flying accidents in the area of this airfield.
Of those accidents, Pilot Reginald Pitzer also flying a P38 Lightening had a landing accident in July 1944, that time he was lucky to return to base but in November of the same year, he was reported missing in action. A burial followed sometime later with the official records stating the disposition to be ‘nonrecoverable’. It would seem that only as recently as the early part of the 2000’s Reginald Pitzer’s P38 was recovered close to Strasbourg and his remains identified.
Memorial to US Airmen in Goxhill
In 1945 the last of the Americans left the airbase and it reverted to control of RAF Kirton Lindsay when it was used for various supply purposes before being sold off in parcels over the years by the MOD – it is now in private hands.
I understand that the friendly nature and generous hospitality of the Americans won over the locals and they were very popular and welcome visitors to the area.
If you have a relative or ancestor who served at Goxhill, I am able to arrange a visit to the site and also an introduction to a local landowner upon who’s property part of the old runway lies.
Look out for images of the airbase on Flckr
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