History of RAF Winkleigh Airfield, Airbase, Devon, England. World War II | Winkleigh a Devon Village part 1V | Jackie Freeman Photography

RCAF at RAF Winkleigh
RAF Winkleigh

The story of a WW II Air Base in Devon - Part IV




Written by David Freeman

Adapted from his TV Series - Secret Britain

Photographs by Devon Photographer - Jackie Freeman

Content: Bicycle accidents, Air Base Crime, Free Polish Air Force

RAF Winkleigh Air Base - Bicycle Mishaps !

Or: Love at first Bike.


 To many a young lass from the circle of Devonshire villages around Winkleigh airbase, the Canadians were like knights in

shining armour and particularly sought after at the village dances or whilst on their leave time in one of the local Pubs.

 Of course, this age old game was much to the chagrin of the local lads who saw the RCAF fly boys not only as a nuisance trying to turn

the heads of their own Devonshire Gals but also as a bit of a pain in the butt!


To their delight, many Canadians literally got one too. A serious pain in their butt that is, so let me explain:




Canadian airmen on bikes




  Many a time, RCAF servicemen who transported themselves around the Winkleigh camp and the local area by bicycle, ended up in a heap, unused to having caliper brakes that work on the handlebars on a bike. Brakes across the pond use the back wheel only and work when you back pedal. So brake a little too hard! They'd end up in a ditch by flying over the handlebars rather than flying over the airfield.

 Official squadron casualty reports indicate some nasty injuries to limb and ego because of this dysfunction, resulting - nine times out of ten in lost teeth, severe lacerations, broken bones and scars which would undoubtedly evolve into heroic operational war wounds in the years ahead.



Operations Record Book - Station Sick Quarters Winkleigh SSQ.


2.7.44: L. A .C. Casey fell off his bicycle at Torrington. Admitted E. M .S. hospital there. Severe lacerations and abrasions of face and forehead

L.A.C.Walton twisted ankle at North Tawton.

12.7.44. L.A.C.Morrish suffered severe injuries to head when he fell off bicycle in camp area. Unconscious for one hour. Admitted S.S.Q. and watched for signs of cerebral compression.

19.7.44: L.A.C. Calville - bicycle accident - abrasions.

             L.A.C. Thomas -- bicycle accident - abrasions.

23.7.44: Corporal Naylor  S.H.Q. fell off bicycle and injured elbow. X-ray at Royal Devon and Exeter showed compression fracture, fracture of head of radius. Admitted E.M.S. hospital Exminster.

21,7.44. Flight Officer R A McKay and Flight Officer D. K. Wedderspoon of No 406 Squadron crashed on aerodrome in a dual Mosquito. Aircraft a total wreck. Both officers escaped injury.

 This is an interesting event as it is recorded that the Canadian pilots brought back their severely damaged Mosquito which was on fire to their Devon base and crash landed. The station Fire Engine was then put out of action when exploding cannon shells from the burning aircraft went through its engine block!







 It's also true to say, that not all Canadians 'towed the line' and stuck to the letter of the law whilst stationed in Blighty, much to the delight of one local Devonshire Bobby who seemed to relish the thought of issuing traffic tickets to Canadians whenever he could!


But he may have had a daughter and therefore a motive!


Take for instance the terrible crime of:

L A C 1145377 Joseph Carr - 406 Squadron RCAF, one such felon!


 Police Inspector William Abrahams stopped and ticketed Joseph Carr on 'Christmas Eve' no less, (miserable man)

on the 24th day of December 1943 as he:


"Unlawfully, in the hours of darkness to wit, at 11.50 pm, he did ride a pedal cycle on a road on which said pedal cycle did NOT display a red rear light visible from a reasonable distance.

Contrary to Section 31 (2) of the Lighting (Restrictions) Order 1940"


[No mention of any Christmas Eve alcohol consumption though, so the cop was honourable to a degree!]

For his dreadful crime, poor old Joe Carr had to appear in Court on the 10th of January 1944 and was fined 10/- shillings for his misdemeanour,  which was a great deal of money back then and is equivalent to about £20.00 today. Not sure what Moose Fumerton would have made out of that?






  Free Polish Airmen Winkleigh


Free Polish Airmen at Winkleigh:  




 Various stories suggest the a contingent of Free Polish Airmen flying Spitfires and Hurricanes were based for a short time at RAF Winkleigh  just before the invasion.

The most obvious suggestion being that they were from RAF Exeter on short term deployment.

However this is not so.
Free Polish Airmen Winkleigh




The Polish 307 Luwow night fighter Squadron as they were known, flew Beaufighters out of Exeter and there are no records of their attachment to Winkleigh at all.In fact Polish veterans of 307 stationed there, speak of only one connection with Winkleigh but it's an important one.



 On 1st August 1942 during a training flight out of Exeter, a crew  consisting of: pilot F/Sgt Jerzy Malinowski and observer Sgt Stanislaw  Jarzembowski of 307 squadron, had a major engine failure in their Beaufighter VIF (no. X7935) and had to make a forced landing at RAF Winkleigh.

  With the aircraft now on fire, it crash landed heavily, severely injuring the crew and an observer Sgt Ronald Newman. In the aftermath of the accident and despite desperate efforts to rescue Newman, he died from his wounds. 

After the accident Malinowski recovered from his own head wounds and typically like a Pole, stayed with 307 squadron until the end of August 1943 when he transferred to 41 Operational Training Unit to continue his war.

Surviving the conflict, he remained in England and lived until 2002.


Wladyslaw Sikorski  winkleigh

 This photograph shows the Polish C-in-C General Wladyslaw Sikorski decorating Malinowski (left) and Jarzembowski (right) with Polish Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari, the VM.

This is the single highest Polish war decoration that can be awarded.


Kościuszko Fighter Squadron



Virtuti Militari

Virtuti Militari





So the most likely squadron to have used the Winkleigh airfield would not have been 307 but the crack 303 Polish 'Kościuszko' Fighter Squadron.


 303 were the Kościuszko Fighter Squadron out of Westhampnett and these pilots were the most successful of all the Polish fighter units during the second world war. 

 Many of the Polish pilot contingent were not familiar with RAF Fighter Command language or policies, or chose not to be, so some problems did arise and there was plenty of flak on the ground as well as in the air around the air base.

  Certainly the Poles in general had a reputation for being the real cowboys of the skies and these pilots fitted the bill well. Word has it that they were notorious for suddenly turning on the language barrier when they didn't want to hear something. But they were staggeringly good at what they did and a blind eye was often turned in their direction. 

 303 stayed for only a short time before turning their attention to the skies over the southern England and the Battle of Britain where they took their place in history.


Polish fighter pilot RAF Winkleigh






Go to Page 6 >

The War Years - 10 Group  Fighter  Command at Winkleigh 1942 - 1945

 IX USAF Serv. Comd.

   74th Serv Group

"Above All"

12th Tactical Reconnaissance

Squadron USAAF

"Know your Enemy"

          RAF 161

    Black Squadron

        " Liberate"

  RAF 286 Squadron

   "We exercise our


Free Polish Airmen

303 Squadron

RCAF 415
Swordfish Squadron

"To the mark"

RCAF 406 

Lynx Squadron

"We kill by night"

RCAF 408
Goose Squadron
"For Freedom"




A History of the Borough Town of Winkleigh, Devon & RAF Winkleigh.

Sponsored by: Jackie Freeman Photography.




The writer thanks and acknowledges the help of Steve & Shirley Leahy




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Copyright:/ 2008 | David Freeman & Jackie Freeman Photography - Grays Cross - Winkleigh - Devon - England. All rights reserved
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