7th August 1944 | Reg Miles Biography
We took off on a very dark and rainy night, and were told that the cloud and rain would clear just as we got to the target. We seem to have started our night flights very late at that time.
Well we climbed to our cruising height and were in thick storm clouds, lightning hitting us, and rain very heavy. The whole aircraft glowed with static electricity and large rain drops slid along the radio wires like illuminated ping pong balls, to burst as they hit the fins and rudders.
The ride was very bumpy and the skipper and I tried going up or down to get clear of all this storm without any luck. Just before the target was reached we flew into bright moonlight, bombed and returned within minutes into what looked like a solid black wall from ground to the sky, and flew in this muck all the way home. I see we landed at Tilstock on FIDO one night so perhaps that was the night, have a vague feeling that we were one of the very few who made it to the target that night.
August 2003 | MotorSport Magazine
As the dust of WWII settled and everyday life began to revert to something like normal, UK motor racing enthusiasts had a big problem: there wasn't a major functioning racetrack in Britain. Vickers-Armstrong was busy building aeroplanes within the crumbling Brooklands circuit, while the Army had charge of Donington Park and Crystal Palace. But there was a glut of suddenly redundant airfields - flat, smooth and adaptable. In particular the RAC wanted to restart grand prix racing in Britain, and consequently needed somewhere extensive and central. Silverstone in Northants ticked all the boxes.
In June 1948 the RAC announced that it had leased the track; by August it stated that it would run a British Grand Prix - just two months away.
With plenty of straw bales, rope and canvas, a circuit, pits and spartan facilities appeared just in time. British race fans, starved of entertainment, arrived in droves; their reward was to see complete domination by a pair of the exciting new 4CLT Maseratis, bringing a flash of scarlet overseas glamour to our drab, ration-ridden country. International motor racing had come to Silverstone.
Despite the crudity of the arrangements, traffic jams and muddy car parks, the grand prix was a massive success, and another was planned for the milder month of May, 1949.
This time the grand prix brought unexpected results: yes, a Maserati won again (de Graffenried), but Bob Gerard brought his pre-war ERA in second. And the public got to see two of the new 1.5-litre V12s from some outfit called Ferrari.
For 1950 the FIA had devised a new world championship, for which Silverstone would provide the first round - and the King and Queen were coming. A disused bomber base had become a society venue, too. Despite Ferrari withdrawing over a start-money dispute, this race was a big success, Farina leading home a trio of Alfettas, including one for a Brit, Reg Parnell.
1951 brought Ferrari's first-ever GP victory, in front of ever-larger crowds, and even more grumbles about the temporary lavatories and mud-clogged car parks. Silverstone's central location was dearly a plus, but it was time for more forward planning.
In 1971 the British Racing Dirvers Club bought the circuit outright, becoming the only such organisation to own a major circuit, and over the years income from the grand prix has enabled it to steadily improve public facilities and the paddock complex, to modify the layout to reduce corner speeds, and to offer four distinct track options. It is now the most comprehensive racing facility in Britain.
23rd July 2004 | Britain 1939-1945: The Economic Cost of Strategic Bombing by John Fahey
When Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Secretary of State for Air, addressed Parliament during the Estimates Debate on 29th February 1944, he took the opportunity to acknowledge the sacrifice and effort of the British people in
supplying the Royal Air Force (RAF) with the resources needed to conduct the war. The biggest challenge that Britain had met was building the airfields. Sinclair said, "Four and a half years ago, we started the most gigantic civil engineering and building programme ever undertaken in this country".
This engineering marvel had required the government to "dispossess people of their land, their houses, and their crops, often with little notice, and with no reprieve". He went on to say, "It has not been a pleasant thing for the people of this country to have had their land turned into an air base" and he was "glad to say that we have almost reached the end of our territorial demands".
Sinclair's speech is one of the few public acknowledgements of the enormous size of the Air Ministry's airfield building programme. The construction effort needed to provide enough airfields for the RAF and American 8th Air Force was immense with more than one million buildings constructed, and enough pavement laid for a 25m wide road from London to Peking