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America's Team - The United States Air Force

The SouthWest Region of the Chicksands Alumni Association is dedicated to the recognition of the devoted efforts of the men and women who silently served in the defense of their country.

To develop a living program to enlighten the public and preserve our place in history, as well as maintain our unique camaraderwie

Former Naval Officer asks "What is Chicksands?"

 I recently saw a reference to Chicksands on your VideoRanch Home Page and assumed it was some sort of USAF thing. My question is what is Chicksands, I've never heard of it. I like your including it in your website because it obviously has a military connotation, but would like to know the significance. I served in the US Navy as a Gunnery Officer but won't hold that against you. :-)

Jack Stockton

A Chix Alum's Answer


Thanks for your question although you are not the first one to ask. Chicksands was an equal opportunity installation in which we had several US Navy personnel serving. I lived in an apartment below one such person and rode to work with him every day. He didn't drive too well and was always getting lost. Is that a Navy thing? Also, you didn't mention your ship or which of the Great Lakes you served on. Could it have been Lake Michigan or Lake Ponchetrain (it's nearer the ocean)? On a more serious note, listed below is my response to several others asking the same question.

This is in response to those visiting the ranch and asking "what's a Chicksands" and "why do you want to go all the way to England for a reunion." Well, the answer is really quite simple for that is where we were and where we did our thing. There is, however, much more. I'm sure that if you read the message board located at Bedford it will become apparent that each of us has our own reason(s). Since you asked, here is mine.

Aside from being transformed from a Gilbertine Priory dating back to the 12th Century into an intelligence gathering base by the RAF (Royal Air Force) during WWII, it played a vital part in securing the freedom we all enjoy today. Chicksands Priory is located near Bedford, Bedfordshire, England and is a perfectly beautiful location for a religious order. The countryside, as I recall, would be well suited for a horse ranch. One would never suspect it as also being well suited for a clandestine military installation, but it was.

The RAF learned that Chicksands was well suited for intercepting high quality radio signals and during the Second World War a round the clock intercept station collecting German radio transmissions was established from which the impossible to break German Enigma code was broken.

After the 2nd World War ended and the Cold War intensified, it became clear that interception of the Soviet Union's strategic radio communication was crucial and Chicksands was the first of ten bases to form a global network. Ivan couldn't even blow his nose without us knowing it. While other Americans, at home, were asleep, safe and secure in their beds other young Americans were awake and quietly listening in on the enemy that had sworn to bury us.

There is a special camaraderie of those who served at Chicksands. Don't ask because I can't explain it. There just is.

When I arrived at Chicksands as a cocky, young American Airman, we lived in Nissen Huts that had been erected by those who came before us. They were the epitome of perfect ventilation, cold in the winter and hot during the summer. But that wasn't too bad because we always had good chow, good friends and could go to a Pub in Bedford after duty hours. Shooting darts with the local "blokes" and enjoying a pint or two of the warm beer is a warm and pleasant memory. The people of Bedford were absolutely wonderful. And much to their credit, I never felt as though I was a foreigner in their land. This, I shall never forget.

While stationed at RAF Chicksands I married my partner in life, Elizabeth, that was over 45 years ago. Our first home was at 38 Bushmead Avenue in Bedford. We are now nearing our seventies (don't look it, don't feel it and hopefully don't act it) and want to go back on our own sentimental journey and visit that wonderful place where, for us, it all began; to stroll along the lovely banks of the River Ouse; to see the beautiful swans; watch the youngsters at play and see the shells skimming along the river..

Hopefully we will meet up with some of our old friends, make new ones and remember the MIA's and those that have gone PCS (Permanent Change of Station) to a much higher command.

Sincerely hoping this answers your questions.

Sam Braswell
3 March, 1999

Here's some photo's to refresh your memory. Our thanks to (Ms) Sian Williams, Public Relations Officer, Bedford Borough Council.

Chicksands Priory

Road to East Gate

Approach to the East Gate


For the Metracal, Same Ol' Gal and Sing Along With Mitch Crowd, British Currency is no longer Pounds, Shillings and Pence. It has changed. The Financial page has information on the new (to us) British currency. Check it out!

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