The third chapter of a four part series by Ed Wiggins


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AN EARLY HISTORY AND SOME EVENTS of
THE USAFSS AT CHICKSANDS 1950 - 1953, Continued

Sometime during the fall or winter of 1951 the British Army alerted the Chicksands Station Commander to expect a military exercise in a few weeks time for the purpose of testing security at Chicksands. This type of exercise had previously been conducted by British Commandos on USAF airfields such as Lakenheath. It was reported that the Commandos were able to plant a box marked "Bomb" on the wheel of a U.S. B-47 bomber aircraft in less than twenty minutes without detection. All the while the base and aircraft were under guard! Barry organized a normal defense posture using both RAF and USAF troops. During planning, a. suggestion was made that a radio receiver and radio direction finding (DF) position might be helpful. Barry agreed. A covered 6X6 truck was converted by installing 2 Collins 51.1 radio receivers plus DF equipment along with a hotplate for food and coffee.. The truck was positioned at the Y in the road south of tech site A where the road divided and went on to tech site B. On the assigned weekend the operation was manned by Captain Wiggins, Sgt. Deuster, Sgt. McMullen, Sgt. Stinson and a radio operator. About 8:00 AM Saturday morning the operator was monitoring the standard British radio frequencies. He heard one chap calling another for a radio check -- without success. Our operator scanned the frequencies above and below and found a second bloke trying to call the first - also without success. He DFed both signals. The DF indicated that one transmitter was located west of Chicksands - the other north, but we knew not where, having only a single bearing to each. Sgt. Deuster went home and got his Zenith short-wave radio that had a built-in loop antenna. By turning the radio and using a hand held compass, he determined that one transmitter was west of Chicksands on the road that ran between Bedford and Luton - the other located on the road that ran between Bedford and Shefford - north of Chicksands. He also learned that the infiltration teams were dispatched with instructions to report progress over their walkie-talkies. Our operator soon intercepted the walkie-talkies but could not DF them because the walkie-talkies operated at a frequency outside the range of the DF equipment. The Commandos reported positions in code. Soon one Commando leader reported to the west command post that he was crossing a bridge at B-5. There was only one bridge west. The station commander sent out a patrol and captured this commando team. This same play continued throughout the day to the extent that all commandos were in jail - the mess hall- by 9:00 PM Saturday night. A good exercise - yes. Well, not really. Several events marred the success.

It was reported that one farmer who lived near Shefford needed hay to feed his cows. The farmer took his team of horses and wagon up the road past tech site A to the hay located near tech site B. He loaded the hay and started back down the road. At three check points, the Americans required that the farmer unload the hay only to find nothing. Unfortunately, on the last checkpoint a Lieutenant ordered one guard to watch the farmer and if he tried to escape to use his rifle butt on him. The farmer reported this to his MP who discussed it in Parliament and that made the front page of the London Times. Don't know how the diplomats were able to settle this.

Unfortunately, an injury resulted when an RAF airman running in the dark toward the Priory fell into the ditch injuring his leg. He recovered in a few days.

Back to work. During a "how-goes-it" meeting, probably sometime in late 1951 or early 1952, a discussion ensued about the need for another "Chicksands type" station and a second DF station. What happened was a mystery at the time and remains a mystery today. RAF Kirknewton was offered as a second site. Also, about the same time, Captain Wiggins was requested to go to Whitehall and meet an official- name now unknown - to discuss a second DF site. He did, and was given several Scotland site locations from which to make a selection. This official also suggested that Wiggins meet with another British man about DF sites. He did and was briefed on DF site requirements -such as soil conductivity, the effect of coast lines on radio signals, etc., about which Wiggins knew nothing. However, this information became very useful as it helped make the selection. A site selection team consisting of Captain Verploegh, Captain Bobo and Wiggins made a trip to Scotland. RAF station Edzell,near Aberdeen, was chosen for the DF site. Kirknewton was looked over on the same trip. It looked acceptable. During a meeting after the site inspection there was a meeting with several British officials. The British were very hospitable and expressed their desire for the Americans to come to Scotland. A woman, head nurse of a local nurses school, impressed the team with her statement, "I hope you Yanks come here and get some of the nurses pregnant so that we have something to talk about." She was left with nothing to talk about. The question remains: Were the British giving subtle but remote guidance over this entire project?

 

    The end of installment three. Look for the next episode on 1 April, 2003

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