Following on from episode 5 of WW2 Treasure Hunters, below are exclusive photos of most of the finds from the dig, and a fabulous story from the veteran pilot, Ray Hobbs. Unfortunately, I completely failed to take pictures of the finds from the bomb dump area! Sorry!
We had some fabulous finds, with everything except the live rounds and illegal bullets handed over to the museum at the Red Feather Club. This museum really is worth a visit, so if you’re ever in the area, pop along! Check on the website when they are having their open days (http://95thbg-horham.com/wordpress/).
The live ammunition and illegal bullets were handed in to the police for safe disposal, (I’ve kept the reference number of the hand-in chit in my records). Don’t forget that, under section 5 1A (g) of the firearms act, all bullets (as in the projectile on its own), except ball and tracer are illegal to possess. The blue tipped API was handed in along with the live complete rounds.
The first aid tins were a really good find, and we did think for a minute that there was a dogtag in the hole as well as Reg recovered a dogtag chain. Despite searching for quite some time though, it became obvious there was no dogtag there.
We did find a couple of chunks of B17, but nothing immediately recognisable unfortunately.
The Quartermaster Corps ring was also a cracking little find, and almost certainly a private purchase. Never seen one before! All the little coins with the hole drilled in them were also great, and it was speculated that these formed either a lucky charm bracelet or perhaps a sweetheart bracelet that never made it to the lady intended.
Last finds of note were the tubes of prophylactic ointment. Just goes to show the lengths the USAAF would go to to try and protect their men from illness. Shame the stuff never really worked though!
But the thrill of the whole episode for me was meeting the B17 pilot. He had some amazing stories to tell, one of which I will share with you here…..
During the ‘Chow-hound’ missions to the Netherlands, Ray Hobbs claimed to have made the first ever ‘door-to-door’ delivery. His story went like this….
‘We had huge 50kg bags of flour, wrapped in about 4 layers of various materials, but they had trouble mounting them in the bomb bay of the B17, so what they did was fix a couple of plywood sheets over the bomb bay doors, fixed in place by a couple of bolts. The bomb aimer would pull on the lever to drop them, and the bolts would be retracted, opening the plywood ‘floor’ and dropping the flour bags. We didn’t have them on parachutes…..we just came in at 100 feet and the packing was so good the bags easily survived the drop.’
‘On one mission to Utrecht I came in over the town at rooftop height and, just on the very outskirts, my bomb aimer dropped the flour sacks. Then I get a message from one of my waist gunners that only one of the plywood sheets opened and I still had a couple of bags in the bay. The bolt holding it in place hadn’t retracted fully. So I did a wide arc and came back in on the same run. As we approached the drop zone, I felt the bags go and pulled up. But the problem was the bomb aimer hadn’t released them! The catch had simply given way…….and a few seconds too early!’
‘The rear gunner comes on the intercom. ‘Ray! That bag dropped early! I saw it clear as day! It went through the roof of the last house and straight out the front door!’
So there you go…….the very first door-to-door delivery!
One other story before we go on to the finds. When the Americans first arrived at RAF Horham, one enterprising local sold them all bicycles. It was later discovered that they had been sold to the serviceman at double their usual value! At the end of hostilities, just as the Americans were on their way home, the personnel tried selling the bikes back. However, the same enterprising individual refused to pay them the price they had paid, and was trying to make even more money!
So, the American personnel did the only thing they could. They piled the bikes together, and ran backwards and forwards over them with a bulldozer! Squashed them flat!
The last picture of the relics recovered shows what we think is one of these bicycles 🙂