WW2 Treasure Hunters – Season 2 – RAF Little Staughton ‘Pathfinders’

For this episode of WW2 Treasure Hunters, we go back to our roots, leave all the aircraft and tanks behind, and do some proper relic hunting!

RAF Little Staughton was a Pathfinders base, and played a crucial role in the RAF bombing campaign of WW2.

RAF Little Staughton is a former Royal Air Force station located 1.7 miles (2.7 km) south of Great Staughton, Cambridgeshire and 4.2 miles (6.8 km) west of St Neots, Cambridgeshire, England.

Built during 1941-42 potentially as a USAAF bomber base, Little Staughton had three concrete runways, 37 hard standings, two dispersed T2 hangars and eight Robin hangars. Occupied temporarily from December 1942 by the Advanced Air Depot of the 1st Bomb Wing, it was a maintenance base for B-17 bombers from January 1943 until February 1944. It transferred to the RAF in March 1944, and operated as a bomber base until October 1945, then briefly as a transport base until closed and was placed on Care and Maintenance in December 1945. The main runway was extended during the 1950s to provide a jet emergency-landing facility for the USAF, but that was discontinued by the late 1950s. Other post-war use of the airfield included a Brooklands Aviation repair depot. Although largely returned to agriculture and also used by light industry, part of the wartime site remains a private airfield.

On 1st March 1944, the base transferred to RAF control, with Lancasters of No. 7 Sqn from Oakington and No. 156 Sqn from Upwood transferring here to form No. 582 Sqn. The first operation of this squadron was flown on 9th April 1944 and its last 25th April 1945. No. 582 took part in a total of 165 raids, during which 28 Lancasters were lost. 582 Sqn disbanded here in September 1945.


From March 1944 to September 1945, No. 109 Sqn PFF Pathfinder Force Mosquitos were based at Little Staughton, having moved here from Marham. Their first operation was flown on the 4th April 1944, and the last on 25th April 1945.

These two squadrons were to be the only occupants of the station from March 1944 until the end of the war.

Two Victoria Crosses were awarded posthumously to Little Staughton airmen. On December 23rd, 1944, Squadron Leader Robert Palmer, a No. 109 Squadron pilot flying a No. 582 Lancaster, perished after determinedly attacking the target despite crippling damage to his aircraft. Then on the night of February 23/24th 1945, Captain Edwin Swales of No. 582 Squadron lost his life in a gallant effort to save both his crew and aircraft, flying towards friendly lines with a crippled Lancaster, giving the crew time to bail out over allied held territory before the Lancaster finally smashed into the ground.

This episode is dedicated to these, and all other airmen that flew from this vital airbase.

 

So, what did we find during the dig? One heck of a lot of relics, many of which were directly attributable to the Pathfinders.

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All the finds recovered during filming
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Transport caps from various items of ordnance. Top left is the bulb housing from a runway light.
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Bottom row, fair left is an anvil detonator, then a stack of 303s. Above them a load of 50cals from when the USAAF occupied the base, along with two German 7.92mm cartridges. What they were doing here we’ll never know! Cutlery and flare gun cartridges.
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Cutlery
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Lots and LOTS of aircraft parts
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Parts from aerial bombs on right. Left are two pieces from British incendiary bombs and, above those, a bent in half Sten mag.
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A couple of stirrup pumps. Beneath them are Merlin engine mounting pads.
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Base units from No 848 bomb fuzes. These were identical to the base units used in the No 42 bomb fuze. Bottom left, bomb arming solenoid.
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No 860 barometric bomb fuze
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No. 28 bomb tail pistols. Could also be No 30 (only difference is the shape of the firing pin), but these were all marked No 28. On the left there are also firing pins from the No 28, along with arming vanes from the 848 and safety forks from the No. 27 nose pistol., as well as arming vanes from the No 28/30. Quite a variety!
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This would appear to be the fuel filling port for a fuel tank. Unknown aircraft.
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Fire hose attachments, all WD marked.
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Metal links for 20mm Hispano-Suiza
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Rubber oxygen bladders
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Bomb arming solenoid and bomb arming wires, with fahnstock clips.
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Tea ration tins
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Merlin engine exhaust manifold gaskets
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Marked crockery
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Lots of bottles and jars!
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Aircraft instrument and other parts
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Some items after cleaning!
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AM stamp clearly visible
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98 prefix, clearly identifying this a s a Mosquito part
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98 prefix, clearly identifying this a s a Mosquito part
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AM electrical connector
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Another AM marked piece
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Another AM marked piece
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Another AM marked piece, this one an electrical connector
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Another AM marked piece, this one an electrical connector
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98 prefix and DH check stamp both show this to be Mosquito
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D prefix……..Merlin engine.
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98 prefix and DH check stamp both show this to be Mosquito
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Part from a radio
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De Havilland stamp
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AM electrical connector
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Lots of electrical connector parts
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Aircraft parts!
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Aircraft parts!
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Aircraft parts!
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Aircraft parts!
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Aircraft parts!
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AM coded part
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More aircraft parts, and one piece from a runway light
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Close up of runway light part
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Fairlead inspection cover
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Mosquito inspection cover
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Mosquito inspection cover
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Mosquito inspection cover
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Aircraft part
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More cleaned items!
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No. 860 bomb fuze
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Bomb arming solenois and bomb arming wire
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Bomb arming solenois and bomb arming wire
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No 28 firing pins. No 848 arming vane column. No 27 arming fork
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50cal cartridge cases
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303 cartridge cases
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Cutlery
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Incendiary bomb tile breaker and parts from aerial bomb
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Transport caps
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No 848 bomb fuze base units (identical to the No 42)
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No 28 bomb tail pistols
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Spoon
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Is this a service number?
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Glass and crockery!AC
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Meat paste
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Meat paste
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More bottles
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Schweppes
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Marmite and Bovril
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More bottles
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Brylcream
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Brylcream
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Marked crockery
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Marked crockery
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Marked crockery
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Marked crockery
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Marked crockery
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Marked crockery
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NAAFI stamped glasses
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NAAFI stamped glasses
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NAAFI stamped glasses

 

It was a fabulous dig and yielded one heck of a haul of relics!

 

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All the finds recovered during filming

2 comments

  1. Fantastic programme. Keep them coming.
    You may get asked this a lot but how do I go about getting involved with wartime digs etc. I am an amateur detectorist with an interest in both the world wars.
    How would I go about getting involved?

    Keep up the good work

    Nick

    Like

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