March 10, 2023
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JUST before noon on Tuesday, June 6, 1944, the operational record book of base OTU 111 records that “B-25 FW-154 FR was airborne at 11.16am upon A/S [anti-submarine] patrol No 2. No W/T [radio] contact was made with this aircraft after 11.50am, when a long dash [Mayday] was received. At 1.50pm, a signal was received from the pilot, via government channels, that the aircraft had ditched in the sea two miles north of Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera, at 11.48 am.
IN 1930, two significant historical aircraft, one with a life-long crippled man as radio operator, the other with a single-handing Australian aviatrix, crashed in The Bahamas, in Andros and Exuma.
FOUR RAF pilots, from the UK, Canada, and South Africa, came within 100 feet of a smooth water landing yards off Lyford Cay one fall evening when things suddenly went horribly wrong.
Women who donated her nylon stockings to the US war effort might not know they often became parachutes, four of which floated to earth and sea over Acklins. After Ralph Stevens rolled out of a doomed bomber, spraining ankle and knee, it was given to a family of six children in Pompey Bay, by the resident commissioner, Chauncy Tynes.
WHEN the 112-foot Castle Island Light off Acklins was operational, it was a critically important beacon that three World War Two bombers crash-landed near in order to be rescued.
On October 17, 1944, five years into World War II, a B-26 Marauder aircraft assigned to the Royal Air Force Transport Command took off from the Windsor Field.
NEW Providence saw over 20 World War II aircraft ditch, crash, and explode into its adjacent waters. Most of these were to the south of the island, east, and north, and depended on direction of the winds, which air field was used, and complex night-time exercises using extremely bright Leigh Lights, and flying in formation. Mechanical failures from aircraft just delivered from American factories played a role as well.
WHETHER planes touched wingtips, men walked into propellers, bombers collided, planes were lost in microbursts, or had training gunnery mishaps, Nassau, Windsor and Oakes air fields and adjacent waters claimed many lives. More than half of all accidents in the colony – 80 of 150 – took place at or near the air fields and New Providence. This article deals with the 55 accidents that happened or ended up on land. In the three years from January 1943 131 aviators and a Bahamian family of three were killed by military aircraft in New Providence and its waters, with 83 rescued, and those fatalities recovered buried on Farrington Road. Pre-existing Oakes Field, used for training, saw nine crashes and most of the 25 unallocated, and Windsor Field, still in use, had 21.
THE build-up of New Providence into the hub of all South Atlantic air deliveries to the Allies in Africa, the Mediterranean, Middle and Far East was sudden, yet the nation’s air hub was built as Windsor Field for the RAF Ferry Command, and to support the RAF Transport Command, the No 113 Transport Wing instructors who trained over 7,000 students for the front, and to deliver over 9,000 aircraft to Africa.
TRIBUNE readers may recall fifteen articles about Mailboats of the Bahamas in 2016. This new series about World War Two aircraft discoveries in our archipelago is similar, except the history is less static and more tactile.