Woodbridge ‘prang drome’

On the Wood crew’s very first op together, the daylight Duisburg operation on the 8th of December 1944, they experienced engine problems that forced them to fall behind the main bomber stream, arriving over the target well after the others had gone.

Coming back over the Channel and low on fuel, they were ordered to land at RAF Woodbridge.  

“One aircraft “D” captained by F/S Wood, J. landed at Woodbridge on return.”  

RAF Woodbridge Emergency Landing Ground ELG), not far from Felixstowe, Suffolk, was one of three built by Bomber Command along the east coast of England for damaged allied aircraft returning from operations over Europe.   

A longer and wider than usual runway (3,000 yards long x 250 yards wide) could handle crash-landings and aircraft with critical damage, or without hydraulics and brakes. Once safely on the ground, they were quickly removed to a series of dispersal loops along the south edge of the runway, by bulldozer if necessary.  

In the slang of the day, Woodbridge was a “prang drome”.

D-Dog made a safe landing at Woodbridge that afternoon and her problems were eventually solved by the engine mechanics.  

Thanks to an RAF film crew, we can now see just what that would have looked like.   This very rare film clip shows a 75 (NZ) Squadron Lancaster making a very good landing at Woodbridge on only two engines:

Film clip credit IWM, ref. ARY 131-1-2, 4-5.

The pilot was F/Sgt Thomas Good RAFVR  and the incident occurred on the 1st of March 1945, after a daylight bombing attack on Kamen.

On the way home, Good lost both starboard engines on AA-Y (“Liefy”), and was ordered to land at RAF Woodbridge.

As he lands (at 23 minutes past five in the evening, according to the ORB), you can see white streaks on the engine cowlings from the Graviner fire extinguishers, suggesting there may have been an engine fire, or the threat of one. There is no other obvious damage to the Lancaster.  

After the aircraft has stopped, you can see the crew boarding a crew bus beside the runway and a tractor tows the Lancaster off the landing field for checks and repairs.  

The damage can’t have been too serious as the aircraft was back on operations nine days later.  

The film was taken by the RAF Film Production Unit and the four original reels are un-edited and without sound, showing several RAF and USAAF aircraft landing, and others in various states on the ground, with crews inspecting the battle damage. It’s a fascinating glimpse of the aircraft, the men and the dangers they were facing daily, even at that late stage of the war.  

You can see the full film on the IWM website:   https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060021135

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