• Mark Appleby

It's a flaming miracle!

If you’ve passed through Carnaby lately on the way from Driffield to Bridlington or vice versa, you may well have noticed a striking new memorial by the roadside in the centre of the village.

The illustration, titled ‘Hell, Fire, FIDO and a Halifax – RAF Carnaby’ is by Bridlington artist and sculptor, Stephen Carvill, and shows a Halifax bomber coming into land guided by the famed flaming guidance system known as FIDO - Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation.

This was an ingenious method of lighting up the runway in poor visibility – with thousands of gallons of fuel ignited along either side of the specially-wide runway to aid landings.

Even more remarkable is the story behind the illustration; the Halifax - a Coastal Command aircraft – was returning from an anti-shipping patrol, and had diverted from its Shetland base after being damaged in a self-inflicted accident. The mid-upper gunner was thought lost in the incident, but after landing safely at Carnaby, the crew discovered their battered and bruised crewmate had been dangling underneath the ‘plane all the time, his parachute harness having caught up in the fuselage!

Incredibly, the emergency landing strip at Carnaby was used more than 1,500 times during the war, with the busiest day coming in January 1945, when 65 USAAF bombers, mostly B24 Liberators, put down there after an aborted raid on the Germany city of Braunschweig.

After the war, Carnaby became a relief landing strip for the Flying School at RAF Driffield, while in the late 1950s and into the ‘60s – like Driffield – it played host to Thor nuclear missiles. Carnaby finally closed as an airfield in 1969. It was used as a motorcycle and kart racing track during the 1970s and early ‘80s (run by the good old Auto 66 club), before eventually being converted into the Carnaby Industrial Estate. I have to confess to a family interest here - my elder brother Darren was Yorkshire Karting Champion in the early '80s (125cc from what I recall) and I watched him race at Carnaby a couple of times.

The memorial, part-funded from grants from the Fraisthorpe wind farm and the Two Ridings Community Fund, was unveiled in May 2019. At night, the FIDO flames are lit up by a series of LED lights.

The full story of RAF Carnaby is told in two books by Gayna Wallis; Station X1 The Story of RAF Carnaby, and Call Up Carnaby. You can buy them from the official Carnaby Airfield Memorial website. Limited edition prints of the memorial are also available.

The drone video featured here comes courtesy of Filey resident Nick Moore, and shows a then-and-now view of Carnaby airfield from the air.

Watch this space for more videos featuring the WWII history of the East Yorkshire area in the coming weeks and months...

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