Personal Accounts

Scroll Down to read a selection of stories from some of those who served or had connections with 

HMS Ringtail 

We would very much welcome any contributions or photos for  this page from anyone who was at Ringtail or local peoples memories as well,  please go to the contact us menu on the home page of this website.

 Thank You 

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Letter written on HMS Ringtail  headed paper 

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Letter off Ian Darby 

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letter of Jim Williams 

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Letter from John Dickson

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Thanks to Mike Dawson for the information below 

A short snippet of my interview with Tony Thompson who was attached to 735 Squadron as an engine mechanic at HMS Ringtail in 1944/5. Later he was with 814 Squadron aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Venerable in the Pacific. Tony still lives in Burscough!

“We used to have a NAAFI van (refreshments) coming round the airfield and one day there was such a bloody scream and shout and what happened you see when you are on the perimeter track and the plane lands and it comes on the perimeter track everything gives way, as the plane is not level were the pilot can see ahead, its nose is in the air and the pilot cannot see ahead of him, all he would be able to see is what is to the sides. Well this silly sod in the NAAFI van he was stopped, he must of seen the plane coming or something and he put his

 arm on the window like you do, anyway of course the plane come along, only slow and crashed right into him didn’t he, and the bloody propeller came over and hit his arm. Now we heard this scream it was this girl that was with him in the van and she screamed like bloody hell which brought our attention to the incident, and of course we go running over (I remember as I was one of them) and we got over and got him out, bloody hell I have never seen an arm like that, it wasn’t chopped off it was all in bloody bits all down to the bone and it had gone black all in that short time. Now I never heard what happened to that fella, you know the ambulance come and took him off, now you can’t tell me they saved that arm, he must have lost it. But that was one incident, but it was his own bloody fault for not giving way, as I said the pilot can’t see in front of him, so he just goes along steady.”
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A small part of a letter from Frank Walker who was posted to HMS Ringtail, August 1943 as a Signals Officer (in the Protected Communications Building).

“As an Observer I was a very competent navigator of aircraft. I could compose, write code, encipher by one means or another, and send or receive messages by wireless morse code at 20 words a minute. I could operate the standard air camera. I could shoot, clean and clear stoppages on Lewis air guns and Vickers gas operated guns. I had some knowledge of naval gunnery and I knew a fair bit about bombs, depth charges and torpedoes. I could operate an airborne radar set with considerable skill. I was posted to RNAS Burscough as Signals Officer to my considerable surprise for I had no idea of my duties or responsibilities, let alone how to exer
cise them. I learned I was responsible for the receipt and recording and distribution to those concerned of all messages received by teleprinter (mostly) or wireless. Also transmission and safe receipt of all outgoing messages and keeping a complete archive of the lot. I was needed to encipher and decipher secret messages by means I had never heard of. I was responsible for the station switchboard and all the telephones and telephone lines. I was in charge of some 40 Wrens. I had for assistance a Third Officer WRNS as Cipher Officer and another as Confidential Books Officer.”“I arrived at Burscough some ten days before the station was commissioned. There was a good many civilian contractors on site including a lot of Post Office Engineers installing my equipment, teleprinters, telephones, the switchboard and land lines all over the place. I cannot recall seeing (at this time) any Wrens, Wren Officers or ratings but there must have been some stores ratings at least.”

Lady With Pram:

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“On the 30th August 1943 two days before the base was commissioned, occurred one of the more unusual events in the stations history. I was ordered to accompany the Commander of Flying on an inspection of the airfield runways on foot. We were by the side of the emergency (the longest) runway walking in a westerly direction away from the Control Tower. In the distance we noticed what appeared to be someone walking down the centre of the runway. On closer inspection, to our surprise the person was a lady pushing a pram containing a baby. We contacted the tower who closed the runways down while we removed them to safety. After a severe talking to by the Commander of Flying the lady was escorted off the Station.”


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Letter from Stan Gaskell who lives in Burscough 

He was a member of 1026 squadron Air Cadets their HQ was in the 

Methodist Hall , Orrell Lane Burscough 

members of the squadron had the opportunity to have visits to 

HMS Ringtail and sometimes a flight . Stan gives us an insight into their visits.

Some photos below of an Ormskirk 1026 squadron Air Cadets 

on a visit to Royal Naval Air Station Burscough 

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Below Photos of 1026 Ormskirk Air Cadets visit to HMS Ringtail

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Below

A short snippet of my interview with Tony Thompson who was attached to 735 Squadron as an engine mechanic at HMS Ringtail in 1944/5. Later he was with 814 Squadron aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Venerable in the Pacific. Tony still lives in Burscough! 

Interview By Mike Dawson

“Now the old Swordfish, the thing with them you see the engine could fail, just stop in mid air which they did quite often and then it just used to glide down, I mean the top speed was about 180 mph when it was flying, and they just used to glide down and land on a beach or a local field, they didn’t need much of an area to land. When I first joined that is what some of the pilots had, the Swordfish, but they didn’t even bother with parachutes, they would just fold a big tarpaulin sheet up and sit on that because you needed the height in the seat, as the seat was allowed to have a parachute, but they (the pilots) didn’t want a parachute because they knew if anything happened they could just glide down. That was just one of their tricks.”

 

“You would have laughed if you had seen us start the Swordfish up, because part of my job was starting engines up an all you see, I used to get in them and start them up. Now the old Swordfish had big wheels, and I would climb up on the wheel to reach this bloody big handle connected to flywheel and you would strain to start it turning, then you would shout ‘right oh’ and the guy in the plane would pull this ring and away the engine would go. Of course you nearly got blown off then, but that is how the old Swordfish sticks in my mind, climbing on that bloody wheel and grabbing on that handle to get it going.”

 

“With the Barracuda we used to fire a cartridge to get them started, they were cartridge start, not like the RAF, the RAF had these mobile generators and they would just plug them in to start their planes. Well you couldn’t do that in the navy, you couldn’t have these bloody generators on aircraft carriers, so we had these long cartridges, about six of them, but with us we always wanted to start them on one cartridge. You know it was a bad show if it was two or three cartridges. I was quite good at getting them going and usually it was one cartridge. That was the difference between starting a Swordfish and a Barracuda.”

 

Another short snippet of my interview with Tony Thompson who was attached to 735 Squadron as an engine mechanic at HMS Ringtail in 1944/5. 

“One incident I remember the pilot had got into his plane and started it up and I was seeing him out, (we used to see them out and see them back in) as we knew all the signals. As I was seeing him out onto the perimeter track this bloody plane crash landed on the runway behind me, that I was guiding this plane to. Anyway this plane crash landed on the runway, and I stopped the plane I was signalling to straight away. After a few moments it was ok for to let him go (to another runway) so I waved him off, ok, right, you can go, and off he went. Anyway he came back and landed and stopped his engine and I go over and there is this bloody big hole in the propeller. Well from this plane that had crash landed a bit of something must have shot over and hit the bloody propeller, and I didn’t know, and the pilot didn’t even bloody know, but there was this big chunk right out the propeller, it was only a wooden one. So that could have been a serious accident itself.”

“You could march up to the airfield in the morning and there would be an aircraft there that has crashed over night on the runway and we didn’t know anything about it. We were only half a mile away in tin huts and we heard nothing.”