A most unexpected arrival!


As part of our ongoing research into Sandy Gunn's RAF career in late May 2020 we launched a large article on the project in the Newmarket Journal and appealed to any locals who may recall Sandy's unexpected arrival in the area in January 1942. As Sandy recalled on the day:


"Came along North coast, looking for ships, took Lubeck, then up to have a crack at Keil but only parts of canal visible. Started for home at 16:00 keeping well outside the Frisians. Came down low over North Sea too early and had a shaky twenty minutes flying at 50ft under cloud and through snowstorms. Eventually hit coast at 17:05, somewhere near Cromer, to find the land pretty foggy. Made tracks for Mildenhall, but could not find it for fog. Eventually had to put down in a field in semi light at 17:40. Just managed to pull up with the tail in the air, 20 yards short of the hedge."


Reading our article was Cyril Coombes who got in touch with the project within three days of the article being printed to tell us how he was an eyewitness to Sandy's arrival 78 years previously.


"I read your story in our local weekly paper about a Spitfire that landed on Newmarket Heath close to the Rowley Mile Race Course. I was only small at the time but my older brother Noel heard of this and sat me on the crossbar of his bike and we went to see it. It was about half a mile from where we lived. It was in this field close to the hedge. My brother said that it was duck egg green in colour, I remember seeing that aeroplane like it was last week. We got into the field through a gap in the hedge at the near end closest to Hamilton road, that gap was there for years it was about six feet wide. The field was just over the road from RAF Newmarket, a bomber airfield that had Wellingtons, Short Stirlings and Lysander planes that took spies to the continent.​"


This first experience of aeroplanes for young Cyril led to him joining the RAF in 1957 serving for three years at the top secret radar station at Neatishead in Norfolk. Cyril's eldest son followed in his father's footsteps joining the RAF in 1990 and left the service a Squadron Leader.


Our photo taken in 1940 shows Cyril standing far left with his brother Noel waving at the rear. We look forward to meeting Cyril later this year when restrictions allow us to visit the site of Sandy's field landing with him.

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 by Jennifer Tye.

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