Why Greenham Common? - FIDO system
Hello to all,
In researching my uncle's crash on December 15, 1944, returning from a mission, he was diverted from Thurliegh airfield to Greenham Common airfield due to bad weather/fog.
A man who was stationed there later, questioned why he was diverted there versus many other airfields that used the FIDO system (described below) - giving him better chance for a safe return.
I put this post out also on the "Mighty Eighth" board.
Christine Bryant from Yorkshire told Making History that, as a child in wartime, she remembers the sky being lit up by what seemed to be fires at a nearby airfield. Afterwards she was told that they were trying to get rid of fog. She wanted to know if this could have been true. The glow in the sky would have been from the airfield at Carnaby, close to the Yorkshire coast.
This was one of the key airfields where planes in trouble returning from missions could make an emergency landing. It was also one of the airfields operating the fog dispersal system known as
FIDO (Fog Investigation Dispersal Organisation).
This was probably what she had seen. Norman Rose, who worked on FIDO at RAF Manston in Kent, explained how it worked.
FIDO was an extraordinary system based on the idea of burning away the fog by burning petrol. Many aircraft and aircrews had been lost because fog had come down before planes returned from missions. FIDO was developed late in the war. High-octane petrol was pumped along a system of pipes erected by the side of the airfield runway. The petrol in two pipes was heated and vaporised. Another pipe was perforated and the escaping petrol vapour was lit so that the petrol flames extended beside the runway like two walls of flame. The heat produced lifted the fog. The system required prodigious quantities of fuel, transported to the airfield by rail and from the stations by pipeline. The petrol was stored in huge tanks that held as much as a million gallons.
RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk was the first RAF station to have FIDO and
RAF Manston the last, in 1944. It was mainly coastal airfields that used FIDO to help bombers returning from the raids and to combat sea fog. The three main Emergency Landing Grounds - Carnaby in Yorkshire, Sutton Heath woodbridge) in Suffolk and Manston in Kent - were fitted with double versions because of the size of their runways.
More than 2,500 planes in trouble were enabled to land because of FIDO.
RAF Manston continued with it until 1949 - it was on standby for London airport. After that, radar had so improved that FIDO was phased out. Using FIDO for one hour required 250,000 gallons of fuel at a cost of £42,500.
The fifteen airfields fitted with FIDO were:
Bradwell Bay, Essex
Downham Market, Norfolk
Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire
St Eval, Cornwall