The Royal Air Force in Oklahoma

Lives, Loves, and Courage of the British Air Crews Trained
in Oklahoma During World War II

News  - Current and Past

 

Death of Air Vice-Marshal Harry "Jimmy" Gill, OBE

Former member of No. 6 British Flying Training School, Air Vice-Marshal Harry "Jimmy" Gill, died on January 20, 2008. In October 2007 he has assumed the role of president of the No. 6 BFTS Association at its annual reunion, which was held at Wroxton near Banbury. His obituary appeared in the March 19, 2008 Telegraph in England and was kindly provided to me by Deryk Maddox, a former cadet at No. 3 BFTS in Miami.  AVM Gill was a friend to all who knew him and his unassuming air was appreciated by all.

Thank you, Deryk.

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According to the Ponca City News, October 1, 2006, page 1, the World War II hanger Number 3, which remains in Ponca City and which was part of the original Darr School of Aeronautics, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Pictured here is Paula Carmack Denson, author of The Royal Air Force in Oklahoma, posed with an AT6 at the Ponca City airport on Veterans' Day, 2006.

You may provide current news and/or bits of information about either of the Oklahoma British flying training schools, their students, instructors, or staff by sending it, along with scanned photos in the jpg format to  paula@pkdenson.com and she will share the information as it becomes available.

 In 2007, Mrs. Denson was honored to visit friends all through the UK, including Coventry, Lincoln, and London. During that visit,  Denson attended the 2007 annual reunion of No. 6 BFTS held at Wroxton near Banbury. She also visited the RAF museum at Hendon where she presented a copy of her book to the museum. One of the highlights of this trip, which included a side trick to Scotland,  came as she stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Deryk Maddox. Mr. Maddox, the former No. 3 BFTS Association president, and his wife escorted Paula to the home of Sir Michael and Lady Beetham, where they enjoyed a lovely luncheon  and personal visit.



On November 5, 2011, Ponca City residents enjoyed a fly-over by a group of four North American AT-6 aircraft as part of the annual Veteranís Day Parade held on Grand Avenue. The parade was sponsored by Post 14 of the Ponca City American Legion. A float honoring No. 6 BFTS was sponsored by Friends of Marland's Grand Home. Honored guest, RAF Wing Commander Will Dole, of Washington, D.C., rode the float along with several young men from the Presbyterian Church who were dressed in WWII RAF and USAAF uniforms.

Later that afternoon, a special Remembrance Ceremony was held at the IOOF Cemetery in Ponca City to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the presence of 6BFTS in Ponca City from 1941 to 1944 and to remember the seven cadets who died in training accidents while they were in Ponca City. Mrs. Paula Denson planned and coordinated the event. Approximately 100 guests, including Wing Commander Dole; Steve Vaughan of the Oklahoma State House of Representatives; Lana Jones, field director for the late Oklahoma State Senator David Myers; Ponca City Mayor Homer Nicholson, and 90 year old former No 6 BFTS cadet Albert "Bert" Sims, were in attendance. During the ceremony, members of the Tulsa Chapter SAR presented the flags, DAR local regent Sue Allen and other officers presented  the invocation and music, with Taps and Last Post played by Bugles across America representative Doug Conrady, of Wakita, Oklahoma. Other special guests included children of former flight instructors and mechanics at the school, including Doug Jerger, son of Hank Jerger; Laura Zell Holmes, daughter of mechanic Earl Murray; Paul Victor, Jr., son of flight instructor Paul Victor and No 6 BFTS staff member Juliette McNeese Victor;  and Diane Owens and Donna Flory, both daughters of flight instructor David Mitchell. Both Jerger and Holmes' fathers died together in a test flight of one of the AT6 planes while they worked at No. 6 BFTS.

Immediately following the ceremony, a special film was shown of No. 6 BFTS at Marland's Grand Home.

Similar Remembrance Ceremonies were held both in Miami, Oklahoma and in Terrell, Texas during the fall months of 2011.


In  June, 2007.  Melvin and Jasmine Moran, of Seminole, and founders of the Jasmine Moran Children's Museum in Seminole, enjoyed their copy of the book, The Royal Air Force in Oklahoma,  so much that they contacted Mrs. Denson to report that the book was being mailed to good friends in Scotland.  When Jasmine was a young lady she was an actress/singer and one of the cast members in the original stage production of "South Pacific" in London's West End. Her best friend, Carole, another member of the cast, later married a Scotsman, George Egan, who had trained at No. 3 BFTS in Miami.   In 1953 Jasmine married Melvin Moran in Tulsa and became an Oklahoman.  Over the years, the two families have visited with each other many times and Carole and her husband have visited Miami each time they return to Oklahoma.


Mrs. Denson was happy to become the owner of some 16mm film taken in 1942 by former cadet M.S. Edmunds during the fall of 2011. Cadet Edmunds was a member of Course 6 but nothing is known about him. If you knew him or have information about him,  please advise Mrs. Denson at paula@pkdenson.com.


Readers may be interested to know that an entire exhibit  showing the history of No. 6 BFTS is on display on the second floor of Marlandís Grand Home, located at 1000 E. Grand Avenue in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Visitors may want to check the link page to view this historic home of E.W. Marland, the tenth governor of Oklahoma.

Through the generosity of Mrs. Mary Sunshine Jarman (formerly Cogman) and her children, a display cabinet and two beautiful mahogany aircraft models were donated to the exhibit at Marland's Grand Home in Ponca City. The replicas of the Harvard (Texan) AT6 and the Stearman PT 17, along with the cabinet, are given in memory of Harold Cogman, who was one of the cadets in Course One at Darr School.


Mrs. Mary Jean Good of Medford, Oklahoma, reports that as a child she visited her great aunt and uncle, Maud and Sam Long, who live on "C" SW in Miami. The year was probably 1944 and just across the street from her aunt and uncle lived a British couple, Mr. and Mrs. Strange,  the husband of whom was training with No. 3 BFTS. Their small daughter, Ann, played with Mary Jean when she visited. After the British couple returned to England the two families kept in touch for several years and Mr. and Mrs. Long sent them several packages of commodities.   Mrs. Strange wrote a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Long on the back of a "picture" page taken from a book, with the explanation that paper, too, was in short supply. 

Mrs. Good also remembered that Judge and Mrs. Adams lived the next door north and that Mr. and Mrs. Alvy Poleet lived next door to the south. 

If anyone knows anything about this flyer at No. 3 BFTS, please contact Mrs. Denson at paula@pkdenson.com.


"I have just finished your book, The Royal Air Force in Oklahoma, and thoroughly enjoyed it. On page 155 is the name of Fox, W. and that would be William whom we knew as Bill. On the same page is the name of Hawkins, S., and that would be Stanley, a friend of Bill's. When they were stationed in Ponca City they would come down to Guthrie on their weekend passes.  The old American Legion Hut on Oklahoma Avenue was a mini-USO where they were entertained. My friends and I made the acquaintance of Bill and Stanley. I remember my mother preparing Yorkshire pudding for one dinner.  Also, Bill would not eat corn because in England they fed that to the chickens.  I had finished one year of college and was living at home then. The book brought back many fond memories. Sincerely, B. Williams"


The Royal Air Force in Oklahoma continues to draw interest from many kind folks in England and elsewhere. In November 2007, Mrs. Denson received a letter from Grant Campbell, a resident of North Vancouver, British Columbia. According to Mr. Campbell, his friend, Norman Ryan, now age 92, arrived in Miami, Oklahoma in 1943 from England, where he trained with Course 17. Norman was seconded to the Glider Pilot Regiment as the Army had lost many glider pilots during "Operation Market Garden." On the morning of March 24, 1945 Norman's Horsa glider (Paul's Pirates) was towed aloft by a Stirling bomber from RAF Rivenhall. This was the start of "Operation Varsity."

Mr. Campbell went on to say that about ten o'clock in the morning Norman was successful in setting his glider down through the smoke and flack in a field near the town of Hamenkeln, just across the Rhine River. Norman had delivered an Assault Platoon of the 12th Devons, as planned. 


Another former No. 3 BFTS cadet from Miami contacted Mrs. Denson on November 20, 2007. Mr. Allan D. Baldwin, of Barrowden Rutland, Leicestershire, wrote to report that he was on No. 15 Course in Miami. As he ready the Royal Air Force in Oklahoma, a gift from his son, his memories returned to Miami and the mixture of delight he felt with the people and surroundings and his anxiety that he might "wash out" before he earned his treasured "Wings."

Mr. Baldwin and his friend, Steve Abel, spent most of their free time traveling on Route 66 to Baxter Springs, Kansas where they were entertained by a delightful couple. On one occasion, their hitch-hiking resulted in the two being picked up by an elderly man driving a hearse, complete with corpse. After course on various aircraft types back in the UK Al ended up on 31 Squadron flying Dakotas in Burma. After leaving the RAF Al joined British European Airways where he flew until his retirement in 1976.



If anyone has knowledge about a cadet who trained in Miami during 1941 by the name of Roy William Butcher, please contact Paula Denson at paula@pkdenson.com. Roy never spoke of his experiences in Miami to his son, who, now in 2011,  is trying to put his history together for the family. Any help would be appreciated.