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Heroes Of Our Time

F.I.D.O. (Fog Investigation And Dispersal Operation) in Len Bartram's own words:-

 

 

F.I.D.O. was installed at Foulsham during the summer of 1944 and the first known use was on September 21st. Three large storage tanks above ground were constructed at the NW corner of the airfield close to Low Farm, Wood Norton. The tanks are believed to have held a total of 480,000 gallons of petrol. The pump house and main control point was situated nearby.

 

The FIDO pipelines extended each side of the main 01/19 North to South runway, plus a funnel arrangement at the approach on the North end. The pipeline was 50 yards each side of the runway above ground and passing under the intersections of the two cross runways.

 

Each pipeline consisted of two feed pipes and a preheater pipe above them with a number of burners at intervals along the line. Very briefly, the procedure was that petrol was pumped under pressure through the feed pipes which contained hundreds of small holes six inches apart and forced through the holes. It was heated into vapour by the heater pipe. It was ignited with a match at the burner pits. The theory was that after the initial smoke had cleared the walls of burning petrol would lift and clear any fog from the main runway between the pipelines providing a clear tunnel of fire in which an aircraft could land or take off safely.

 

On most of the occasions when it was used the system proved very effective and many aircraft from Foulsham and other fog-bound bases made safe landings, often with the visibility down to 100 yards or even less.

 

Special Units were formed to operate FIDO at Foulsham consisting of twelve airmen, mainly flying control assistants, also one driver, two Corporals and a Sergeant in charge. Training staff for the job was carried out in great secrecy at the Petroleum Warfare Departments at West Drayton with practical work carried out on a mock system at the King George IV reservoir.

 

The fuel arrived at Foulsham mainly by rail tankers at Foulsham Station and then it is believed by underground pipeline to the storage tanks on the airfield. When the system was on full burn the reflection could be seen in the sky for a long distance and the roar of the burning petrol could be clearly heard where I lived at Hindolveston over two miles away.

 

FIDO was used at Foulsham from September 1944 until April 1945 including on Christmas Eve. This meant a very busy Christmas Day for the FIDO crew, with dozens of tanks arriving at the railway station - Christmas dinner had to wait until the evening,, but the men were kept happy through the day with free beer supplied by the aircrew who had landed safely the previous night.

 

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© Len Bartram (used with permission from his wife Evelyn Bartram)

 

 

Each time after FIDO was used a FIDO report was made, for example:

 

Report for 18/19th December 1944

 

Visibility 100 yards.

FIDO operative 02:00 hours until 04:20 hours.

Fuel burned 170,000 gallons.

Rate just over 1,000 gallons per minute.

Aircraft landed - Halifax 'R' of 192 Squadron, Fortresses 'H', 'L' and 'R' from Oulton and Mosquito 'G' from Coltishall.

 

Some other dates known when FIDO was used were:

 

21.        9.44. One Wellington took off.

20/21.        12.44 Six Mosquitoes landed, three from Swannington, two from West Raynham and one from Foulsham.

29.        12.44. Three Halifaxes and two Mosquitoes landed (based a/c). Trials and testing of FIDO installation was also carried out at regular intervals. Total fuel consumption for December 1944 was 361,854 gallons.

16/17.        1.45.        Nine Halifaxes of 462 Sqdn, seven Halifaxes and four Mosquitoes of 192 Sqdn took off.

22/23.        1.45        Thirteen Halifaxes (8 of 462 Sqdn and 5 of 192 Sqdn) and one 192 Sqdn Mosquito landed.

18.        2.45.        Five Halifaxes landed.

19.        2.45.        FIDO used for departure and returning aircraft including Oulton aircraft operating from Foulsham.

23.        2.45.        One Halifax landed.

19.        4.45.        Eleven Halifaxes and two Mosquitoes landed.