View Full Version : GERMANY - Sylt
Richard E Flagg
While at the National Arboretum the other day I saw a plaque to RAF Sylt "To all who served on this Island, 1945 - 1961"
Where is the Island and what was the RAF's involvement there?
Sylt is an island off the north west coast of Germany near to the Danish border. It was used extensively by RAF aircraft until the mid-1950s as bombing range. There is an extremely active RAF Sylt association whose website is at:
A chap called Peter McLeland, former RAF pilot, flew various Armament Practice Camps at Sylt and some of his stories can be found on his website at:
Hope this helps.
Richard E Flagg
Thanks for the info, much appreciated.
Oh, and welcome to the forum!
Sylt was a very dangerous place where the active squadrons of 2 TAF went on live munitions practice twice a year.
The Squadrons at RAF Celle were able to move the complete squadron and its' equipment by road in a very short period mainly by Magirus Deutz lorries while the aircrews flew there if the A/C were serviceable. This may have had something to do with Celle being 4 minutes flying time from the border.
My recollections are of the incredibly cold winters at the exposed Sylt airfield, we wore many layers of clothing and if you touched anything when not wearing gloves your hand stuck to the object.
The summers were, however, marvellous Sylt was a resort with plenty of young German ladies and terrific weather. It was also famous for its nudist beach known as " Bare Arse Beach". Very popular with the chaps.
I recall the local night club called the Broken Bottle where all the RAF guys from the W/C Flying Don Kingaby to the lowest AC2 Assistant mixing and drinking together.
They were magic days with long periods on the line followed by long nights carousing.
Oh yes, why was it a very dangerous place? Well, you were paid six weeks pay before leaving and were routed past Hamburg, so a number of lorries got lost and finished up in that famous town and trickled into Sylt over the next few days absolutely penny-less but there was always "Bare Arse Beach to strut along in the summer. :D
Ah! RAF Sylt 1956 freezing cold, 130 Squadron were visiting for firing practice up from Bruggen as you say on Magirus Duetz trucks with famous crash gear boxes and towing trailer loads of kit. We still had Sabres at the time and what a job each day trying to fly. It took ages feeding hot air into intakes and it was so cold and snow everywhere we had a lot of time not doing anything. The famous Maggie was warmed up by oily burning rags under its sump I remember the painting colours of the 20mm shell tips in to register scores and in reality from a full magazine very few hits. The old "meatbox" I think that towed the drogue and the rumor that an aircraft had hit the line and nearly severed a wing. Cant say if its true but you know the rumors that abound in "the mob". I remember going to the bar in Sylt although we seemed to call it the Paintbox. Stories abounded about the amorous exploits that ensued much no doubt wishfull thinking. Yes the nudies on the beach which I think the Germans called an Abbysinian beach which I seem to remember was at the end of the runway. I have a photo still of the ladies on the beach. As young lusting airman I recollect being dismayed that all the young nymphs seemed to be accompanied by very corpulent elderly males who I had to convince myself were most likely their Grandfathers with them on holiday ( hasten to add that this was not on the freezing cold visit but was reported to me by a mate who made a hot summer visit and gave me the picture)
The old Luftwaffe billets were not as good as our super new Bruggen ones recently built but considering they were pre war , vastly superior to anything we RAF lads had experienced in blighty ie single sheets of asbestos between you and the elements and a soppy little stove and a couple of shovels of coke. For the first time I saw double glazing. The rail trip across the causeway was fantastic and the sea had frozen over , some said you could walk across to Denmark. Carlsburg was 6d yes approx 2.5 p a bottle.
The mess was good and you had the luxury of being as late as possible in your pit rushing in and putting 2 slices in the toaster whacking some marg' and marmalade on ,filling your mug and leaping aboard the Maggi to proceed to the hanger. Tough if you missed it as it was a long way to work. If you had washed your mug and irons in the ghastly communal trough of bubbling steam and water it was frozen solid when you arrived at the hanger. Happy days Colin
Well, Clive, it was 53 years ago and I suppose today we would be the corpulent aging bores with the dollies on the beach. Goodness, I hope so.
You were so lucky being connected with the glamorous Sabres, we were stuck with the boring and miniscule Venom FB4, they made the Gnat and the F117 look like full size airplanes. The Venom had a bad habit of having wet starts, something like farting and following through, and had to have a fire proof blanket draped over its tail- boom. When it got up to full revs and the flames fell away someone had to go to the tail and remove the blanket. This was sometimes a tricky procedure as the exhaust blast could cause the blanket to fly away, which result in a chase which was always applauded and cheered by the rest of the line.
I recall that the exercises at Sylt were something of a German Butlins holiday where all of the married guys were on the prowl and keen on playing away from home. There was certainly a togetherness when we all stuck up for each other at the odd points of friction in the town. We had a coloured guy on our squadron which was always a potential flash point in Germany but the guy was very popular with German ladies. He was doing fine until one night on the town he made the tactical mistake of laying out a pilot called Ron who was training to be a priest. He said he was doing research for his future in the cloth. I suppose if he had have thumped anyone else he may have got away with it.
The summer days at Sylt seemed to fly but the winter days were a trial. I used to wear my pajamas, a burgundy kapok flying suit, my uniform, a snow suit, two pairs of socks and fishermen’s socks, wellies, two pairs of gloves, a balaclava with a cap over it and I was still cold. The Michelin look was de rigeur.
I saw all three series of the marvelous Heimat and was enthralled when Hermann in his student summer holidays went to Sylt as the tutor to the two small children of a couple of liberated academics and joined them in a ménage a trios. Now I don’t know anybody who managed that but I know a number of willing young men who would have volunteered.
I had forgotten about most of this but I now realize how carefree it all was. I better not go back
Colin good to read your reply and looking at your profile I was led to that fantastic Canberra story at Guterslough ( cant remember how to spell it). Like you I had so many interesting times in the RAF but I suppose I should look for a thread thats more appropriate for general banter as this is a Sylt section. Any more interesting links would be appreciated for a good read and a chance to remember some of those happy RAF days. I am always seeking old pals but in all my searches have only found one Bruggen lad and although I have joined NS(RAF) Association, not RAFA that is, I have yet to meet anyone from the thousands of members who share my postings or experience other than the fact that we all feel akin to each other as ex RAF types and have a great time boring each other with anecdotes. Whilst posting my pics on the NSRAFA website along with many others I have not yet received a "hit" so I live in hope. Very good to exchange thoughts with you. Clive. or as I am called by my first name Colin. I guess that was the name of the time as we share the title.
Here is a image of RAF Sylt taken in 1945 apparently showing Luffewaffe, RAF and Swedish airforce aircraft if you can make them out, all the best
My father was stationed at Sylt as a Armourer,left in 61 when it closed. And Sylt is also my place of birth..
Richard E Flagg
A rather poor photo of Sylt that I took on Monday 28 March 2011 while en-route to Oslo Rygge.
It was a nice cycle ride from Sylt to Geilenkirchen and on to London (1954/) but it took 5 days as far as I remember.
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