One El Pasoan’s World War 2 Mystery: Did British Bombers land or train at Biggs AAF?

In the early years of World War II, a favorite treat was a drive to Biggs Army Air Force base to stand by the wire fence to watch planes land and depart.

I still vividly recall seeing bombers with Royal Air Force (RAF) insignia being boarded by crew members wearing parachutes and flight

Top left is Hurricane LF363 and left is Lancaster PA474 wearing 460 Squadron (RAAF)’s AR-L on her portside and 50 Squadron VN-T on her starboard side. | Photo courtesy UK Ministry of Defense


We kids all knew our airplanes as we built many models of every warplane in service.

We thought these planes were B-24 Liberators but I alone soon realized these were- in reality – look alike British Lancaster bombers.

What were they doing in ELP?

I have posed this query to a number of guys I grew up with…my old St. Patrick’s and El Paso High buddies and my brothers (Mike and Mario) none of who share my sharp and incisive 86 year old memory and none of who/whom (I could never get that right) recall seeing British bombers at Biggs.

Hopefully there lives in ELP some one who will substantiate my tale.


My brother-in-law, Bob Hemperley, posited that they were probably British aviators training at Biggs in American B-24 Liberator bombers which resemble and, according to him, I probably mistook for British Lancasters. Why then the British insignias?

THEORY #2 (Mine)

THOSE WERE BRITISH LANCASTER! The British in 1942 were on the verge of losing Singapore, Malaysia, etc., to the Japanese. They needed air support and I strongly submit that the US agreed to let their aircraft traverse our country. That simply needed a phone call from President Roosevelt to mayors of en route cities to assist the British. From ELP to California then island hopping across the Pacific which is a long haul. But, don’t forget that Pan Am had already established refueling stations on islands in the Pacific which could help those British bombers on their way.

Is this another hidden secret of World War II? It could be done. In fact, a Pan Am Clipper which survived the Pearl Harbor attack ON December 7, 1941, actually flew from there across the Pacific to Australia, traversed India and Africa and the Atlantic to land in New York, in late 1941, having originated its flight in San Francisco.


This is for anyone wishing to jump in with “alternative facts.”

Or, am I really crazy as my late wife, Vivian Slemmons, always claimed.

Author: Tony Martinez

Martinez graduated from Texas A&M and from Thunderbird School of Global Management. He had extensive experience in Coca-Cola’s global marketing operations from which he retired. He currently resides in Cumming, GA.


The El Paso Herald-Post welcomes guest columns, open letters, letters to the Editor and analysis pieces for publication, to submit a piece or for questions regarding guidelines, please email us at [email protected]