I Remember Burtie and Johnny

By Perry Scott (BAD2 F/Line)

Transcribed from “BAD News – Journal of the BAD 2 Association” Vol. 14 No.3 July 1991

Sgt. Pete Orlik wanted a ride in a P-47 in the worst way. Every time he watched a Warton Test Pilot take one up for a test hop, Pete wished he could somehow go along. Guys who worked on B=17s and B-24s could always get a ride but a big problem with working on fighter aircraft is the face that there is only space for one man in each plane!

Lt. Burtie Orth, was well known for being an amiable type. And so, when Orth showed up one day the sergeant was waiting alongside the big Thunderbolt. He’d been going over and over in his mind for days, as just to how he would get that ride, and now was the time.

“Lieutenant”, I asked Orlik, “How about taking me for a ride with you?”.

Since there was only room for one in the aircraft, Orth laughed and said “Sure… Hop in”. But Pete wasn’t ready to accept the pilot’s answer as the joke it was meant to be… When Burtie said “Climb in”, that’s exactly what Sgt. Orlik did!

Burtie Orth looked a bit startled, but when Orlik called, “Come on, Lieutenant, climb in”, the pilot just grinned. Then he took off his parachute, and climbed up into the T-Bolt, and sat down on the sergeant’s lap.

Orth made himself as comfortable as the very cramped quarters permitted, and proceeded to try the rudder controls and the stick to make sure he could still operate them. Then Burtie fired up that big engine, called the tower for instructions and proceeded out to a runway. The fighter shook as Burtie made his final checks, and then down the runway they roared, and off they both went “into the wild blue yonder” just like in the famous song.

About twenty minutes later the T-Bolt came back, flaps and gear came down, and Burtie Orth painted the big fighter onto the concrete.

As far as I know, Sgt. Orlik was the only enlisted man to hitch a ride in a P-47 at Warton.

1st Lt. John A. Bloemendal pictured in the cockpit of a P-51B. John sadly lost his life on the 23rd of August 1944, in the Freckleton Disaster, when his B-24 Liberator crashed into the village.

Some intepid fighter pilots from a nearby RAF base paid the Warton Aerodrome a visit one day. They did a neat job of “mowing the grass” at BAD-2. Dropping down to a few feet above the deck the beautiful Spitfires screamed across the field, soared up, and were gone.

Lt. John Bloemendal grinned as he watched the RAF pilots buss “his” field. But a few days later it was his turn. “Lt. B” suggested top someone that the RAF runway was probable all covered with dust, and certainly was in need of being swept off. Prop blast from a P-51 Mustang might be just the answer.

So, Johnny strapped himself into a Mustang, took off, and went to “inspect” the condition of the British runways. “Sure enough”, he thought “they need a sweeping”.

Roaring across the RAF field at extreme minimum “altitude” the four bladed fan on John’s 51 cleaned all the dust off of the RAF tarmac, just as nearly as the Spitfires has mown the lawn!

Rumour has it that a flag pole got shortened that day by a few inches and the Lieutenant brought back a Mustang with some wing tip damage.

Helpful GIs came to the rescue of the embarrassed pilot. A “moonlight requisition” was promptly performed, and in short order a new wing tip blossomed on the P-51. Some say a new record was set that day for wing tip replacement.

Perhaps out there in the Ribble mudflats there may still be some bits of metal that resemble the left wing tip of an old World War II fighter… or maybe it’s just a rumour… who can really say, after all these years?

“What goes around, comes around” was just as true then as it is fifty years later. Lt. Burtie Orth, one of Warton’s “finest” dumped on into the River Ribble one day. Orth had arrived at the hardstand, climbed aboard the Thunderbolt that was waiting for him and fired up the mighty engine. Then… out to the runway, call the Tower, and CHARGE down the long concrete path. Gear up… over the end of the runway… and the engine quit! The men at Republic built a fine fighting machine. But they never designed it to be a glider.

Muddy water splashed high in all directions, as Orth bellied the 47 into the marsh across the River Ribble. The men at Warton could see the plane, but it was about a twenty five mile truck ride to retrieve the downed flier.

Lt. Burtie Orth, taken in 1943. Burtie also sadly lost his life at Warton, when his P-51 broke up mid-flight on the 27th of June 1944.

Next morning the flight crew was gathered about another Thunderbolt being readied for its test flight. Lt. Orth arrived on the scene. The usually amiable pilot began a loud dissertation about what was going to happen to the crew chief who had pre-flighted yesterday’s unlucky aircraft… “if he ever found out who it was”.

Since such information would have been automatically been on the Form One when Burtie got into the cockpit, it was fairly certain that he knew who the culprit was.

But Burtie went on in some detail to describe all of the dire things that were going to happen to the guilty party “if he ever found out who it was”… There was mention of court martial, and suggestions of drawing and quartering… and finally Orth mentioned “I might just punch him in the nose, if I ever find out who it was who risked my life”.

Then, while everyone stood in silent awe of Burtie’s tirade, he turned to the hapless crew chief and said “And Sergeant, would you PLEASE be a little more careful when you sign off the next pre-flight!”

Then Orth Grinned again, and walked away, chuckling to himself.

For more details about the incidents which took the lives of Burtie and John, visit:




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