443rd Sub-Depot History


The 443rd Sub-Depot was created in the middle of November 1943, with Major John H. Humphries as commanding officer. Actually, however, the organization was almost ten years old at the time of its birth. The unit from which it grew had been formed in the early 1930's. In 1937 part of that original organization was broken off to form a separate outfit, which in 1942 became the 6th Service Squadron. Under that name, this organization of specialists arrived in the British Isles in mid-January, 1943. By the time the 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy) arrived on the scene, four and a half months later, Major Humphries' organization was already waiting at Grafton Underwood.

Role, Function and Unit Composition

The 443rd Sub-Depot was divided into two departments, engineering and supply. The engineering department was the largest and provided repair capability for aircraft and equipment beyond squadron level resources.
With a number of "old Army men" as a nucleus, the Sub-Depot became a highly efficient human machine for heavy repair work. It had shops for propellor, instrument, electrical equipment, engine, parachute and surface repair. There were carpentry, dope and fabric, and welding shops. When it was discovered that civilian jewelers were unable to meet the demand, the sub-depot even took over the job of repairing watches, an important function when heavy bombardment was meeting a precise, to the second, schedule on missions over Germany. The men under Major Humphries invented many tools and gadgets to simplify their tasks, and also contributed many inventions for heavy bombers themselves.
Unit strength fluctuated, but the average number of personnel assigned to the sub depot was 1,225 including 67 Officers and 1,158 Enlisted Men. The sub depot was a command comparable to the bomb group on station. In April 1945 the sub depot was absorbed by the 304th Air Service Group which controlled all units except the flying squadrons.

Daily Duties

The Engineering Department fabricated parts, accomplished major repair actions on aircraft and equipment, provided highly skilled maintenance personnel and maintained fixed repair facilities for aircraft repair. The engineering section was also responsible for implementing technical order changes, theater directives and keeping records pertaining to those instructions. The engineering department was subdivided into 14 sections:

  • Engineering office
  • Aero repair section
  • Sheet metal section
  • Aircraft battery shop
  • Aircraft dope, fabric & paint shop
  • Aircraft electric shop
  • Engine build-up workshop
  • Aircraft hydraulic workshop
  • Aircraft instrument shop
  • Machine shop
  • Parachute workshop
  • Aircraft propeller workshop
  • Welding shop
  • Woodworking shop

The Supply Department was responsible for maintaining control of procurement, storage and distribution for all classes of air force, signal and corps of engineering property. It was the intermediate supply point between the supply depots and squadrons. The supply department controlled movement of serviceable parts to the squadrons and the broken parts back to the depots for reconditioning. A depot supply department consisted of five sections:

  • Central office section
  • Main warehouse section
  • Warehouse reparable section
  • Transportation section
  • Fuel service section

Information provided by the 384th Bomb Group Historian, John Edwards; additional information adapted from As Briefed (page 207).