GHOSTLY goings on at a former RAF base in the North-East are spooking historians and hotel staff.

It all goes back to 2.45pm on Saturday, November 24, 1951, when Flying Officer Raymond Thomas Norman was coming into land in his Gloster Meteor aircraft after a training flight in bad weather at what is now Durham Tees Valley Airport.

The pilot, who had flown Typhoons during the war, was attached to the 205 Advanced Flying School. The idea was to perform a “touch and go” manoeuvre, which meant landing and taking off again immediately. Instead, the Meteor lost control and slewed to the right, wiping out Flying Officer Norman’s parked car and crashing into room 52 in the west wing of the officers’ mess.

Room 52 was normally occupied by a flight controller, who would have been enjoying his customary Saturday afternoon nap had he not changed his habits and gone shopping for towels in Darlington.

Flying Officer Norman was not so lucky. He survived the initial crash but was crushed by falling masonry and died, aged 33.

These days, the officers’ mess is the St George Hotel and room 52 is now divided into rooms 50 and 51. Visitors can see where the demolished windows were bricked up, and it is those rooms that are said to be haunted by Flying Officer Norman.

Geoff Hill, chairman of the Middleton St George Memorial Association, is not a fanciful kind of bloke, having dedicated much of his life to preserving the memory of the former wartime bomber base, where 1,218 men were killed on operations.

However, he has become convinced about the paranormal activities in rooms 50 and 51.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re haunted,” says Geoff, whose collection of aviation memorabilia includes a wheel from the crashed Meteor, which was recovered from Albert Hill scrapyard in Darlington.

Without explanation, televisions come on, lights flicker, and water has been known to start running from taps in the bathrooms. Geoff’s partner Heather, who used to work at the hotel as a domestic, reported a number of strange experiences, including being “shoved” from behind.

“Come on, Raymond, I’ve got work to do,” was her instinctive response.

Other cleaners, having had similar experiences, don’t share Heather’s light-hearted approach to the ghost and are simply too afraid to go into the rooms.

Jonathan Lynch, front officer manager at the hotel, is equally convinced about the alleged haunting. “A lot of staff feel very, very uncomfortable about those two rooms – there’s a definite feeling that there’s something strange about them,” he says.

Jonathan, whose job entails doing night checks, admits to being “terrified” and has been known to run down that part of the corridor more than once.

“I know people may be sceptical but there’s just a sense that there’s someone there,” he says. “I swear I once felt someone or something blowing in my ear – it’s just very scary.”

That said, it hasn’t put guests off from sleeping in rooms 50 and 51. Indeed, some seem to like the thought of it being haunted, and ask questions about Flight Officer Norman’s story.

“There’s no suggestion that he’s a bad ghost – just a mischievous one who clearly likes to have a bit of fun,” says Geoff.

He and Heather are due to get married at the hotel on August 4 but one thing’s for certain – they won’t be spending their wedding night in either room 50 or 51.

IT wasn’t the only time a Meteor crashed during a training flight from the Middleton St George base.

Records show that on another occasion, an aircraft lost both engines and crashed-landed in a field near The Oak Tree pub, fondly known by RAF personnel as “The Twig”.

The pilot emerged a bit bruised but otherwise unscathed from the cockpit, calmly walked into the pub, and called the flight controller.

“Where are you – why haven’t you landed?” he was asked.

“I’m just having a quick pint – I’ll be back shortly,” came the reply.