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Duxford Aerodrome
Royal Air Force Station Duxford
USAAF Station 357

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch 8thUSAAF.png

Duxford-9july1946.jpg
Duxford - 9 July 1946
IATA: QFOICAO: EGSU
Summary
Airport type Public
Operator Imperial War Museum
Serves Imperial War Museum Duxford
Location Duxford
Elevation AMSL 125 ft / 38 m
Coordinates 52°05′27″N 000°07′55″E / 52.09083°N 0.13194°E / 52.09083; 0.13194 (Duxford Aerodrome)
Runways
Direction Length Surface
m ft
06/24 1,503 4,931 Paved
06/24 880 2,887 Grass
Sources: UK AIP at NATS[1]

Duxford Aerodrome (IATA: QFOICAO: EGSU) is located 8 NM (15 km; 9.2 mi) south of Cambridge in the village of Duxford, Cambridgeshire, England.

The airfield is owned jointly by the Imperial War Museum and Cambridgeshire County Council and is the site of the Imperial War Museum Duxford and the American Air Museum.

Duxford Aerodrome has a CAA Ordinary Licence (Number P678) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee (Cambridgeshire County Council). The aerodrome is not licensed for night use.[2]

Contents

History

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Royal Air Force

Duxford airfield dates to 1918 when many of the buildings were constructed by German prisoner-of-war labour. The airfield housed 8 Squadron in 1919–1920 which was equipped with F.2Bs. The airfield was then used by No. 2 Flying Training School until, April 1923 when 19 Squadron was formed at Duxford with Sopwith Snipes.

By 1925 Duxford's three fighter squadrons had expanded to include the Gloster Grebes and Armstrong Whitworth Siskins. No.19 Squadron re-equipped with Bristol Bulldogs in 1931, and in 1935, was the first squadron to fly the RAF's fastest new fighter, the Gloster Gauntlet, capable of 230 mph (375 km/h). The station was enlarged between 1928 and 1932. In 1935, Duxford was the venue for the Silver Jubilee Review before King George V and Queen Mary, the resident squadron still being 19. This squadron gave a special demonstration over Duxford for the King.

In 1936 Flight Lieutenant Frank Whittle, who was studying at Cambridge University, flew regularly from Duxford as a member of the Cambridge University Air Squadron. Whittle went on to develop the jet turbine as a means of powering an aircraft, this enabled Britain to produce the Allies' first operational jet fighter in 1943 - the Gloster Meteor.

In 1938 No.19 Squadron was the first RAF squadron to fly the new Supermarine Spitfire. The first Spitfire was flown into Duxford on 4 August 1938 by Jeffrey Quill, Supermarine's chief test pilot.

On 3 September 1939 Britain declared war on Germany and Duxford was ready to play a vital role. By June 1940 Belgium, the Netherlands and France were under German control and the invasion of Britain was their next objective (Operation Sealion). Duxford was placed in a high state of readiness, to create space for additional units at Duxford, 19 Squadron moved to nearby Fowlmere. The dominance of the skies over Britain would be totally critical to keeping German forces out, this became known as The Battle of Britain. Hurricanes first arrived at Duxford in July with the formation of 310 Squadron, which consisted of Czechoslovakian pilots escaped from France. At the end of August Air Vice-Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory ordered the Hurricanes of 242 Squadron, down from Coltishall to join 19 and 310 Squadrons on daily standby at Duxford.

On 9 September the Duxford squadrons successfully intercepted and turned back a large force of German bombers before they reached their target. This proved Duxford's importance, so two more squadrons were added to the Wing, No.302 (Polish) Squadron with Hurricanes, and the Spitfires of No.611 Auxiliary Squadron which had mobilised at Duxford a year before.

On average sixty Spitfires and Hurricanes were dispersed around Duxford and RAF Fowlmere every day. On 15 September 1940 they twice took to the air to repulse Luftwaffe attacks intent at bombing London. RAF fighter Command was victorious, the threat of invasion passed and Duxford's squadrons had played a critical role. This became known as 'Battle of Britain Day'.

Duxford became the home of several specialist units, including the Air Fighting Development Unit (AFDU). The AFDU's equipment included captured German aircraft, which they restored to flying condition for evaluation. Duxford was crucial in developing the Hawker Typhoon into a formidable low-level and ground attack fighter and in 1942 the first Typhoon Wing was formed. The first Wing operation took place on 20 June 1942.

During the Battle of Britain, Duxford was the centre of the 'Big Wing' controversy advocated by the Air Officer Commanding of No. 12 Group, Air Vice-Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory. Then, at the end of 1940, the Air Fighting Development Unit (AFDU) moved to Duxford with the job of evaluating new aircraft types including captured enemy aircraft.

Other RAF Fighter Command Squadrons which operated from Duxford were : 19, 56, 66, 133, 181, 195, 222, 242, 264, 266, 310, 312, 601, 609, 611, AFDU.

USAAF

Duxford airfield was assigned for United States Army Air Force (USAAF) use in 1943 known by the USAAF as "Station 357 (DX)". It was assigned to the Eighth Air Force fighter command.

66th Fighter Wing

Duxford was the initial home of the USAAF 5th Air Defense Wing which arrived from Norfolk Municipal Airport Virginia on 3 July 1943. The unit was redesignated the 66th Fighter Wing and was transferred to Sawston Hall near Cambridge on 20 August 1943.

350th Fighter Group

The 350th Fighter Group was activated at Duxford on 1 October 1942 by special authority granted to Eighth Air Force with a nucleus of P-39 Airacobra]] pilots with the intention of providing a ground attack fighter organisation for the Twelfth Air Force in the forthcoming invasion of North Africa. Initially, the group received export versions of the Airacobra, known as the P-400, and a few Spitfires.

The air echelon moved to Oujda, French Morocco during January-February 1943. After this the last RAF units moved out and on 15 June 1943 Duxford was officially handed over to the Eighth Air Force

78th Fighter Group
Republic P-47C-2-RE Thunderbolts of the 82d Fighter Squadron. AAF Serial No. 42-6249 (2nd from front) was lost after ditching in North Sea off Egmond aan Zee, Netherlands after being hit by anti-aircraft fire February 10, 1944. Pilot MIA
North American P-51H-5-NA Mustang, AAF Serial No. 44-64279, of the 83d Fighter Squadron

The 78th Fighter Group arrived at Duxford from RAF Goxhill in April 1943. Upon transfer from Goxhill, the group lost its P-38 Lightnings when these aircraft were withdrawn for use as replacements for units fighting in North Africa. In addition most of the 78th FG's pilots were also transferred to the Twelfth Air Force as replacements. Thus the group was re-equipped with P-47C's and remanned at Duxford. Aircraft of the group were identified by a black/white chequerboard pattern.

The group consisted of the following squadrons:

The 78th FG was first equipped with P-47s and converted to P-51 Mustangs in December 1944. The group flew many missions to escort B-17/B-24bombers that attacked industries, submarine yards and docks, V-weapon sites, and other targets on the Continent. The unit also engaged in counter-air activities and on numerous occasions strafed and dive-bombed airfields, trains, vehicles, barges, tugs, canal locks, barracks, and troops.

In addition to other operations, the 78th participated in the intensive campaign against the German Air Force and aircraft industry during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944 and helped to prepare the way for the invasion of France. The group supported the landings in Normandy in June 1944 and contributed to the breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July. The unit participated in the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945 and supported the airborne assault across the Rhine in March.

The 78th Fighter Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for activities connected with the airborne attack on Holland in September 1944 when the group covered troop carrier and bombardment operations and carried out strafing and dive-bombing missions. The group received a second DUC for destroying numerous aircraft on five airfields near Prague and Pilsen on 16 April 1945.

The 78th Fighter Group returned to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey in October 1945 and was deactivated in place on 18 October.

Postwar use

On 1 December 1945, a few weeks after the departure of the 78th Fighter Group, Duxford was returned to the RAF. For the next sixteen years, Duxford remained an RAF Fighter Command station, although it was closed for two years from October 1949 to have a single concrete runway laid down. This, together with a new perimeter track and apron allowed for the better handling of jet aircraft with which Fighter Command was re-equipping.

Duxford reopened in August 1951. In 1957, 64 Squadron operated Gloster Javelins and 65 Squadron flew Hawker Hunters. These were the last two operational squadrons to fly from the airfield. Two years later, Duxford was chosen to provide the aircraft for the 1953 Coronation Flypast.

On 1 August 1961, a Meteor NF14 made the last take off from the runway before Duxford closed as an RAF airfield and was abandoned.

Duxford was too far south and too far inland to be strategically important and the costly improvements required for modern supersonic fighters could not be justified. In July 1961 the last operational RAF flight was made from Duxford by the Gloster Javelin FAW.7.

In 1968 Duxford was used as one of the locations for the filming of Battle of Britain. On June 21 and June 22, one of the original World War I hangars was blown up in stages for the filming (without the concurrence of the Ministry of Defence) and the airfield was spectacularly filmed from the air in a realistic bombing sequence. Ironically this was the nearest Duxford came to being destroyed as no significant wartime German raids were carried out on the aerodrome. The French château, seen at the beginning of the film, was constructed on the south-west corner of the airfield.

Around 1968 the Cambridge University Gliding Club moved some of its flying to Duxford. Subsequently all club flying was moved to Duxford.

In 1969 The Ministry of Defence declared its intention to dispose of Duxford. Plans were even made for a sports centre or a prison were but were never finalised.

Today, RAF Duxford is owned by the Imperial War Museum and is the site of the Imperial War Museum Duxford, and the American Air Museum. The museum had been looking for a suitable site for the storage, restoration and eventual display of exhibits too large for its headquarters in London and obtained permission to use the airfield for this purpose. Cambridgeshire County Council joined with the Imperial War Museum and the Duxford Aviation Society and in 1977 bought the runway to give the abandoned airfield a new lease of life. Also in 1977 the main runway was shortened from 6,000 feet (1,800 m) by about 1,200 feet (370 m) due to construction of the M11 motorway, which passes along the eastern side of the airfield. Before this work took place, a Concorde test aircraft landed at the airfield for display.

The Imperial War Museum and Cambridge University Gliding Club coexisted on the site for many years, but In 1991 increasing restrictions led the club to move to Gransden Lodge.

The site is sometimes used for the Renault Formula One team's testing.

See also

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

External links


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