RAF Aldermaston: Wikis

Advertisements
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Royal Air Force Station Aldermaston
USAAF Station AAF-467

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch 8thUSAAF.png Patch9thusaaf.png

Located Near Tadley, Hampshire, England
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 51°21′46″N 001°08′22″W / 51.36278°N 1.13944°W / 51.36278; -1.13944
Location code AM
Built 1942
In use 1942-1950
Current
owner
British Air Ministry
Controlled by Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Garrison RAF Bomber Command
Eighth Air Force
Ninth Air Force
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Aldermaston is located in Berkshire
Map showing the location of RAF Aldermastonwithin Berkshire
For the post World War II use of this facility, see Atomic Weapons Establishment

RAF Aldermaston was a World War II airfield. It was used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Eighth and Ninth Air Force as a troop carrier (C-47) group base, and was assigned USAAF station No 467.

Contents

History

Advertisements

Origins

In 1941 the higher part of the Aldermaston Court estate was chosen by the government as a site for development as a Bomber Operations Training Unit (OTU). The woodland was cleared and a standard 'A Class' bomber airfield with three concrete runways was built. The major construction work was carried out during the spring and summer of 1942 with a main runway, aligned 06-24, being 6,000 ft long. Two secondary runways, both 4,200 ft (1,300 m) were aligned 11-29 and 17-35. 50 "pan" type hardstands and two "loop" hardstands were constructed. The workshops and administration buildings were on the south side, near the main entrance at Falcon Gate. There were five hangars. Four were built to take the largest RAF aircraft.

This Spitfire P.R Mk XI (PL965) was built at RAF Aldermaston

Wartime RAF use

The fifth hangar, just off the airfield, was for the Ministry of Production where Spitfire fighter planes were assembled by Vickers Supermarine. The Spitfires were flight tested from the airfield. On the east side of the airfield there was a large bomb dump which covered nearly half the site.

The airfield was opened by No 92 Group of the RAF on 1 July 1942, but was never used by the intended Wellington bombers because, by then, it had been earmarked for the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF).

Wartime USAAF use

When the USAAF Ninth Air Force inherited Aldermaston on 16 October 1943, it was the oldest USAAF troop carrier base in the UK and this continued to be its chief use for the remainder of hostilities.

The airfield was allocated for USAAF use in June 1942 as one of 13 airfields to bomber standard to be available for transport or reconnaissance units. Aldermaston Court was also to be requisitioned as a headquarters and although this too eventually served the Ninth Air Force, it was administered as an entirely separate station, unconnected with the airfield.

60th Troop Carrier Group

Once Aldermaston became ready for aircraft in August 1942 the Eighth Air Force 60th Troop Carrier Group was moved in from its temporary stations at RAF Chelveston and RAF Podington. Flying Douglas C-47s and C-54 Skytrains, operational squadrons of the group were:

  • 10th Troop Carrier Squadron (S6) (Arrived 7 August from Chelveston)
  • 11th Troop Carrier Squadron (7D) (Arrived 15 August from Chelveston)
  • 12th Troop Carrier Squadron (U5) (Arrived 15 August from Podington)
  • 28th Troop Carrier Squadron (3D) (Arrived 7 August from Podington)

During the following three months. the 60th TCG trained with paratroops preparatory to moving out to North Africa on 6 November on its way to Relizane Airfield, Algeria as part of Twelfth Air Force for participation in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa.

67th Observation Group

On 25 November 1942 The 107th Observation Squadron, 67th Observation Group, was transferred from RAF Membury to Aldermaston with A-20s, L-4s and Spitfires so that their reconnaissance photographs and visual intelligence would he quickly available to IX Troop Carrier Command. However, after flying its first mission was on 20 December 1942, the squadron remained only until 8 January 1943 when it was moved back to Membury.

315th Troop Carrier Group

CG-4A Waco Glider of the 315th Troop Carrier Group, 1943.

On 12 December the first of 24 aircraft of the 315th Troop Carrier Group touched down from Florence Army Airfield, South Carolina with C-47s and C-53s, having made an emergency landing at Montford Bridge near Shrewsbury in Shropshire.

The group had left the United States in late October and early November, but encountered bad weather while flying the North Atlantic route and the air echelon was detained for about a month in Greenland, where it searched for missing aircraft along the east coast and dropped supplies to crews. Only two of the groups squadrons initially arrived, those being:

  • 34th Troop Carrier Squadron (NM)
  • 43d Troop Carrier Squadron (UA)

The 315th TCG was part of the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing of IX Troop Carrier Command.

After the air and ground echelons were united in England in December, the group began ferrying cargo in the British Isles and training with airborne troops and did some training with British paratroops and glider towing.

On 25 May 21 of the 315th's aircraft left for Algeria to support the invasions of Sicily and Italy. Although the group did not participate in the airborne phase of the invasions, it did support those operations by transporting supplies in the theater. This detachment, supposedly for a limited period, stretched to 10 months and then the aircraft and crews remained in the Mediterranean and did not return to Aldermaston.

On 6 November the remainder group was reassigned to Ninth Air Force and transferred to RAF Welford thus leaving Aldermaston ready for other uses. However, on 4 December HQ IX Air Support Command was activated at Aldermaston Court and Aldermaston was transferred to the USAAF Ninth Air Force.

73d Tactical Reconnaissance Group

On December 1943 the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 73d Tactical Reconnaissance Group, arrived at Aldermaston from Esler Field, Louisiana without aircraft. They were transferred to RAF Middle Wallop, and equipped with Supermarine Spitfire Vs.

370th Fighter Group

Delays and changes of plan followed and many weeks passed before another flying organisation arrived. The 370th Fighter Group arrived from Bradley Field, Connecticut on 12 February. Operational squadrons of the group were:

  • 401st Fighter Squadron
  • 402d Fighter Squadron
  • 485th Fighter Squadron

When the group arrived, the expected to receive Republic P-47 Thunderbolts on which they had trained. However, much to the amazement of the CO, Colonel Howard Nichols, he was informed by IX Fighter Command that the group was to fly Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, a few of which arrived for training during the 18 days the group was in residence. However, this was only a temporary stationing and the 370th moved to RAF Andover as Aldermaston airfield was required for troop carrier operations.

434th Troop Carrier Group

Douglas C-47 of the 74th Troop Carrier Squadron.
Douglas C-47A-90-DL, Serial 43-15663 of the 72d Troop Carrier Squadron.

The 434th Troop Carrier Group came in from RAF Fulbeck on 3 March. Its operational squadrons were:

The 434th TCW was assigned to the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing.

As with most troop carrier bases, areas on either side of the main runway head were covered with PSP to allow the marshalling of gliders and tow aircraft.

The group immediately began training with 101st Airborne Division units based in the Salisbury Plain area.

The 434th was one of the groups trained and designated to deliver gliders on D-Day. As the assigned delivery group for Mission Chicago, the 52 C-47s of the 434th TCG each towed a Waco CG-4A glider to Normandy, losing one aircraft to flak in the darkness. For this, and two follow-up missions with gliders and supplies, the group was later awarded the coveted Distinguished Unit Citation.

The 434th TCG spent the summer of 1944 mainly in carrying freight, fuel and troops to France. It was not involved in the invasion of southern France(as were several of the UK based C-47 groups) and its next combat operation was `Market', the airborne operation in Holland on 17 September.

Two serials (the term for a specifically-briefed formation) of 45 C-47s each dropped paratroops of the 101st Airborne Division in the Veghcl sector. Heavy flak shot down four aircraft and damaged 10 of the first serial and another plane was lost from the second serial plus nine damaged. Next day, 80 of the group's aircraft towed gliders to a landing zone in the Son area. Seven gliders landed prematurely, two of them in the sea, and flak brought down two C-47s and damaged 33.

Some 82 aircraft towing gliders were despatched on 19 September and one C-47 failed to return. A total of 20 gliders were lost before reaching release point. This most intensive period of troop carrier operations continued on the 20th when 53 C-47s took off on a re-supply mission to Overasselt. The drop was scattered but all aircraft returned. A final re-supply mission was carried out from Ramsbury but by now the situation on the ground was beyond retrieval.

The 434th remained at Aldermaston until 12 February 1945 when the group moved to an Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Mourmclon-le-Grand airfield (ALG A-80) in France, the first of the troop carrier groups in the Wiltshire area to move from the UK. The airfield was left with a skeleton crew that consisted of one sergeant with a bicycle and a Thompson submachine gun - he was there alone until well after VE-Day with Aldermaston being finally relinquished to the Air Ministry on June 15.

Postwar RAF use

The airfield was relinquished to the Air Ministry on 15 June 1945. It was to be the site for a flying school, where more than 1,000 former RAF pilots would be retrained to fly civil aircraft. Many of the buildings were refurbished and improved runway lights were installed.

Postwar uses

Postwar Civil use

In 1947, the Ministry of Civil Aviation designated the airfield as a temporary civil airport and possibly a third London airport. In April improved facilities installed when the training school was taken over by BOAC and British European Airways (BEA). On 30 September 1948 the school closed down.

A number of buildings were occupied by various local firms including Thorneycrofts and Eagle Aviation. For the next year or so the field was used for occasional test flights of the Westland Wyvern, and the perimeter tracks were used for vehicle testing by the Vehicle Development Establishment at Chertsey. Reading Aero Club and a number of model airplane clubs used the facilities for weekend meets.

Return to Military use

The airfield was formally handed over by Air Ministry to the Ministry of Supply on 1 April 1950. There was in fact an unusual outburst of aerial activity on the day before the hand-over when, due to a slight misunderstanding at the Air Ministry, a number of pilots were given authority to land on the airfield for the purpose of conveying their clients to the races at Newbury. Therefore, 31 March 1950, marked the final day of Aldermaston’s existence as an airfield.

The airfield site subsequently became the location of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (A.W.R.E.).

See also

References

External links


Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message