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Royal Air Force Station Atcham
USAAF Station 342

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

Located Near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England
Atchamairfield-9may1946.jpg
Atcham Airfield - 9 May 1946
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 52°41′25.04″N 002°38′12.56″W / 52.6902889°N 2.6368222°W / 52.6902889; -2.6368222
Location code AP
Built 1941
In use 1941-1946
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
Garrison Eighth Air Force
Ninth Air Force
RAF Flying Training Command
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Atcham is located in Shropshire
RAF Atcham, shown within Shropshire
Spitfire V of the 309th Fighter Squadron
Republic P-47C-5-RE Thunderbolt Serial 41-6530 of the 551st Fighter Training Squadron. This aircraft was formerly assigned to the 56th Fighter Group at RAF Kings Cliffe. This aircraft was condemned due to enemy action 16 April 1946

RAF Atcham is a former World War II airfield in England. The field is located 5 miles E of Shrewsbury in Shropshire on the north eastern boundary of Attingham Park. The airfield was opened in 1941 and was initially used by the Royal Air Force 74 Sqn, 131 Sqn, 232 Sqn and 350 Sqn.

Contents

Early days

The book Images of Aviation - Shropshire Airfields Compiled by Alec Brew and Barry Abraham states on page 9 about RAF Atcham:-

"Atcham was built as a standard RAF fighter sector station to accommodate two squadrons, with a satellite station being planned at Condover. The first squadron to arrive was No.131, which arrived with the first of its Spitfires on 27 September 1941. These were replaced by No.350 (Belgian) Squadron in February 1942, which shared the airfield with No.74 Squadron for about two months, before the latter went to the Middle East and No.350 moved to Warmwell. In April 1942 No.232 Squadron reformed at Atcham with its Spitfires, but a month later moved to Valley (Anglesey). The Luftwaffe were no longer penetrating so far into north-west England and Atcham was handed over to the United States Army Air Force."

RAF Condover did eventually open in August 1942, but with no further RAF presence at Atcham the field at Condover became a satellite field of RAF Shawbury instead.

USAAF use

Atcham was transferred to the United States Army Air Force Eighth Air Force on 15 June 1942. It was designated as Station 342 (AP). Located some distance away from the other Eighth AF bases in East Anglia, at first Atcham was used as an operational fighter base, however beginning late 1942 its primary use became operational training of fighter pilots for both Eighth and Ninth Air Force units.

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31st Fighter Group

The first American use of Atcham was the 31st Fighter Group, consisting of the 307th, 308th and 309th Fighter Squadrons. The ground echelon of the 31st arrived from New Orleans AAF, Louisiana on 11 June 1942, with the pilots following later in the month, and was assigned to the Eighth Air Force. The group consisted of the following squadrons:

Note: The 309th Fighter Squadron was based at RAF High Ercall.

The group arrived without assigned aircraft as its P-39s were found unsuitable for long-distance formation ferry flights. Provided with British Supermarine Spitfire Vbs by the RAF, the 31st FG entered combat in August and supported a raid made by Canadian, British, American, and French forces at Dieppe on 19 August. The group also escorted bombers and flew patrol and diversionary missions.

In August 1942, the 31st moved to RAF Westhampnett in Sussex before moving into Tafaraoui, Algeria on 8 November 1942 as part of Twelfth Air Force.

14th Fighter Group

The 14th Fighter Group moved to Atcham on 18 August 1942 from Hamilton AAF California and was assigned to the Eighth Air Force. The group consisted of the following squadrons:

Equipped with Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, the 14th escorted B-17 and B-24 bombers to targets in France. In addition, fourteen P-38s of the 48th Squadron were sent on detached service to RAF West Hampnett and RAF Ford in southern England, where in coordination with British squadrons, the pilots engaged in a number of practice sweeps across the English Channel.

After flying sweep sorties during which there was no contact with the Luftwaffe, in November 1942 the 14th was moved to Tafaraoui, Algeria as part of Twelfth Air Force.

1st Provisional Gunnery Flight

From 2 January until 3 March 1943 the 1st Provisional Gunnery Flight used Atcham for target towing using Westland Lysander and Miles Masters. The unit then moved to RAF Llanbedr.

495th Fighter Training Group

From November 1942 to October 1943 Atcham was host to 6th Fighter Wing, as a Combat Crew Replacement Centre, flying Spitfires and Bell P-39 Airacobras, these being replaced with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts.

In October 1943 6th Fighter Wing was renamed the 2906th Observation Training Group, then renamed again as 495th Fighter Training Group. Operational squadrons of the 495th TFG were:

  • 551st Fighter Training Squadron (VM)
  • 552nd Fighter training Squadron (DQ)

The 495th FTG stayed until February 1945, moving to RAF Cheddington. From August 1944 the Ninth AF P-38s from the 496th FTG/554th FTS from RAF Goxhill used Atcham as a training field.

RAF use

Atcham was returned to the RAF Flying Training Command on 14 March 1945 becoming a satellite of RAF Ternhill. No. 5 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit and No. 6 Service Flying Training School. 577 Sqn target towing with Oxford, Spitfire and Vengeance used the airfield until the end of the war.

Atcham was abandoned on 22 October 1946 and disposed of on 20 January 1958.

Civil Use

With the end of military control, Atcham airfield was returned to farmland with the runways being broken up and removed and the control tower demolished.

Today there is little evidence of Atcham airfield. Some minor agricultural roads which were part of the perimeter track remain as access to farm fields, and the B4394 uses part of the former North-South main runway. The three T-2 hangars of the former technical site remain together in use with all the administration buildings, the whole complex forming the Atcham Industrial Estate northwest of the former airfield area.

See also

References

  • Freeman, Roger A. (1978) Airfields of the Eighth: Then and Now. After the Battle ISBN 0900913096
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1991) The Mighty Eighth The Colour Record. Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-35708-1
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • www.controltowers.co.uk Atcham
  • mighty8thaf.preller.us Atcham

External links


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