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Royal Air Force Station Boreham
USAAF Station AAF-161

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch9thusaaf.png

Located Near Boreham, Essex, England
Boreham-20apr1944.jpg
Boreham airfield photographed on 20 April 1944. Throughout much of the postwar years, Ford Motor Company preserved much of the airfield as a proving ground, however in recent years extensive quarrying has removed much of the south part of the airfield.
Type Military airfield
Coordinates 51°46′47″N 000°31′15″E / 51.77972°N 0.52083°E / 51.77972; 0.52083
Location code JM
Built 1943
In use 1944-1945
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Garrison Ninth Air Force
Occupants 394th Bombardment Group
315th Troop Carrier Group
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Boreham is located in Essex
RAF Boreham, shown within Essex
B-26 Marauders of the 394th Bomb Group at still-unfinished Boreham Airfield, 14 March 1944.
Martin B-26G-5-MA Marauder Serial 43-34373 of the 587th Bomb Squadron.

RAF Station Boreham is a former World War II airfield in Essex, England. The airfield is located approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) north-northeast of Chelmsford; about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of London

Opened in 1944, it was used by the United States Army Air Force. During the war it was used primarily as bomber and a troop transport airfield for paratroopers. After the war it was closed in late 1945.

Today the remains of the airfield are partially used as a gravel quarry as well as the Essex Police Helicopter Unit and the Essex Air Ambulance.

Contents

Overview

Although the site had been requisitioned in 1942 for a bomber airfield, the main construction work did not start until the spring of 1943 when the 861st Engineer Battalion (Aviation) arrived on 13 May. Bad weather hindered progress of the construction and airfield was opened in March 1944.

The airfield was built to the Class A airfield, the main feature of which was a set of three converging runways each containing a concrete runway for takeoffs and landings, optimally placed at 60 degree angles to each other in a triangular pattern. It's runway pattern was a main of 6,000 ft (16/34), and secondaries of 4,200 ft (03/21), and 4,200 ft (09/27). 50 loop type hardstands were constructed connecting to an enclosing perimeter track, of a width of 50 feet.

The ground support station was constructed largely of Nissen huts of various sizes. The support station was where the group and ground station commanders and squadron headquarters and orderly rooms were located. Also on the ground station were where the mess facilities; chapel; hospital; mission briefing and debriefing; armory and bombsite storage; life support; parachute rigging; supply warehouses; station and airfield security; motor pool and the other ground support functions necessary to support the air operations of the group. These facilities were all connected by a network of single path support roads.

The technical site, connected to the ground station and airfield consisted of at least two T-2 type hangars and various organizational, component and field maintenance shops along with the crew chiefs and other personnel necessary to keep the aircraft airworthy and to quickly repair light and moderate battle damage. Aircraft severely damaged in combat were sent to repair depots for major structural repair. The Ammunition dump was located on the southeast side of the airfield, outside of the perimeter track surrounded by large dirt mounds and concrete storage pens for storing the aerial bombs and the other munitions required by the combat aircraft.

Various domestic accommodation sites were constructed dispersed away from the airfield, but within a mile or so of the technical support site, also using clusters of Maycrete or Nissen huts. The Huts were either connected, set up end-to-end or built singly and made of prefabricated corrugated iron with a door and two small windows at the front and back. They provided accommodation for 2,658 personnel, including communal and a sick quarters.

During airborne operations, when large numbers of airborne parachutists were moved to the airfield, tents would be pitched on the interior grass regions of the airfield, or wherever space could be found to accommodate the airborne forces for the short time they would be bivouacked at the station prior to the operation.

USAAF Use

Boreham was known as USAAF Station AAF-161 for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location. It's USAAF Station Code was "JM".

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394th Bombardment Group

The first use of Boreham airfield was by the 394th Bombardment Group, arriving from Kellogg AAF, near Battle Creek, Michigan on 10 March 1944. Operational squadrons of the group were:

Their group marking was a white diagonal band across the fin and rudder.

When the first Martin B-26 Marauders of the Group arrived some hardstands and buildings were still being built. Operations commenced only 12 days after the majority of the group arrived with the initial mission being flown on 23 March.

In the weeks that followed, the 394th was repeatedly sent to attack bridges in occupied France and the Low Countries, which led to its dubbing itself 'The Bridge Busters'. A total of 96 missions, on which 5,453 tons of bombs were dropped, were flown from Boreham before the 394th was moved on 24 July to RAF Holmsley South in the New Forest.

315th Troop Carrier Group

Following the departure of the 394th, the airfield was used temporarily by the IX Troop Carrier Command as an emergency airfield beginning in September 1944. Boreham however, remained relatively empty until assigned to the Air Disarmament Command - formed to carry out occupation and disarming of Luftwaffe installations. The small number of personnel involved relinquished the airfield in January 1945.

Boreham then passed to the 315th Troop Carrier Group in March 1945, which flew 80 C-47 Skytrains to drop men of the British 6th Airborne Division during Operation Varsity, the assault on the Rhine River. The group was devastated by the ground fire encountered with six of the C-47s being brought down and another seven so badly damaged that they had to make emergency landings in friendly territory.

Postwar Governmental Use

The airfield was closed in 1945. The Essex County Council made use of some of the domestic site Nissen huts to house the homeless and the land was used by Co-Partnership Farms.

Civil Use

With the facility released from military control, in 1946, the West Essex Car Club developed the 4.76 kilometre perimeter track for motor racing. Although not on the official Grand Prix calendar, Boreham Racing Circuit hosted competitive races between 1949 and 1952. Among the teams that raced at Boreham were BRM, Connaught, Frazer Nash and Talbot-Lago. Among the drivers who raced there were Mike Hawthorn, Stirling Moss and Ken Wharton.[1] In 1955 the Ford Motor Company bought the airfield to use as a test facility for trucks, as well as the base for their Competitions Department where they prepared their cars.

In the late 1970s Boreham Proving Ground was the test site for Ford Heavy Truck Development. The development engineers at nearby Ford Dunton worked out various test programmes, and the Test Engineers at Boreham carried these out and reported back the data. One common test was RLD, or 'Road Load Data', where a chassis would be fitted with various strain gauges, and the data from these recorded. This was the main test site for Ford Trucks, and the Ford Cargo, released in 1980, was extensively tested here against competitor trucks. There were many various surfaces at Boreham to drive the trucks on. "Rest of the World" road, was a fairly rigorous route, with smooth surfaces, some undulating surfaces and some pot-holes. "Korean Road" was full of pot-holes and considered to be the worst test for a truck. Test drivers were not very happy if they were allocated four days of driving "Korean Road" to gather RLD since they were bumped around in the cab constantly. Aside the main entrance to Boreham was a small unit that was Ford Rally Sport. They built the Ford rally cars of the late 70s and early 80s there.

In July 1990. the Essex Police Air Support Unit began operating their Aérospatiale Twin Squirrel from the airfield, and in 1992 a hangar to house this helicopter was constructed beside the control tower. The runways and 40 loop hardstands still remained and the south-west hangar was in use as a store.

During the 1990s the airfield began to be dismantled for aggregate. Pioneer Aggregates has an interest in the southwest part of the airfield and much of the airfield has been subjected to extensive gravel extraction. The north side of the airfield remains relatively intact with the exception of the dispersal loop hardstands, which have been removed. The control tower remains, which is used by the Essex Police Helicopter Unit and the Essex Air Ambulance, a T2 hangar, short concreted lengths of runway ends. The remaining parts of the former runways, perimeter track and hardstands are now grassy areas.

See also

References

  1. ^ Erwin, Miles (14 April 2009). "Metro". London: Associated Newspapers Ltd. p. p17.  

Sources

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

  1. ^ Erwin, Miles (14 April 2009). "Metro". London: Associated Newspapers Ltd. p. p17.  

External links


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