RAF Charmy Down: Wikis

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Royal Air Force Station Charmy Down
USAAF Station AAF-487

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch9thusaaf.png

Located Near Bath, Somerset, United Kingdom
Charmydown-20oct1943.jpg
High oblique photo of Charmy Down Airfield, England taken 20 October 1943 looking northwest to southeast.
Type Military airfield
Coordinates 51°25′46″N 002°20′50″W / 51.42944°N 2.34722°W / 51.42944; -2.34722
Location code CH
Built 1941
In use 1941-1946
Controlled by Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Garrison RAF Fighter Command
Ninth Air Force
Occupants No. 87 Squadron RAF
422d, 423d and 425th Night Fighter Squadrons
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Charmy Down is located in Somerset
Map showing the location of RAF Charmy Down within Somerset.

RAF Station Charmy Down is a former World War II airfield in Somerset, England. The airfield is located approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) north-northeast of Bath; about 96 miles (154 km) west of London

Opened in 1941, it was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Force. During the war it was used primarily as night fighter interceptor airfield. After the war it was closed in 1945.

Today the remains of the airfield are located on private property being used as agricultural fields.

Contents

Overview

Built on a Kerbed Long barrow site, where a cremation urn was found, near a burial of a long necked beaker, and a bronze dagger, these are believed to be from the Beaker people. The Kerbed Long Barrows were then flattened to make way for the base.

Charmy Down airfield was opened late in 1940 and originally had a grass surface with landing strips of 4,125ft, both south-east to north-west and north-east to south-west. It was later upgraded to the Class A airfield standard set by the British Air Ministry in 1941, 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. In addition a 50ft wide tarmac perimeter track and 39 aircraft dispersal points was constructed. These were 12 double pens and 15 single standings. The three hard surfaced runways were 4,350 ft (13/31), 4,050 ft (17/25), and 2,799 ft (01/19).

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; 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 12 Blister hangars and one Bellman hangar 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. Depot personnel performed depot-level maintence on aircraft as well as performing major structural repair on severely damaged combat aircraft. The Ammunition dump was located on the north 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 2.841 personnel, including communal and a sick quarters.

RAF Fighter Command Use

The first occupants of Charmy Down was No. 87 Squadron RAF, with night-fighting Hawker Hurricanes, Then, in the summer of 1941, Defiants appeared and Whirlwinds and Turbinlite Havocs were to be seen the following year. A Supermarine Spitfire OTU took over in 1943 and stayed until the airfield was turned over to the USAAF.

USAAF Use

Charmy Down was known as USAAF Station AAF-487 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 "CH".

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4th Tactical Air Depot

With good road connections and its close proximity to Bristol and Avonmouth, Charmy Down appeared to be a good location for a USAAF depot airfield to which materials arriving at these ports could be transported by road and then flown out, and it was acquired by the Tactical Air Depot Area.

Service groups were deployed there late in 1943 to operate the 4th Tactical Air Depot, which was intended to repair, modify and maintain Allison-engined fighter types, primarily Lockheed P-38 Lightnings and North American P-51 Mustangs. For unrecorded reasons, it was decided to transfer this operation to Kingston Bagpuize early in 1944, possibly for better local logistics and communications in the Oxford area. Nevertheless, IX Air Force Service Command activities continued at Charmy Down until the autumn of 1944.

422d, 423d and 425th Night Fighter Squadrons

The Ninth Air Force was scheduled to receive three night fighter squadrons with a mission to effect night air defence of US air bases when these were established on the Continent. Charmy Down was selected as a base for these squadrons which would arrive individually, not as part of a group, and were to be equipped with the new Northrup P-61 Black Widow.

Personnel of the 422d Night Fighter Squadron arrived first on 7 March 1944 and had their aircrews posted to various RAF night fighter and signal schools for theatre indoctrination. Meanwhile, as there was no sign of the P-61s. the pilots kept up their flight time on Cessna UC-78s and other communication types.

On 18 April, the men of the 423d Night Fighter Squadron joined the 422nd at Charmy Down and their aircrew also undertook training at RAF installations white the wait for P-61s continued. On 6 May the 422nd NFS was sent to the RAF night fighter Operational Training Unit at RAF Scorton in North Yorkshire where they eventually received the first of their Black Widows later that month.

Meanwhile, the 423rd NFS continued to wait for aircraft at Charmy Down. As its aircrews had trained in the United States on the Douglas P-70, (the night-fighter version of the Douglas A-20 Havoc), in the absence of sufficient P-61s, the Ninth Air Force decided to use the 423rd personnel to form a night photographic unit equipped with A-20s. To this end, the 423rd NFS was assigned to the 10th Reconnaissance Group on 10 May and was redesignated as the 155th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron. The squadron was transferred to RAF Chalgrove.

Soon after, on 26 May the third night fighter squadron, the 425th Night Fighter Squadron arrived at Charmy Down and underwent the same preliminary training as the 422d and 423d squadrons. On 12 June the squadron left to join the 422nd NFS at RAF Scorton‎ where its aircrews were able to fly the P-61.

The original plan had been for all three night fighter squadrons to be on combat status with P-61s by D-Day, due to lack of equipment none of the squadrons or P-61s were ever based at Charmy Down.

IX Troop Carrier Service Wing

During the spring of 1944 a IX Troop Carrier Service Wing (Provisional) was set up at Charmy Down to support troop carrier units in south-west England and this unit remained until September. The station was also used for clandestine operations over occupied France during this period. When IX Air Force Service Command finally packed its bags in October 1944. the RAF used Charmy Down for advanced pilot training, the prevalent aircraft being the Airspeed Oxford.

Postwar Use

After the end of hostilities in Europe, there was little flying from the station although it was not officially closed until October 1946.

From the January 1946 to October 1946, 92 Gliding School, ATC, also used as Personnel Resettlement Centre for Australians.

Civil Use

With the facility released from military control, the airfield stood intact yet disused for many years. Eventually the hangars and runways were removed, but the outline of the runways can still be seen in aerial photography. Most of the perimeter track still remains mostly in a half-width condition, as do several of the derelict buildings, including the control tower, a few of the Blister hangers still remain and are used for farm storage.

See also

References

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

  • Freeman, Roger A. (1994) UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now. After the Battle ISBN 0900913800
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.

External links


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