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Royal Air Force Station Chipping Ongar
Royal Air Force Station Willingale
USAAF Station AAF-162

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

Located Near Willingale, Essex, England
Chippingongar-21june1947.jpg
Chipping Ongar Airfield - 21 June 1947 in a reserve status.
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 51°43′30″N 000°17′19″E / 51.725°N 0.28861°E / 51.725; 0.28861
Location code JC
Built 1942
In use 1942-1946
Controlled by United States Army Air ForcesRoyal Air Force
Garrison Eighth Air Force
Ninth Air Force
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Chipping Ongar is located in Essex
Map showing the location of RAF Chipping Ongar within Essex.
Martin B-26B-15-MA Marauder Serial 41-31665 of the 558th Bomb Squadron
Martin B-26B-50-MA Marauder Serial 42-95857 of the 556th Bomb Squadron

RAF Station Chipping Ongar (also known as Willingale) is a former World War II airfield in Essex, England. The airfield is located approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) northeast of Chipping Ongar; about 20 miles (32 km) northeast of London

Opened in 1943, it was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Force. During the war it was used primarily as a bomber airfield. After the war it was closed in 1959 after many years of being a reserve airfield

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

Contents

Origins

Chipping Ongar airfield was one of 15 airfields in Essex that was allocated to the United States Army Air Forces by the Air Ministry in 1942. It was earmarked for heavy bomber use and built to the Class A airfield standard set by the Air Ministry, 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.

The airfield was mostly in the parish of Willingale and it was by this name that it was locally known. It was built by the U S Army 831st Engineer (Aviation) Battalion, which began work in late August 1942 and was still ongoing a year later. Runways consisted of a main of 6,000 feet being aligned 03/21, with two 4,200 feet secondary runways being aligned 09/27 and 15/3. An encircling perimeter track with 51 hardstands, 48 loops, two large loops and one pan type were also built.

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 west 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 2,770 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

The airfield was opened in the early spring of 1943 and was used by the United States Army Air Force Eighth and Ninth Air Forces.

Chipping Ongar was known as USAAF Station AAF-162 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 "JC".

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387th Bombardment Group (Medium)

Parts of the airfield were still under construction when the 387th Bombardment Group (Medium) arrived from Goodman AAF Kentucky on 25 June 1943. The group was assigned to the 3d Bomb Wing and flew Martin B-26B/C Marauders. The 387th was the fourth Marauder group to arrive in the UK. Operational squadrons of the 387th were:

The 387th Bomb Group began combat on 15 August 1943 by joining with three other B-26 groups attacking coastal defences on the French Coast near Boulogne, and was mounted in thick fog. While taking off, one of the B-26 Bombers crashed at the end of the main runway, killing all of the crew except the tail gunner. The group concentrated its attacks on airfields during the first months of operations. In common with other Marauder units of the 3d Bomb Wing, the 387th was transferred to Ninth Air Force on 16 October 1943.

The group made tactical strikes on V-weapon sites in France in the winter of 1943-1944. Hit airfields at Leeuwarden and Venlo during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944, the intensive campaign against the German Air Force and aircraft industry. Helped to prepare for the invasion of Normandy by attacking coastal batteries and bridges in France during May 1944. Bombed along the invasion coast on 6 June 1944 and supported ground forces throughout the month by raiding railroads, bridges, road junctions, defended areas, and fuel dumps.

The 387th Bomb Group moved to RAF Stoney Cross in Hampshire on 21 July 1944 when Ninth Air Force moved the 98th Bomb Wing's four Marauder groups into the New Forest area at the earliest opportunity to place them closer to the French Normandy Invasion beaches.

During eight months of operations from Chipping Ongar airfield, the 387th flew 204 missions and lost 10 aircraft. After the group vacated the station, only a small USAAF station compliment unit remained. A few transport and light communications aircraft were occasionally observed on the airfield, but there was comparatively little flying.

During September 1944, the airfield was used temporarily by IX Troop Carrier Command as advanced C-47 base during Operation Market-Garden.

61st Troop Carrier Group

Troop carrier squadrons of the 61st Troop Carrier Group used the airfield on 24 March 1945, carrying British paratroops as part of Operation Varsity, the airborne crossing of the Rhine River, who dropped near Wesel. Of the 80 aircraft dispatched, one pathfinder C-47 was lost.

RAF Use

With the departure of the Americans, the airfield was never used again for military flying. Chipping Ongar was returned to RAF Bomber Command on 18 April 1945 being transferred to the Technical Training Command on 11 June becoming a satellite of RAF Hornchurch. However the airfield remained unoccupied until it was handed over to the War Office on 25 April 1946 reverting subsequently again to Technical Training Command as an inactive service station parented by RAF North Weald. On 26 October 1948 it was transferred again, this time to Reserve Command, still under the control of North Weald before finally being relinquished on 28 February 1959.

Civil Use

With the end of military control, Chipping Ongar airfield was reverted back to agricultural use.

One of the large T-2 Hangars was dismantled and re-erected at North Weald airfield. It is believed to be the one nearest the M11 motorway, and now used as a freight forwarding warehouse.

One pile of rubble on the former airfield is worthy of mention as it is the remains of East End of London dwellings destroyed during the 1940/41 Blitz and brought to Chipping Ongar to be used as hardcore for the airfield foundations. Some was left over and still remains, partly disguised by young fir trees.

In the mid-1960s the runways and other concreted areas were broken up for use as hardcore, much of which was used for the Brentwood bypass section of the A12. A section of the perimeter track and some loop dispersal hardstands are is still intact, connected to a small private landing strip converted from a straight section of the wartime perimeter, aligned 04/22, and one small section of a secondary full-width runway (09/27) on the southeast side . On the northeastern side, the Operations block, Norden Bombsight Store, and the base of the pilots' briefing room are grouped together, and are in quite good condition 51°43′53″N 000°18′09″E / 51.73139°N 0.3025°E / 51.73139; 0.3025.

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. (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
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1994) UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now 1994. After the Battle ISBN 0900913800
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1996) The Ninth Air Force in Colour: UK and the Continent-World War Two. After the Battle ISBN 1854092723
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • mighty8thaf.preller.us Chipping Ongar

External links


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