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Royal Air Force Station Gosfield
USAAF Station AAF-154

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch9thusaaf.png

Located Near Braintree, Essex, England
Gosfield-march1945.jpg-rotated.jpg
Gosfield airfield photographed in March 1945
Type Military airfield
Coordinates 51°57′11″N 000°34′48″E / 51.95306°N 0.58°E / 51.95306; 0.58
Location code GF
Built 1943
In use 1944-1946
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
Garrison Ninth Air Force
RAF Bomber Command
Occupants 365th Fighter Group
397th, 410th Bombardment Groups
No. 299 Squadron
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Gosfield is located in Essex
Map showing the location of RAF Gosfield within Essex.
Republic P-47D-28-RA Thunderbolt, Serial 42-28932 of the 388th Fighter Squadron.
Douglas A-20J-15-DO Havoc Serial 43-21745 of the 646th Bombardment Squadron.
Douglas A-20Gs of the 647th Bombardment Squadron. A-20G-35-DO Serial 43-10219 identifiable
Formation of 646th Bombardment Squadron A-20s.

RAF Station Gosfield is a former World War II airfield in Essex, England. The airfield is located approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) north of Braintree; about 40 miles (64 km) north-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 combat airfield, with several fighter and bomber units stationed at it After the war it was closed in 1955 after being held in reserve for many years.

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

Contents

Overview

Gosfield had been utilized as a landing ground during World War I but it is not known if this was a factor in the Air Ministry surveyor's visit to the area during the winter of 1941-42 when selecting locations for Class A bomber airfields. The site was eventually included in the grouping of 15 such airfields in August 1942 that were allocated for the USAAF Eighth Air Force Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress groups then training in the United States.

Gosfield was also one of the airfields where the main construction work was carried out by US Army engineers. The 816th Engineer Battalion (Aviation) arrived at Gosfield on 16 August 1942 where they began setting up tented accommodation. Shortages of construction equipment and other problems caused delays in the early months. By December 1942, the overall airfield building program was in crisis and falling further behind schedule due to the lack of labour and resources. By March 1943, most of the 816th's men were transferred to the more advanced site at RAF Andrews Field. Full-scale construction of Gosfield was resumed in August and by mid-October 1943 the main elements of the landing area had been completed. The 833rd Engineer Aviation Battalion arrived in October 1943 and helped complete Gosfield, including buildings and the drainage system. However, by the time it was completed the Eighth Air Force no longer required the airfield and it was passed to the control of the US Ninth Air Force.

On December 10, 1943 the airfield was bombed by the Luftwaffe. Four men of the 833rd EAB, Stacy J. Lindsey, George E. Reilly, Norman Shotnakoff Jr., and Fred Svensson, were killed when one of the raiders sprayed their hut with cannon fire; and fifteen others were wounded.

The airfield was built to the Class A airfield standard, 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 consisted of three runways of 6,000 ft (14/32), 4,200 ft (02/20), and 4,000 ft (08/26). 50 "Loop" and 1 "Frying Pan" 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 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 3,278 personnel, including communal and a sick quarters.

USAAF Use

Gosfield was known as USAAF Station AAF-154 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 "GF".

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365th Fighter Group

Although the Essex airfields were earmarked for use by IX Bomber Command, the expected influx of large numbers of fighter groups led Ninth Air Force to utilise Gosfield as a fighter airfield. This was a temporary measure for the winter months and until conditions improved at the south coast advanced landing grounds where they were to he deployed prior to the invasion. Thus the first combat flying unit to occupy Gosfield was the 365th Fighter Group, arriving on 22 December 1943 from Richmond AAF, Virginia flying Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. Operational squadrons of the group were:

  • 386th Fighter Squadron (D5)
  • 387th Fighter Squadron (B4)
  • 388th Fighter Squadron (C4)

The 365th was a group of Ninth Air Force's 84th Fighter Wing, IX Tactical Air Command.

It was several weeks before the 365th received a full complement of 75 P-47D Thunderbolts and mid-February 1944 before they were placed on operational status. Their first mission. flown on 22 February, was a bomber support sweep of short duration over enemy-held territory.

Early missions were flown in support of Eighth Air Force B-17 and B-24 bomber operations and on one of these on 2 March, the 365th had its first encounter with enemy fighters in the Bastogne area resulting in the loss of one Thunderbolt and claims of six of the enemy shot down. Oherstleutant Egon Mayer. one of the most successful Luftwaffe aces flying in the West with 102 victories, fell in this battle.

On 5 March, with only nine missions to its credit the group moved south to RAF Beaulieu in Hampshire as Gosfield was required for a bomber group scheduled to arrive in the UK during the next few weeks. During its stay at Gosfield, the 365th Fighter Group had two P-47s missing in action and two pilots had been killed in local flying accidents.

397th Bombardment Group

On 5 April 1944 Martin B-26 Marauders of the 397th Bombardment Group started to arrive at Gosfield after a trans-Atlantic crossing from Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia by the southern route via Africa. Operational squadrons of the group were:

  • 596th Bombardment Squadron (X2)
  • 597th Bombardment Squadron (9F)
  • 598th Bombardment Squadron (U2)
  • 599th Bombardment Squadron (6B)

However. no sooner had they arrived than they were moved on to RAF Rivenhall when that airfield was vacated by the 363d Fighter Group on 14 April.

410th Bombardment Group

The day following the 397th's departure, personnel of the 410th Bombardment Group moved in from RAF Birch. The 410th was equipped with Douglas A-20G and A-20J Havoc light twin engined bombers which it had trained in the United States. Operational squadrons of the group were:

  • 644th Bombardment Squadron (5D)
  • 645th Bombardment Squadron (7X)
  • 646th Bombardment Squadron (8U)
  • 647th Bombardment Squadron (SQ)

Training of the 410th BG had been in low-level attack and this form of bombing had been abandoned as too dangerous in tire European Theater of Operations. On receipt of its aircraft from depots (A-20s cane to the UK by ship), the group commenced a hurried period of retraining in bombing from medium altitudes as was IX Bomber Command practice. Eventually, there were 64 Havocs at Gosfield, 16 per squadron. all in camouflage finish. Combat markings were applied, was an alternating black and white blocked rudder as group identification.

The 410th BG flew its first mission on 1 May 1944 and others followed thick and fast, often two per day. Targets were airfields, railways, bridges, fuel and military stores, V-weapon sites, road junctions and enemy troop positions. In the course of 20 weeks' operations from Gosfield, the 418th flew 124 missions, losing 211 A-20s. almost all to flak.

Following the Allied break-out from the Normandy beachhead in late July, and the subsequent sweep across France. the 410th, in common with other IX Bomber Command units, found range was a critical factor and by September the targets were almost beyond the range of the Havocs at Gosfield. To remedy this situation, the expected move to France was finally ordered for 18 September when the majority of personnel were moved by train to Southampton for the sea crossing. The ultimate destination was the ALG A-58 at Coulommiers.

On the continent, the 410th continued operations until V-E Day, eventually being stationed at Beaumont-sur-Oise, France. The group returned to the United States during the summer of 1945, and was inactivated at Myrtle Beach AAF, South Carolina on 7 November 1945.

With the departure of the 410th to France, the USAAF presence at Gosfield airfield was reduced to a small station complement to deal with the occasional forced landing and visitor.

RAF Bomber Command Use

In January 1945, the RAF's No. 299 Squadron moved in from RAF Wethersfield for two weeks with Short Stirlings but soon departed for RAF Shepherds Grove. Again the airfield was devoid of permanent aircraft until mid-March when it was brought back into use for a combat operation as an RAF Heavy Glider Servicing Unit. Gosfield being selected as another of the launch bases for the First Allied Airborne Army's support for the crossing of the Rhine.

The RAF's No. 271, 512 and 575 Squadrons from RAF Broadwell. with Douglas C-47 Dakotas and Horsa Gliders, set out from Gosfield on 24 March and the aircraft returning to their home airfields after the operation. Afterwards, Gosfield was used as a collecting point for recovered Horsa gliders.

With the end of hostilities jurisdiction subsequently passed from one RAF headquarters to another until Gosfield airfield was closed down during February 1946. Gosfield was put under care and maintenance until the early 1950s when the care and maintenance unit was withdrawn and civilian caretakers left to supervise. Suitable areas eventually returned to agricultural use and the hangars and saleable installations were auctioned in 1955.

Civil Use

With the facility released from military control, the Consumers Association made use of the runways and perimeter track for testing cars from 1965 to 1987, the results being published in their magazine. After the departure of this organization, the vast majority of the airfield was returned to agricultural use.

The runways, hardstands and perimeter track came under the concrete breaking machinery of St Ives Sand and Gravel for hardcore. Long sections of the perimeter track remain, although only as a single lane agricultural road. All of the dispersal hardstands have been removed, along with the main runway and 02/20 secondary runway, both of which no longer exist. The 08/26 secondary runway remains largely intact with the east end being used for lorry trailer storage, although the trailers appear to be derelict.

The group of buildings in the control tower area survived and were developed for light engineering and plant hire operations and are in use. Part of the technical site appears to be a storage area for sea-land ocean containers. Several Nissen Huts also remain in use.

Directions

From Braintree, proceed northeast on Broad Road (B1063) to the roundabout, then northeast on A131 (still Broad Road). Proceed on the A131, remaining straight when reaching the A1017 on the north side of High Garrett (Gosfield Road). Stay on the A1017 through the village of Gosfield. The airfield will be on the north side of town, about a quarter mile. There is an access road on the left to some deteriorated concrete that is part of the old technical site.

Another road, about a quarter mile further and also to the left will take you past an intersection, which is the old perimeter track of the airfield reduced in size. Past that there is a road to the left which will take you to an industrial estate, where some wartime Nissen Huts can be found, again part of the technical site. Staying straight will take you to the NE/SW (08/26). secondary runway, drivable, but the concrete is in a deteriorating condition. The NE end of the runway appears to be a storage location for all sorts of highway trailers. Driving southeast on the runway it will take you to a single track road, which is the perimeter track, which, if you turn to the left, will take you around the old airfield and eventually back to the access road which branched off the A1017. There may be vehicles parked on the road blocking access so beware you might have to make a turnaround on the grass.

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 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.
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present
  • British Automobile Association (AA), (1978), Complete Atlas of Britain, ISBN 0-86145-005-1

External links


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