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Royal Air Force Station Grove
USAAF Station AAF-519

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch9thusaaf.png

Located Near Wantage, Oxfordshire
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 51°36′13.23″N 001°26′13.40″W / 51.603675°N 1.437056°W / 51.603675; -1.437056
Built 1942
In use 1942-1946
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
Garrison Ninth Air Force
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Grove is located in Oxfordshire
Map showing the location of RAF Grove within Oxfordshire.

RAF Station Grove is a former World War II airfield in Oxfordshire, England. The airfield is located approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) northwest of Wantage; about 55 miles (89 km) west-northwest of London

Opened in 1942, it was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Force. During the war it was used primarily as a reconnaissance airfield. After the war it was closed in 1946.

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

Contents

Overview

RAF Grove was built in 1942 as a 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. The land requisition order signed in May 1941, and construction began. The airfield was a standard 3 concrete runway layout, aligned as 04/22, 16/34 and 09/27 with assorted loop and pan dispersal hardstands connecting to an enclosing perimeter track, of a standard 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 ; 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 six T-2 maintenance hangers and large numbers of component maintenance shops to perform routine depot-level maintenance on aircraft as well as structural repair of severely damaged combat aircraft. The Ammunition dump was located outside of the perimeter track surrounded by large dirt mounds and concrete storage pens.

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 2,000 personnel, including communal and a sick quarters.

RAF Use

Grove was originally intended as a training base for RAF Bomber Command 91 Group, and was scheduled to be a satellite for the 15 Operational Training Unit at RAF Harwell

As part of the planning for the invasion of Europe, in 1942 Grove comes under control of Brize Norton to train glider pilots. The airfield also being a satellite for RAF Brize Norton with both Horsa gliders and Whitleys. In May 1943, No. 15 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit arrived with Oxfords.

USAAF Use

The RAF left Grove in September 1943 to allow the USAAF Ninth Air Force to build up at Grove as part of the cross-channel invasion of Europe. Grove was known as USAAF Station AAF-519 for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location.

Beginning in August 1943, Grove was used by the 3rd Tactical Air Depot of IX Air Force Service Command, repairing A-20 Havocs and P-61 Black Widows. Starting in October, the Air Transport Command 31st Transport Group used the airfield with C-47 Skytrains until moving to France in September 1944. The group returned in December and remained until the end of the war.

The 13th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (7th Reconnaissance Group) used the airfield between 13 Oct-23 Nov 1945 before returning to the United States. In addition, the 36th Bombardment Squadron from RAF Alconbury in Huntingdonshire used the airfield after the closure of Alconbury in October 1945. The squadron flew occasional transport missions until they returned to the United States in December 1945, ending American use of the station.

Grove was returned to the RAF in 1946. Spare accommodation was used to house German POW's who were used to demolish redundant buildings, as well as assist at local farms.

Postwar Use

After the war, the airfield was used for surplus aircraft disposal by RAF No. 256 MU. In addition, No 6 MU temporarily used the airfield to service captured German aircraft. In 1946, the airfield was placed on "care and maintenance" status. It appears that some construction work was undertaken at the airfield after it was placed in C&M status, and the 04/22 secondary runway appears to have been lengthened (essentially doubled in length) for use by jet aircraft.

In December 1955 the western part of the airfield was transferred to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) as a satellite to the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at the former RAF Harwell. The secrecy of the activities at Grove required that the runways were removed - especially as a USAF jet had landed accidentally, being lost and low on fuel. Airspace above the site was marked as restricted. The UKAEA stayed at Grove until the late 1960's, when the project came to a conclusion. The site was then sold off to private organizations.

Today the entire area has been taken over by agriculture or is a grass pasture. In aerial photography the airfield runways still are quite evident, even after their removal over 50 years ago. The wartime perimeter track is gone, however the UKEA buildings are still in use and well maintained.

The town of Grove has developed the northeast part of the former airfield, building a large housing estate on the property.

See also

References

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

  • Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0892010975
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1994) UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now 1994. After the Battle ISBN 0900913800
  • Control Towers.UK - Grove
  • WW2 Airfields of Oxfordshire - Grove

External links

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