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Royal Air Force Station Holmsley South
USAAF Station AAF-455

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch9thusaaf.png

Located Near Holmsley, Hampshire, England
HolmesleySouth-1246.png
Photo-Mosaic of Holmesley South airfield - December 1946 after all flying had ended with "X" on each runway end.
Type Military airfield
Coordinates 50°47′18″N 001°41′58″W / 50.78833°N 1.69944°W / 50.78833; -1.69944
Location code HM
Built 1942
In use 1942-1946
Controlled by Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Garrison RAF Coastal Command
RAF Fighter Command
Ninth Air Force
Occupants 394th Bombardment Group
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Holmsley South is located in Hampshire
RAF Holmsley South, shown within Hampshire
Fitting 500 pound bombs to load on Martin B-26B-55-MA Marauder, Serial 42-96213 (586th BS). This aircraft was shot down by AAA Mar 22, 1945. MACR 13040.
Loading bombs on Martin B-26G-1-MA Marauder Serial 43-34194 of the 584th Bomb Squadron.

RAF Station Holmsley South is a former World War II airfield in Hampshire, England. The airfield is located approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) northeast of Christchurch; about 90 miles (140 km) southwest 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 bomber and later as a transport airfield. After the war it was closed in late 1940.

Today the remains of the airfield are part of a Forestry Commission project.

Contents

Overview

During the late 1930s, the suitability of the land near Holmsley, west of the A35 had been noted, but it was not until 1942 that construction of an airfield to the Class A airfield standard commenced, consisting 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 consisted of three runways of 5,910 ft (07/25), 4,200 ft (12/30), and 4,110 ft (18/36). 35 "Frying Pan" hardstands were constructed along with three "Loop" type 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; armoury 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 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 2,963 personnel, including communal and a sick quarters.

RAF Use

As with nearby RAF Beaulieu, as soon as the runways, perimeter track and basic control and refuelling facilities were available, RAF Coastal Command moved in. In the case of RAF Holmsley South. the first aircraft to operate from its runways were the B-24 Liberators of the USAAF's 93rd Bombardment Group, transferred from RAF Alconbury, which were enlisted to help with the necessity of reducing U-Boat activity in the Bay of Biscay prior to Operation Torch, the North African landings.

At the same time in October 1942 No. 547 Squadron, RAF. was formed at the station to operate Vickers Wellington in the anti-shipping role. Nos. 58 and 502 Squadrons with Handley Page Halifaxes soon took over the airfield and the task, remaining until December 1943 when Holmsley was required for units involved in the Cross-Channel invasion planned for the following spring. Canadian Supermarine Spitfire squadrons replaced by Hawker Typhoon squadrons were the occupants before D-Day and, when they moved to the Continent, North American P-51 Mustangs arrived.

USAAF use

Holmsley South was known as USAAF Station AAF-455 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 "HM".

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394th Bombardment Group

The urgent requirement of IX Bomber Command to extend the radius of action of part of its Martin B-26 Marauder force found the 394th Bomb Group relocating to Holmsley from RAF Boreham between 24 and 28 July 1944. Operational squadrons of the group were:

There was no break in operations at this critical period when the Saint-Lô offensive was underway. The 394th received a Distinguished Unit Citation for its work during the period August 7 to 9, when it made a series of attacks against heavily-defended targets, destroying four rail bridges and devastating an ammunition dump.

It was during a bridge attack on 9 August that the Lead B-26. piloted by Captain Darrell Lindsey, was hit by flak and the right engine set alight. Although knowing that the fuel tanks were likely to catch fire and explode, Lindsey did not waver from leading the bomb run or order his crew to bail out until after bombs had been released. The bombardier offered to lower the nosewheel so that Lindsey might escape through the nose hatch but, knowing the likelihood of his losing control if this was done, Lindsey ordered the bombardier to jump. Lindsey did not escape before the aircraft crashed.

The award of a posthumous Medal of Honor was the only occasion that this highest US award for bravery went to a Ninth Air Force bomber crewman living in the ETO. All told, six 394th B-26s were lost in operations from Holmsley South. The group's aircraft began to move to the airfield at Tour-en-Bessin in France (A-13) on 21 August and the last personnel left Holmesley South on the 31st.

On the continent the group hit strong points at Brest and then began to operate against targets in Germany. Took part in the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945, by hitting communications to deprive the enemy of supplies and reinforcements. Bombed transportation, storage facilities, and other objectives until the war ended; also dropped propaganda leaflets.

By VE-Day, the 394th was based at Venlo (Y-55) in the southeastern Netherlands. The group remained in the theater to serve with United States Air Forces in Europe as part of the army of occupation at Kitzingen, Germany. It was transferred, without personnel and equipment, to the United States on 15 February 1946 and was inactivated on 31 March 1946.

Postwar RAF Transport Command use

Reverting to the RAF, Holmsley South was taken over by Transport Command, first by No. 167 Squadron with its Vickers Warwick and then the Liberators, Halifaxes and Avro Yorks of No. 246 Squadron. Between April and October 1945. No. 246 had three Douglas C-54 Skymasters on its strength but by the end of the year its main type was the York. By October 1946, all flying had ceased and the airfield was reduced to caretaker status.

Civil Use

With the facility released from military control in 1946, Holmsley South has since stood derelict and, while a few odd parts of the runways and a few dispersal points remain, the vast majority of the concreted areas have been removed along with the buildings around the airfield leaving a large open area. Some other areas have been planted with conifers by the Forestry Commission. Several public camping sites and a caravan park has been created on the former hardstanding groupings along the northeast side of the main perimeter track, as well as both sides of the former 07 runway on the southwest of the airfield.

See also

References

 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

External links


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