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Royal Air Force Station Ibsley
USAAF Station AAF-347

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

Located Near Ringwood, Hampshire, England
Ibsley-jan44.jpg
Aerial Photo of Ibsley Airfield, January 1944. Note the runway extension to the 01 runway at the south side of the airfield, with the perimeter track extension.
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 50°52′46″N 001°46′50.00″W / 50.87944°N 1.78056°W / 50.87944; -1.78056
Location code IB
Built 1940
In use 1940-1947
Controlled by Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Garrison RAF Fighter Command
Eighth Air Force
Ninth Air Force
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Ibsley is located in Hampshire
RAF Ibsley, shown within Hampshire

RAF Station Ibsley is a former World War II airfield in Hampshire, England. The airfield is located near the village of Ibsley, approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Ringwood; about 85 miles (137 km) southwest 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 a fighter airfield. After the war it was closed in 1947.

Today the remains of the airfield are mostly quarry lakes, with an abandoned control tower overlooking the water.

Contents

Overview

Ibsley airfield was the first of the airfields built in the Avon valley of Hampshire and the only fighter station in the area to have asphalt-surfaced runways. It was originally surveyed before the war but passed over until approved as a satellite and forward base for RAF Middle Wallop during 1940.

Construction work began in early 1941 with a set of three converging runways each containing a concrete runway for takeoffs and landings. The tarmac runways were laid down being aligned 01/19 (main); 14/32 and 05/23. Also numerous loop-type dispersal pads 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; 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 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 need for a forward airfield for fighter use in the area led to its being occupied by Hawker Hurricane fighter squadrons in February 1941.

Over the following three years 19 different RAF fighter and fighter-bomber squadrons were based at Ibsley for periods varying from a few days to several months in the course of conducting sweeps, bomber escorts, armed reconnaissance and shipping strikes and patrols. The aircraft involved were chiefly. Spitfires Hurricanes, and Hawker Typhoons, but North American Mustangs in RAF service and Westland Whirlwinds were present on some occasions.

USAAF use

The arrival of the first United States Army Air Forces fighter units in the summer of 1942 found Ibsley allocated to the Eighth Air Force on 4 June for use by Lockheed P-38 Lightnings which it was felt might have difficulty operation from grass airfields.

Ibsley was known as USAAF Station AAF-347 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 "IB".

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1st Fighter Group

The first USAAF unit to use Ibsley was the Eighth Air Force 1st Fighter Group, equipped with Lockheed P-38 Lightnings. The 1st FG arrived from RAF Goxhill on 24 August 1942. Tactical squadrons of the group and squadron fuselage codes were:

The stay of the 1st FG was short, performing their first combat mission on 28 August and flying a number of missions over France before being assigned to Twelfth Air Force for duty in the Mediterranean theater in support of the Operation Torch North African landings.

The 1st FG was transferred to Tafaraoui Airfield, Algeria on 23 October as part of the ground echelon landing with the assault forces at Arzeu beach on 8 November. With their departure, the airfield was not used again until mid-December by some RAF units.

On 12 July 1943 Ibsley was again opened by the USAAF as a base for tactical fighters when required. Meanwhile, construction work was performed to improve the runways. The north-south runway was extended, a small addition was made to the north-west/south-cast runway, and the perimeter track was enlarged with additional hardstands being constructed.

On 16 October 1943 RAF Ibsley was allocated to the Ninth Air Force.

48th Fighter Group

Republic P-47D-30-RA Thunderbolt Serial 44-33204 of the 493d Fighter Squadron.
P-47Ds of the 48th Fighter Group at an advanced landing ground.

With construction completed, on 29 March 1944 the Ninth Air Force 48th Fighter Group arrived at Ibsley from Waterboro AAF, South Carolina (32°55′19″N 80°38′00″W / 32.921817°N 80.633297°W / 32.921817; -80.633297). The 48th flew the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and had the following fighter squadrons and fuselage codes:

The 48th was a group of Ninth Air Force's 70th Fighter Wing, IX Tactical Air Command.

The group began began operations on 20 April by making a fighter sweep over the coast of France then flew an intense period of escort and dive-bombing missions to help prepare for the invasion of Normandy.

On 21 April the number of P-47s at Ibsley doubled when the aircraft of the 371st Fighter Group moved in from nearby RAF Bisterne while work was carried out on its wire-mesh runways. At one point there were over 150 P-47s parked on Insley. The 371st remained until 14 May and even then its pilots would have preferred to remain at Ibsley with its hard surfaced runways.

The group bombed bridges and gun positions on 6 June and attacked rail lines and trains, motor transports, bridges, fuel dumps, and gun positions during the remainder of the Normandy campaign.

The 48th fighter Group's only air battle while flying from Ibsley cause on 12 June when the 493rd FS tangled with some Messerschmitt Bf 109s and shot down four and shared another victory with a P-47 pilot from another group. During missions flown from Ibsley, the 48th lost a total of eight P-47s.

On 17 June a P-47 taking off on a mission crashed off the end of a runway and caught fire. Soon after fire tenders arrived the bomb-load exploded. killing the pilot and three firemen.

The 48th was one of the first P-47 groups to move to the Normandy bridgehead, the first aircraft landing at their assigned Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Deux Jumeaux, France (ALG A-4) on 18 June although Ibsley continued to be used by the 48th FG until 4 July when the last personnel departed.

On the continent, the 48th FG provided tactical air support in support of U.S. First Army using the following ALGs:

  • A-4 Deux Jumeuax, France 18 June 1944
  • A-42D Villacoublay, France 29 August 1944
  • A-74 Cambrai/Niergnies, France 15 September 1944
  • A-92 St. Trond, Belgium 30 September 1944
  • Y-54 Kelz, Germany 26 March 1945
  • Y-96 Kassel/Waldau, Germany 17 April 1945
  • R-10 Illesheim, Germany 29 April 1945

The 48th Fighter Group moved to Laon Air Base, France on 5 July, returning to the US during August-September 1945, and was inactivated on 7 November at Seymour Johnson AAF, North Carolina.

With the departure of the 48th, about 20 Stinson L-5 Sentinels and two UC-Expediters of the 14th Liaison Squadron had arrived from Cheshire in a preparatory move before going on to France. Their stay was brief, most of the ground personnel left for Southampton with the rear party of the 45th Fighter Group, the L-5s being flown to Normandy on 11 July. This unit's duties would be general courier duty for the US Third Army.

367th Fighter Group

Lockheed P-38 Lightning of the 394th Fighter Squadron wearing D-Day invasion markings, June 1944.

Arriving on the heels of the departing 48th FG, the 367th Fighter Group arrived at Ibsley on 6 July 1944 from RAF Stoney Cross. The 367th flew Lockheed P-38 Lightnings. Tactical squadrons of the group and squadron fuselage codes were:

  • 392d Fighter Squadron (H5)
  • 393d Fighter Squadron (8L)
  • 394th Fighter Squadron (4N)

The 367th was a group of Ninth Air Force's 70th Fighter Wing, IX Tactical Air Command.

From Ibsly the 367th bombed and strafed convoys, troops, flak towers, power stations, and other objectives behind the French invasion beaches. The 367th began departing for their Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG) on the continent on 27 July, but the size of the unit meant that initially the whole group could not be based on one of the small strips available. The 392d and 393d and 394th Fighter Squadrons went to Carentan (ALG A-10), Cretteville (ALG A-14) and Reuxeville (ALG A-6) respectively.

The 367th lost six aircraft flying a total of 20 missions from Ibsley.

The P-47D of the Group commander, Col. Chickering, in 1945

On the continent, the 367th FG used the following ALGs providing tactical air support in support of U.S. First Army:

  • A-10 Carentan, France 27 July 1944
  • A-14 Cretteville, France 27 July 1944
  • A-6 Reuxeville, France 28 July 1944
  • A-71 Clastres, France 14 August 1944
  • A-44 Peray, France 4 September 1944
  • A-6B Juvirncourt, France 28 October 1944
  • A-64 St. Dizler, France 1 February 1945
  • A-94 Conflans, France 14 March 1945
  • Y-74 Frankfurt/Eschorn, Germany 10 April - July 1945

In early 1945 the 367th Fighter Group started transitioning from the P-38 to the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt. The 367th flew its last mission on V-E Day, 7 May 1945 The group returned to the US during July-August 1945, inactivating on 7 November at Seymour Johnson AAF, North Carolina.

RAF Training/Transport Command use

With the Americans moved onto the continent, the RAF again took control of Ibsley airfield. It was used by RAF Training Command with the No. 7 Flying Instructors School. In March 1945 the airfield came under RAF Transport Command control flying Douglas Dakotas and Waco Hadrian gliders. Other non non-flying units came and went during the spring and summer of 1945. In the late autumn, Ibsley was put on care and maintenance status, with the hangars being used for storage.

A small RAF stafff remained until late 1946, but by the spring of 1947 the airfield was returned to civilian hands.

Civil Use

With the end of military control, the land (complete with runways, perimeter track, etc.) was handed back to the land owner, Lord Normanton, and his tenant, Mr W. Samson. Like some other Air Ministry sites of the era, Ibsley was to become a motor racing circuit being managed by the Ringwood Motor Cycle and Light Car Club. After an extended period of construction (mostly done by volunteer labor), the first racing event at Ibsley was held on 17 May 1951.

The various types of motor racing continued until 1955 and the land was turned into agricultural use for several years. In the early 1960s, Ibsley was sold to Amey Roadstone, which removed the existing concrete and whatever was left of the airfield hardstands for hardcore aggregate. In addition, the entire site was turned into a quarry to exploit the rich aggregate found beneath the surface.

Today, the former RAF Ibsley is unrecognizable. The airfield consists mostly of a series of gravel pits and large landscaped lakes. One lake being overlooked by the derelict, windowless control tower. A very small section of the end of runway 01 still exists south of Ellingham Drive at the southern part of the airfield.

A small memorial is located near the control tower 50°52′45″N 001°46′34.00″W / 50.87917°N 1.77611°W / 50.87917; -1.77611.

Directions

Ibsley Airfield can be reached by driving north on the A338 from Ringwood, about 2 miles. The quarry lakes that was once the airfield will be on your left once you pass Ellingham Drive.

See also

References

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

External links


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