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Royal Air Force Station Keevil
USAAF Station AAF-471

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

Located Near Trowbridge, Wiltshire, United Kingdom
Keevil-110456.png
Keevil airfield on 4 November 1956. Note the secondary runways are deteriorating 11 years after the end of World War II; the main runway still being maintained as an axillary runway for the USAF.
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 51°18′46″N 002°06′47″W / 51.31278°N 2.11306°W / 51.31278; -2.11306
Location code KV
Built 1941
In use 1942-1947
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
Garrison Eighth Air Force
Ninth Air Force
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Flying Training Command
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Keevil is located in Wiltshire
Map showing the location of RAF Keevil within Wiltshire.

RAF Keevil is a former World War II airfield in England. The field is located 4 miles E of Trowbridge in Wiltshire.

The airfield was built on a site previously ear-marked for the purpose in the mid 1930s. Consisting of 3 long concrete runways the airfield was used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force Eighth and Ninth Air Forces.

Contents

Origins

Land for Keevil airfield was requisitioned in 1941 under emergency powers with the intention of returning it to the owners when hostilities ceased. The principal contractor for the construction of the airfield was the Wates Group, but a large number of specialist subcontractors were used. Many workers were drafted into the area and found accommodation in the surrounding villages, particularly Steeple Ashton and Keevil.

The airfield and its associated buildings were of a standard wartime construction. Altogether around 400 buildings and constructions of all types were erected, and accommodation, catering, workstations and services provided for a permanent staffing of 165 officers, 523 senior NCO's and 1854 other ranks.

A highly important and unusual addition to the airfield was an aircraft final assembly hangar - still in situ - from where completed Spitfire fighter aircraft were taken to 'dispersal' for test flying and delivery to maintenance units, where ancillary equipment such as radio and armament would be fitted.

USAAF use

In 1942 Keevil airfield was provided to the USAAF and it was assigned USAAF designation 471 (KV).

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62nd Troop Carrier Group

The first American unit assigned to Keevil was the 62nd Troop Carrier Group, arriving at Keevil on 6 September 1942 from Florence AAF, South Carolina. The group consisted of the following operational squadrons:

The group transported military freight and supplies using C-47 and C-53 aircraft and the aircrews at Keevil carried out extensive practice with the paratroops they would carry to North Africa. The unit remained in England until 15 November until being transferred to Tafaraoui Airfield, Algeria as part of Twelfth Air Force.

153d Observation Squadron

After the departure of the transport group, Keevil saw the arrival of the 153rd Observation Squadron from the 67th Recon Group at RAF Membury in December 1942.

From Keevil the squadron flew a combination of Douglas Bostons, Douglas A-20 Havocs and Supermarine Spitfires and was chiefly a source of pilots and aircraft for target-towing and training duties.

In the spring of 1943, the squadron standardized on Havocs and Bostons, with a few A-20Bs These aircraft were converted to carry combat cameras and carry out various reconnaissance sorties over the French coast.

In March 1944 the 153d OS was disbanded, then re-formed for duties as the 2911th Bomb Squadron as a liaison and communications squadron, being equipped with Stinson L-5s at RAF Erlstoke.

363d Fighter Group

On 20 December 1943, the Ninth Air Force 363d Fighter Group moved to Keevil from Sacramento AAF California. The group consisted of the following operational squadrons:

At Keevil, the group assembled from its movement from the United States, however its Bell P-39 Airacobra aircraft were not deployed from their training base in California. The group awaited its operational aircraft until 22 January 1944 when the group moved to RAF Rivenhall in Essex, as Ninth Air Force's need for bases near the south coast of England for its fighter groups saw an exchange of Keevil for RAF Stoney Cross.

RAF Bomber Command use

With the departure of the Americans, the RAF used Keevil beginning in March 1944 for 196 and 299 Squadron Short Stirling glider tugs of 38 Group RAF arrived followed by a large number of Horsa gliders, crewed by Army pilots of the Glider Pilot Regiment.

The RAF Stirling aircraft were crewed by RAF, RCAF, RAAF, RNZAF and SAAF personnel and were engaged in SOE and SAS drops. largely in France, and in glider towing. Their involvement in the Normandy invasion of France and Operation Market-Garden is well remembered by Keevil and Steeple Ashton villagers. Casualties of army and air force personnel were heavy and a number of aircraft were lost.

RAF Flying Training Command use

The departure of these units to East Anglia brought Keevil to a training role when in October 1944 No.22 Heavy Glider Conversion Unit arrived with their twin-engined Albermarle aircraft and Waco Hadrian Gliders.

They, in turn were replaced in June 1945 by 61 Operation Training Unit converting newly qualified pilots on to Spitfires and, later, on to Mustangs. 61 OTU in due course became 203 Advanced Flying School and moved to Chivenor in Devon in July 1947 and this marked the end of RAF Keevil as a fully staffed and equipped operational airfield.

Postwar military use

Between 1955 and 1964 the United States Air Force used the base occasionally for training airborne forces and Keevil was listed as a reserve Third Air Force base.

Keevil was kept in reserve status until 1965 when it was closed.

Civil Use

With the end of military control, Keevil airfield is virtually complete with all of its runways, perimeter track and many of the hardstands still in place. It is used occasionally for British Army and RAF exercises.

Since 1992 it has also been home to the Bannerdown Gliding Club, an RAF Gliding and Soaring Association Club affiliated to the nearby RAF station at Lyneham. The airfield is also used as a motorsport circuit for various events.

In September 1994 the Keevil Society, organised by Paul Vingoe, held a Commemorative Day to mark the 50th anniversary of the D-Day and Arnhem operations and to dedicate a memorial to all who served at Keevil, especially those who flew from there and lost their lives.

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.
  • www.controltowers.co.uk Keevil

External links


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