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Royal Air Force Station Little Walden
USAAF Station AAF-165

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

Located Near Saffron Walden, Essex, England
Littlewalden-9jul46.png
Little Walden Airfield - 9 July 1946. The administrative and dispersed domestic accommodation sites are located on the southeast side of the airfield
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 52°04′06″N 000°16′05″E / 52.06833°N 0.26806°E / 52.06833; 0.26806
Location code LL
Built 1943
In use 1944-1958
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Garrison Ninth Air Force
Eighth Air Force
Occupants 409th Bombardment Group
361st Fighter Group
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Little Walden is located in Essex
Map showing the location of RAF Little Walden within Essex.
Douglas A/B-26 Invader of the 640th Bomb Squadron.
North American P-51D-5-NA Mustang Serial 44-13763 of the 376th Fighter Squadron.

RAF Station Little Walden (also known as Hadstock) is a former World War II airfield in Essex, England. The airfield is located approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) north-northeast of Saffron Walden; about 38 miles (61 km) north-northeast of London

Opened in 1944, 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 fighter combat airfield. After the war it was used for surplus military storage before being closed in 1958.

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

Contents

Overview

Little Walden Park and the adjoining farms was selected for a RAF Bomber Command airfield in the summer of 1942 and was originally called Hadstock. However, construction did not begin until 1943 and the official name was changed to Little Walden.

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 one main and two secondary concrete runways, aligned 32/14 (main), 04/22 and 09/27; over 75 loop dispersal hardstands connecting to an enclosing perimeter track, of a standard width of 50 feet.

A very large 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 west 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 to the southeast, 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 personnel, including communal and a sick quarters.

USAAF use

Little Walden airfield was assigned to the USAAF in August 1942 and was assigned to the Eighth Air Force. It was known as USAAF Station AAF-165 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 "LL".

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409th Bombardment Group (Light)

The airfield was opened on 9 March 1944 and was first used by the United States Army Air Force Ninth Air Force 409th Bombardment Group (Light), which arrived from DeRidder Army Airbase, Louisiana. The group consisted of the following squadrons and had the following fuselage codes:

  • 640th Bomb Squadron (W5)
  • 641st Bomb Squadron (7G)
  • 642d Bomb Squadron (D6)
  • 643d Bomb Squadron (5I)

The 409th flew the A-20 "Havoc" and A-26 "Invader" light bomber and was originally trained in low-level attack missions. However, the group was busy flying medium-altitude bombing runs from 10,000 ft. Over 100 missions were flown by the group, attacking coastal defences, V-weapon sites, aerodromes, and other targets in France in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. The group supported ground forces during the Battle of Normandy by hitting gun batteries, rail lines, bridges, communications, and other objectives. During July 1944, aided the Allied offensive at Caen and the breakthrough at Saint-Lô with attacks on enemy troops, flak positions, fortified villages, and supply dumps.

The group moved to their Advanced Landing Ground in at Bretigny, France (A-48) to support Third Army's advance toward Germany on 10 September. A total of ten aircraft were lost by the group flying from Little Walden.

In February 1945 the 409th moved to Laon-Couvron Air Base (A-70) France, remaining until June. The group returned to the United States and was deactivated at Seymour Johnson AAF North Carolina on 6 October 1945.

361st Fighter Group

With the departure of the 409th, Little Walden was transferred to the Eighth Air Force which transferred the 361st Fighter Group from RAF Bottisham to the airfield on 26 September 1944. The group was under the command of the 65th Fighter Wing of the VIII Fighter Command. Aircraft of the group were identified by yellow around their cowling.

The group consisted of the following squadrons:

  • 374th Fighter Squadron (B7)
  • 375th Fighter Squadron (E2)
  • 376th Fighter Squadron (E9)

At Little Walden, the 361st served primarily as a B-17/B-24 escort organization, covering the penetration, attack, and withdrawal of bomber formations that the USAAF sent against targets on the Continent. The group also engaged in counter-air patrols, fighter sweeps, and strafing and dive-bombing missions. Attacked such targets as airfields, marshalling yards, missile sites, industrial areas, ordnance depots, oil refineries, trains, and highways.

The group supported the airborne attack on Holland in September 1944 and deployed to Chievres, Belgium between February and April 1945 flying tactical ground support missions during the airborne assault across the Rhine.

The unit returned to Little Walden and flew its last combat mission on 20 April 1945.

On 10 November the 361st Fighter Group returned to Camp Kilmer New Jersey and was deactivated.

493rd Bombardment Group (Heavy)

The 493d Bombardment Group (Heavy) transferred from RAF Debach in March 1945 while repairs were carried out on their home runways. The group flew a few combat missions at the very end of the war, the last being an attack on marshalling yards at Nauen, on 20 April 1945.

The 493d returned its aircraft to Debach after V-E day, and was deactivated in August at Sioux Falls AAF, South Dakota.

56th Fighter Group

The 56th Fighter Group transferred from RAF Boxted in September 1945 after Boxted was turned over to the RAF. The group used Little Walden as a staging area on its way to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey where it was inactivated on 16 October.

Postwar RAF use

After the war, the field was used by the RAF as a storage facility for surplus United States Army/Army Air Force military vehicles. Over the next several years, they were auctioned off to the civilian marketplace. Little Walden airfield was finally declared surplus and was sold, returning to agricultural use in May 1958.

Civil Use

With the end of military control, the airfield hangars found uses as a grain store and for warehouse space. The technical site was eventually developed for a variety of light industries. Most of the concrete areas were removed for hardcore, but the B1052 Saffron Walden to Linton road was routed along part of the southwest/northeast runway.

Today very little remains of the former wartime airfield. Only a few small concreted areas used by agricultural buildings remain. None of the runways, or hardstands or perimeter track remain at full with, being converted to single lane agricultural roads. The ghostly remains of some loop hardstands and the ends of the main runways are visible as disturbed earth in aerial photogarphy.

After remaining derelict for many years, the control tower 52°04′00″N 000°16′19″E / 52.0666667°N 0.27194°E / 52.0666667; 0.27194 was restored and contains a memorial to the USAAF groups that used Little Walden airfield.

See also

References

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

  • Freeman, Roger A. (1978) Airfields of the Eighth: Then and Now. After the Battle ISBN 0900913096
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1991) The Mighty Eighth: The Colour Record. Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-35708-1
  • 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.

External links


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