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Royal Air Force Station Ramsbury
USAAF Station AAF-469

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

Located Near Marlborough, Wiltshire, United Kingdom
Ramsbury-may1944.jpg
Ramsbury airfield photographed in May 1944 with west oriented upwards. Taken about a month before D-Day with the airfield full of C-47s and Horsa gliders of the 437th Troop Carrier Group.
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 51°25′53.58″N 001°36′51.41″W / 51.43155°N 1.6142806°W / 51.43155; -1.6142806
Location code RY
Built 1941
In use 1942-1945
Controlled by Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Garrison Royal Air Force
Eighth Air Force
Ninth Air Force
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Ramsbury is located in Wiltshire
RAF Ramsbury, shown within Wiltshire

RAF Station Ramsbury is a former World War II airfield in Wiltshire, England. The airfield is located approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) east-northeast of Marlborough; about 70 miles (110 km) west 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 transport 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

Construction of Ramsbury airfield began in mid-1941 and the majority of the work was completed by August 1942. When originally built Ramsbury airfield was intended for use by RAF operational training units, but on 11 June 1942 it was one of the 13 bases allocated to the USAAF for use by transport and observation squadrons.

However before the arrival of the USAAF, the airfield was occupied by an RAF training unit, equipped with Airspeed Oxfords, who taught the pilots the rudimentary skills needed to control multi-engined aircraft. The unit was Number 15 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit (15 [P] AFU) and while at Ramsbury large numbers of British, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and South African pilots passed through the school.

Ramsbury also had its own Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) contingent, who were employed as parachute packers, cooks, drivers, storekeepers and administrators.

The airfield was built to the Class A airfield standard set by the Air Ministry, 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. Three concrete runways were laid, the main of 6,000ft being aligned 08/26, with the auxiliaries 3.300ft aligned 02/20 and 3,170ft at 14/32. The hardstands were 33 pan type of which five were eliminated when 20 loops and perimeter track extensions were added late in the construction program.

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 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.

Various domestic accommodation sites were constructed dispersed away east of 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 2,365 personnel, including communal and a sick quarters.

During airborne operations, when large numbers of airborne parachutists were moved to the airfield, tents would be pitched on the interior grass regions of the airfield, or wherever space could be found to accommodate the airborne forces for the short time they would be bivouacked at the station prior to the operation.

USAAF use

Ramsbury was known as USAAF Station AAF-469 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 "RY".

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64th Troop Carrier Group

The airfield itself was fairly complete when the first operational users of Ramsbury arrived. The USAAF Twelfth Air Force 64th Troop Carrier Group, equipped with Douglas C-47s and C-53s arrived from Westover Army Airfield, Massachusetts on 18 August 1942. Operational squadrons of the group were:

The unit was temporarily assigned to the VIII Air Support Command for training at Ramsbury, and the group conducted an extensive training program while flying cargo, passengers, and courier missions for several months, before leaving with paratroopers for Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa on 9 November 1942, being deployed to Blida Airfield, Algeria.

With the departure of the 64th TCG, the RAF used the airfield from November 1942 to October 1943 being used by No.15 (Pilot) Advanced Training Flying Unit, equipped with Airspeed Oxford trainers.

434th/435th Troop Carrier Groups

Through the winter of 1942-43, Oxfords came and went, an activity that continued until the following October when the airfield, which was assigned to the Eighth Air Force provisional Troop Carrier Command. It was subsequently transferred to the Ninth Air Force in November 1943 when a USAAF Station Complement Squadron appeared.

From November 1943 to January 1944, the airfield was used by the air echelons of the 434th and 435th Troop Carrier Groups from RAF Fulbeck and RAF Langar with C-47s and C-53s. The groups conducted exercises with the 101st Airborne Division.

437th Troop Carrier Group

Douglas C-47A of the 84th Troop Carrier Squadron.

On 5 February 1944 the 437th Troop Carrier Group moved to Ramsbury from RAF Balderton. Operational squadrons of the group were:

  • 83d Troop Carrier Squadron (T2)
  • 84th Troop Carrier Squadron (Z8)
  • 85th Troop Carrier Squadron (90)
  • 86th Troop Carrier Squadron (5K)

The 437th was a group of Ninth Air Force's 53d Troop Carrier Wing, IX Troop Carrier Command.

The 437th TCS flew a combination of Douglas C-47s and C-53 Skytrains. From Ramsbury the group began preparing for the Normandy invasion with a mission to train with an element of the 82nd Airborne Division. For the Airspeed Horsa and Waco CG-4A gliders that were delivered to Ramsbury, areas of Pierced Steel Planking were put down for marshalling purposes at the end of the main runway.

On the 437th's first operation, in support of the Normandy landings, 52 C-47s were despatched in moonlight with troop carrying Waco gliders. The gliders were released south of Cherbourg with the object of isolating the western end of the invasion bridgehead, but poor weather and anti-aircraft fire disrupted the formations causing the glider landings to be somewhat scattered.

A follow-up mission with 26 C-47s towing 18 Horsas and eight Wacos was run from Ramsbury later on the 6th and another on the 7th with 50 tugs and 50 gliders carrying reinforcements of troops, antiaircraft pieces, ammunition, rations, and other supplies for 82nd Airborne Division. For its work during this period the 437th was later awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation.

A detachment was sent to Montala airfield in Italy on 19 July 1944 for the Invasion of Southern France in August. It dropped paratroops over the assault area on 15 Augugt, flew a resupply mission on the following day, and in the weeks prior to the airborne forces' operation on August, supplies were hauled to Rome but the C-47s of the 437th returned to Ramsbury on August 23d.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the 437th had been busy supporting the advancing ground forces in France, in desperate need of ammunition, and had been joined by the 93rd and 306th TCSs on August 7. these units staying until the 16th and 24th respectively. Ramsbury was frequently used by C-47s of other Troop Carrier Groups to collect supplies of ammunition for the US Army for delivery to France.

During the airborne attack on Holland, 17-25 September 1944, two 437th flights, both comprising 35 C-47s towing a CG-4A each, brought up the rear of the IX Troop Carrier task force for the 101st Airborne Division.

The enemy anti-aircraft defences, fully alerted. shot down five C-47s and ten gliders were also lost. A total of 24 C-47s in the first flight suffered flak damage and 22 in the second. Despite these losses and damage, the group was able to despatch a follow-up mission to Son next day with one flight of 40 and another of 30 aircraft, each towing a glider. This time fate was kinder as only one C-47 in each formation received flak damage and none were lost, although four gliders aborted and another ditched in the sea.

The 437th was stood down on the 19th but on the 20th it new 82 aircraft in a re-supply mission to Overassclt. A further re-supply mission was attempted on the 21st but only 12 of the 15 aircraft despatched were able to drop their parapacks to the 101st Airborne at Son.

t was then hack to hauling supplies to France and Belgium and evacuating wounded to England with a particularly hectic period during the Battle of the Bulge.

In February 1945 the group moved to its Advanced Landing Ground at Coulommiers/Voisins, France (ALG A-58) when several former Luftwaffe airfields were restored to operational use for action during the air assault across the Rhine.

Legacy

From its ALG at Coulommiers/Voisins, France 437th TCG aircraft towed two gliders over the east bank and released them near Wesel on 24 March 1945.

The group flew numerous missions in March and April to carry gasoline, food, medicine, and other supplies to ground forces pushing across Germany. When not participating in one of the major airborne operations, the organization continually transported ammunition, rations, clothing, and other supplies, and evacuated wounded personnel to rear-zone hospitals.

Evacuated prisoners of war and displaced persons to relocation centers after V-E Day.

The group returned to Baer Field, Indiana in August 1945, and was inactivated at Marfa AAFld, Texas on 15 November.

Ramsbury was retained by IX TCC as a reserve base until the end of hostilities, finally relinquishing it to the RAF in June 1945.

RAF Transport/Flying Training Command use

RAF Transport Command moved in the glider pick-up unit in August to carry out training along the lines pioneered by IX TCC using Dakotas and Hadrians (C-47s and CG-4As). Interest was short-lived and the unit was disbanded at Ramsbury in November.

In 1946, Ramsbury was briefly used by RAF Flying Training Command 23 Group flying Oxfards from January to March. However, the airfield was closed and a care and maintenance party and no further military units took up station.

With more airfields on its books than it knew what to do with, the Air Ministry was not long in disposing of the facility.

Civil Use

With the end of military control Ramsbury was returned agricultural use. By the mid-1960s, much of the concrete had been removed.

Today outlines of the main runways can be discerned on aerial photography, with the perimeter track being reduced largely to a single lane agricultural road. None of the extensive amount of dispersal pads to the southwest of the airfield remain, and there is no evidence of any of the hangars or the technical site. A VERY short piece of the end of 32 runway can be seen where the concrete is still at full width, just at the intersection of what once was the perimter track.

A rather large poultry farm has been erected at the intersection of the 32 end of the NW/SE and 02 end of the NE/SW runways. Several runoff retention ponds are visible with many metal storage silos.

See also

References

PD-icon.svg 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.
  • [1] Ramsbury Airfield at www.controltowers.co.uk

External links


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