RAF Raydon: Wikis

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Royal Air Force Station Raydon
USAAF Station 157

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

Located Near Raydon, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Raydon-7Sep1946.png
RAF Raydon - September 1946
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 52°00′54.85″N 000°59′55.46″E / 52.0152361°N 0.9987389°E / 52.0152361; 0.9987389
Location code RA
Built 1942
In use 1942-1958
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Garrison Eighth Air Force
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Raydon is located in Suffolk
RAF Raydon, shown within Suffolk

RAF Raydon is a former United States Army Air Force station in England. It is located just to the northeast of the village of Raydon, about 6 miles from Ipswich on the B1070 in Suffolk.

Contents

Origins

RAF Raydon was built by the 833rd and 867th Engineer (Av.) Battalions of the United States Army Corps of Engineers during 1942/43. The base was built to the standard, Class-A bomber design airfield, consisting of three intersecting concrete runways, numerous dispersal points and two T-2 type hangars. Accommodations were built to the southeast of the airfield to house about 3,000 men. Locals remember the village street being constantly full of trucks on the move. The road was not hard surfaced and quickly became a sea of mud so deep that the house fronts were completely covered in it.

Farms and houses were requisitioned and dynamited, changing the look of the village forever. Raydon was one of the last airfields of its type to be constructed in the war.

While under construction, a battle-damaged B-17 Flying Fortress crash-landed into the unfinished main runway.

USAAF use

Raydon was primarily a fighter base for the Eighth and Ninth USAAF. During World War II it was known as USAAF Station 157.

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357th Fighter Group

The first American occupants of Raydon was the 357th Fighter Group, moving in from Casper AAF, Wyoming on 30 November 1943.

Operational squadrons of the 353d were:

  • 362d Fighter (G4)
  • 363d Fighter (B6)
  • 364th Fighter (C5)
North American P-51B-1-NA Mustang Serial 43-12123 of the 364th Fighter Squadron.

One pilot with the 357th was a Lt. Charles ‘Chuck’ Yeager.

When the group arrived at Raydon, it was assigned as part of the Ninth Air Force. On 19 December the group received their first fighter, a single North American P-51B. It arrived in an olive drab and grey paint scheme, and was not even new. It had been very well used by the RAF, and the roundels were still visible under the new paintwork. Fifteen of these aircraft had arrived by the end of 1943.

The small number of P-51s that were available during the two months at Raydon restricted the training they could perform. The three squadrons of the group had only a maximum 17 aircraft between them and the bulk of their operational aircraft only arrived shortly before the first operational combat missions, by which time they had moved to RAF Leiston on 31 January 1944.

Its first missions were not flown by the group, but by individual pilots a few at a time. Commanders and Flight leaders flew their first sorties with the 354th Fighter Group out of nearby RAF Boxted. The 354th was the first Mustang fighter group deployed to the ETO, and had also been allocated to the Ninth Air Force at a time when the Eighth Air Force needed a long-range fighter. The Ninth Air Force refused to part with its Mustang group, but a compromise between the commands was reached in which the 354th would fly escort missions on temporary duty with VIII Fighter Command. The remaining P-51 units allocated to the Ninth, however, were diverted to the Eighth Air Force, including the 357th, which was exchanged with the P-47 Thunderbolt 358th Fighter Group.

358th Fighter Group

Republic P-47D-30-RA Thunderbolt Serial No. 44-33240 of the 356th Fighter Squadron

The 358th Fighter Group moved to Raydon from RAF Leiston on 31 January 1944. The 358th was initially assigned to the 66th Fighter Wing, at Sawston Hall, Cambridge, then transferred to the Ninth Air Force on 1 February 1944, in exchange for the 357th FG

Operational squadrons of the 358th were:

  • 365th Fighter (CH)
  • 366th Fighter (IA)
  • 367th Fighter (CP)

Group markings were red, yellow and red spinners, with a 12-inch red and yellow check band around the cowling behind the spinner. Aircraft of the 357th were P-47D "Thunderbolts".

At Raydon the group's mission was to attack enemy communications and fly escort missions with the light bomb groups of the 9th.

On 13 April 1944, the 358th was transferred to RAF High Halden.

353d Fighter Group

North American P-51D-10-NA MustangSerial 44-14593 of the 351st Fighter Squadron.

Replacing the 9th AF 358th FG was the 353rd Fighter Group, moving in from RAF Metfeld in April 1944. The 353d was assigned to the 66th Fighter Wing, at Sawston Hall, Cambridge.

Operational squadrons of the 353d were:

  • 350th Fighter (LH)
  • 351st Fighter (YJ)
  • 352d Fighter (SX)

Group markings were black, yellow, black, yellow spinners, with a 48-inch black and yellow check band around the cowling to the end of the exhaust stubs.

During the Battle of Normandy, the 353rd supported the breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July and received the Distinguished Unit Citation for supporting the airborne attack on Holland when the group contributed to the operation by protecting bombers and troop carriers and by strafing and dive-bombing ground targets during the period 17–23 September 1944.

In October 1944, the group converted to the P-51 "Mustang". About this time Raydon was known colloquially as "Bomb Alley" due to the number of German V-1 "Doodlebug" flying bombs which flew directly overhead on their way to London. One V-1 blew up as it went over and the engine narrowly missed the bomb dump in Raydon Great Wood.

The group continued its fighter-bomber, escort, and counter-air activities, participating in the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944-January 1945) and the airborne attack across the Rhine (March 1945).

The 353d flew combat missions until the end of April 1945. After the end of hostilities, the group trained and prepared for transfer to the Pacific Theater. With the end of World War II in September, the group left Raydon and transferred back to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey where it was deactivated on 18 October 1945.

Emblems of units assigned to Raydon

357 FG Emblem
353 FG Emblem

RAF Fighter Command use

After the Americans left, Raydon was transferred to RAF Fighter Command on 20 December 1945. The base remained under RAF control but was not used for any flying units. In 1952, a small part of the airfield was sold for agricultural use, and the facility was closed on 8 August 1958.

During 1960/62 the Ministry of Defence sold the remaining airfield parts of RAF Raydon to agricultural interests, retaining most of the technical site for storage of emergency vehicles by the Home Office. They were given up and sold in the 1980s.

Civil Use

With the end of military control Raydon was converted into Notley Industrial Park. The buildings that remain are largely unaltered in appearance.

Raydon has also been the scene of some paranormal incidents, one being the sighting of an American M.P. with his dog, still patrolling the base.

The control tower and much of the concrete parts of the airfield was removed in the 1960s, being used to construct the A12 highway. Today RAF Raydon retains many of the buildings of the old technical site, including a T-2 hangar in very good condition. Also, some of the taxiways and part of the main runway is still intact.

Raydon is one of the more complete World War II USAAF bases in East Anglia that was not used by the USAF during the Cold War.

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
  • 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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