RAF Saltby: Wikis

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Royal Air Force Station Saltby
USAAF Station AAF-538

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch9thusaaf.png

Located Near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, United Kingdom
Saltby-18apr44.jpg
Saltby Airfield, photographed on 18 April 1944 oriented with west upwards, taken while hosting the 314th Troop Carrier Group about two months before D-Day. Note the technical site and station on the northwest side of the airfield, with two additional T-2 hangars on the southwest south of the 07 runway, and one on the northeast side, just south of the 25 runway end.
Type Military airfield
Coordinates 52°49′45″N 000°42′37″W / 52.82917°N 0.71028°W / 52.82917; -0.71028
Location code SY
Built 1942
In use 1942-1955
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
Garrison Ninth Air Force
RAF Bomber Command
Occupants 314th Troop Carrier Group
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Saltby is located in Leicestershire
Map showing the location of RAF Saltby within Leicestershire.
62d Troop Carrier Squadron C-47
62d Troop Carrier Squadron C-47 with Waco Gliders
62d Troop Carrier Squadron C-47

RAF Station Saltby is a former World War II airfield in Leicestershire, England. The airfield is located approximately 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Melton Mowbray; about 90 miles (140 km) north-northwestof 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 1945 and kept in reserve until 1955.

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

Contents

Overview

Built in 1942, Saltby airfield was built to the Class A airfield standard with 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 was built as a satellite for RAF Cottesmore and was first used by the Vickers Wellingtons of RAF No. 14 Operational Training Unit, initially as a sod airfield. As one of the northern airfields allocited for USAAF troop carrier use, the RAF OTU moved out in August 1943, following which the concrete runways were built by units of the RAF's No, 5352 Airfield Construction Wing.

The airfield had the standard runway lengths, a main of 6,000 ft and secondaries of 4,200 ft. aligned 07/25, 02/20 and 13/31. respectively. The 50 hardstands were 33 loops plus 17 pans connecting to an enclosing perimeter track, of a standard 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 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 originally consisted of a B-1 and two T-2 hangers were provided, however another two T-2s were added when the airfield was also used for the storage of 32 Horse gliders in 1943. In addition 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 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 2,414 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

Saltby was known as USAAF Station AAF-538 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 "SY".

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314th Troop Carrier Group

Although a US ground party arrived in December 1943, it was not until the following February that a C-47 group moved in. This was the 314th Troop Carrier Group with Douglas C-47 and C-53 Skytrain transports which flew in from Sicily. Having earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for its operations in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations since May 1943 with Twelfth Air Force. Operational squadrons and fuselage codes of the 314th were:

The 314th TCG was part of the IX Troop Carrier Command 52nd Troop Carrier Wing.

The group quickly set to work with the men of the 82nd Airborne Division who were deployed around the Leicester area engaging in practice drops and glider launches in preparation for the Battle of Normandy. This came on 6 June when 51 C-47 and nine C-53 aircraft of the 314th dropped paratroops in the dark hours, following up the next day with re-supply and reinforcement missions. One C-47 was shot down and many damaged in these operations for which the group later received a Distinguished Unit Citation.

Although tactical missions were the priority during the following months, much time was spent in hauling cargo into France.

The air operations over Holland in September was the next major combat involvement and, on the 17th, the 314th Troop Carrier Group despatched two serials to north of Renkum. The first, comprising 36 C-47s, dropped 595 paratroops and 120 parapacks (from under-wing racks). The second, of 33 C-47s and three C-53s, carried 520 paratroops and 128 parapacks. Two of the men refused to jump and 19 parapacks failed to release. Three C-47s suffered flak damage but none were lost.

The group was not so fortunate the next day when 69 C-47s and three C-53s set out from Saltby to drop more British paratroops. One C-47 was lost to small arms fire and three to flak. Unbowed, the group put up two serials on 21 September, one of 27 carrying 395 Polish parachutists, 112 parapacks, eight motor cycles, six bicycles and five mortar trolleys. The second serial of 33 planes carried 396 Polish paratroops and 116 parapacks (a total lift of 29,183lbs). The weather was bad and 14 aircraft had to turn hack and another 16 received battle damage from anti-aircraft fire encountered. The 314th was not called upon again until September 26, when 29 C-47s flew in troops and supplies to the airstrip at Kccnt.

Throughout the winter of 1944-45, the 314th spent much time flying supplies between continued training for delivery of paratroops for the next great enterprise. During the crisis caused by the Germans' Ardennes offensive, the group transported troop reinforcements from bases in southern England to France.

At the end of February 1945, a move was made to the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Poix, France (ALG B-44), the squadrons leaving Saltby in early March.

Legacy

From Poix, the 314th released gliders carrying troops and equipment to the Wesel area on 24 Mar 1945 when the Allies launched the airborne assault across the Rhine.

Continually transported freight in the Mediterranean (MTO) and European Theater of Operations (ETO), when neither training for, nor participating in airborne operations; hauled supplies such as food, clothing, gasoline, aircraft parts, and ammunition. Also carried wounded personnel to rear-zone hospitals.

After V-E Day, the group evacuated Allied prisoners from Germany, and later made scheduled flights to transport freight and personnel in Europe as part of the European Air Transport Service known as EATS.

The 314th Troop Carrier Group was transferred, without personnel and equipment, to the United States in February 1946 where it was deactivated.

349th Troop Carrier Group

The USAAF returned to Saltby in May 1945 when a detachment of 349th Troop Carrier Group from RAF Barkston Heath with Curtiss C-46 Commandoes to carry British paratroops to Norway. These aircraft remained until the end of the month.

RAF Bomber Command Use

Later in March. the RAF's No. 1665 Heavy Conversion Unit, mainly with Short Stirlings, moved in and remained until August that year. In the autumn of 1945, Saltby became a RAF Maintenance Command station holding surplus stores. Activities were gradually run down and the airfield was disposed of in 1955.

Civil Use

Upon its release from military use, the airfield was returned to agriculture, although today, a large amount of the airfield still exists. Almost the entire main runway remains, along with the southwest (20) half of the 02/20 secondary runway. Only a small section of the NW/SE 31/13 runway remains, although the runway is clearly visible as disturbed earth in aerial photography where it is being used for agriculture. The perimeter track and loop dispersal pads are all removed, with some of the track being used as single-lane agricultural road. The technical site and associated buildings has long since been dismantled, although evidence of its existence remains with some single lane roads

Flying continues today as Buckminster Gliding Club operates 7 days a week from Saltby airfield using about half of the main runway (07/25) The club specializes in gliding, motor gliding and glider aerobatics.

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. After the Battle ISBN 0900913800
  • 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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