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Royal Air Force Station Spanhoe
Royal Air Force Station Wakerley
USAAF Station AAF-493

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch9thusaaf.png

Located Near Uppingham, Northamptonshire, United Kingdom
Spanhoe-2mar44.jpg
A virtually empty Spanhoe Airfield - 2 March 1944, taken while most of the 315th Troop Carrier Group's C-47s were on operational missions. The runway pattern of the airfield was unusual for a Class-A airfield, with the end of the 26 runway being distant from the secondary runways.
Type Military airfield
Coordinates 52°33′46″N 000°37′20″W / 52.56278°N 0.62222°W / 52.56278; -0.62222
Location code UY
Built 1943
In use 1944-1945
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
Garrison Ninth Air Force
RAF Maintenance Command
Occupants 315th Troop Carrier Group
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Spanhoe is located in Northamptonshire
RAF Spanhoe, shown within Northamptonshire
C-47s of the 310th TCS on a mission.
82d Airborne parachutists loading onto 43d and 309th TCS aircraft, 1944.

RAF Station Spanhoe (also known as Harringworth or Wakerley) is a former World War II airfield in Northamptonshire, England. The airfield is located approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Uppingham; about 80 miles (130 km) north-northwest of London

Opened in 1943, 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 late 1945.

Today, much of the airfield has been returned to agriculture, however one runway remains and the airfield is currently active and houses various privately owned light aircraft.

Contents

Overview

Built in 1943, the airfield was also known as Harringworth to local people as much of the site lay within that parish.

The airfield was built to the late 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 Runway lengths were a 6,000 ft. main aligned O8/26 and two 4,200 ft secondaries aligned 02/20 and 14/32 connecting to an enclosing perimeter track, of a standard width of 50 feet. All 51 hardstands were loops and would come to support two C-47s each by the late summer of 1944.

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 about a quarter of a mile apart 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 southeast side of the airfield, 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 2,400 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

Stoney Cross as known as USAAF Station AAF-493 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 "UV".

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315th Troop Carrier Group

Basically complete late in 1943 and opened on New Year's Day 1944, the station had already been earmarked for US troop carrier use and a station complement squadron moved in to ready the base between January 4 and 7.

On 7 February 1944, the headquarters of the 315th Troop Carrier Group took up residence, a somewhat reduced organization as most of the air echelon had been sent on detachment to Twelfth Air Force in North Africa during May 1943. For a month only some 65 (1 men and eight aircraft were to be found at Spanhoe. but on 11 March the North African detachment returned with 21 C-47 Skytrains. The operational squadrons and fuselage codes of the group at Spanhoe were:

The 315th TCG was part of the IX Troop Carrier Command 52nd Troop Carrier Wing.

In order to build the group up to full strength, the 309th and 310th Troop Carrier Squadrons were transferred from the 10th TCG training at Grenada AAF, Mississippi, although all that arrived was their titles. The cadre of personnel and aircraft for these units were crews and 26 C-47s came from the 61st and 62nd TCGs based in Sicily, some of the men having been with these groups in England in 1942. By April there were 60 C-47s on hand and numbers would rise to 90 by August.

Training exercises with paratroops kept the group occupied during April and May, and on 3 June men of the 82nd Airborne Division, which was located around Leicester, started to arrive at Spanhoe to be accommodated in hangars where camp beds had already been set up. On the same day. ground personnel were employed painting black and white stripes on all aircraft. At 23:16 hours on D minus 1 the first of 48 C-47s operating took off, each aircraft carrying 19 or 21 paratroops and five or six parapacks on underwing racks. The drop was carried out successfully north-west of Sainte-Mère-Église at 02:03 hours and all aircraft returned to England safely, although some had battle damage and wounded aboard.

Following the initial assault, the group hauled ammunition and supplies to France and continued training. On 8 July two C47s of the 315th collided shortly after take-off for an exercise. One crew member managed to parachute safely but eight others and 26 Polish paratroops perished in the crash at Tinwell, near Stamford.

For Operation "Market Garden", the 315th again carried 82nd Airborne paratroops. Two serials of 45 C-47s each delivered 664 and 690 paratroops, plus parapacks north and just south of the River Maas, one aircraft being shot down by flak. On D plus 2, two serials of 27 aircraft each met very strong fire when taking British paratroops and equipment to Ginkel Heath and two C-47s were shot down before the dropping point.

An attempt to drop Polish paratroops at Oriel on 21 September turned into a disaster, the first serial being defeated by weather and the second, reaching the dropping zone, flying headlong into a vicious flak barrage that brought down five and damaged many other C-47s. On 22 September 41 aircraft delivered some 565 Polish airborne troops to the Overasselt DZ. The last mission for 'Market Garden' was the transportation of British troops and equipment to a landing strip at Keent on 26 September in which 72 of the 315t's aircraft took part without loss.

Early in 1945. the 315th received a few Curtiss C-46 "Commando" transports and it also had two fuel tanker converted B-24 Liberators. In March, the group was alerted for another combat operation and on the 14th a ground party moved to RAF Boreham with aircraft and crews following on the 22nd.

For Operation Varsity, the group carried men of the British 6th Airborne Division. It proved the most costly operation in the group's history, with 19 C-47s shot down or written off as beyond repair.

Between 6/11 April 6 1945, the 315th TCG moved from Spanhoe to their Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Amiens/Glisy airfield, France (ALG B-48), the last of the 52nd TCW groups to move to the Continent. However, IX TCC maintained Spanhoe and on 30 April a detachment of 315th TCG C-47s returned for a training exercise but by June the IX TCC had departed.

RAF Maintenance Command use

On 9 July, No. 253 Unit RAF Maintenance Command took over the station and began its task of dis-assembling RAF transport ready for disposal, and vehicles of various types parked along the runways and around the perimeter track. Auction sales followed and the site was cleared the following year. Spanhoe was then closed and returned to the farmers from whom it had been requisitioned.

Civil Use

On August 12, 1960, Vickers Valiant XD864 of No. 7 Squadron crashed on the airfield and was completely destroyed. It had just taken off from RAF Wittering and during the climb the nose wheel failed to retract. The pilot chose to stay in the local area Though the Board of Inquiry found the Captain guilty of "blameworthy negligence" - a fractured center line main spar was found at the scene, and was not properly investigated by the BoI. the aircraft may have been attempting an emergency landing on the disused NW/SE runway 14 at Spanhoe. All five crew were killed.

In the 1970s, the north and west areas were excavated for iron ore and today little of the airfield remains. The majority of the main runway was removed along with the perimeter track and dispersal hardstands, although a small portion of the northeast (08) end of the main runway remains along with part of the perimeter road and a few loop hardstands. The 02/20 secondary runway is faintly visible in aerial photography

As of 2007, the airfield is currently active and houses various privately owned light aircraft. It is also the home of Windmill Aviation. The south-western taxiway is now runway 27, and the southeast section of the wartime 14/32 runway was re-opened in 2004. Some of the wartime Nissen Huts are in use and a new hangar and maintenance building was erected on the site of what was a large wartime J-hangar.

A memorial obelisk on the approach road to the airfield commemorates the 315th Troop Carrier Group and a memorial in Tinwell Church commemorates US and Polish victims of the C-47 collision.

See also

References

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

External links


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