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Royal Air Force Station Stansted Mountfitchet

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg

Near Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex, England
RAF Stansted Mountfitchet is located in Essex
Shown within Essex
Type Airfield
Coordinates 51° 53′ 6″ N, 0° 14′ 6″ E Coordinates: 51°53′06″N 000°14′06″E / 51.885°N 0.235°E / 51.885; 0.235
Location code KT
Built 1943
In use 1943–1958
Occupants United States Army Air Force
Royal Air Force
Battles/wars Second World War

RAF Stansted Mountfitchet was a Royal Air Force station during the Second World War. Located near the village of Stansted Mountfitchet in the District of Uttlesford in Essex, 48 km (30 mi) north-east of central London. The airfield is now London Stansted Airport.

Contents

History

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Second World War

Unidentified B-26 of the 344th Bomb Group at Stansted, 1944.
Martin B-26G-1-MA Marauder serial 43-34181 of the 495th Bomb Squadron preparing to take off at Stansted Airfield, 1944.

During Second World War Stansted Mountfitchet was used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force as a bomber airfield and as a major maintenance depot. Although the official name was Stansted Mountfitchet, the base was known as simply Stansted in both written and spoken form.

The station was first allocated to the USAAF Eighth Air Force in August 1942 as a bomber airfield. Its USAAF Station Code was 169. Later, in October, Stansted was selected to be an advanced air depot for the 9th Air Force Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers. Construction was carried out by the United States Army 817th, 825th and 850th Engineering Battalions, which completed the airfield by mid-1943.

344th Bombardment Group

Stansted was officially opened on 7 August 1943 when the 30th Air Depot Group took up residence. The airfield was officially transferred to the Ninth Air Force on 16 October. The 344th Bombardment Group arrived at Stansted on 8 February 1944, from Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia, US, flying the twin-engine B-26 Marauder. Its operational squadrons and fuselage codes were 494th (K9), 495th (Y5), 496th (N3), and 497th (7I). The 344th BG began operations in March 1944, attacking airfields, missile sites, marshaling yards, submarine shelters, coastal defenses and other targets in German-occupied France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Beginning in May, the 344th helped prepare for the Normandy invasion by striking vital bridges in France.

The 344th Bombardment Group was selected to lead the IX Bomber Command formations on D-Day, with the first aircraft taking off at 04:12 hours to attack coastal batteries in Cherbourg. During the remainder of June it supported the drive that resulted in the seizure of the Cotentin Peninsula. The unit also defended positions to assist British forces in the area of Caen and received a Distinguished Unit Citation for a three-day action against the enemy in late July when the group struck troop concentrations, supply dumps, a bridge and a railroad viaduct to assist advancing ground forces at Saint-Lô. On 30 September the 344th moved to their Advanced Landing Ground at Cormeilles-en-Vexin, France. While at Stansted the group flew over 100 missions and lost 26 aircraft in combat.

2nd Tactical Air Depot

As well as an operational bomber base, Stansted airfield was a maintenance and supply depot concerned with major overhauls and modification of B-26s. After D-Day these activities were transferred to France, but the base was still used as a supply storage area for the support of aircraft on the continent.

Postwar use

After the withdrawal of the Americans on 12 August 1945, Stansted was taken over by the Air Ministry and used by No. 263 Maintenance Unit, RAF for storage purposes.[1] In addition, between March 1946 and August 1947, Stansted was used for housing German prisoners of war. The Ministry of Civil Aviation finally took control of Stansted in 1949, but the US military returned in 1954 to extend the runway for a possible transfer to NATO. The transfer to NATO was never realised, however, and the airport returned to civil use in 1957, ending up under BAA control in 1966.

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b Sturtivant 2007, page 183

Bibliography

  • Sturivant, Ray (2007). RAF Flying Training and Support Units since 1912. Air-Britain. ISBN 0-85130 365 X. 

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