RAF Stoney Cross: Wikis

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Royal Air Force Station Stoney Cross
USAAF Station AAF-452

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch9thusaaf.png

Located Near Southampton, Hampshire, England
Stoneycross-5sep43.jpg-2.jpg
Aerial Photo Mosaic of Stoney Cross Airfield - 5 September 1943 while additional construction of dispersal hardstands and taxiways on the southwest side of the 07/25 runway. From the air, Stoney Cross was very distinctive, the spur shape being dictated by the terrain on which it was built. The airfield was first planned as an emergency landing ground equipped with facilities. While under construction, the design was changed several times and eventually became a fullly equipped airfield and station.
Type Military airfield
Coordinates 50°55′08″N 001°39′36″W / 50.91889°N 1.66°W / 50.91889; -1.66
Location code SS
Built 1942
In use 1942-1946
Controlled by Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Garrison RAF Fighter Command
RAF Bomber Command
Ninth Air Force
RAF Transport Command
Occupants 239 Squadron FC
Nos. 297, 299 Squadron BC
367th Fighter Group
387th Bombardment Group
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Stoney Cross is located in Hampshire
RAF Stoney Cross, shown within Hampshire
Lockheed P-38 Lightning of the 394th Fighter Squadron wearing D-Day invasion markings, June 1944.
Martin B-26B-15-MA Marauder Serial 41-31665 of the 558th Bomb Squadron
Martin B-26B-50-MA Marauder Serial 42-95857 of the 556th Bomb Squadron

RAF Station Stoney Cross is a former World War II airfield in the New Forest, Hampshire, England. The airfield is located approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) northwest of Lyndhurst and 12 miles (19 km) west of Southampton.

Opened in 1942, it served both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Force. During the war it functioned primarily as a combat bomber and fighter airfield. It closed in January 1948.

Today the remains of the airfield sit on New Forest Crown land managed by the Forestry Commission.

Contents

Overview

Stoney Cross opened in November 1942 and served the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Force Ninth Air Force.

Due to its location and the topography of the land, the airfield had an unusual runway layout which nonetheless conformed to the Class A airfield standard set by the Air Ministry. It had one main runway, aligned 07/25, with two secondary runways, aligned 01/19 and 15/33; a large number of frying-pan type dispersal pads with a few loops connecting to an enclosing perimeter track, of a standard width of 50 feet.

The ground support station had mainly 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 on the north side of the airfield, outside of the perimeter track surrounded by large dirt mounds and concrete storage pens for storing the aerial bombs and the other munitions required by the combat aircraft.

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 personnel, including communal and a sick quarters.

RAF Fighter/Bomber Command use

Although officially opened in November 1942, RAF Fighter Command No. 239 Squadron's P-51B Mustangs that arrived in January followed by those of No. 26 Squadron had to operate amid on-going construction work. After the Mustang squadrons moved out in April 1943 there was additional construction at the airfield until August 1943.

In August, RAF Bomber Command No. 297 Squadron took up residence with Albermarles to which it was converting from Whitleys. In November, 297 Squadron had one unit transferred to provide the nucleus of No. 299 Squadron, which was initially equipped with Venturas until Stirlings became available in January 1944. Early in March the two squadrons and activities connected with the airborne forces were transferred elsewhere; Stoney Cross having been allocated to the USAAF Ninth Air Force as a forward base for tactical fighters.

USAAF use

Stoney Cross as known as USAAF Station AAF-452 for security reasons during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location. It's USAAF Station COde was "SS".

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367th Fighter Group

An American advance party soon arrived to ready the airfield for the incoming fighter group whose personnel came in on 5 April. The 367th Fighter Group arrived from Oakland Municipal Airport, California flying Lockheed P-38 Lightnings. They had the following fighter squadrons and fuselage codes:

  • 392d Fighter Squadron (H5)
  • 393d Fighter Squadron (8L)
  • 394th Fighter Squadron (4N)

The 367th was a group of Ninth Air Force's 70th Fighter Wing, IX Tactical Air Command.

When the group arrived at Stoney Cross the pilots of the 367th were somewhat surprised to learn that they were now to fly twin-engine P-38 Lightnings, having flown P-39 Airacobras in California. This was due to the availability of sufficient P-38s in the UK to equip three groups even though the personnel of only the 392d Fighter Squadron had trained with the P-38.

The 367th entered combat on 9 May 1944, attacking railways, bridges, hangars, and other targets in western France, and escorting bombers that struck airfields, marshalling yards and other facilities in the same area.

In the latter half of June the 367th switched to ground attack missions supporting First Army ground forces in France. On 16 June each aircraft carried two 2,000 pound bombs on an experimental mission; the first time such a heavy bomb load had been used by P-38s in combat. Up to this time, 367th casualties had been light, however two days later four aircraft failed to return. Worse was to follow when seven P-38s were lost during the intensive "softening up" of German positions prior to a ground offensive to secure Cherbourg.

In all, 21 P-38s were missing in action from Stoney Cross during the 367th's stay during which time 55 missions had been flown from the airfield.

On 6 July the 367th Fighter was moved to nearby RAF Ibsley to make way for the 387th Bomb Group.

387th Bombardment Group (Medium)

With the fighters moved to Ibsley, the Martin B-26 Marauders of the 387th Bombardment Group moved to Stoney Cross from RAF Chipping Ongar on 25 June 1944. They had the following bomber squadrons and fuselage codes:

The 387th was a group of Ninth Air Force's 98th Bombardment Wing, IX Bomber Command.

Ninth Air Force wanted to move the 98th Bomb Wing's four Marauder groups into the New Forest area at the earliest opportunity to those airfields built to a bomber standard. On 27 June the 387th became operational from Stoney Cross, bombing along the invasion coast and supporting ground forces by raiding railways, bridges, road junctions, defended areas, and fuel dumps.

By 1 September the group was able to move across the English Channel to its Advanced Landing Ground at a former Luftwaffe airfield at Maupertus, France (A-15).

On the continent, the 387th BG used the following Advanced Landing Grounds:

  • A-15 Maupertus, France 22 Aug 1944
  • A-39 Chateaudun, France 18 Sep 1944
  • A-71 Chastres, France 30 Oct 1944
  • Y-41 Masstricht/Beek, Holland 29 Apr 1945

The group ended combat operations in Apr 1945. On 24 May the group was sent to Rosieres-en-Santerre Air Base, France for several months. The 387th Bomb Group returned to the US in November and was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on 17 November 1945.

RAF Transport Command

With the Americans moved into France by 5 September, Stoney Cross reverted to RAF Transport Command control and at first, the station was used for the assessment and repair of gliders recovered from the Normandy operations. In November 1944, two transport squadrons, No. 232 and No. 242, were re-formed at Stoney Cross, initially with Wellingtons.

No. 46 Squadron was added in January 1945 and equipped with Stirling transports and later C-47 Dakotas.

Postwar Military use

Following the end of hostilities in Europe, Stoney Cross was developed as a major staging post for RAF transports flying to the Far East. This activity was gradually reduced and by December 1946 the remaining units had transferred to RAF Manston. However, Stoney Cross was retained on a care and maintenance basis until January 1948 when the airfield was released back to its pre-war owners.

Civil Use

Upon its release from military use, the airfield stood neglected. The Forestry Commission, who have managed the crown lands of the New Forest since 1924, took over the management of the site upon its closure. Runways were broken up in the 1960's to meet demands for hardcore in the area and most of the usable buildings were sold. The final remaining structure - the water tower - was removed in 2004.

At present a minor C road runs along the length of the main 25/07 runway as a right of way. The other two runways are still clearly visible in aerial photography, although the concrete has been removed. The eastern perimeter road is also in use as a C road. The Forestry Commission has established car parks on three dispersal pans and two campsites make use of other former dispersal sites alongside the eastern 33/15 runway. Almost all of the other dispersal hardstands have been removed, although a few survive in a deteriorated condition. There is a small marker along one of the roads as a memorial to the former airfield and an interpretation board at one of the car parks.

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.
  • www.controltowers.co.uk RAF Stoney Cross

External links


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