RAF Upottery: Wikis

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Royal Air Force Station Upottery
USAAF Station AAF-462

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch9thusaaf.png United States Department of the Navy Seal.svg

Located Near Honiton, Devon, England
Upottery-22apr44.jpg
Upottery airfield, 22 April 1944, just prior to the arrival of the 439th Troop Carrier Group.
Type Military airfield
Coordinates 50°53′02″N 003°09′10″W / 50.88389°N 3.15278°W / 50.88389; -3.15278
Location code UO
Built 1943
In use 1944-1948
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
United States Navy
Garrison Ninth Air Force
Fleet Air Wing 7
Occupants 439th Troop Carrier Group
Patrol Bomber Squadrons 107th and 112th
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Upottery is located in Devon
RAF Upottery, shown within Devon
C-47s of the 91st Troop Carrier Squadron on the northwest perimeter track adjacent to the main hangar at Upottery.
Douglas C-47A-80-DL Serial 43-15159 of the 94th Troop Carrier Squadron in Normady Invasion Markings.
C-47s of the 91st Troop Carrier Squadron praticing the "pick up" method of towing a glider, Upottery, May 1944.

RAF Station Upottery (also known as Smeatharpe) is a former World War II airfield in East Devon, England. The airfield is located approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) north-northeast of Honiton; about 140 miles (230 km) southwest of London

Opened in 1944, it was used by the Royal Air Force, United States Army Air Force and United States Navy. During the war it was used primarily as a transport airfield and for antisubmarine patrols. After the war it was closed in 1948.

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

Upottery received much attention in 2001 when it appeared in the first few episodes of the television mini-series Band of Brothers. It was from Upottery that Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, U.S. 101st Airborne Division boarded Douglas C-47 transports and made their first combat jump into Normandy on 6 June 1944.

Contents

Overview

Upottery airfield was the furthest west of all airfields allocated by the British Air Ministry for American transport and reconnaissance units.

Airfield construction was not commenced until the summer of 1943 and conformed to the later Class A airfield standard with 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. The runway pattern was 6,000ft at 19/27, 4,200 ft at 12/20 and 4.200ft at 15/33. The 50 hardstands were all loop type 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 consisted of at least two T-2 type hangars placed one on the south and one on the north side at the eastern end of the airfield. 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 in farmland to the northeast 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 2,500 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

Officially opened on 17 February 1944, the airfield was not reasonably complete until the early spring of that year when it was selected as one of the four in the West Country to which the USAAF Ninth Air Force IX Troop Carrier Command would move the groups of the 50th Troop Carrier Wing from the Nottinghamshire Newark-on-Trent area.

It was known as USAAF Station AAF-462 for security reasons during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location. It's ID code was "UO".

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439th Troop Carrier Group

A few weeks later on 25 April 1944, the 439th Troop Carrier Group arrived from RAF Balderton with some 70 Douglas C-47 and C-53 Skytrain transports. The group's squadrons and fuselage codes were:

The 439th was a group of Ninth Air Force's 50th Troop Carrier Wing, IX Troop Carrier Command.

US engineers had already put down areas of Pierced Steel Planking at each end of the main runway for use in glider marshalling. Large numbers of camp beds were placed in the hangars to receive and conceal, as far as possible, paratroops of 101st Airborne Division who assembled at the airfield early in June.

Two serials of aircraft, one of 45 and the other of 36, were despatched late in the evening of 5 June to drop the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment during the first hour of the invasion behind Utah Beach.

Difficult weather conditions and heavy anti-aircraft fire were encountered and three aircraft failed to return. A reinforcement mission with gliders was flown on the following day, with 50 C-47s towing 30 Horsa and 20 Wacos. Like the other troop carrier groups involved, the 439th later received a Distinguished Unit Citation for its work during these two days.

The C-47s were busy hauling a variety of materials into Normandy as soon as satisfactory landing grounds were available. Return flights often brought back wounded army personnel.

In July, the 439th was required to despatch 50 aircraft and crews to Orbetello airfeld in Italy to participate in the Invasion of Southern France. The 91st, 92nd and 94th TCSs were despatched south, leaving the 93rd TCS to shoulder the work in the ETO.

To facilitate hauling ammunition to advancing ground forces, it operated out of RAF Ramsbury and RAF Membury from 7-22 August, with the detachment to Italy returning three days later.

The group was then alerted to move to France as the vanguard of the 50th TCW. In the event, its official transfer came on 8 September when it was one of the first two IX TCC groups to move onto an Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) on the continent. The movement of personnel and equipment to Juvincourt, France (ALG A-68) took several days but the air echelon was to return to its first UK home, RAF Balderton the following week to take part in Operation 'Market' where it dropped paratroops of 82nd Airborne Division near Nijmegen and towed gliders carrying reinforcements during the airborne attack on Holland,

Legacy

From France, the 439th participated in the Battle of the Bulge by releasing gliders with supplies for 101st Airborne Division near Bastogne on 7 December 1944. Each aircraft of the group towed two gliders with troops of 17th Airborne Division and released them near Wesel when the Allies made the air assault across the Rhine on 24 March 1945.

The group continually hauled food, clothing, medicine, gasoline, ordnance equipment, and other supplies to the front lines and evacuated patients to rear-zone hospitals when not engaged in airborne operations.

It converted from C-47's to Curtiss C-46 Commandoes which were used to transport displaced persons from Germany to France and Belgium after V-E Day. The group returned to Baer Army Airfield, Indiana during July 1945 and trained with C-46's. It was later inactivated on 10 June 1946.

US Navy Use

Upottery came under RAF control in October but does not appear to have been much used until VPB-103, Fleet Air Wing 7 from the US Navy at nearby RAF Dunkeswell moved in on 7 November with their PB4Y Liberators while the main runway at Dunkeswell was being repaired.

Early in 1945. two US Navy Patrol Bomber Squadrons, the 107th and 112th took up permanent station to fly anti-submarine patrols over the eastern Atlantic and Bay of Biscay, remaining until June 1945 when they returned to the United States.

Postwar RAF Use

The RAF took over Upottery in July 1945 and the airfield was used for storage of surplus materials by RAF Maintenance Command until the end of 1948. The RAF withdrew their holding party in November that year and the airfield was returned to the farming community from which it was requisitioned.

Civil Use

Upon its release from military use, the airfield was largely returned to agriculture. All three runways remain with most of the concreted areas still intact. Large numbers of loop hardstands still exist, although the perimeter track has been largely reduced to a single lane agricultural road. A few dilapidated buildings can also be seen. Part of the airfield is used by a small flying club and another section is occasionally used for stock car racing.

See also

References

 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
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • [1] Upottery Airfield at ControlTowers.co.uk
  • [2] USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present

External links


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