RAF Upwood: Wikis


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Royal Air Force Station Upwood

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg United States Air Forces in Europe.png

Part of United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE)
Located near Bury, Cambridgeshire, England
423d Air Base Group.png
423d Air Base Group
Type Royal Air Force Station
Coordinates 52°26′18.12″N 000°07′56.39″W / 52.4383667°N 0.1323306°W / 52.4383667; -0.1323306
Location code UD
Built 1917
In use 1977-Present
Royal Air Force
Controlled by United States Air Force
Garrison 423d Air Base Group
RAF Upwood Station Crest

RAF Upwood is a United States Air Force installation adjacent to the village of Upwood, Cambridgeshire in the United Kingdom.

It is a non-flying facility which is under the control of the United States Air Force, and one of three RAF bases in Cambridgeshire currently used by the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE). Upwood, along with RAF Molesworth and RAF Alconbury are considered the "Tri-Base Area" due to their close geographic proximity, and interdependency.



The current host unit for RAF Upwood is the 423d Air Base Group, headquartered at nearby RAF Alconbury.

RAF Upwood is the home of the 423d Medical Squadron. The squadron operates a medical complex which houses out-patient and dental care facilities for active-duty, dependents of active duty, Department of Defense civilians, and retired military personnel stationed in the Tri-base area. Most standard medical care is available. Complex medical cases may be referred to RAF Croughton (approximately 48 miles (77 km) west of RAF Alconbury) for care which is unavailable at RAF Upwood.

Upwood is also the home of 511 (Ramsey) Air Training Corps who have been on the site since the early 80s. Originally housed in the old fire station the squadron moved to a number of buildings before settling in the old nissen hut church building. When the base was closed by the MOD in 1995, the squadron moved to the Upwood school. The squadron finally settled into the present building inside the fence in 1997.

Current Status

Much of the RAF Upwood is unused, closed by the Ministry of Defence in 1994. Most of the base was vacated and the land and buildings sold off to civil ownership.

In 2004 Turbine Motor Works purchased a large amount of property on the former base including the four C-type hangars. Their plan is to convert the property into a state-of-the-art jet engine overhaul facility. Together with the Nene Valley Gliding Club and the Air Cadet Squadron, this facility will ensure that the former RAF base will continue its aviation legacy well into the 21st century.

Part of the facility is now used by Urban Assault to play Airsoft every other Saturday.



World War I

The Royal Flying Corps requisitioned 160 acres (0.65 km2) of farmland near the village of Upwood in 1917. In September of that year the station opened as Bury (Ramsey). This initial name referred to its location near the near village of Bury and the larger market town of Ramsey. Initially there were no permanent flying units assigned to the station. Instead, No. 75 Squadron flying BE.2 aircraft out of Elmswell, Suffolk used the station as a night-landing ground and satellite field.

Upon opening, there were no permanent buildings at the airfield. By the summer of 1918 a number of huts and five hangars were in place. It was during this time that the field was renamed Upwood.

In July 1918, No. 191 (Night) Training Squadron moved to Upwood. In addition to BE.2s, 191 NTS also flew the DH.6. While at Upwood they converted to the FE.2b.

In October 1918, No. 190 (Night) Training Squadron arrived flying the 504K.

After the end of World War I in November 1918, the squadrons were no longer needed and were disbanded in May and June 1919. The airfield itself was returned to the local community and the buildings cleared. This ended the first round of activity at RAF Upwood.

The Inter-War Years

In the early 1930s, Britain realized its air defense capabilities were in dire need of revamping. The major expansion of the Royal Air Force announced in 1934 resulted in many new airfields opening over the remainder of the decade. One of these was RAF Upwood. The old World War I airfield site was selected to be reactivated and expanded. The new base was designed to accommodate two medium bomber squadrons with room for a third. By 1936, construction had begun in earnest with two of five C-type hangars started.

On 27 February 1937 the first flying unit arrived at Upwood in the form of No. 52 Squadron flying Hawker Hinds. This unit was joined on 1 March 1937 by No. 63 Squadron and its Hawker Audaxes.

During their time at Upwood, 52 and 63 Squadrons became training units and took on both Fairey Battle and Avro Anson aircraft. In August and September 1939, the two squadrons were reassigned opening the field up to its new tenant, No. 90 Squadron flying Bristol Blenheims.

World War II

With the invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, World War II was underway. However, 90 Squadron spent most of its time in air-to-air firing and bombing practice. They were joined in February 1940 by another medium bomber unit, No. 35 Squadron, flying both Blenheims and Ansons.

Both Upwood squadrons were not destined to see front-line combat as, on 8 April 1940, they were merged into the new No. 17 Operational Training Unit and tasked with training aircrews.

Although the Upwood units were not taking a direct part in the war, they did see some action. On two occasions in 1940 and once in 1942 the base was attacked by Luftwaffe aircraft. However, only one person was killed during these raids. On 1 February 1941 a spy, Josef Jakobs, was captured by farmers after he had parachuted into the area, breaking a leg in the process. He was discovered to have maps of the RAF Upwood area, a code device and almost 500 Pound Sterling in his possession. Jakobs was subsequently sent to the Tower of London where he was tried, found guilty and executed by firing squad.

Since its opening in 1937, Upwood had seen frequent periods where flying operations had to be curtailed or halted altogether due to the grass airfield being unserviceable. This unserviceability was caused by the levels of rain and general dampness of the area. When 17 OTU was chosen for transition to Vickers Wellington bombers, it was decided to move the unit from Upwood as the field would never take the pounding from these heavier aircraft. When 17 OTU departed for RAF Silverstone in April 1943, Upwood was left with no aircraft. The RAF took this opportunity to begin construction of three concrete runways. These runways were completed by October.

The first flying unit to use the new runways at Upwood was No. 139 Squadron flying Mosquitos. They arrived in late January 1944 and flew their first mission against on 2 February, a single plane mission to drop target indicators over Berlin. On 5 March 1944 Upwood became home to No. 156 Squadron and its Lancasters. They flew their first mission from Upwood on 15 March 1944, attacking Stuttgart with 22 aircraft.

Cold War Era

With the end of World War II came a change in missions for the two squadrons at Upwood. 156 Squadron was tasked with bringing food to Holland in support of Operation Manna then help repatriate former Prisoners of War as part of Operation Exodus. On 27 June the squadron was moved from Upwood.

In place of the departing 156 Squadron came No. 105 Squadron, also flying Mosquitos. Both 105 and 139 Squadrons continued flying from RAF Upwood until February 1946. On 1 February 139 Squadron moved to RAF Hemswell. On 4 February 105 Squadron was disbanded.

Flying operations didn't cease for long. On 15 February Upwood became home to No. 102 Squadron flying Liberator bombers. They spent the next several months bring British troops home from India. On 1 March the squadron was redesignated No. 53 Squadron. The squadron was disbanded on 25 June, soon after its last ferry flight.

Two new squadrons of Lancasters called Upwood home starting on 29 July with arrival of No. 7 Squadron and No. 49 Squadron. On 4 November, No. 148 Squadron and No. 214 Squadron were both reformed at Upwood. These new additions were part of a transition of Upwood from a training to attack mission. Both of the new squadrons also flew Lancasters.

The four squadrons continued to fly their Lancasters until 1949 when they were transitioned to Avro Lincolns. Lincolns from 148 Squadron deployed to Shallufa in January 1952 to reinforce British units in the Suez Canal Zone. This was in response to riots in Cairo and a generally unstable political situation in Egypt.

During 1954 each of the four squadrons deployed to either RAF Tengah in Malaysia in support of anti-communist operations there or to Kenya in support of operations against the Mau Mau. Additionally, Lincolns from 214 Squadron and 7 Squadron took part in a secret mission in connection with nuclear trials conducted near Woomera, Australia. During this time a film production company produced a war time film play called Appointment in London. The company used three Lancasters in making the film but the background shots are of the four Squadrons of Lincolns and the film uses much of the airfield and buildings in its production showing a good view of Upwood at that time

On 31 December 1954 Upwood lost one of its four flying units when 214 Squadron disbanded. This unit was replaced on 22 May 1955 when No. 18 Squadron moved to Upwood from RAF Scampton. This squadron brought something completely new to the base in the form of their Canberra jet bombers. This was followed by more Canberras when No. 61 Squadron moved in from RAF Wittering on 3 July.

Two more Lincoln squadrons disbanded on 1 August, 49 and 148. This was followed by the disbanding of the last Lincoln squadron, No. 7, on 1 January 1956. These were replaced throughout 1956 by more Canberra units; No. 50 Squadron on 9 January, No. 35 Squadron on 16 July and No. 40 Squadron on 1 November. However, this last squadron was disbanded on 15 December 1956.

Eight Canberras each from of Nos. 7, 18, 35 and 50 Squadron flew to Cyprus on 19 October in support of Operation Alacrity. Over four days in early November, these aircraft took part in raids on various targets in Egypt. This was the first combat operations by Upwood aircraft since World War II. The 32 planes returned to Upwood just in time for Christmas, arriving home on 24 December.

The next two years saw a series of unit disbandments and arrivals culminating in a slow winding down of flying operations at Upwood. On 1 February 1957, No. 18 Squadron was disbanded. On 31 March 1958 No. 61 Squadron disbanded. No. 542 Squadron arrived on 17 July along with No. 76 Squadron. No. 542 Squadron was renamed to No. 21 Squadron on 1 October. The year 1959 saw the disbanding of No. 21 Squadron (15 January) and No. 50 Squadron (1 October). On 31 December 1960, No. 76 Squadron disbanded. The final flying unit, No. 35 Squadron, was disbanded on 11 September 1961.

With the disbanding of No. 35 Squadron Upwood was transferred to RAF Strike Command who quickly set about transforming the base into hub of various support activities. Over the next several months the base became home to No. 4 Ground Radio Servicing Section, Radio Technical Publications Squadron, the Aeromedical Training Centre, the Joint School of Photographic Interpretation and three squadrons of 33 Field Wing, RAF Regiment.

The different units had barely settled in when change came again. In early 1963 the RAF Regiment units departed. In 1964 the other units left as well, leaving Upwood with only a token care-taker staff.

In March 1964, 22 Group of Technical Training Command arrived and set up their School of Management and Work Study. July saw the arrival of the School of Education and the RAF Central Library, followed in September by the School of Administration. Upwood was again becoming focused on training. Later training units included the Equipment Officers Training Centre and the Air Cadet Training Centre.

These various training activities lasted, in one form or another, until the late 1970s. By 1981, the base was again almost dormant.


With the end of RAF use of the station in 1981, the United States Air Force was given control of Upwood by the Ministry of Defence. USAF airmen from RAF Alconbury had been living in the Upwood housing area since the mid 1970s, however when the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing took over as the host unit in December 1981, it started a whole new round of activity.

Upwood soon became a satellite base of RAF Alconbury, providing housing and support services for personnel stationed there. In 1986, a multi-million dollar medical facility was opened to provide out-patient services to American military members in the area.

With the end of the Cold War in 1991, and the phasedown of RAF Alconbury beginning in 1994, the USAF activities at Upwood were curtailed. RAF Upwood was returned to the British government control in September 1995 and with the number of airmen assigned to the area reduced, the need for housing became less and less. By 2005 the last USAF family moved out of the Upwood housing area and it was returned to the MOD.

The medical facilities, however, remain open, albeit in a reduced capacity as a medical flight until January 16, 2007, when the 423rd Medical Squadron was formed. The squadron provides some outpatient medical and dental care for the community.

Post-Cold War

Since 1982, the Nene Valley Gliding Club has conducted its glider operations from a field that occupies the site of the old runways. Initially these operations were under an agreement with the Ministry of Defence. However, in 1995 the club was told they would need to find a new home as the land was going to be sold off. The club was unable to locate a suitable new home and was preparing for the possibility of having to close when the purchaser of the land, Marshal Papworth, agreed to lease the land to the club for 10 years. This has allowed the club to continue flying from Marshals Paddock (so named by the club after their benefactor's death in 2000).

Every year in August the site is home to the Ramsey 1940s Weekend, an event dedicated to recreating the sights and sounds of the 1940s. The event is held in aid of several local charities and has been rewarded with a tourism award. The weekend features living history re-enactors, period dancing, food, exhibitions and trade stands.[1]

See also

External links


  1. ^ http://www.ramsey1940sweekend.info/


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