RAF Warmwell: Wikis

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Royal Air Force Station Warmwell
USAAF Station AAF-454

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch9thusaaf.png

Located Near Warmwell, Dorset, United Kingdom
Warmwell-16aug43.jpg
Aerial Photo of Warmwell Airfield - 16 August 1943
Type Military airfield
Coordinates 50°41′50″N 002°20′40″W / 50.69722°N 2.34444°W / 50.69722; -2.34444
Location code XW
Built 1936
Built by RAF
In use 1937-1946
Current
condition
Disused, reverted to farmland and quarrying, two hangars and some aircraft pens survive
Controlled by Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Garrison RAF Fighter Command
Ninth Air Force
Occupants 609 Squadron
474th Fighter Group
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Warmwell is located in Dorset
RAF Warmwell, shown within Dorset

RAF Warmwell was a Royal Air Force station near Warmwell in Dorset, England from 1937 to 1946, located about 5 miles east-southeast of Dorchester; 100 miles southwest of London.

During World War II it was used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force Ninth Air Force.

Contents

Overview

Construction of No. 6 Armament Training Camp began in 1936 and upon completion in 1937 the 300 acres (1.2 km2) of former farmland was known as RAF Woodsford, after the village a mile to the north, and it soon played host to target-towing aircraft and a variety of visitors from RAF squadrons wishing to use the Chesil Bank range. In the spring of 1938, its name was officially changed to RAF Warmwell to avoid confusion with Woodford aerodrome in Cheshire, Warmwell being a village a mile and a half to the south of the airfield.

The airfield consisted of free draining grass landing runways, with a strip oriented 2,700 ft (820 m) north-east/south-west and the same for a south-east/north-west run, but the longest strip was west-northwest/east-south-cast covering 5.040 ft (1.536 m) Two Bellman hangars were erected on the technical site and there were eight Blisters. Six double pens, 12 single pens and 18 small pan aircraft standings were sited around the perimeter along with accommodations for 1,675 personnel.

RAF Fighter Command Use

The station hosted RAF fighters during the Second World War, including a flight from 609 Sqn which was Dorset's only RAF fighter base during the Battle of Britain. It was not long before the Luftwaffe turned its attention to the airfield with a daylight attack in August 1940 and several hit-and-run had weather raids, plus some night bombing on a number of occasions during the spring of 1941.

Warmwell was home or temporary station to fighter squadrons engaged on both offensive and defensive operations and 33 different RAF fighter squadrons are known to have used the airfield between the autumn of 1940 and January 1944, predominantly those with Supermarine Spitfires but Hawker Hurricanes, Hawker Typhoons, Westland Whirlwinds and North American Mustangs were also present at times.

USAAF Use

Warmwell had been allocated for use by American fighter units in August 1942 but was not taken up at that time and RAF units continued in residence. USAAF Spitfire and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt squadrons occasionally made use of the airfield as a forward or transit base. There were several US Emergency 'lame duck' landings, the most spectacular being an unannounced Twelfth Air Force Martin B-26 Marauders that had been en route to North Africa in November 1942 with two other Marauders which had been shot down when flying over occupied France.

Warmwell was an unsuitable landing ground for a B-26 in good conditions, but the wet slippery turf caused this attempted B-26 landing to end in a crash with the crew being slightly hurt. With the Ninth Air Force requirement for airfields around the New Forest area for Operation "Overlord", Warmwell airfield was allocated for use by USAAF tactical fighters.

While under USAAF control, Warmwell was known as USAAF Station AAF-454 for security reasons, and by which it was referred to instead of location. It's Station-ID was "XW".

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474th Fighter Group

The sandy soil at Warmwell was considered suitable to support the 80 aircraft of a fighter group without metal tracking support and the personnel of the 474th Fighter Group arrived on 12 March from Oxnard Flight Strip California flying Lockheed P-38 "Lightnings". Operational squadrons of the group were:

  • 428th Fighter Squadron (F5)
  • 429th Fighter Squadron (7Y)
  • 430th Fighter Squadron (K6)

The 474th was a group of Ninth Air Force's 70th Fighter Wing, IX Tactical Air Command.

Probably because they detrained at Moreton railway station - the group often referred to the Warmwell as Moreton. Squadron markings on the vertical tail surfaces were a square for the 428th, a triangle for the 429th and it circle for the 430th. The 474th FG was the only one of the three Ninth Air Force groups equipped with the P-38 in England that had trained with the type in the United States.

The 474th carried out its first mission on 25 April with a sweep along the French coast. The P-38's ability to carry two 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs with ease, and its heavy nose-mounted armament, made it an excellent ground attack aircraft. although it appeared to he far more vulnerable to light anti-aircraft and small arms fire than the redoubtable P-47. During 15 weeks of operations from Warmwell. 27 P-38s were missing in action, all but five known or suspected lost due to ground fire. Three of these were lost to a 'bounce' by FW 190Ds while escorting B-26s on 7 May.

On the night of June 5/6, the group flew patrols over the invasion fleet and the two aircraft lost are believed to have collided. On the credit side, during an armed reconnaissance on 18 July, a 474th formation led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Darling surprised a force of bomb-carrying Focke-Wulf Fw 190s and shot down 10 Luftwaffe aircraft with the loss of only one P-38.

The 474th FG was the last of the Ninth Air Force's 18 fighter groups to move to an Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) in France, departing from Warmwell for St. Lambert, France (ALG A-11) during the first week of August 1944, the main body of aircraft departing on the 6th. The last mission from Warmwell, the group's 108th, was flown on the previous day.

The group continued operations on the continent providing tactical air support in support of U.S. First Army until V-E Day, being stationed at Bad Langensalza, Germany (ALG R-2) at the end of hostilities. The 474th FG returned to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey during November 1945 and was inactivated on 8 December 1945.

Postwar RAF Use

Bellman Hangars Warmwell 2007
Brick Block house Warmwell 2007
Rifle Range Warmwell 2007

Throughout the 474th's tenure, the RAF's No. 275 Squadron,an air-sea rescue unit with Westland Walrus amphibians, also used Warmwell to cover the sea area between England and Normandy and remained in residence until February 1945 when the Squadron was disbanded. After the USAAF's move to France, it was not long before Warmwell was once again in use by various RAF units wanting to use the Chesil Rank bombing range and this continued until mid-September 1945. In October 1945 Warmwell was reduced to caretaker party status and eventually disposed of in 1950.

Civil Use

Upon its release from military use, the airfield had been surrounded by gravel workings and over the following years the airfield site itself was gradually eaten away for aggregate. One remnant is the control tower which, having been given a conventional tiled roof to convert it to a private residence, effectively disguises its original use.

The site on which RAF Warmwell once lay is now a small village called Crossways, the original taxiway is still in use as a road through the village (where two dispersal pans still remain), and the old station cinema is now the village hall, the old ATC tower has now been converted into a dwelling (EGDON HOUSE) that has been extensively modified and is not easily recognisable as such. Two bellman style hangars still remain, rumoured to be used by local farmers for fertilizer storage, and other buildings exist in the woodland areas surrounding Crossways, although some have been demolished. One of the base's billets is now one of the local shops. During clearance work in preparation for new buildings on the North East side of the old airfield a brick block house and a concrete rifle range were revealed. Both have now been demolished but the photographs shown were taken just prior to their removal.

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.
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present

Charting the history and personnel of No 152 Hyderabad Squadron from formation at Carvin on 18th October 1918 until disbanded on 9th December 1967 at Muharraq. http://www.152hyderabad.co.uk

External links


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