ABINGDON AERODROME (Berks) OS 1-inch/164 SU473993
A large pre-war airfield, with surfaced runways and perimeter track, Abingdon aerodrome was opened on 1st September 1932. It was used as a Bomber Command training station during World War II, its resident unit, for most of the war, being No.10 Operational Training Unit. The station operated a range of aircraft types during the early stages of the conflict, some notable examples being the Fairey Battle light bombers, and the much larger Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys, which were destined to enjoy a long association with Oxfordshire. These relatively large, twin-engined bombers could carry a bomb load of up to 8,000 lbs, and they could be easily identified by their slender fuselages and unusual tail units, with twin fins placed well inboard on the tailplanes.
The airfield was attacked by the Luftwaffe on 12th August 1940, and again on 21st March 1941, but on 30th May 1942 Whitleys from No.10 OTU participated in the first “Thousand Bomber Raid” on Hitler's Reich. Air Marshall Arthur Harris, the head of Bomber Command, hoped that the enemy could be knocked-out of the war by a series of devastating raids, and to this end 1,046 aircraft were sent to Cologne - 45,000 Germans being made homeless, while 469 people were killed. Abingdon's aircraft subsequently took part in similar raids on Essen and Dusseldorf, though training remained the station's primary function.
Abingdon remained fully operational during the Cold War period, a variety of aircraft types being seen at this busy RAF station. Local people assumed that the airfield had an assured future as part of the modern air force, but sadly, this historic RAF station became a victim of defence cuts during the early 1990s. The former RAF station passed into army control in 1993, and in its new role as “Dalton Barracks” the site became a base for 1,200 troops. Subsequent plans envisaged that this figure would rise to 1,500, a new 6th Brigade being formed to provide logistic support for front-line units.
AKEMAN STREET AERODROME OS 1inch/164 SP333140
Built as a replacement for Witney Aerodrome, RAF Akeman Street was merely a Relief Landing Ground for nearby Brize Norton. It was situated to the north of Crawley, and opened in June 1940; the airfield was actually on the Roman Road from which it derived its name. The operational part of the site consisted of a grass-covered landing area within a perimeter track. The principal aircraft types seen here were twin-engined Airspeed Oxford trainers from the parent station at Brize Norton, some of which may have been housed at Akeman Street in one of the airfield's ten single-arc “Blister” hangars; there was also a more substantial hangar of the rectangular Bellman type.
The airfield was guarded by at least two cunningly-placed one-man pill boxes, which were hidden in a well established hedge row; these may have formed part of an encircling chain around the perimeter of the site. These unusual turrets were of concrete construction, and partially-sunk into the ground to provide added protection and concealment. Other extant facilities at this remote site include one standard RAF-style building, which was probably a tractor shed, the remains of air raid shelters, and the concrete bases of at least two huts or mess buildings. The airfield had closed by 1946, although it is believed that light aircraft may have occasionally have used the landing area thereafter.
BARFORD ST JOHN AERODROME Landranger/151 S443341
Barford St John Aerodrome was originally constructed as a Relief Landing Ground for RAF Kidlington. The aerodrome was located to the north-west of Deddington, and it was opened in June 1941. The first aircraft seen here were probably Harvard and Airspeed Oxford trainers, though in January 1942 a number of Hotspur Gliders were assembled for use by the newly-formed 101 (Glider) Operational Training Unit. In 1943 the airfield was used, albeit briefly, by the Gloster-Whittle E28 experimental jet, which was then stationed at RAF Edge Hill. Barford St John also became a test centre for the prototype F9/40 twin-jet Meteor aircraft.
By June 1944, Barford St John had become a Bomber Command training station, used by twin-engined bombers such as Wellingtons, and smaller training aircraft such as Miles Martinets. Although it was hardly a prime target, the airfield was bombed by the Luftwaffe on 24th August 1941, 10 high-explosive bombs being dropped on that occasion. Barford St John was ostensibly closed in November 1945, but it continued to fulfil an active military role as a radio communications site during the Cold War period. The facilities provided here included three runways and two hangers, one wartime ‘T2’ type, while the other was a ‘B1’ hangar, used mainly for maintenance work.
BARTON ABBEY OS 1-inch/164 SP460250
This little-known airfield, also known as “Lower Heyford”, or No.28 Satellite Landing Ground, was a Maintenance Command SLG used by No.39 Maintenance Unit until March 1943, and by No.6 Maintenance Unit thereafter. Based at Brize Norton, No.6 MU handled various types of aircraft, including Spitfires, Stirlings, Mitchells, Blenheims, Battles and Defiants. It is likely that at least some of these types appeared at Barton Abbey while, after the war, captured German aircraft are said to have been stored in the area. Like other SLGs, Barton Abbey was basically a dispersed storage site, its aircraft being hidden beneath trees and foliage. Traces of the airfield can be seen to the west of the A34 near Hopcroft's Holt.
BENSON AERODROME OS 1-inc/164 SP630910
One of the best-known aerodromes in Oxfordshire, Benson was opened in April 1939, and initially used by No.12 Operational Training Unit. This large airfield must have presented an inviting target, and the Luftwaffe bombed it on several occasions. In fact, Benson was probably the “most bombed” RAF station in Oxfordshire; it is believed the first raid took place as early as 29th June 1940, immediately after the Fall of France but before the Battle of Britain. Another raid came on 13th August 1940, as part of a concerted attack on Britain's air defences, in which the Germans bombed various training stations, Coastal Command aerodromes and other “low value” targets.
Later, Benson attracted further attention from the Luftwaffe, and there were further air raids on 30th January and 27th February 1941. The damage inflicted during these raids was significant, but not unduly serious, and the station was never put out of action by German bombs.
Having started life as a Bomber Command OTU, Benson subsequently assumed a more active (and perhaps more interesting) role. By 1944, the station had become intimately connected with Photographic Reconnaissance operations, and the four squadrons based there at that time were all involved with “PR” work. Two of Benson's resident units - Nos.540 and 544 Squadrons - operated the famous Mosquito fighter-bombers that had originally started development as a private venture by de Havillands. Of wooden construction, these twin-engined and highly streamlined aircraft could easily outpace intercepting fighters.
Benson's other two units, Nos.541 and 542 Squadrons, were equipped with Spitfire Xls which, like the Mosquitoes, were well-suited for Photo-reconnaissance operations, and much more effective than the American Lightnings at neighbouring airfields. As an example of the vital work carried out by Benson-based aircraft it would be fitting to mention that photographs taken in June 1942 enabled the Peenemunde V2 rocket range to be put out of use by a force of 600 bombers in 1943.
RAF Benson remained active in the post-war era, becoming famous, in later years, for its highly-popular Battle of Britain Day air displays, which attracted large numbers of people from Oxfordshire and the surrounding area. The wartime ground installations here included two runways and four substantial ‘C’ type hangars, with characteristic transverse roofs. One of the runways was orientated roughly from north to south, while the other crossed it on a north-east to south-west alignment.
BICESTER AERODROME OS 1-inch/164 SP597245
Constructed in 1916, Bicester airfield was sited to the north-east of Bicester and immediately to the east of the village of Caversfield. The aerodrome was opened as a Royal Flying Corps site in January 1917, one of the squadrons stationed there being No.118 Squadron, which moved to Bicester on 7th August 1918. The airfield was closed as part of the general run-down of British forces which occurred after World War I, although the site was re-opened, with extensively modernised facilrties, in 1928.
Various aircraft were used here at various times, including Horsleys of No.100 Squadron and Overstrands of 101 Squadron. The Overstrand was a large, twin-engined biplane with a prominent power-operated gun turret projecting from its nose; the aeroplane took its slightly humorous name from a small seaside village near Cromer. Bicester lost its Overstrands in 1937, when No.101 Squadron received the faster, more modern Bristol Blenheim bombers. At the start of World War Two the airfield was equipped with Blenheims and Ansons of No.104 Squadron. Meanwhile, on 25th October 1939, the station had witnessed the first flight of the prototype Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber - probably the first four-engined aircraft to fly in Oxfordshire.
As one might expect on a former World War One site, RAF Bicester featured a variety of ground installations reflecting several different periods of construction. There were two ‘A’ type hangars and two ‘C’ type hangars from the Expansion Plan era, all four structures being more substantially-built than their wartime counterparts. The ‘A’ type hangars incorporated steel-framed concrete walls with continuous windows along each side, and transverse “ridge-and-furrow” roofs. In common with many other early aerodromes, RAF Bicester was also served by a direct rail link, an Air Ministry siding having been installed on the Buckinghamshire branch of the former London & North Western Railway between Bicester and Launton stations.
Bicester's main role during World War Two was as an Operational Training Unit, 13 OTU having been formed in April 1940. Blenheims were associated with the airfield for much of the war, though Masters, Mosquitoes and other types also appeared. The station was transferred to Fighter Command in June 1943. Bicester remained an active military aerodrome until 31st March 1976, and thereafter its extensive buildings continued to provide accommodation for servicemen and their families.
During the First Gulf War, 1991, the United States used the airfield as a standby hospital, in the event not used. Afterwards the accommodation and offices were used for some years by the Ministry of Defence until they were sold in 2010.
The Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust was resident in the original Officers' Mess for 20 months until March 2010!
There is a map of part of RAF Bicester at http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=41809
(SOFO is not responsible for external websites.)
BRIZE NORTON AERODROME OS 1-Inch/164 SP290063
Opened on 13th August 1937, West Oxfordshire's largest airfield was initially the home of No.2 Service Flying Training School. Hawker Hart biplanes were used in the early years, but by 1940 the school had been re-equipped with Airspeed Oxfords. On 16th August 1940, forty six of these twin-engined trainers were destroyed by the Luftwaffe in one of the most destructive raids ever carried out on an RAF aerodrome. A few months later, on 10th April 1941, the Germans raided the airfield again - this time causing only minor damage. No.2 SFTS was renamed No.2 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit in March 1942, but this unit was closed in the following July.
No.21 Heavy Glider Conversion Unit was established at Brize Norton in 1942, and in the period leading up to D-Day Whitley and Albemarle bombers could be seen towing Horsa Gliders in the skies around Witney. In March 1944 the station became the base for Nos.296 and 297 Squadrons, both of which participated in the D-Day and Arnhem operations, using Albemarles and Horsas on each occasion. Interestingly, the Albemarles incorporated many wooden components, the idea being that furniture factories and other non-aircraft manufacturers could participate in their manufacture. They were also among the first RAF aircraft to be equipped with tricycle undercarriage.
The original buildings at Brize Norton were typical Expansion Plan structures and, as such, they were better built than the later wartime hangars and huts. The six pre-war hangars were supplemented by five ‘T2’ hangars, six low-profile ‘Lamella’ hangars, three Bellmans and numerous “Blister” and “Blister Robin” hangars. Many of these were used by No.6 Maintenance Unit, which shared the aerodrome with the flying units, and handled a large range of aircraft types.
Brize Norton became an American “Base” after World War Two, its runways being extended to accommodate large jet aircraft such as the B-47s which became a familiar sight over West Oxfordshire in the 1950s. The Americans left in April 1965, and the airfield reverted to RAF control. Aircraft seen at the station in the 1960s and early 1970s included Belfasts and VC10s; in 1982 the VC10 fleet played an important part in the Falklands campaign.
BROADWELL AERODROME OS 1-inch/163 SP 248065
Broadwell, opened on 15th November 1943, was a large airfield with fully surfaced runways and hard standing, which was closely connected with the 6th Airborne Division. Aircraft associated with this site were primarily Dakotas of Nos.512 & 575 Squadrons, which were transferred from Hendon in February 1944. Broadwell was equipped with a typical wartime layout of three intersecting runways and a perimeter track, the main runway being aligned from north to south, while subsidiary runways crossed it from north-west to south-east, and from north-east to south-west. There were two hangars of the familiar World War II ‘T2’ steel-framed type, together with the usual watch tower and other facilities. The airfield was opened in November 1943.
In April 1944, Broadwell-based Dakotas dropped propaganda leaflets over France in preparation for the D-Day invasion of Europe, while in the months leading up to D-Day many training flights were made over the surrounding countryside. Finally, on 6th June 1944, a huge force of 108 aircraft from Broadwell, Blakehall Farm and Down Ampney aerodromes carried men of the Third Parachute Brigade to Normandy. Many of these men were parachuted into enemy-held territory in conventional manner, but others were conveyed in Horsa Gliders, which were towed by the sturdy and reliable Dakotas. Later, the aircraft returned to England filled with wounded soldiers.
Similar glider-towing operations took place in connection with the ill-fated Arnhem operation in September 1944 and the crossing of the Rhine in 1945. Broadwell-based aircraft then carried out transport duties to and from the Middle East. The station was run-down after the war, but not immediately abandoned; it still appeared on Air Ministry charts as a military aerodrome in 1956. The aerodrome was still substantially complete at that time, but it fell into slow decay during the 1960s and 1970s - by which time the derelict site had become a silent, evocative, memory-filled wilderness of blackberry bushes, ruins and silent, grass-grown runways.
BURFORD AERODROME OS 1-inch/163 SP 235116
The so-called aerodrome at Burford was merely an emergency landing ground. Safe landing areas for emergency use were identified in connection with flying training from nearby Little Rissington, although they were normally no more than open fields. There is some doubt concerning the exact location of the RLG at Burford, and although a site at Upton Down Farm was later used as a civil aircraft landing ground. This may have been the wartime site, although it is conceivable that open fields on the site of neighbouring Broadwell aerodrome may have been used for emergency use well before that aerodrome was opened in 1943.
CHALGROVE AERODROME OS 1-inch/164 SP633980
Chalgrove airfield remained in use after World War II in connection with important ejector seat experiments, which were carried out by Martin Baker Ltd of Denham using RAF Meteor jet fighters. The site remained in use by Martin Baker, and it thus remained in the forefront of aviation technology for many years. The aerodrome is sited to the north of Chalgrove village on the site of the famous Civil War battle in which John Hampden had been fatally wounded. On a footnote, it is interesting to recall that the Hampden Bombers used by the RAF in the early part of the war were named after the hero of Chalgrove Field- although sadly, Hampdens were never based at Chalgrove aerodrome!
Like neighbouring Culham, Chalgrove was unusual among local aerodromes in that it was not RAF-manned. The airfield was opened, as an American “base”, in 1944, and aircraft seen at this location included P-38 Lightnings and other long-range fighters. The twin-boomed Lightnings were used on photographic reconnaissance missions over occupied Europe. These distinctive aircraft belonged to the 10th Photographic Group, which in June 1944 comprised the 30th, 31st, 32nd and 33rd Photographic Reconnaissance squadrons. The 10th Group was subsequently replaced by the 7th Group, which was based at Chalgrove at the end of the war.
CHIPPING NORTON AERODROME OS 1-inch/164 SP325250
Situated high on the remote, windswept uplands above Chipping Norton, this tiny, circular airfield was used as a Relief Landing Ground by Airspeed Oxfords from No.6 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit, based at Little Rissington. In the earlier part of the war the station had also accommodated part of No.15 Service Flying Training School, equipped with both Harvards and Oxfords. This unit had the airfield from its opening in July 1940 until the end of 1940, when No.15 SFTS completed its move to RAF Kidlington. Thereafter, Chipping Norton continued to serve as Relief Landing Ground for Little Rissington. The airfield was bombed on several occasions, notably on the night of 29th October 1940.
The airfield was sited to the south-east of Chipping Norton beside the B4026 road. There were two Bellman hangars and several “Blister” hangars. The site was finally closed in December 1945, though its perimeter track and other remains can still be identified in the Oxfordshire landscape.
The large car factories at Cowley were used for variety of purposes during World War Two, including the manufacture of steel, light alloys and mines, together with over 3,500,000 steel helmets. The main Morris Motors Works became an aircraft repair factory known as No.1 Civilian Repair Unit, while a considerable amount of wartime construction work was carried out at both the Morris and nearby Pressed Steel plants. Aviation work included the construction of 3,000 Tiger Moth training aircraft, and large numbers of tail units for Horsa Gliders. The car factories formed just one part of a much larger complex that included a metal recovery unit and an aerodrome.
Cowley Aerodrome was built on the site of a new school in Church Cowley, and completed in the Spring of 1940a As well handling aircraft from No.1 CRU, it also served the needs of No.50 Maintenance Unit. Some of the buildings were later incorporated into the nearby car factory. No.1 Metal & Produce Recovery Unit formed an important part of the wartime Cowley complex. It employed about 1,500 people, and covered around 100 acres. The materials handled here included both domestic items and crashed aircraft from the nearby Maintenance Unit. Another activity at Cowley was the manufacture of Bren Gun Carriers, which was undertaken at John Allen & Sons' Engineering Factory, near the main Cowley sites.
CULHAM NAVAL AIR STATION OS 1-inch/164 535960
Opened in November 1944, Culham aerodrome was situated on low-lying meadowland to the north of Culham village and immediately to the east of the Great Western Railway main line. Unusually, the village was in Berkshire whereas the airfield was in Oxfordshire! Perhaps the most unusual feature of this aerodrome was its ownership; unlike other local aerodromes Culham as not an RAF station. It belonged to the Royal Navy, and in common with other naval shore establishments it was treated as a sort of grounded warship and dubbed HMS Hornbill.
In naval parlance, Culham was a “stone frigate” and, to the obvious amusement of visiting Royal Air Force personnel, naval pilots and ground crews were encouraged to think of themselves as living aboard a Nelsonic man-of-war. For example, midshipmen lived in an area known as “The Gun Room”, while the bus or motor lorries that conveyed sailors to and from Oxford or Didcot were known as “Liberty Boats”!
There were over 30 hangars, all of these being of Admiralty design. They were used for both storage and maintenance purposes, the 21 storage hangars being of noticeably smaller size than RAF hangars. This reflected the differences between naval and RAF aircraft - most navy aircraft being designed for service in the cramped conditions on an aircraft carrier, for which purpose many had folding wings. Naval aircraft seen at Culham in wartime included Ansons, Reliants and Seafires.
Sadly, progressive defence cuts gradually whittled down the naval air force until, by 1985, the Fleet Air Arm had only 400 aircraft, most of which were helicopters. With a severely reduced need for fixed wing training the Navy had far too many aerodromes, and Culham became one of the first naval air stations to be axed; HMS Hornbill was therefore closed in 1953, after a life of only nine years. The redundant aerodrome later became a government research station, its hangars and other accommodation being adapted for use in this new role.
Occupying an elevated position some 628 feet above mean sea level, Edge Hill airfield, to the north-west of Banbury was opened in October 1941 as a satellite of No.21 Operational Training Unit based at Moreton-in-Marsh. On 12th April 1943 the station was taken over by No.12 OTU, based at Chipping Warden. Ground installations here comprised three surfaced runways, which were arranged in a triangular pattern. There were two of the ubiquitous wartime ‘T2’ steel-framed hangars, a single ‘B1’ and a ‘Robin’ hangar.
As a Bomber Command training station, Edge Hill was typically used by Wellington twin-engined bombers, but like Barford St John, it was also the setting for some early jet flights made by the experimental Gloster-Whittle E28 jet in 1943. Earlier, in May 1942, Edge Hill-based Wellingtons took part in the 'Thousand Bomber Raid' on Cologne. The airfield was closed at the end of 1945, but many buildings remain, including the former watch tower.
ENSTONE AERODROME OS 1-inch/164 390260
A satellite of No.21 OTU (Moreton-in-Marsh), Enstone was opened on 15th September 1942 as a Bomber Command Training station and, as such, it was used by large aircraft such as Wellingtons, together with other types such as Tomahawks of 1682(B) DT Flight. The airfield featured a complex perimeter track, with the main buildings to the South-East. Aeronautical charts show that the aerodrome was disused in the 1950s, though it was still being used by glider clubs. A certain amount of infrastructure remained intact, and it was therefore possible for the aerodrome to be re-opened as a civilian site in the 1970s. It its World War Two heyday, this airfield had incorporated three runways, one ‘T2’ hangar and one ‘B1’ hangar, together with at least one single-arc ‘Blister’ hangar.
This was a decoy airfield in open country to the east of Chalgrove aerodrome. It was probably in use circa 1940. Most World War Two airfields were provided with decoy sites, which were typically sited within two or three miles of the real aerodrome; in practice, several of these sites were eventually brought into use as storage sites of relief landing grounds in their own right. Others were simply “Q-Sites” with fire or light effects. Apart from these passive forms of anti-aircraft defence, local aerodromes often had light AA defences, but there were few heavy anti-aircraft sites in Oxfordshire - perhaps because its aerodromes were mainly training establishments.
GROVE AERODROME (Berks) OS 1-inch/164 390290
Local government reorganisation in 1974 made a mockery of many historic county boundaries, with the result that the part of Berkshire known as the Vale of the White Horse was transferred to Oxfordshire. For this reason it is necessary to briefly consider several Berkshire aerodromes, including RAF Grove, which was originally designed a Bomber Command station. This airfield was situated to the south of the Great Western Railway main line and to the west of Grove village. It was placed under the control of RAF Brize Norton and became involved with glider training in 1942. The USAAF were using the site by September 1943, though Grove reverted to RAF use as a Relief Landing Ground for Brize Norton in 1946. Ground installations included three runways and six standard ‘T2’ hangars. The aerodrome was finally closed in 1955.
KELMSCOTT AERODROME OS 1-inch/163 SP245005
Kelmscot was used as a Relief Landing Ground by Airspeed Oxfords, etc., flying from No.1 Beam Approach School at RAF Watchfield. It was later used as a parachute dropping Zone (“DZ”) during the preparations for D-Day in 1944. The facilities provided here were of a temporary nature, and included the usual corrugated iron Nissen Huts and at least one “Blister” hangar. The grassed landing area has left few visible reminders of this obscure Oxfordshire aerodrome, and it is now very difficult to envisage the scene in 1944, when the Airborne Forces practised their mass parachute drops over southern England.
This small airfield was opened in 1940 as a Relief Landing Ground for nearby Kidlington, and Kidlington's Oxford trainers were probably the most usual aircraft here, though after 1942 the station was used for glider training. Closure came in 1945, and few people now remember when this remote place was a busy training aerodrome. The airfield was situated to the east of Kiddington village near Ludwell Farm, and it was sometimes referred to as “Glympton”, to prevent confusion with the parent station at Kidlington.
Kidlington aerodrome, now known as Oxford Airport (or even "London Oxford"), was opened as a civilian flying school in the late 1930s. The Royal Air Force took it over on the outbreak of World War Two, the first units to arrive being Nos.106 and 185 Squadrons from RAF Cottesmore. For a time, Kidlington became a Bomber station, typical aircraft types at the beginning of the war being Handley Page Hampdens and Fairey Battles. By 1940, Kidlington had become a training station, the resident unit being known as No.15 Service Flying Training School. No.15 SFTS initially flew mainly Harvard single-engine training aircraft, but it subsequently changed to Airspeed Oxford twin-engined trainers.
Although Kidlington was essentially an air training school it was bombed by the Germans on 3rd November 1940, one hangar being set ablaze. Further raids took place on the nights of 9th-10th May 1941, and 12th-13th August 1941, around two dozen high-explosive bombs being dropped on the station at this stage of the war. The airfield had, meanwhile, grown into a relatively large establishment, with eight steel-framed hangars on the main site, and a large number of mess buildings, domestic buildings and stores, interspersed with numerous air raid shelters. Further accommodation was dispersed around the periphery of the aerodrome, which relied on grass runways and a surfaced perimeter track.
Glider training commenced in 1942, but powered flight training resumed in the following year, followed by a brief return to glider training in October 1944. No.101 (Glider) Operational Training Unit, which was formed at Kidlington in January 1942, was the first of its kind in the Royal Air Force. Hawker Audax and Hart biplanes were pressed into service as somewhat unlikely glider tugs, although these otherwise obsolescent biplanes were apparently quite capable of towing Hector Gliders. Later, Miles Masters replaced the earlier biplane as glider tugs at Kidlington and its satellite station at Weston-on-the-Green.
Accidents were sometimes unavoidable, and on one occasion a locally-based Master crashed into the spire of Witney parish church while towing a glider, causing the tug to crash and resulting in the death of the pilot and a soldier who had been taken up for a joy ride. This accident, which occurred on 2nd September 1942, entered local folklore, and there are many versions of the story. As far as can be ascertained the weather cock was knocked off its perch and the apex of the spire was damaged, although the church was not otherwise damaged; a battered weather cock that can now be seen in the Witney & District Museum is said to have been the one involved in the incident.
Kidlington remained in RAF hands until 1951, although as it was used only for storage purposes civilian flying had resumed soon after the war. The aerodrome subsequently became the home of CSE Aviation Ltd., and in its new role as Oxford Air Training School the former wartime aerodrome has trained pilots from all over the world. Seven hangars and numerous other wartime installations remain in use, and it is sometimes said that this busy site sees more aircraft movements than Heathrow. Military archaeologists can still find many interesting structures in and around the airfield, including two pillboxes in fields to the east of the present airfield.
KINGSTON BAGPUIZE AERODROME (Berks) OS 1-inch/164 SP410975
Built as a Relief Landing Ground, Kingston Bagpuize seems to have found no long term role during World War II, though it would clearly have come into its own in the event of one or more neighbouring airfields being put out of action. It appears to have been pencilled-in for USAAF use, but it was never used operationally. The airfield was used for glider training in 1943, Hawker Audax biplanes and other aircraft being employed to tow Hotspur gliders from what had become No.4 Glider Training School at RAF Kidlington. In post-war years the site remained in sporadic use as a Maintenance Unit before final closure in June 1954.
MOUNT FARM AERODROME OS 1-inch/164 SP580965
Situated on level, Thames Valley meadowland to the easer of Chalgrove, Mount Farm aerodrome was opened in July 1940, as a Satellite for nearby RAF Benson. As such, the early history of this now-closed airfield parallels that of its parent station; as part of a Bomber Command OTU Mount Farm was initially equipped with Fairey Battle light bombers, but these single-engined aircraft were soon replaced by twin-engined Wellingtons. The aerodrome was bombed on 27th February 1941, and again on 12th May 1941. By that time the station had become an important location in its own right, with three concrete runways and eight “Blister” hangars.
In 1942 RAF Mount Farm was transferred to Coastal Command control as a satellite of Benson and, as such, it became involved with Photographic Reconnaissance work, using some of Benson's PR Spitfires. The airfield was transferred to the USAAF in February 1943, but it retained its vital PR role, Lightnings and USAAF Spitfires being employed for this work. The airfield was closed in 1946-47, and much of the site is now occupied by the "new town" of Berinsfield.
A former civilian airfield, dating from 1910, Port Meadow became a Royal Flying Corps station in WW1, having already been used as a training area by the Royal Engineers Air Battalion. The airfield was controlled by 21st Wing RFC by 1916, by which time it could boast one metal-clad hangar and three canvas Bessoneau hangars. On 15th August 1918 the airfield was designated No.44 Training Depot Station, though No.21 Wing HQ was then moved to Witney
SHELLINGFORD AERODROME (Berks)
The home of No.3 Elementary Flying Training School from 1941, Shellingford was typically used by Tiger Moth biplane trainers. It consisted of the usual perimeter track enclosing a grassed landing area, with a cluster of buildings towards the south-east corner. The station was hit by one high-explosive bomb on the night of 17th-18th April 1941. The airfield was closed in 1948.
SLADE FARM AERODROME No.1 SLG
The Satellite Landing Ground at Slade Farm was situated about two miles to the north of Kirtlington village, in convenient proximity to the airfields at Upper Heyford, and Weston-on-the-Green, and in close proximity to suitable storage areas in and around Kirtlington Park or surrounding farmland. No.1 SLG was part of Maintenance Command, and like other Satellite Landing Grounds, it was surrounded by secrecy. It was not shown on aeronautical charts, and hangars and other facilities were heavily-disguised to blend with the surrounding woodland scenery.
Southrop airfield was used as a Relief Landing Ground used by Airspeed Oxfords from No.2 Service Flying Training School, Brize Norton in 1941 - No.2 Squadron being sent to Southrop while No.1 Squadron was dispersed to Akeman Street (qv) following an air raid on the parent station. In 1942 No.2 SFTS was renamed No.2 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit. By 1944 Southrop was being used by No.3 (Pilot) AFU as a Relief Landing Ground for South Cerney following the closure of No.2 (Pilot) AFU.
This Bomber Command airfield was opened in September 1940 as a satellite of RAF Abingdon and, as such, it was used by a variety of twin engined aircraft including Wellingtons and Whitley Bombers. Stanton Harcourt was more active than most local aerodromes, and it took part in the so-called "Thousand Bomber Raid" in mid-1942. Earlier in the war, on 16th August 1940, the airfield had itself been on the receiving end of an aerial attack when the Germans dropped 11 bombs and machined-gunned airfield construction workers. Night raids followed on 2nd-3rd October 1940, and 4th-5th May 1941.
Stanton Harcourt was associated with No.10 Operational Training Unit for most of the war, though other units used its facilities from time to time. In 1943, for instance, the airfield was used by Airspeed Oxfords belonging to No.1 Blind Approach Training School. Some other aircraft seen at this location at various times included Ansons and Martinets.
Facilities at RAF Stanton Harcourt were quite extensive. The layout incorporated a main runway that was aligned from north-east to south-west, with subsidiary runways extending northwards and north-westwards respectively - the resulting configuration being triangular, with a south-westwards projection. Two hangars were sited to the north of the runways, one of these being of the familiar and serviceable 'T2' type, while the other was a visually-similar 'B1' type structure. The main group of buildings, including a guardroom, motor transport section and other facilities, was sited to the east of the runway area, while further buildings were sited in and around the village.
According to www.pixture.co.uk, "Winston Churchill flew to the Casablanca Conference on 13 Jan 1943 from this airield in Liberator AL504 (Operation 'Static'). This very important meeting with the President of USA was the first of its kind with the allies, and was used to discuss the end of the war."
STARVEAL FARM No.2 SLG
Starveal Farm was used for storage by 41 Group Maintenance Command. One source places the landing area at Lat.5151 North and Long 121 West, which is just North of Old Woodstock and to the East of Blenheim Park. The aircraft storage areas may well have been very widely dispersed. This Satellite Landing Ground as used by Maintenance Command from 14th June 1941 until its closure on 29th September 1945.
Opened in 1918, Upper Heyford was the home station for several squadrons during the 1920s & 1930s. Nos.10, 18, 40, 57, 99, 113, 215 & 218 Squadrons used the station at various times and, because of this, Upper Heyford must have been a fruitful hunting ground for pre-war plan spotters, who might have glimpsed Gipsey Moths, Hawker Harts, Hawker Hinds, Fairey Gordons and Vickers Virginias in the vicinity, together with Handley Page Hyderabads, Hinaidis and (appropriately) Heyfords. All of these aircraft types were biplanes, some of which were of unorthodox appearance; the Heyford, for instance, was a large, open-cockpit biplane with its fabric-covered fuselage attached to the upper wings.
Many of the RAF squadrons stationed at Upper Heyford in pre-war years were bomber units; No.10 Squadron, for example, remained at the station from 1928 until 1937. The squadron was, throughout this period, equipped with Hyderabads, Virginias and finally Heyfords. The aerodrome continued its association with bomber units during World War Two, when it became the home of No.16 Operational Training Unit. It is interesting to note that No.16 OTU was at one time equipped with Handley Page Herefords - a rare version of the Hampden, which was built at Belfast and never saw operational service as a bomber. Other aircraft employed here included Ansons, Wellingtons and conventional Hampdens.
After the war, RAF Upper Heyford was, albeit for a short time, the home of a parachute training school, but in 1951 it became an American "base". By the 1970s this large aerodrome was being used by a force of approximately 90 F-111 fighter-bombers, which became a familiar sight above the rolling hills of North Oxfordshire. Other USAF aircraft types were occasionally seen, including Starlifter heavy freighters, A10 Tank Busters, and B52 long-range bombers. Upper Heyford was closed at the end of the Cold War, and its site is scheduled for redevelopment.
The aerodrome was situated on a windswept site some 421 feet above mean sea level. There were three concrete runways, the main one being orientated from east to west, while subsidiary runways intersected it from north-west to south-east, and from north-east to south-west. Six 'A' type hangars were available.
Watchfield was one of a small group or wartime aerdromes in the Vale of the White Horse area of Berkshire, which is now considered to be part of Oxfordshire. The airfield was opened in 1940, and it became particularly associated with Beam Approach Training, using aircraft such as Oxfords and Ansons. The airfield was busy enough to acquire its own Relief Landing Ground at Kelmscott, while a Q-Site or bombing decoy was established at nearby Kingston Warren, at the foot of the White Horse Hills. RAF Watchfield remained in use for various training purposes after World War Two.
Oxfordshire boasted several World War One aerodromes, including those at Witney, Upper Heyford, Bicester and Weston-on-the-Green. The latter was opened in July 1918, and it is likely that Sopwith Camels were among the principal aircraft types at this location. The airfield became redundant in 1919, but the site was reactivated in 1939, when it became a satellite of Brize Norton; the station was also used by Blenheims of No.13 Operational Training Unit, before passing into the hands of 23 Group, Flying Training Command. The aerodrome was bombed on several occasions in August and September 1940.
Weston-on-the-Green became a satellite of RAF Kidlington in November 1940. As such, it then became associated with glider training, while in post-war years the airfield remained in being in connection with parachute training- a tethered barrage balloon being employed for hat purpose as late as the 1980s. Facilities comprised a perimeter track enclosing a grass landing area, with a cluster of World War Two buildings on the West side of the complex, beside the A43 road. At its wartime peak, Weston-on-the-Green had 15 hangars, ten of these being of the 'Blister' type while one was a standard wartime 'T2' hangar.
A satellite of No.6 (Pilot) AFU, Little Rissington, this remote airfield occupied a 570 ft plateau to the west of Burford. Airspeed Oxford twin-engine trainers were probably the most widely used aircraft at this Training Command station.
Witney Aerodrome originated as a World War One airfield. It was set up on 250 acres of requisitioned farmland at Downs Farm, immediately to the west of Witney, and on the south side of the Burford Road. The airfield was opened in 1918, and from its inception Witney was used for training RAF pilots. The site was relinquished by the military authorities at the end of World War One, but Witney remained in use as a civilian flying school during the inter-war period. At its wartime peak the aerodrome had boasted over a dozen hangars, but all but one of these was dismantled during the 1920s, leaving just one Belfast truss hangar in situ.
The airfield was taken over by the Air Ministry a the start of World War Two, and for a time Witney functioned as a much-needed Relief Landing Ground for RAF Brize Norton. In 1940, however, Witney was taken over by de Havillands as a Civilian Repair Unit, although test flying continued from the grass landing area. In its new role, the airfield provided employment for over 1,200 people, planes being flown in for repair by female transport pilots, or brought onto the site in RAF transporter vehicles known as "Queen Marys". In all, the CRU at Witney repaired over 700 Hurricanes and Spitfires, together with around 800 de Havilland aircraft, including Mosquitoes, Tiger Moths and Rapides.
At the end of World War Two, Witney Aerodrome consisted of a grassed landing strip, with a cluster of three hangars and other buildings at the north-western corner of the site. No.1 Hangar was the former World War One building with its distinctive Belfast truss roof, while Nos.2 and 3 Hangars were standard World War Two steel-framed structures. A much smaller building, to the north of Hangar No.1, was known as the Survey Hangar, while other buildings included a paint shop, battery shop, fitting shop, drawing office and canteen. The airfield was also equipped with air raid shelters, an ARP control point, a "flight shed" and other facilities.