IN REACH OF THE SKIES
WESTON ON THE GREEN
RAF Westhampnett near Chichester was originally built as an emergency landing ground for fighter aircraft in WWII. It still features two grass runways but is better known these days for the Goodwood motor racing circuit that effectively forms the airfield perimeter. These pictures are from September 2015
Built in 1941 RAF Graveley became an operational Pathfinder base in 1942 using Halifax IIIs before re-equipping with Lancasters in 1944. Mosquitos of eight group were also operated from this Cambridgeshire field. Today agriculture has taken over although some taxi ways and a couple of buildings survive, notably the control tower which has been converted to a dwelling house. Visited in December 2015.
Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire was built in 1941 and opened the following year for use by the USAAF. The prime unit was the 379th Bombardment Group and their B-17s, including Ol' Gappy that flew 157 combat missions the highest number for the type. After the USAAF left the field closed in 1946 although it was maintained on standby status for many years. Today agriculture has returned and apart from some taxiways and lines of bushes marking the main runway there is sadly very little evidence of Kimbolton's existence, memorial aside. Pictured in December 2015.
Langham airfield in Norfolk became operational in 1940 although it was a further two years before concrete runways appeared. It was primarily home to Beaughfighters and Wellingtons and early jets, in the shape of DH Vampires, were based there after the war. The station closed in 1961 and a number of turkey sheds have since been erected on the former runways meaning that a lot of the structure survives. This also includes the original control tower. Also of note is the restored ground to air gunnery training dome which is open to visitors during certain times of the year. A picnic area with a number of airfield information boards surrounds the dome. Pictures from a visit in February 2016.
Oulton airfieild is in Norfolk close to Aylsham and was operational from 1940 to 1945 as an RAF heavy bomber field and also by USAAF 8th Air Force 803 bombardment squadron. Now returned to farmland there are still traces of runway and one or two buildings including a cut down and reclad T2 hangar. A memorial has been erected close to the original airfield. Pictures from February 2016.
Attlebridge, not far from Norwich in Norfolk, became active with the RAF in 1941 but was transferred to the USAAF the following year as part of the 8th Air Force 2nd bomb wing. It's most notable operations were flown by Liberators of the 466th Bombardment Group from 1944. The last crew lost over Germany flew from Attlebridge. Today the airfield, which closed in 1950, has largely been taken over by poultry sheds built on the old runways although few other buildings survive. Pictures from February 2016.
Soesterburg in the Netherlands was an active base until 2008 having been established in 1911. It was occupied by the Luftwaffe in WWII and from 1954 was shared with the USAF who operated from a section called Camp New Amsterdam. The Americans left in 1994 and the field continued as a Dutch helicopter base until closure. Some gliding activity still takes place and a Military museum is also on site. Pictures from June 2016.
Polebrook airfield was initially used by the RAF in WWII including the operation of Fortress 1s (B-17C) but in 1942 it was handed over to the USAF Eighth Air Force, again operating the B-17. This was the field from which Clark Gable flew. In 1945 the airfield was returned to the RAF and subsequently closed in 1948. Now a mix of farmland and a nature reserve the original J type hangar remains but most other structures have been demolished. However a walk through the woodland reveals foundations and trackways from Polebrook's heyday. Visited in July 2016.
Weston On The Green in Oxforshire is an active RAF base used for gliding and parachute training. It is an all grass field that can trace its origins back to the RFC in WWI. The original sargeant's and officer's mess buildings still exist opposite the base. The field had some use in WWII mainly as a relief landing ground for training units. From a visit in July 2016.
Stow Maries airfield in Essex is the largest surviving WWI airfield in Europe, first becoming operational in 1916. It has a large number of original buildings which are currently under restoration. The airfield is active, hosting a number of events each year and a new museum has recently opened dedicated to the history of WWI. Pictures from a visit in May 2016.