RAF Colerne

Royal Air Force Colerne or more simply RAF Colerne is a former Royal Air Force station located on the outskirts of the village of Colerne in Wiltshire, in use from 1939 to 1976.

RAF Colerne
Colerne, Wiltshire in England
An aerial view of the airfield.
RAF Colerne
Location in Wiltshire
Coordinates51°26′28″N 002°16′57″W
TypeRoyal Air Force station
Area110 hectares
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byRAF Fighter Command
ConditionClosed
Site history
Built1939 (1939)
In use1939–1976 (1976)
FateTransferred to the British Army and became Azimghur Barracks.
Airfield retain for occasional flying.
Battles/warsSecond World War
Cold War
Airfield information
IdentifiersICAO: EGUO
Elevation177 metres (581 ft) AMSL
Runways
Direction Length and surface
01/19 1,095 metres (3,593 ft) Asphalt
07/25 1,664 metres (5,459 ft) Asphalt
Aerial photograph of Colerne Airfield looking north, the technical site and barracks are upper right, 4 December 1943.

The site is now known as Azimghur Barracks and is home to 21 Signal Regiment, Royal Signals and 93 (City of Bath) Air Training Corps detached flight.

History

Second World War

Originally there had been a farm called Doncombe and a vineyard on the site of the airfield, the name of Doncombe Lane and Doncombe Hill being the last link to the farm.

From 1940 to 1955 RAF Fighter Command units were based here. During the Battle of Britain the airfield served as a satellite field to RAF Middle Wallop, and squadrons rotated back and forth from there on a daily basis.[1]

Later it was a Training station for Night Fighter navigators. Using the latest night fighter procedures, the unit involved was No. 238 Operational Conversion Unit and Bristol Brigand twin engine aircraft was used for this purpose. Also on this unit they operated Bristol Buckmaster Aircraft for Pilot Training, and a number of Boulton Paul Balliol aircraft which basically was an advanced pilot trainer powered by a Rolls Royce Merlin engine. Both the Pilot and Trainee sat side by side in the wide fuselage and the Balliols were used as targets for the Brigand aircraft to practice radar interceptions on.

SquadronEquipmentFromToDeparted ToNotes
No. 19 Squadron RAFSupermarine Spitfire VB23 July 194231 July 1942RAF Perranporth[2]
No. 29 Squadron RAFde Havilland Mosquito XIIII/XXX22 February 194511 May 1945RAF Manston[3]
No. 87 Squadron RAFHawker Hurricane I
Hurricane IIC
28 November 1940
7 August 1941
18 December 1940
27 January 1942
RAF Charmy DownDetachment at RAF Charmy Down.
Det at RAF St Mary's.[4]
No. 89 Squadron RAFBristol Beaufighter IF25 September 194119 November 1941en route EgyptReformed here.[4]
No. 118 Squadron RAFSpitfire IIA7 April 19419 April 1941RAF Warmwell[5]
No. 124 Squadron RAFSpitfire VIIMarch 194326 July 1943RAF NortholtAs a detachment from RAF North Weald.[6]
No. 125 Squadron RAFBoulton Paul Defiant I
Defiant II
Beaufighter IIF
16 June 1941
25 January 1942
7 August 1941
14 May 1942
RAF Charmy Down
RAF Fairwood Common
Full Squadron
Det at RAF Fairwood Common
Det at RAF Charmy Down.[6]
No. 131 Squadron RAFSpitfire IX
Spitfire VII
10 February 1944
29 February 1944
22 February 1944
24 March 1944
RAF Fairwood Common
Harrowbeer
[7]
No. 137 Squadron RAFHurricane IV
Hawker Typhoon IB
2 January 19444 February 1944RAF Lympne[8]
No. 151 Squadron RAFDefiant I
Mosquito II/XII/VI/XIII
30 April 1943
17 November 1943
16 August 1943
25 March 1944
RAF Middle Wallop
RAF Predannack
[9]
No. 165 Squadron RAFSpitfire VC/IXB10 February 1944
7 March 1944
1 March 1944
10 March 1944
RAF Fairwood Common
RAF Culmhead
[10]
No. 175 Squadron RAFHurricane IIB
Typhoon IB
8 April 194329 May 1943RAF Lasham[11]
No. 183 Squadron RAFTyphoon IB24 March 19438 April 1943RAF Gatwick[12]
No. 184 Squadron RAFHurricane IID1 December 19421 March 1943RAF ChilboltonDet at RAF Milfield.[12]
No. 219 Squadron RAFMosquito XVII26 March 19441 April 1944RAF Bradwell Bay[13]
No. 256 Squadron RAFDefiant I6 February 194126 March 1941RAF Squires GateDet at RAF Middle Wallop.[14]
No. 263 Squadron RAFWestland Whirlwind I28 January 1942
15 August 1942
10 February 1942
13 September 1942
RAF Fairwood Common
RAF Warmwell
[15]
No. 264 Squadron RAFDefiant II
Mosquito II
Mosquito XIII
1 May 1942
30 November 1944
30 April 1943
1 December 1944
RAF Odiham[15]
No. 285 Squadron RAFDefiant III
Martinet I
25 August 194319 November 1944RAF AndoverAs a detachment from RAF Woodvale.[16]
No. 286 Squadron RAFMiles Master III
Defiant III/I
Hurricane I
Airspeed Oxford
30 December 1941
2 March 1942
24 January 1942
30 April 1942
RAF Lulsgate Bottom
RAF Lulsgate Bottom
[16]
No. 307 Polish Night Fighter SquadronDefiant I26 March 194126 April 1941RAF Exeter[17]
No. 316 Polish Fighter SquadronHurricane I/IIA/IIB18 June 19412 August 1941RAF Northolt[18]
No. 317 Polish Fighter SquadronHurricane I26 June 194127 June 1941RAF Fairwood Common[18]
No. 402 Squadron RAFHurricane IB
Spitfire VB
4 March 194217 March 1942RAF Fairwood Common[19]
No. 406 Squadron RAFMosquito XXX17 September 194427 November 1944RAF Manston[19]
No. 410 Squadron RAFMosquito XIII/XXX28 July 19449 September 1944RAF Hunsdon[20]
No. 417 Squadron RAFSpitfire IIA/VB26 January 194224 February 1942RAF Tain[21]
No. 456 Squadron RAAFBeaufighter IIF/VIF
Mosquito II
Mosquito VI
December 1942

17 August 1943
29 March 1943

17 November 1943
RAF Middle Wallop

RAF Fairwood Common
[22]
No. 488 Squadron RNZAFMosquito XIII3 May 1944
29 July 1944
12 May 1944
9 October 1944
RAF Zeals
RAF Hunsdon
[23]
No. 501 Squadron RAFSpitfire I/IIA9 April 194125 June 1941RAF Chilbolton[23]
No. 504 Squadron RAFSpitfire IXE
Meteor III
28 March 194510 August 1945DisbandedDets at RAF Andrews Field and Lübeck.[24]
No. 587 Squadron RAFOxford
Hawker Henley III
Hurricane IV
Miles Martinet
Hurricane IIC
10 April 19441 October 1944RAF Weston ZoylandAs a detachment from RAF Culmhead.[24]
No. 600 Squadron RAFBeaufighter IIF27 April 1941
27 June 1941
18 June 1941
6 October 1941
RAF Fairwood Common
RAF Predannack

Det at RAF Predannack.[25]
No. 604 Squadron RAFMosquito XIII
Mosquito XII
13 July 1944
28 July 1944
25 July 1944
6 August 1944
RAF Zeals
A-8 Picauville

Det at A-15 Maupertus.[26]
No. 616 Squadron RAFMeteor I/III17 January 194528 February 1945RAF Andrews FieldDet at B 58 Melsbroek.[27]

The following units were here during the Second World War:[28]

Cold War

Between 4 May 1948 and 1 March 1962, No. 49 Maintenance Unit RAF was based at the airfield.[30]

Handley Page Hastings of No. 24 Squadron Transport Command at RAF Colerne in 1967.

After this period it became a Transport Command airfield, and Handley Page Hastings aircraft were flown from RAF Colerne. After the demise of the Hastings and the delivery of the new Lockheed C-130 Hercules being introduced to the RAF Air Support Command, the front line transport role was relinquished. The Hercules were based at RAF Lyneham and for many years major servicing of the Hercules was carried out at RAF Colerne by the Air Engineering Squadron until the station closed in 1976. C-130 Hercules aircraft XV198 crashed, killing all crew on board here in September 1973.

Colerne was also the home of No. 2 Field Squadron RAF Regiment from 1962 to 1975. For a number of years up until its closure as an RAF station it housed one of the RAF's regional collections of historic aircraft including Neville Duke's world record breaking Hawker Hunter and a rare example of the rocket-engined Messerschmitt Me 163 B, Werknummer 191904 (since returned to Germany).

From 1966, the Skynet satellite communications system, a Signal Unit with its main base at RAF Oakhanger, had a detachment at Colerne.

SquadronEquipmentFromToDeparted ToNotes
No. 24 Squadron RAFHandley Page Hastings C.11 January 19575 January 1968RAF Lyneham[31]
No. 36 Squadron RAFHastings C.1/C.21 September 19581 July 1967RAF Lyneham[32]
No. 74 Squadron RAFGloster Meteor F.315 February 1946
9 June 1946
2 June 1946
14 August 1946
RAF Bentwaters
RAF Horsham St Faith
[33]
No. 114 Squadron RAFHastings C.1/C.213 April 195930 September 1961DisbandedReformed here.[5]
No. 245 Squadron RAFMeteor F.310 August 194518 February 1946RAF Fairwood CommonReformed here.[34]
No. 511 Squadron RAFHastings C.1/C.21 May 19571 September 1958Disbanded[24]
No. 662 Squadron RAFAuster AOP 5/6/41 February 194910 March 1957Disbanded[35]

The following units were here during the Cold War:[28]

British Army units

Used by the British Army as its training facility for the Junior Leaders Regiment of the Royal Corps of Transport and Royal Army Ordnance Corps. Young men from the age of 16 were trained in a variety of the skills needed to enable them to become better soldiers in the army. Basic driver training was done on simulators, car driver training to licence level and motorcycle training were undertaken here.

The Regiment consisted of:- 30 (Junior Leader) Squadron RCT, 57 (Junior Leader) Squadron RCT and 90 (Junior Leader) Squadron RCT. 88 (Junior Leader) Coy RAOC.

Estranged from the regiment at Driffield in Yorkshire was 32 Driver Training Squadron RCT. Here young soldiers were sent to the ASMT at Defence School of Transport (Leconfield) to be taught to drive the basic vehicles of the Army (typically a Land Rover and a 4 Tonne HGV lorry) and to qualify as Driver Trade B3 before being posted to a full-time working regiment where their technical trade training would be continued.

Current Use

Colerne Airfield is now home to 21 Signal Regiment, Royal Signals, and the 93 (City of Bath) Squadron Air Training Corps detached flight and Bristol University Air Squadron, who operate the Grob Tutor in a flying training role for the RAF. BUAS recruits from several universities in the South-West and has been stationed at Colerne, alongside 3 Air Experience Flight, for many years. They fly the Air Training Corps cadets. Several other military cadet units (such as CCF and ACF) use Colerne for training.

Units

The following units were here at some point:[28]
  • No. 4 Aircraft Assembly Unit RAF
  • No. 10 Fighter Command Servicing Unit RAF
  • 27th Fighter Squadron
  • No. 27 (Signals Training) Group RAF
  • No. 39 Maintenance Unit RAF
  • No. 149 (Long Range Fighter) Wing RAF
  • No. 218 Maintenance Unit RAF
  • No. 238 Maintenance Unit RAF
  • No. 1337 Wing RAF Regiment
  • No. 2743 Squadron RAF Regiment
  • No. 2750 Squadron RAF Regiment
  • No. 2794 Squadron RAF Regiment
  • No. 2800 Squadron RAF Regiment
  • No. 2810 Squadron RAF Regiment

See also

References

Citations

  1. RAF, Groups in the Battle of Britain, accessed February 2009
  2. Jefford 1988, p. 30.
  3. Jefford 1988, p. 34.
  4. Jefford 1988, p. 51.
  5. Jefford 1988, p. 57.
  6. Jefford 1988, p. 58.
  7. Jefford 1988, p. 59.
  8. Jefford 1988, p. 60.
  9. Jefford 1988, p. 62.
  10. Jefford 1988, p. 64.
  11. Jefford 1988, p. 65.
  12. Jefford 1988, p. 66.
  13. Jefford 1988, p. 72.
  14. Jefford 1988, p. 79.
  15. Jefford 1988, p. 80.
  16. Jefford 1988, p. 83.
  17. Jefford 1988, p. 85.
  18. Jefford 1988, p. 86.
  19. Jefford 1988, p. 89.
  20. Jefford 1988, p. 90.
  21. Jefford 1988, p. 91.
  22. Jefford 1988, p. 93.
  23. Jefford 1988, p. 94.
  24. Jefford 1988, p. 95.
  25. Jefford 1988, p. 98.
  26. Jefford 1988, p. 99.
  27. Jefford 1988, p. 101.
  28. "Colerne". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  29. Lake 1999, p. 26.
  30. "RAF Colerne". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  31. Jefford 1988, p. 32.
  32. Jefford 1988, p. 37.
  33. Jefford 1988, p. 48.
  34. Jefford 1988, p. 77.
  35. Jefford 1988, p. 104.
  36. Lake 1999, p. 124.

Bibliography

  • Jefford, C.G. RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.

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