Historic Airfields

RAF Airfields WW2 Part 1

May 23, 2019

Here, we will tell you a little more about RAF airfields that were used during World War 2. This is RAF Airfields WW2 Part 1 where we highlight RAF Dishforth, RAF Odiham, RAF Coltishall, RAF Coningsby, and RAF Lossiemouth.

RAF Dishforth

RAF Dishforth is located 4 miles East of Ripon in the county of North Yorkshire, England, and just over 30 miles north of the City of Leeds. The station opened in 1936 as a bomber base with 7 groups and is still operational today flying helicopters for the British Army. Check also the following two TV clips from BBC Yorkshire and Yorkshire TV about the 1991 opening of the airfield with images of aircraft and personnel of the 657 Squadron Army Air Corps.

RAF Dishforth is located just south of where the A1 joins the A168 joins, slightly north of Boroughbridge, Yorkshire. In January 1937, the first No.10 Squadron arrived here with Heyfords and on September 8, 1939, the first mission was sent from Dishforth. Later in the war, Dishforth came under the wing of No.6 Group RCAF and the first squadron that was formed here was No.426 Sqn with Wellingtons. In 1943, hard runways were constructed which turned Dishforth into a class-A bomber airfield.

In November 1943, the No.1664 Heavy Conversion Unit was stationed at Dishforth here with Halifaxes. For the remainder of the war, RAF Dishforth continued to be an airfield for training purposes. The RAF ended flying from the airfield in 1988, the Army Air Corps took over.

RAF Odiham

Constructed during the RAF’s expansion period, RAF Odiham, located some eight miles east of Basingstoke, was originally home to army co-operation units flying Lysanders during the early part of WW2. Mustangs and Tomahawks were also operated from here.

During the latter part of the 2nd world war, photo recce squadrons were based here that flew many missions to all parts of Europe. After the end of hostilities, Fighter Command arrived with Spitfires, later to be followed by Vampires, Meteors, and Javelins.

One of the highlights of Odiham’s life was the Queen’s coronation during which the airfield was crammed with hundreds and hundreds of all kinds of aircraft. In recent years, the airfield’s activity has once again turned to the support of the British Army, operating the RAF’s heavy lift helicopters. See also this post about the history of RAF North Weald, an airfield that’s still operational but not as a military airfield.

RAF Coltishall

Opened in 1940, RAF Coltishall, situated just over eleven miles north of the City of Norwich, was a famous Battle of Britain airfield that was home to such aircraft types as the Walrus, Beaufighter, Spitfire, and Hurricane. After the war years, the station hosted Mosquitoes, Vampires, Venoms, Meteors, and Javelins before becoming the RAF’s first  Lightning base in 1960.

Former RAF Coltishall is among Norfolk’s crucial historic airfields and the current owner, Norfolk County Council, wants to develop the airfield in recognition of the servicemen and women who gave their lives for our freedom and with due regard to the site’s heritage.

In 1939, RAF Coltishall was initially built as a so-called “Expansion Period” base for bombers but in 1940, it was changed into a fighter station. The airfield included a control tower, four hangars, bomb stores, and, initially, a grass runway. During the war years, Coltishall was home to over 80 squadrons, including Czech and Polish units. Fighter aircraft flown from here included Spitfires, Beaufighters, P51 Mustangs, and Hurricanes.

When the war had come to an end, Coltishall missions had destroyed over two hundred enemy aircraft and damaged more than one hundred. The station transferred to the strike/attack/reconnaissance role becoming a Jaguar base in 1974. It is now the RAF’s only permanent Jaguar station. To read more about Historic UK Airfields, check out this page.

RAF Coningsby

Coningsby, located almost ten miles northwest of the City of Boston, in Lincolnshire, opened in 1940 as a bomber base, operating Hampdens, Manchesters, and Lancasters. During the early post-war years, Mosquito’s, Lincolns, and B29 Washingtons flew from here. After a period of Canberra operations, Coningsby was developed into a V-bomber base in readiness for the arrival of Vulcans. Check out also Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Center in East Kirkby, just north of the City of Boston in Lincolnshire, a privately owned museum that is home to the Lancaster NX611 “Just Jane” and an original Control Tower.

RAF Coningsby is one of two British RAF QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) Stations set up to protect the airspace of the UK. RAF Lossiemouth is the second station. RAF Coningsby houses two combat-ready frontline squadrons and functions as Typhoon pilots UK training station.

RAF Coningsby was constructed just before WW2 and was the home to 617 Sqn. also referred to as the “Dambusters” in the war’s second half and later, Coningsby became the base for Vulcan bomber aircraft. Then, the base was closed to prepare for the arrival of the TSR2, but following its cancellation, Coningsby received deliveries of F4 Phantoms in 1966 which remained until Tornado F2s and F3s arrived in the late 1980s.

Coningsby is home to the Eurofighter Typhoon and is also home to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Today, some 3 thousand Service Personnel, contractors, and Civil Servants are employed at RAF Coningsby. Interesting is also this post about RAF Polebrook, located about a mile southeast of Oundle in Northamptonshire on land once owned by the Rothchild Family.

RAF Lossiemouth

RAF Lossiemouth, located some 43 miles northeast of the City of Inverness, Scotland, originally opened in 1939 as a Royal Air Force bomber station but became more closely associated with the Fleet Air Arm after being transferred to the RN after the war. The station returned to the RAF on 28th September 1972, and a huge program of runway resurfacing began.

The first RAF unit,  8SQN, flying AEW Mk2 Phase 3 Shackleton’s, established its base at Lossiemouth at the end of 1972 but had to fly from Kinloss until all the resurfacing work was completed. 226(Jaguar) OCU was also formed at the end of 1972.

When RAF Lossiemouth opened, it was home to the 15 Flying Training Squadron but when WW2 broke out, 20 Operational Training Unit was the base’s major unit in combination with satellite airfields at Brackla, Bogs O’Mayne, and  Milltown. In 1972, the RAF took over the airfield again using Buccaneer, Tornado, Jaguar, and Shackleton aircraft, both operationally and for training purposes at Lossiemouth.

RAF Lossiemouth was used in many conflicts, including the Gulf conflicts and in Afghanistan. In the years 2011-2014, several Squadrons, including 617 Squadron (“The Dambusters”) and 12(Bomber) Squadron were disbanded and the “Tornado Era” ended in 2017 with the disbandment of XV(Reserve) Squadron.

In early 2015, II(Army Co-operation) Squadron arrived at RAF Lossiemouth. The primary role for RAF Lossiemouth is the provision of QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) Interceptor North. The QRA system is maintaining crews and aircraft on very high alert to be able to intercept unidentified aircraft entering or approaching UK airspace.

In 2019, RAF Lossiemouth received a 4th Typhoon Squadron IX(B) Squadron that’s at the center of the QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) Force that protects the UK’s airspace and is ready to react and take off within just minutes of any alert. Check out as well this post about the Midland Air Museum, located close to Coventry Airport in Warwickshire.