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Former World War II Airfields in Oxfordshire

Updated on September 15, 2014

Abandoned Oxfordshire WWII Airfields

Oxfordshire was an ideal place to build WW2 Airfields, plenty of warning of any German raids, yet close enough to protect London and launch attacks on the Continent. Nature is reclaiming many of these abandoned runways and control towers that still remain. Farmers found the hard standing useful. Many hangers and outbuildings were longtime used as stores or for small businesses but these are coming to an end of their life now, they were often only jerry-built of course.

This lens is a photo record of the remaining grass-covered runways, buildings, skeletons of buildings often bizarrely located in fields full of crops, there are fewer and fewer people who can remember when these airfields were full of planes, troops, supplies, jeeps and activity at all times of the day and night.

Many of them and increasingly as the war went on were Americans preparing for D-Day. The youngest of these heroes are now in their eighties.

Abandoned Runway at Former RAF Broadwell

Broadwell was used by planes used to launch gliders at D-Day and at Arnhem. The scene is so peaceful it is hard to remember the heroism, fear, anxiety and sacrifice of those airmen.

Lonely Former Broadwell Outbuildings

You can see that these buildings won't last much longer. Are they worth preserving, should they be preserved? If an airman or soldier was 20 at the war's end in 1945 then today he is 85, perhaps this lens will help a few of these veterans to revisit their youth and bring back memories of war, of heroism, of tragedy, of the warm welcome from the local girls, and fights with the local youths.

Former RAF Broadwell Control Tower Slumbering in the Rape Field

Peaceful now but what drama and tragedy occurred here during the war.

Control Tower Ruins at former RAF Kingston Bagpuize - USAAF wartime fighter base, USAF maintenance unit to 1954

An outlying airfield of RAF Abingdon. hundreds of troops were stationed at Kingston and the RAF station was built. Later, hutted camps were built at Kingston but especially in Southmoor, on Draycott Wood, and inhabited by thousands of American troops who departed on D-Day in 1944.

Old Airfield Hangers at Fyfield-Kingston Bagpuize

Grove Airfield near Wantage Memorial

Grove Airfield near Wantage Memorial Plaque

Plane Statue Memorial at Grove Wantage

Abandoned Runway at Grove WW2 Airfield

There are many sections of runway, concrete areas that are gradually being taken back by nature

WW2 Hangers at Stevenage still used as Storage, the Gatehouse

WW2 Hangers used as Storage at Steventon

There is a huge amount of storage here, symbol of the massive economic power that the USA brought to the war.

RNAS Hornbill at Culham 1944 - Many Buildings still intact

RNAS Culham (HMS Hornbill) is the name of a Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) near Culham, Oxfordshire. It opened in 1944 as an Aircraft Receipt and Despatch Unit for the Royal Navy.

The ground layout was typical of many bomber stations, with three runways. However it had a large number of hangars which were situated mostly around the field's boundary. Initially HMS Hornhill was used to train reservists based in the Thames Valley region utilising a number of different types of aircraft including Supermarine Seafires, Sea Furys and Harvards. In May 1947 the Photographic Trials and Development Unit was based at HMS Hornbill, and in 1951 No. 1840 Naval Air Squadron operated at the airfield for a short time.

The airfield closed on 30 September 1953 and was subsequently used by the Admiralty as a storage facility. In 1960, the airfield was handed over to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority for use in nuclear and atomic research. It is now home to an international, collaborative, high energy nuclear physics project — the Joint European Torus

(Wikipedia)

Mount Farm Airfield Aerial Photo 1946

Mount Farm Memorial USAAF & RAF Berinsfield

In memory of those who served in the 7th Photo Group the eyes of the 8th USAAF.

Mount Farm, 5693 Missions 1943-1945

Dedicated 25th May 1985

Mount Farm Airfield Today (2010)

Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour and Glenn Miller took off from here to entertain troops in Europe. Glen Miller entertained the US troops here in December 1944 his last gig before disappearing from history.

Former Stanton Harcourt Airfield Gatehouse

Stanton Harcourt Airfield Abandoned Buildings

It's like a ghost town.

Former RAF Abingdon - Now Dalton Barracks

The runways still exist but are only used by Private Flying Clubs and the Abingdon Air & Country Fair

Former RAF Upper Heyford - World Heritage Site?

Photo by William J. Grimes
Photo by William J. Grimes

This closed as recently 1993 victim of the end of the Cold War. It has been proposed as a World Heritage site. English Heritage said the base was the best-preserved Cold War air base in Britain and should be protected.

The RAF site at Upper Heyford was one of the largest US Air Force bases in Europe.

Witney Aerodrome - I have found no visible trace, or plaque, nothing

The De Havilland aircraft company opened a factory in 1939 at Witney aerodrome, which had been established west of the town during the First World War and later used as a flying training school. The factory became a repair unit for military aircraft the following year, and from 1941-2 overhauled Hurricanes and Spitfires, turning out nearly 1,500 fully repaired aircraft by 1945; at its peak there were 1,200 workers' The Witney factory remained an important local employer until its closure in 1949. Smith's Industries then took over the site in 1949 to make car components. They have now gone. Whittard of Chelsea and Past Times have taken over the main offices.

Douglas Bader and Amy Johnson were associated with Witney Aerodrome. From a photo Witney only had grass runways making it less likely that there be remains or artifacts of Witney Aerodrome today.

Brize Norton

RAF Brize Norton was opened in 1937 as a training base. By the 1950s Cold War tension was escalating and the United States envisaged stationing nuclear bombers in the United Kingdom as a deterrent to Soviet aggression. Unlike all the other airfields on this page which have been returned to nature, Brize Norton has become the principal military airbase in the UK.

As an example of its importance Brize Norton was used in the July 2010 spy exchange between Russia and the USA. US planes landed here before going on to Vienna for the actual exchange.

Photo Wikicommons : Public Domain

RAF RAAF USAF C-17s 2007.jpg

The 301st Airlift Squadron (U.S. Air Force), 99 Squadron, Royal Air Force, and 36th Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, C-17 flight crews and aircraft maintenance personnel assemble in front of their C-17s on the flightline at Royal Air Force Brize Norton, United Kingdom, June 4. In the front row are the squadron commanders: Lt. Col. Stephen Rickert, 301st Airlift Squadron commander; Wing Commander John Gladston, 99 Squadron commander; and Wing Commander Linda Corbould, 36th Squadron commander, along with Col. Lloyd Neblett, retired commander of the 301st Troop Carrier Squadron, predecessor to the 301st. The crews met for the first time as sister squadrons, re-establishing a relationship with the British that goes back to World War II.

Witney Aerodrome Officers Mess now College House

One of the last remaining buildings of the Aerodrome. Douglas Bader and Amy Johnson may have taken a few moments of rest here.

Witney Aerodrome RAF Training Unit Nissan Huts

RAF Benson Oxfordshire

RAF Benson Helicopter Base
RAF Benson Helicopter Base

RAF Benson is a front line support helicopter base working within the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC), located in South Oxfordshire

The airfield is a well-known frost hollow, often recording the coldest temperatures in the UK. In early 2009 the Met Office at RAF Benson recorded a temperature of -11.8 degrees, and on January 7th 2010, -17.1 degrees (Wikipedia)

Text with BIG Picture - Chalgrove Field Station 465 Memorial

Chalgrove Field Station 465 Memorial
Chalgrove Field Station 465 Memorial

Adjacent to English Civil War Battle Site Chalgrove Field where John Hampden was fatally wounded in 1643. Prince Rupert won this battle for the Cavaliers against John Hampden's Roundheads.

Are you a veteran or relative?

Do you remember when these airfields were buzzing with activity, night landings?

Did you work at the Airfields?

I've read a lot about these airfields and know that many airmen died in accidents, mistakes, just as much a tragedy of course.

WWII Airfields Guestbook

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    • profile image

      Steve 19 months ago

      Brilliant site with good information. I served at most of these stations.

      I am a CI with the ATC and will show the images to cadets

    • profile image

      David JL Brown 22 months ago

      This David JL Brown and I have signed up with Hubpages. Again I am looking for anyone that knows about Thame Park, Oxford, military base, in the UK that the US Navy used well over the years especially around 1945.

    • profile image

      David Brown 22 months ago

      I now live in Alberta, Canada. My father was stationed at Thame Park with the US Navy in 1945. Does anyone know of this place and if there are any records of officers from that time?

    • stereomike83 profile image

      stereomike83 3 years ago from UK

      I live in Cambridgeshire and like in Oxfordshire there are many abandoned air bases that you spot on maps etc. Have never thought to sought them out though but maybe I should as is such an important part of our history

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I remember my first ever issue of rum ration, whilst working during a very cold night loading Argosy aircraft, at RAF Benson. I was serving with 382 Troop of 22 Air Despatch Squadron, RCT.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I will be in London for four days at the end of this month AUG 13. Is there an USAAF base near I can visit in one day?

      Thanks!

    • thesuccess2 profile image
      Author

      thesuccess2 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Paul,

      There is so much history waiting to be written. I still discover new things (to me) in Abingdon

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Spent 18 years in the RAF, serving twice at Brize Norton, where I was finally discharged. Discovered the old RAF Broadwell a few weeks ago (considering I've lived here (Carterton) for 8 years, pretty shocking) and now use it as a quiet place to take my dog for a walk. As I'm on crutches, the runway is excellent for me to hobble along while she wanders off. I was interested in the history of the place and am now discovering things. Thanks for this site. Good work.

    • thesuccess2 profile image
      Author

      thesuccess2 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Stu, Thanks I haven't even got them all.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I live in Canada now but am heading back to UK soon to visit my brother in Thame. I enjoyed reading this history of the abandoned airfields, they've always fascinated me since i was a kid. Thanks for taking the time to photograph them.

    • thesuccess2 profile image
      Author

      thesuccess2 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Keep looking. It's surprising how much local history has yet to be written?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @thesuccess2: Hello,

      Yes, a very king gentleman opened up the museum for me and my husband after we had enquired at the local library. We did get a bit of information from there.

      Thanks

      June Johnson

    • thesuccess2 profile image
      Author

      thesuccess2 4 years ago

      @anonymous: June

      Have you tried http://www.chippingnortonmuseum.org.uk/?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hello, My mum was stationed at Chipping Norton during WW11 and was a cook in the WAAF.

      I am trying to find any information about Chipping Norton, but finding it difficult. Could anyone advise me about any info out there which I might find useful?

      Thank you

    • profile image

      roger-prouse 4 years ago

      Anyone still around born on mount farm airbase Oxford (Berinsfield) ???

    • thesuccess2 profile image
      Author

      thesuccess2 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Brize Norton is the probably the number one military airport in the UK. I've just driven by Benson which is having new buildings put up. Was Brize Norton as important in your day?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I pulled B-47 Alert at Brize Norton 1962-1964

    • thesuccess2 profile image
      Author

      thesuccess2 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Margaret sorry did not know father (I come from a different region) . This lens is dedicated to all those that served at these bases.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Hello, did you have a math/phys ed. teacher by the name of Tony Cirillo? I think he was stationed there in the early 60s. He was my father. He passed away last year in April 2011. He loved teaching overseas on the military bases and loved the military families. We miss him dearly.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @thesuccess2: My father remembers watching a Flying Circus on Witney airfield in the thirties during which a biplane flew through a hanger. He couldn't actually afford to go in to see the show, it cost two shillings, but watched it from the road nearby and was mightily impressed. When WW2 began, I believe the de Havilland aircraft factory took over the site.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      These are definitely pictures that paint a thousand words, very solemnly....

    • thesuccess2 profile image
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      thesuccess2 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Brian, sorry I seem to have only just noticed your message, you mention airfields or ex-airfields I haven't even got to yet!

    • thesuccess2 profile image
      Author

      thesuccess2 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Bill, great to hear from you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I was at RAF Upper Heyford from 1960 1963. My father was in the US Air Force.I was a teenager and had the best times of my life.I'm still in contact with my friends from there

    • rhonney profile image

      rhonney 6 years ago

      great info!!...thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I remember many of the aircraft seen taking off and approaching aerodromes now seems are forgotten, Cottisford, yes as in Lark-rise to Candleford,,Hihton in hedges, Turweston, Finmere, Croughton Bicester- now gliding club. And of course all important Upper Heyford all situated in In Oxfordshire except Turweston Northants. W saw Hawser gliders, Lysanders- my favourite tow plane, Hampdens, unreliable often crash landed at Cottisford, Wellingtons, Mossis !! Avro Ansons Blenheim;s Spits and Hurries, and more. Of course later the wonderful D.C.3 Dekota. Those really were the days, for spotters.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 6 years ago

      WOW what a great lens! I do hope they preserve this place and the buildings...once gone they can never bring them back...after all, it is History.

    • thesuccess2 profile image
      Author

      thesuccess2 6 years ago

      @Violin-Student: I knew of a few and just kept finding more and more. I hope to add more with time. Glad you liked it.

    • Violin-Student profile image

      Violin-Student 6 years ago

      This is a great lens. I watch the movie Twelve O'Clock High every time it comes on! This tugs on the heartstrings just as hard as the toby jug in the movie.Thanks.

    • thesuccess2 profile image
      Author

      thesuccess2 7 years ago

      @Swisstoons: There are just so many and they were "poorly constructed" and not meant to last, but it's time to save something

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 7 years ago from Michigan

      An interesting lens. I'm surprised they haven't kept some of these fields, including the buildings, just as they were when they played such a vital role in keeping England free; a proper tribute to the people who never returned from some of the missions.