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The History

U87123_bombloading3The Airfield

The airfield at Enstone was built in 1943 as a satellite station for Moreton in Marsh. Wellington bombers were the main force based here, but the site was also used by many other aircraft. Air crews were trained here on Wellington Bombers, and on completion of their training were either moved onto the Lancaster, Halifax and other heavy bomber squadrons or remained flying Wellingtons around the UK and overseas. Most of these pilots were too young to hold a driving licence yet they were trained and sent to fly bombers deep into occupied Europe. Following the Allied victory in Europe, Enstone airfield was officially closed at the beginning of 1946. Our building and two others on the site remain from wartime, when they were used for the fusing of the bombs. The present rally track was the former bomb dump and the 4x4 course runs around the old bomb sangars. Naturally, the site is now completely safe, though we remain proud of the airfield's past. We have even been visited by one of the pilots based here during the War, whose name is now displayed on the club-room door- any WW2 pilots who flew here in the past will always be warmly welcomed and given honorary membership to the club.

Enstone History

Vickers Wellingon
U87126_cookiebombThe Wellington wasthe backbone of Bomber Command 1939-1943 and was also used in large numbers by Coastal Command. It was produced in greater numbers than any other mult-engined aircraft built in Britain. It also served in every major war theatre and did not retire from RAF Service until 1953.
Developed to meet Air Ministry Specification B9/32 the prototype first flew at Weybridge on15th June 1936 with 2 hp Bristol Pegasus X engines and a Supermarine Stranraer fin and rudder assembly. On 15th August 1936 the Air Ministry placed an order for 18 Wellington Mk 1s to a revised Specification B29/36 requiring a redesigned fuselage a revised tail unit and hydraulically operated nose, ventral and tail turrets. The first production Mk1 was flown on 23rd December 1937 and the first production aircraft were delivered to 99 Squadron at Mildenhall in October 1938. By September 1939 six bomber Squadrons were fully equipped. During the first months of war unescorted Wellingtons attempted daylight raids on German Shipping in the North Sea but were hevily outfought by German defenders. Wellingtons made the first attack on Berlin on 25/26 August 1940 and on 1st April 1941 a Wellington of 150 Squadron dropped the first 4000lb 'blockbuster' on Emden. Of the 1046 aircraft that took part in the 1000 Bomber raid on Cologne during the night of 30th May 1942, 599 were Wellingtons. The last operational flight by Bomber Command Wellingtons was made on 8/9th October 1943.
From late 1940 they became long range bombers for the desert air forces in North Africa and from early 1942 commenced simikar operations in India. They were used as submarine hunters in Coastal Command and at scores of Operational Training Units. After the war they were used as navigational and general bomber trainers. The Wellington proved astonishingly versatile in many diverse roles while its ability to absorb heavy damage and still fly was due to its geodetic construction, the design idea of Sir Barnes Walliswimpey_1

wimpey_2

The 'R' for Robert Wellington Bomber recovered from Loch Ness, Brooklands Museum, Weybridge. UK Geodetic detail in bomb doors.

1943

  • 12th April, After almost 18 months as Moreton's satellite Station Edgehill has handed over to 12 OTU at Chipping Warden. The 466 personnel moved quickly to their new satellite Station at Enstone 12 miles East-South-East of Moreton.
    Once again Enstone had been built by George Wimpey and Co for £591,000. The main runway had been built to heavy bomber standards and was longer then Moreton or Edgehill's equivalent.
  • 15th April, just 3 days after the detachment to Enstone the bigger runway did not help , when wellington Z1142 swung off the runway on takeoff , hit the windsock and crashed in flames, killing three of the crew.
  • More fortunate was the crew of Sgt Burke, while on a night exercise in April a sudden thump and rending sound was heard. The branch of a tree had penetrated the skin and embedded itself into the geodetic structure! After nursing the aircraft back to Moreton the crew marked their escape by breaking off a small piece of twig as a good luck charm.When the rear gunner, Sgt Bill Whittaker, was married at the end of the course he wore his lucky twig in his breast pocket. The near disaster was caused by the pilots sudden development of defective vision, and the crew was then broken up.
  • 30th April, 4241 AA Flight arrived at Enstone to provide guard duties for the Station.
  • 8th May, 6 wellingtons from 21 OTU make a flypast at the opening of the Chipping Norton "Wings" week. The Station Band Played and Grp Capt Cole spoke to the citizens of the town, fund raising efforts became part of the overall campaign.
  • 13th May, Enstone village organised a concert for thier part of the "Wings for Victory" appeals, Moreton's band were busy!
  • 17th May, 'X' Flight, Commanded by Flt Lt K. H. Wallis, with Lysanders and Martinets for target towing and Wellingtons for air gunnery, moved from Moreton to Enstone.

"X" (gunnery) Flight 21 OTU

Aerial gunnery training was conducted over land , and gunners were prohibited from fireing downward. If a 'drogue' target was lost and its whereabouts known, it was not unusuall for Flt Lt Wallis to jump on a service motor cycle and go and retrieve it. A risky operation, as some locals were quick to point out misdemeanours such as rows of bullet holes across barn doors!

The gunnery, "X" Flight of 21 OTU at Enstone in front of a Martinete.
In the front row is the Commander, Flt Lt (later Wg Cdr) K.H. Wallis, (legs crossed)
who later became famous as a designer, builder and pilot of Gyrocopters, and well known
for his flying in a 007 James Bond Movie.
(Wg Cdr K.H. Wallis CEng FRAeS FRSA RAF{Ret'd})

7th July, a Wellington was descending through cloud returning to Enstone, just as it broke cloud it collided with an Oxford that was underneath it, both aircraft and crews were lost.

  • 16th November, R1293 crashed at Enstone when its port engine cut on take off, the aircraft was destroyed by fire but again the crew all escaped with only slight injuries.
  • 17th November, DV918 from Enstone came down at Little Tew after over shooting the runway, 4 died.

J.A Longs story

Having been in the RAF for two years already and undergone Navigation training in Southern Rhodesia and the bomb aiming course in Satverton, now came the time to "crew up". He was directed to one of the hangers where the completly random process was taking place. Everyone milled around introducing themselves to one another, Mr Long was approached by a soft spoken Welsh Pilot, Flg Off Norman Thomas, who turned out to have several hundred flying hours as a flying instructor. They seemed to "hit it off" and the basis of a crew was established!

"Tommy" Thomas then put together the rest of the crew,
Sgt Bill Neal (ex London policeman) as Navigator,
Sgt Doug Phipps (formerly a barber from Bisbane, Austrailia) as Wireless Operator,
and Plt Off Geoff Wood as Rear Gunner.

Through July and into September they all got to know each others quallities and characteristics, flew cross country missions all over England. Fighter affiliation exercises, dinghy drill, gunnery practices and communications exercises ensured each member became proficient in his own "trade". Mr Long also spent 13 hrs in the left hand seat learning enough about flying the Wellington to be able to do so if "Tommy" Thomas was put out of action.

Two days before training was complete Tommy was told to fly their first operational mission over France, their baptism by fire, ready or not! The target was an important ammunition and supply concentration in the Foret de Mormal.

At 19.50 hrs on 2nd Sept they took off in Wellington L7888 and crossed the English Coast at Beachy Head and the French at Pointe au Banc. Then came the first experience of real flak and the concentrated flash of bombs exploding on the ground far beneath them, the fires that were started , the cold clammy hands on his bombsight and the fear in his gut as he lay prostrate in the bombing hatch. Running up to the target was when the aircraft was most vulnerable to attack, as no evasive action could be taken, the searchlights could zero in and the night fighters attack.

John dropped the 6, 500lb(225Kg) bombs and Tommy turned the aircraft back towards base post-haste, they crossed the French coast at Neuport and the English at Clackton, Nearly 100 mi off course, but a wonderful sight none the less.

L7888 was one of 6 aircraft from 21 OTU that night, five were considered to have succeded, though cloud cover was "total" only one returned after "navigational difficulties" and abandoned its sortie.

1944

24th February, Gunnery 'X' Flight returned from Enstone to Moreton, they were replaced by 1682 (Bomber) Defence Training Flight, who had arrived 2 days earlier from Stanton Harcourt, with their 5 P40 Tomahawks (who then re-equipped with Hurricanes later in April).

1st August, 1682 (B) DT Flight disbanded at Enstone and its Hurricanes were absorbed by 21 OTU.

16th September, LN771 with an Instructor pilot and student crew was waiting for take off at Enstone and was given the signal to do so, at the same time another Wellington LN429 was given permission to land. The colision occurred and only the WOp/AG from LN771 managed to escape as both aircraft caught fire. Disciplinary action was taken against the airfield controller for allowing the situation to happen.

26th September, AVM J.A.Grey CBE DFC GM (the 91 group AOC) made an inspection, firstly of the drawn up ranks of airmen then the other sections, a parade then marched past before he left to inspect the administrative and domestic buildings at Enstone.

Enstone Detatchment

A large portion of the Enstone detatchment in late 1944.
(C Inns)

The Spring and Summer of 1945

  • January, 2 small 'bull's-eyes' with aircraft leaving from both Moreton and Enstone and a 4 day visit from a Chinese delegation to study the station's administrative arrangements start the new year.

9th April, 17 Lancasters from Spilsby have to divert and arrive at Moreton, a further 13 Lancasters from Bardney land at Enstone along with a Halifax from North Creake

  • 18th June, "Cooks tours" were arranged for the ground crews and interest flights were made over Germany to show the results of Bomber Commands activities.
  • July, 13 "Cooks Tours" leave from Moreton and 8 leave from Enstone.

VE Day Arrives!

Waving the flag on VE Day, from his Hillman car ('Betsie'),
F/O Reg Craig and F/O John Carrol DFC (RAAF)
at Enstone
(R Craig)

Cooks Tours

Dutch Holland (second from Left) takes his gound crew from Enstone
to see the damage over Germany.
(R Craig)

When the weather was fine "Cooks tours" were arranged for the ground crews
and flights were made over Germany to show the results of Bomber Commands activities.
One aircraft from Moreton and one from Enstone left with 4 or 5 passengers
each day, a long list soon was started for participants.
Three routes were used:-
The Northerly , over Emden, Wilhelmshaven and Bremen.
The Central, over the Rhur
The Southerly, over Aachen, Bonn and Cologne

11th August, with the exception of a holding party the 21 OTU detachment at Enstone move temporarily to Honeybourne in Worcestershire (though some reports say they went to Long Marston, its satellite). This was so the runways could be repaired.

Post War, Late 1945

6th October, the Enstone detachment that had moved into Honeybourne while rebuilding work was in progress returned, but within a month found out about the impending closure of the airfield.

  • 23rd November, the last flights from Enstone took place and in the evening a farewell dance was held in the WAAF NAFFI.
  • 24th November, all aircrew personnel leave Enstone for Moreton, leaving only a clearing up party behind.

1946

  • 15th January, the 'Marching Out' took place at Enstone and its two runways were closed to flying.
  • 17th January, Enstone is officially closed and handed over to Maintenance Command
  • 17th December, ignoring the fact that Enstone had been closed down in January, a detachment of 17 Service Flying Training School with its Oxfords and Harvards arrived at Moreton, they had been flying there since arriving on 10th November! No1 Refresher School was formed and on this day records show the greatest number of aircraft ever to be based at Moreton.

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