RAF Andrews Field
|RAF Andrews Field
RAF Great Saling
USAAF Station AAF-485
Andrews Field Airfield taken on 26 July 1948, about three years after it was closed. Although disused, it appears as it did during the war.
|IATA: none – ICAO: none|
|Operator||United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
|Location||Great Dunmow, Essex|
|Elevation AMSL||276 ft / 84 m|
Royal Air Force Station Andrews Field or more simply RAF Andrews Field (also known as RAF Andrewsfield and RAF Great Saling) is a former Royal Air Force station located 4 miles (6.4 km) east-northeast of Great Dunmow Essex, England.
Opened in 1942 as RAF Great Saling, and it was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces. During the war it was used primarily as a bomber airfield and afterwards it was used briefly as an airfield for testing jet aircraft before it was closed in late 1945.
Today the remains of the airfield are located on private property being used as agricultural fields, with a small portion used by the Andrewsfield Flying Club.
Great Saling was the original Air Ministry name for the airfield when construction was begun in 1942 by the 819th Engineer Battalion (Aviation) of the United States Army. However on 21 May 1943 the official name was changed to Andrews Field in honour of Lieutenant General Frank M Andrews.
United States Army Air Forces use
The airfield was opened in 1943 and was used both by the United States Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. Andrews Field was known as USAAF Station AAF-485 for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location. Its USAAF Station Code was "GZ". Although the name Andrews Field (or Andrewsfield) appears on RAF air maps and was widely used by that service, it is interesting to note that some USAAF agencies still referred to the airfield by the name Great Saling.
96th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
During May 1943, the 96th Bombardment Group (Heavy) flying Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses arrived from RAF Grafton Underwood. Its tail code was Square-C. The group consisted of the following squadrons:
- 337th Bombardment Squadron (AX)
- 338th Bombardment Squadron (BX)
- 339th Bombardment Squadron (QJ)
- 413th Bombardment Squadron (MZ)
The 96th appears to have only carried out one mission while posted to Andrews Field. On 29 May 1943 they took part in a raid on Rennes naval storage depot from which one B-17 failed to return. The group was moved to RAF Snetterton Heath on 12 June 1943 in a general exchange of airfields with Martin B-26 Marauder groups.
322d Bombardment Group (Medium)
Replacing the 96th was the 322d Bombardment Group (Medium) which arrived from RAF Bury St. Edmunds on 12 June. The group was assigned to the 3d Bomb Wing and flew Martin B-26B/C Marauders. Operational squadrons of the 322d were:
- 449th Bombardment Squadron (PN)
- 450th Bombardment Squadron (ER)
- 451st Bombardment Squadron (SS)
- 452d Bombardment Squadron (DR)
The 322nd was the first B-26 group to enter combat (in May 1943) from the UK, during which its combat performance helped to prove the effectiveness of the medium bombers flying tactical combat missions.
In common with other Marauder units of the 3d Bomb Wing, the 322d was transferred to Ninth Air Force on 16 October 1943. The group attacked enemy airfields in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands attacking the principal targets but the group also attacked secondary targets such as power stations, shipyards, construction works, and marshalling yards.
On 11 December 1943 Andrews Field was attacked by the Luftwaffe but little damage was done and beginning in March 1944 the 322nd bombed railway and highway bridges, oil tanks, and missile sites in preparation for the invasion of Normandy.
On 8 May 1944, one of the 322nd aircraft, nicknamed "Mild and Bitter" (serial 41-31819) became the first B-26 flying from England to complete 100 combat missions. Another B-26, "Flak Bait" (41-31773) survived to the end of hostilities with 202 missions to its credit, the only US bomber involved in combat over Europe to pass the 200 mark.
On D-Day, 6 June 1944 the 322d Bomb Group attacked coastal defences and gun batteries. Afterwards, during the Normandy campaign, the 322nd pounded fuel and ammunition dumps, bridges, and road junctions, supporting the Allied offensive at Caen and the breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July.
From Andrews Field the 322d received a Distinguished Unit Citationfor the period 14 May 1943 – 24 July 1944. The group moved during September 1944, transferring to Beauvais (A-61) Airfield in northern France, and aiding the drive of Third Army across France. On the continent, the 322nd BG used the following Advanced Landing Grounds:
- A-61 Beauvais, France September 1944
- A-89 Le Culot, Belgium March 1945
- Y-86 Fritzlar, Germany June - November 1945
The 322d flew its last mission on 24 April 1945. After V-E Day, the group was assigned to occupation duty in Germany beginning in June 1945, engaging in inventorying and disassembling German Air Force equipment and facilities. Returned to the Camp Kilmer, New Jersey in December 1945, and was inactivated on 15 December.
During the Cold War, the United States Air Force 322d Tactical Airlift Wing, based at Rhein-Main Air Base, West Germany used rotational Lockheed C-130 Hercules squadrons for tactical airlift in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. In addition, the 322d conducted unconventional warfare operations in Europe. The wing was active between 1970 and 1975 and was awarded the Second World War legacy and honours of the USAAF 322d Bomb Group.
1st Pathfinder Squadron (Provisional)
The 1st Pathfinder Squadron (Provisional) was formed at Andrews Field in February 1944 and equipped with B-26s, carrying the Oboe radio transponder blind-bombing device. When the unit was formed the squadron consisted of 14 aircraft. At the end of hostilities the squadron strength was 36 B26's. Its fuselage code was (1H)
The first B-26 night mission was flown by the 1st Pathfinder Squadron on the night of 1 June 1944 when three B26's bombed gun positions at St Marie au Bois, France. This was purely a Pathfinder mission and no other unit participated.
RAF Fighter Command use
Unlike most of the airfields vacated by the Ninth Air Force in the area, Andrews Field was immediately returned to RAF Fighter Command control on 7 October - to provide an airfield for North American P-51 Mustang squadrons escorting Bomber Command daylight operations being used by 11 Group, Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB). At this time the airfield was also under consideration for extension of runways to house Very Heavy Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" bombers.
Within a week the HQ of No. 150 (Polish) Wing RAF and an advance party of No. 19 Squadron moved in. By the middle of October 1944, Nos. 19, 65 and 122 Squadrons (No. 122 Wing) had joined the Polish Wing consisting of Nos. 129, 306 and 315 Squadrons. This joining of two wings probably constituted the largest Mustang gathering on any non-American airfield in the UK.
With the end of military control, Andrews Field was virtually abandoned by 1948 and soon took on an air of neglect. In common with other disused airfields, some of the buildings were taken over as temporary housing, even as late as 1953. From there on, virtually all the buildings with the exception of the two T-2 hangars and most of the ground works (runways, etc.) were removed and the land reverted to agriculture.
In 1972, aircraft again returned to Andrews Field (renamed Andrewsfield Aerodrome) when a 3,000 foot grass strip along part of the line of the original main runway was constructed. As flying increased, a clubhouse and flying control were erected in 1975 for the Andrewsfield Flying Club. The airfield was licensed by the CAA in 1976.
The Rebel Air Museum was housed in a blister hangar near the clubhouse for some time, until it moved to new premises on Earls Colne airfield.
Other than the two T2 hangars, the firing-in butts and a few Nissen huts in the dispersed sites, little remains of the once-busy wartime airfield. Only a small amount of single track perimeter remains along the south side of the airfield, although the wartime runways are visible as disturbed earth in aerial photography. There are two memorials, one in the village is positioned in front of the former Sick Quarters Site and commemorates the 819th Aviation Engineer Battalion who built the airfield. The other memorial is along the lane from the A120 to Great Saling and is to the memory of the 322nd Bomb Group (M). A mural depicting a B-26 adorns an interior wall of the Andrewsfield Flying Club clubhouse. Also on display are a number of photographs showing the airfield under construction.
- Freeman 2001, p. 18.
- Freeman 2001, p. 19.
- "Andrews Field". Control Towers. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
- "96th Bombardment Group (Heavy)". Mighty 8th Cross Reference. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
- "322nd Bombardment Group (Medium)". Mighty 8th Cross Reference. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
- Maurer 1980, p. 203.
- Maurer 1980, p. 202.
- Jefford 1988, p. 101.
- Jefford 1988, p. 95.
- Jefford 1988, p. 82.
- Jefford 1988, p. 85.
- Freeman, R. Airfields of the Eighth - Then and Now. After the Battle. London, UK: Battle of Britain International Ltd., 2001. ISBN 0-9009-13-09-6.
- Freeman, Roger A. (1991) The Mighty Eighth: The Colour Record. Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-35708-1
- Freeman, Roger A. (1994) UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now 1994. After the Battle ISBN 0-900913-80-0
- Freeman, Roger A. (1996) The Ninth Air Force in Colour: UK and the Continent-World War Two. After the Battle ISBN 1-85409-272-3
- Jefford MBE, Wg Cdr C G (1988). RAF Squadrons. A comprehensive record of the movement and equipment of all RAF squadrons and their antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
- Maurer, M. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. USAF Historical Division. Washington D.C., USA: Zenger Publishing Co., Inc, 1980. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
- British Automobile Association (AA), (1978), Complete Atlas of Britain, ISBN 0-86145-005-1
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to RAF Andrews Field.|
- Current-Day photos of the remnants of RAF Andrews Field
- 322d Bomb Group website
- Andrewsfield Aviation
- Photographs of RAF Andrews Field from the Geograph British Isles project