RAF Atcham

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RAF Atcham
USAAF Station 342
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svgEighth Air Force - Emblem (World War II).pngPatch9thusaaf.png
Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Atchamairfield-9may1946.png
Atcham Airfield – 9 May 1946
RAF AtchamUSAAF Station 342 is located in Shropshire
RAF AtchamUSAAF Station 342
RAF Atcham
USAAF Station 342
Type Royal Air Force station
Site information
Owner Air Ministry
Controlled by  Royal Air Force
US Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg United States Army Air Forces
Site history
Built 1941 (1941)
In use 1941–1946 (1946)
Battles/wars Second World War
Garrison information
Garrison 31st Fighter Group
14th Fighter Group
495th Fighter Training Group
RAF Flying Training Command
Spitfire V of the 309th Fighter Squadron
Republic P-47C-5-RE Thunderbolt Serial 41-6530 of the 551st Fighter Training Squadron. This aircraft was formerly assigned to the 56th Fighter Group at RAF Kings Cliffe. This aircraft was condemned due to enemy action 16 April 1946

Royal Air Force Station Atcham or more simply RAF Atcham is a former Royal Air Force station located 5.0 miles (8.0 km) east of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, on the north eastern boundary of Attingham Park.

The airfield was opened in 1941 and was initially used by the Royal Air Force before being transferred to the United States Army Air Forces.

History[edit]

Royal Air Force[edit]

Atcham was built to house two squadrons of RAF Fighter Command with the first to arrive being 131 Squadron on 27 September 1941 with Supermarine Spitfires.[1] It was planned to open RAF Condover as a satellite station but when it opened in 1942 the RAF had decided to hand over the Atcham for American use.[citation needed]

United States Army Air Forces[edit]

Atcham was transferred to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Eighth Air Force on 15 June 1942. It was designated as Station 342 (AP).[2] Located some distance away from the other Eighth AF bases in East Anglia, at first Atcham was used as an operational fighter base, however beginning late 1942 its primary use became operational training of fighter pilots for both Eighth and Ninth Air Force units.[3]

31st Fighter Group[edit]

The first American use of Atcham was the 31st Fighter Group,[4] consisting of the 307th, 308th and 309th Fighter Squadrons.[5] The ground echelon of the 31st arrived from New Orleans AB, Louisiana on 11 June 1942, with the pilots following later in the month,[citation needed] and was assigned to the Eighth Air Force.[6] The group consisted of the following squadrons:

Note: The 309th Fighter Squadron was based at RAF High Ercall.[citation needed]

The group arrived without assigned aircraft as its Bell P-39 Airacobras were found unsuitable for long-distance formation ferry flights. Provided with British Supermarine Spitfires by the Royal Air Force (RAF), the 31st FG entered combat in August[6] and supported a raid made by Canadian, British, American, and French forces at Dieppe on 19 August. The group also escorted bombers and flew patrol and diversionary missions.[7]

In August 1942, the 31st moved to RAF Westhampnett in Sussex before moving into Tafaraoui, Algeria on 8 November 1942[5] as part of Twelfth Air Force.[7]

14th Fighter Group[edit]

The 14th Fighter Group[2] moved to Atcham on 18 August 1942 from Hamilton Field, California[8] and was assigned to the Eighth Air Force.[9] The group consisted of the following squadrons:

Equipped with Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, the 14th escorted Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers to targets in France.[9] In addition, fourteen P-38s of the 48th Squadron were sent on detached service to RAF Westhampnett and RAF Ford in southern England, where in co-ordination with British squadrons, the pilots engaged in a number of practice sweeps across the English Channel.[citation needed]

After flying sweep sorties during which there was no contact with the Luftwaffe, in November 1942 the 14th was moved to Tafaraoui, Algeria[8] as part of Twelfth Air Force.[9]

1st Provisional Gunnery Flight[edit]

From 2 January until 3 March 1943 the 1st Provisional Gunnery Flight used Atcham for target towing using Westland Lysander and Miles Masters. The unit then moved to RAF Llanbedr.[2]

495th Fighter Training Group[edit]

From November 1942 to October 1943 Atcham was host to 6th Fighter Wing, as a Combat Crew Replacement Centre, flying Spitfires and Bell P-39 Airacobras, these being replaced with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts.[2]

In October 1943 6th Fighter Wing was renamed the 2906th Observation Training Group, then renamed again as 495th Fighter Training Group.[2] Operational squadrons of the 495 FTG were:[citation needed]

  • 551st Fighter Training Squadron (VM)
  • 552d Fighter Training Squadron (DQ)

The 495 FTG stayed until February 1945, moving to RAF Cheddington. From August 1944 the Ninth AF P-38s from the 496 FTG/554 FTS from RAF Goxhill used Atcham as a training field.[2]

Back to Royal Air Force control[edit]

Atcham was returned to the RAF Flying Training Command on 14 March 1945 becoming a satellite of RAF Ternhill. No. 5 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit ((P)AFU) and No. 6 Service Flying Training School (SFTS). No. 577 Squadron RAF target towing with Airspeed Oxfords, Spitfires and Vultee A-31 Vengeances used the airfield until the end of the war.[3]

Atcham was abandoned on 22 October 1946 and disposed of on 20 January 1958.[3]

Current use[edit]

With the end of military control, Atcham airfield was returned to farmland with the runways being broken up and removed and the control tower demolished.[3]

Today there is little evidence of Atcham airfield. Some minor agricultural roads which were part of the perimeter track remain as access to farm fields, and the B4394 uses part of the former South West to North East runway. The three T-2 hangars of the former technical site remain together in use with all the administration buildings, the whole complex forming the Atcham Industrial Estate northwest of the former airfield area.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 59.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "RAF Atcham airfield". Control Towers. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Freeman 2001, p. 22.
  4. ^ "Atcham". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Maurer 1980, p. 85.
  6. ^ a b Maurer 1980, p. 83.
  7. ^ a b Maurer 1980, p. 84.
  8. ^ a b c d Maurer 1980, p. 58.
  9. ^ a b c Maurer 1980, p. 57.

Bibliography[edit]

  • 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.
  • Jefford, C.G, MBE, BA, RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • 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.

External links[edit]