RAF Lyneham

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RAF Lyneham
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
RAF Lyneham.jpg
"Support - Save - Supply"
IATA: LYEICAO: EGDL
Summary
Airport type Military
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Air Force
Location Lyneham, Wiltshire
Built 1939 (1939)
In use 1940-2012 (2012)
Elevation AMSL 512 ft / 156 m
Coordinates 51°30′19″N 001°59′36″W / 51.50528°N 1.99333°W / 51.50528; -1.99333Coordinates: 51°30′19″N 001°59′36″W / 51.50528°N 1.99333°W / 51.50528; -1.99333
Map
RAF Lyneham is located in Wiltshire
RAF Lyneham
RAF Lyneham
Location in Wiltshire
Runways
Direction Length Surface
m ft
06/24 2,386 7,828 Asphalt
18/36 1,826 5,991 Asphalt

Royal Air Force Station Lyneham or more simply RAF Lyneham (IATA: LYEICAO: EGDL) is a former Royal Air Force station located 6.3 miles (10.1 km) north east of Chippenham, Wiltshire and 10.3 miles (16.6 km) south west of Swindon, Wiltshire, England. It was the home of all the Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft of the Royal Air Force (RAF) before they were relocated to RAF Brize Norton.

The station was also home to No. 38 Expeditionary Air Wing.

RAF Lyneham was the Royal Air Force's principal Transport hub, operating the modern Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules, and the aging, but very adaptable, Lockheed C-130K Hercules. The airfield was designated as a Master Diversion Airfield. It is one of the primary airfields to which aircraft divert in the eventuality of their home bases being closed due to weather, or other unforeseen events (such as aircraft crashes), having occurred.

The airfield became renowned for being the "gateway" between the United Kingdom and Afghanistan; the station was also where repatriation of British personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan took place. The bodies were transported through the nearby town of Royal Wootton Bassett, with crowds lining the streets to pay tribute to the fallen.

The station closed on 31 December 2012 with the majority of its personnel and other assets having moved to RAF Brize Norton. On 31 May 2011, a parade was held, attended by the Princess Royal, to mark the departure of the squadrons. The final Hercules left Lyneham on 1 July 2011.[1] Daily flying operations ceased on 30 September 2011.[2]

History[edit]

Establishment[edit]

The airfield was built in 1939, necessitating the demolition of Lyneham Court manor house, the buildings of Cranley Farm and the village's tennis courts. The airfield itself was initially a grass landing area although the RAF always planned to lay hard runways. Hangars and other buildings were dispersed around the site to avoid creating one large target for an aerial enemy.[3]

Second World War[edit]

Aerial view

The station was opened on 18 May 1940 as No. 33 Maintenance Unit, with no ceremony and few personnel. On the first day of operations, the personnel strength was recorded as four officers, one other rank and 15 civilians. Nine vehicles were also recorded, including two tractors, an ambulance and a Crossley fire engine. The station did not have any aircraft however, until the end of the month when a de Havilland Tiger Moth and a Fairey Albacore arrived.

A single enemy aircraft attacked the station on 19 September 1940, dropping an incendiary and two high explosive bombs before strafing part of the airfield. Five civilian workmen were killed.[4]

Lyneham's first runways were constructed during 1940 and 1941, the longest being 4,375 ft (1,334 m), the other 3,542 ft (1,080 m). During the following years these were both extended, and in 1943 the 6,000 ft (1,829 m) north-south runway was opened as well.

On 14 October 1942, 511 squadron was formed from No. 1425 Flight at RAF Lyneham. The squadron continued the work of the flight operating regular transport schedules to Gibraltar using the Consolidated Liberator. To extend the route from Gibraltar to Malta the squadron also operated the Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle. As the Second World War progressed, No 511 Squadron expanded its long-range transport role and it was the first squadron to operate the Avro York transport (a transport aircraft based on the Avro Lancaster). At first the Liberators and Yorks were operated as separate flights, but the Liberator Flight became 246 Squadron in 1944. The squadron continued to fly trooping flights, particularly between the United Kingdom and India until it was disbanded on 7 October 1946.

With the increase in air transport operations in the RAF, as opposed to ferrying, Transport Command was formed in March 1943. Lyneham, in No. 46 Group, was its main airfield in the south, and as well as sending its own aircraft overseas, acted as the clearance airfield for planning, diplomatic clearance, customs and briefing purposes for transport aeroplanes from other stations flying abroad. It also provided facilities for aircraft being ferried overseas.

Post-war[edit]

RAF Lyneham viewed on approach

99 Squadron reformed on 17 November 1945, at RAF Lyneham equipped with the Avro York, it operated as part of the Berlin Airlift. It continued in the role with the Handley Page Hastings then the Bristol Britannia from 1959 to 1976. No. 99 was disbanded in 1976, following the 1974 Defence White Paper. The squadron was reformed in 2002, to operate the RAF's Boeing C-17s from RAF Brize Norton.

On 16 October 1946, 511 squadron was formed again as an Avro York operator. It continued to fly the long-distance routes to India and the Far East until, like a lot of transport squadrons, it became involved in the Berlin Airlift. The squadron then re-equipped with the Handley Page Hastings and in 1957 the squadron moved to join other operators of the Hastings at RAF Colerne. A year later the squadron disbanded when it was re-numbered to 36 Squadron on 1 September 1958.

Station entrance with the de Havilland Comet gate guardian

In 1956, with the arrival of the de Havilland Comet operated by 216 Squadron, the main runway was extended from 6,000 feet to its present length of 7,830 feet. This necessitated the demolition of two hangars on the north side of the airfield, and also the movement of the main gate from the north to the east of the Station.

From 1958 Lyneham became one of the 18 Stations designated as dispersal airfields for the RAF's nuclear deterrent V bomber Force. A dispersal area called a "Dispersed Airfield were built so that four Avro Vulcan or Handley Page Victor aircraft could operate from a self-contained base within Lyneham.[5]

511 Squadron was formed again at RAF Lyneham on 15 December 1959, as the second squadron to operate the Bristol Britannia on long-range trooping flights. It moved out of RAF Lyneham for RAF Brize Norton in June 1970, as Lyneham became the airfield for the new Lockheed Hercules. The squadron was disbanded on 6 January 1976, when it was decided to withdraw the Britannia from service.

RAF Hercules in flight

Lyneham's position as the primary tactical transport base for the RAF was emphasised in February 1971 when Nos. 30 and 47 Squadrons were transferred from their old station at RAF Fairford. They were followed in September by No. 48 Squadron from Singapore. This gave a total of five tactical Hercules squadrons at Lyneham, as well as the VIP transport Comet squadron, and in 1976, the station became the largest operational airfield in the RAF with the arrival from Cyprus of Hercules-equipped No. LXX Squadron, bringing to seven the station's total of resident aircraft squadrons.[6]

In 1992, No. 242 Operational Conversion Unit was renamed No. 57 (Reserve) Squadron, and moved from the old airmen's hutted accommodation into a new building. There has been a continuous programme of building since the mid-eighties to update and replace the original Station buildings, which were not designed or built with such a long life in view in 1939 and the forties.[7]

RAF Lyneham received the first of 25 brand-new Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules on 23 November 1999, to be operated by Nos. XXIV and 30 Squadrons. The J model aircraft work side by side with the twenty-nine refurbished C-130K Hercules that are flown by No. 47 Squadron.[8] LXX Squadron, 'stood-down' on 8 September 2010,[9] but will reform in 2014 as the first replacement Airbus A400M squadron, to be followed by 47 Squadron.

The decision to close RAF Lyneham was made in 2002, and it was scheduled for closure by 2012 with all functions and aircraft relocated to RAF Brize Norton.[10] It was planned that the base would remain open until the last of the C-130K fleet is retired and the 24 new generation C-130Js would move to Brize Norton to join the C-17A Globemaster III transport and aerial refuelling fleets.

The final four Hercules aircraft en route to RAF Brize Norton on 1 July 2011

No. 38 Expeditionary Air Wing was formed at Lyneham on 1 April 2006 encompassing most of the non-formed unit personnel on station. The EAW does not include the flying units at the station or the other formed units i.e. Tactical Medical Wing. The station commander was dual-hatted as the office commanding of the wing.

A parade attended by the Princess Royal was held on 31 May 2011, to mark the departure of Nos. 24, 30 and 47 Squadrons from RAF Lyneham. The Douglas Dakota of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight conducted a flypast.[11] The last four Hercules aircraft of those squadrons flew out of the station the following day, one of which was piloted by the station commander, Group Captain John Gladstone. The aircraft flew over several towns in the area before heading to Brize Norton.[12]

A ceremony, attended by the Prime Minister David Cameron, was held at RAF Brize Norton on 31 August 2011 to mark the formal transfer the role of repatriations from RAF Lyneham.[13]

Future use[edit]

It was announced in July 2011 by the then-Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, that Lyneham would become the new site of the Defence Technical Training Change Programme centre.[14] This will coincide with the closure of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers' technical training establishments at Arborfield Garrison and Bordon Garrison, both of which are due to move to Lyneham by the end of 2015.[15]

With the transfer of military units and personnel to Brize Norton complete, around 1,000 members of military and civilian staff remained on site, gradually reducing in numbers until RAF Lyneham closes entirely,[12] on 31 December 2012.[16] All military flying operations from RAF Lyneham ceased on 30 September 2011, at which point the station's air traffic control unit closed.[17] Following the cessation of flights, the RAF Lyneham Flying Club moved to Cotswold Airport.[18]

A stone memorial commemorating the RAF's use of the station for over 70 years was unveiled on 1 June 2012.[19] All remaining RAF Lyneham personnel left the station by December 2012.[20]

The Ministry of Defence announced plans in December 2012 to re-develop Lyneham as a Defence Technical Training establishment by the end of 2015 and, on 14 December 2012, it invited interest from industry into developing the infrastructure at the former RAF site at Lyneham. [21] The MOD's commercial process will select a construction contractor for the work. Demolition of some unsafe and redundant buildings at Lyneham will commence in early 2013, with construction due to start in early 2014 and to be completed by December 2015. Redevelopment plans include workshops, classrooms and laboratories, as well as sports and welfare facilities and some refurbished military accommodation. There will also be an outdoor training area to simulate scenarios such as recovering overturned vehicles. Once completed, there will be approximately 2,000 military and civilian personnel posted at Lyneham. The MOD has now launched a consultation period for the public and stakeholders to view the development plans for the site.

Air Commodore Richard Gammage, head of the Defence Technical Training Change Programme which leads this major MOD project said: "Since July 2011, the MOD has made significant progress in its planning to relocate the Army’s technical training to Lyneham, the first in a series of programmed moves. This Programme will modernise training for the Armed Forces making it more flexible and better able to respond to changes in equipment and learning technologies. This will ultimately support our troops on operations".[22]

Units posted to RAF Lyneham[edit]

Hangar at RAF Lyneham

Units[edit]

There are no RAF flying squadrons remaining at RAF Lyneham since the final aircraft transferred to RAF Brize Norton on 30 June 2011.

Other units[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ "RAF Lyneham farewell parade for departure of squadrons". BBC News. 31 May 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  2. ^ "Changes to airspace around RAF Lyneham announced by CAA". Civil Aviation Authority. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  3. ^ "History - Origins". Royal Air Force. 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "History - The 40's and 50's". Royal Air Force. 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  5. ^ Clarke 2008, p. 185.
  6. ^ "History - The 60's and 70's". Royal Air Force. 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "History - The 80's and 90's". Royal Air Force. 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "History - The future". Royal Air Force. 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "LXX Squadron Stand Down". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  10. ^ "RAF Lyneham to close by 2012". The Telegraph (London). 7 May 2009. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  11. ^ "Royal visit to RAF Lyneham". The Wiltshire Gazette & Herald. 29 May 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  12. ^ a b Mooney, Tom (1 July 2011). "Mixed emotions as Hercules leave RAF Lyneham". Gazette & Herald. Retrieved 15 April 2012. 
  13. ^ "RAF Brize Norton ceremony marks Lyneham transfer". BBC News. 1 September 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  14. ^ "RAF Lyneham to be defence training centre". BBC News. 18 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  15. ^ "MoD confirms Arborfield Garrison closure". BBC News. 19 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  16. ^ Heath, Ashley (31 August 2010). "RAF Lyneham Closure Plan". BBC. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  17. ^ "Disestablishment of RAF Lyneham Control Zone". Civil Aviation Authority. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2012. 
  18. ^ "Lyneham Flying Club". Cotswold Airport. 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  19. ^ "Memorial to be unveiled to mark RAF leaving Lyneham". BBC News. 1 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  20. ^ "Lyneham pre-school to close over Ministry of Defence move". BBC News. 30 June 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  21. ^ "RAF Lyneham: Bids invited for £230m defence college". BBC News. 7 December 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  22. ^ "MOD publishes development plans for new Training College at Lyneham". Defence Infrastructure Organisation. 13 December 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  23. ^ UK Mobile Air Movements Squadron

Bibliography[edit]

  • Clarke, Bob. The Archaeology of Airfields. Stroud, Gloucestershire, Tempus Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-075244401-7.

External links[edit]