RAF Sawbridgeworth

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RAF Sawbridgeworth
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
2 Squadron Mustangs at RAF Sawbridgeworth WWII IWM CH 17407.jpg
Fighter being worked on at RAF Sawbridgeworth during WWII.
IATA: noneICAO: none
Airport type Military
Owner Air Ministry
Operator Royal Air Force
Location Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire
Built 1917
In use 1917-1946
Elevation AMSL 289 ft / 88 m
Coordinates 51°50′26″N 000°06′59″E / 51.84056°N 0.11639°E / 51.84056; 0.11639Coordinates: 51°50′26″N 000°06′59″E / 51.84056°N 0.11639°E / 51.84056; 0.11639
RAF Sawbridgeworth is located in Hertfordshire
RAF Sawbridgeworth
RAF Sawbridgeworth
Location in Hertfordshire
Direction Length Surface
ft m
130/310 5,100 1,558 Sommerfeld Tracking
60/240 4,200 1,280 Sommerfeld Tracking
10/190 2,700 822 Sommerfeld Tracking

Royal Air Force Sawbridgeworth or RAF Sawbridgeworth is a former Royal Air Force station located 5.2 miles (8.4 km) north of Harlow, Essex and 14.4 miles (23.2 km) east of Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England.

The airfield opened in 1917 and was used during the First World War. During the inter war period it was occasionally used for glider and civilian flying until 1937 when it became Advanced Landing Ground Mathams Wood (after the woods in the middle of the station) and was placed under the control of the much larger RAF North Weald. In 1940 it was renamed to RAF Sawbridgeworth after a phone call between the station Commanding Office Wing Commander AJW Geddes and the Air Ministry. It ceased active operations in 1944 and closed in 1947.

Station history[edit]

First World War[edit]

The airfield was used during the First World War as a Night Landing ground for No. 39 (Home Defence) Squadron which was based at North Weald in Essex.

Second World War[edit]

Spitfires at Sawbridgeworth by war artist Eric Ravilious (1942)

During the Second World War a number of units were based at the airfield (some are shown below). The commanding officer of 2 (AC) Squadron instigated the settlement of the squadron at Mathams Wood ALG after the retreat from France in 1940 when no permanent base was available for the squadron. Thus 2 (AC) Squadron was the unit that established the Second World War airfield that became RAF Sawbridgeworth; the squadron was also responsible for the initial selection and early training of pilots to be used by the Special Operations Executive to insert agents into Occupied France. The majority of operations from Sawbridgeworth were photo-reconnaissance missions and generally linked to Army requests for battlefield coverage, but as the German V-weapon programme intensified more and more sorties were flown against these targets and various radar installations. (see 'Where the Lysanders were .....' for precise details).[page needed]


Squadron Identification Equipment From To To
No. 63 Squadron Unknown North American Mustang IA 12 November 1943 30 November 1943 RAF North Weald
No. 80 Squadron W2 Supermarine Spitfire VB 24 April 1944 5 May 1944 RAF Hornchurch
No. 126 Squadron 5J Supermarine Spitfire VB
Supermarine Spitfire VC
Supermarine Spitfire IXB
30 April 1944
30 April 1944
30 April 1944
30 April 1944
30 April 1944
22 May 1944

RAF Culmhead
No. 168 Squadron Unknown North American Mustang IA 12 November 1943 30 November 1943 RAF North Weald
No. 170 Squadron Unknown North American Mustang IA 12 November 1943 15 January 1944 Disbanded
No. 182 Squadron XM Hawker Typhoon IA/IB 7 December 1942
20 January 1943
17 January 1943
30 January 1943
RAF Snailwell
RAF Martlesham Heath
No. 268 Squadron Unknown North American Mustang IA 1 March 1944 26 March 1944 RAF Dundonald

Current use[edit]

A number of pill boxes are the only indication that there used to be anything to do with the military here. The control tower was demolished in 1946 along with the Sommerfeld tracking runways to allow the land to be farmed again. This means that modern aerial shots of the airfield do not show the outline of runways unlike the nearby RAF Hunsdon and RAF Matching site. The only indication of the extent of the airfield is the outer perimeter road that is still visible.

In the surrounding area there are still many of the outlying buildings such as the medical facility buildings that have become a small industrial estate. Other buildings have become agricultural buildings. [11]

See also[edit]




  • 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, 1988. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • 'Where the Lysanders were ....' (the story of Sawbridgeworths' airfields) Doyle Paul A, pub; Forward Airfield Research Publishing 1995. ISBN 09525 624 05

External links[edit]