RAF Bitteswell

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RAF Bitteswell
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Summary
Airport type Royal Air Force station
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Air Force
Location Bitteswell, Leicestershire
Built 1939 (1939)
In use 1940-1987 (1987)
Elevation AMSL 407 ft / 124 m
Coordinates 52°27′34″N 001°14′46″W / 52.45944°N 1.24611°W / 52.45944; -1.24611Coordinates: 52°27′34″N 001°14′46″W / 52.45944°N 1.24611°W / 52.45944; -1.24611
Map
RAF Bitteswell is located in Leicestershire
RAF Bitteswell
RAF Bitteswell
Location in Leicestershire
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
00/00 0 0 Concrete
00/00 0 0 Concrete
00/00 0 0 Concrete

Royal Air Force Bitteswell or more simply RAF Bitteswell is a former Royal Air Force station located 2.0 miles (3.2 km) west of Lutterworth, Leicestershire and 6.1 miles (9.8 km) north of Rugby, Warwickshire, England.

RAF Bitteswell opened in June 1940[1] and closed in December 1987. The base had one B1 Hangar and two T2 Hangars. The original grass runways were replaced between July and December 1941 with concrete and asphalt.[2]

History[edit]

Second World War[edit]

RAF Bitteswell was home to many different units and aircraft, such as No. 1513 (Beam Approach Training) Flight (BAT Flt) flying Airspeed Oxfords from RAF Bramcote, RAF Lindley and Bitteswell between 23 October 1942 and 13 May 1946.[3]

A large number of operational training units (OTU) were based at the airfield. OTU were units which taught flying, navigation and basic Morse code. The difference between OTUs and other training units were that the OTUs performed live missions such as bombing (like the 1,000 Bomber raids), air sea rescue and occasionally mine laying. No.18 Operational Training Unit (OTU) flying the Avro Anson, Fairey Battle and the Vickers Wellington again flying from Bramcote, Nuneaton and Bitteswell. The unit was operational from 14 November 1940 and 25 January 1943 and was RAF Bomber Commands Polish training unit.[4]

Post war units[edit]

A number of units used the airfield as an satellite to disperse aircraft and for maintenance such as Transport Command Aircrew Examination Unit from RAF Bramcote from December 1945 until August 1946, No. 266 Maintenance Unit RAF between January 1946 and 1947 and No. 20 Service Flying Training School from RAF Church Lawford used Bitteswell as an relief landing ground between July 1946 and May 1947.[2]

Aircraft manufacture[edit]

Between 1943 and March 1983 the airfield was used by a number of aircraft manufacturers including Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft (AWA), Whitworth Gloster, Hawker Siddeley and British Aerospace for final assembly, flight testing and overhauls of many of the companies aircraft.[2]

Aircraft operated[edit]

Data from[2]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

Date Incident Reference
29 September 1941 Wellington R3216 of No.18 Operational Training Unit (OTU) stalled on landing. LAC S W J Green awarded George Medal for helping to save rear gunner, but rest of crew perished [5]
23 October 1941 Wellington R1138 of No.18 Operational Training Unit (OTU) hit a tree at Ullesthorpe. All 4 crew injured [6]
29 June 1943 Wellington Z1668 of No.29 Operational Training Unit (OTU) force landed at Bitteswell after engine failure. Crew were unhurt [7]
16 August 1943 Wellington BK550 of No.29 Operational Training Unit (OTU) overshot landing at Bitteswell. Crew were unhurt [8]
6 September 1943 Wellington BK442 of No.29 Operational Training Unit (OTU) belly landed following engine failure. Crew were unhurt [9]
11 April 1944 Miles Martinet JN427 of No.29 Operational Training Unit (OTU) overturned when landing [10]
17 October 1944 Wellington X3879 of No.29 Operational Training Unit (OTU) crashed while force-landing at Bitteswell, following engine failure. Crew were unhurt [11]
5 March 1945 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress 44-6464 612 Bomb Squadron, 401 Bomb Group crashed after the crew baled out [12]
17 April 1945 Wellington NC667 of No.105 Operational Training Unit (OTU) crash-landed in the circuit after engine failure [12]
11 May 1945 Wellington NC713 of No.105 Operational Training Unit (OTU) crashed on approach to Bitteswell after engine failure. The 3 crew were all killed [12]
23 June 1945 Wellington LP822 of No.105 Operational Training Unit (OTU) overshot landing at Bitteswell and was damaged beyond repair [12]
7 July 1945 Wellington HE908 of No.105 Operational Training Unit (OTU) belly landed at Bitteswell after colliding with an Oxford in the air. There were no injuries [12]
18 May 1954 Westland Wyvern VZ747 crashed at Pailton during engine-out tests. Armstrong-Siddeley’s chief test pilot, Mr E S Griffiths, was killed [13]
10 November 1954 English Electric Canberra B.2 WD933 crash landed and overturned. Crew survived [14]

Death of Hugh Reeves[edit]

Hugh Reeves was a British inventor and engineer. He was involved in a project to reduce noise in jet engines. While carrying out tests at RAF Bitteswell on a Hawker Hunter Mark V fitted with a Sapphire engine, he was suddenly drawn into the intake of the silencer and was killed.[15]

Warbirds of Great Britain[edit]

In 1984 the airfield was sold to Doug Arnold to store some of his collection of "Warbirds of Great Britain" classic aircraft, including several Spitfires, a P-51D Mustang, a B-17G Flying Fortress and a Lancaster.[16] It was also used for two Drag Racing meets in 1985. In 1987 it was sold for development as a Distribution Park.

Current use[edit]

The airfield is now a large business park called Magna Park in which many roads have names relating to aircraft e.g. Wellington Parkway, Buccaneer Way, Hunter Boulevard and Vulcan Way.[1]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b "RAF Bitteswell". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 25 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Bitteswell". Control Towers. Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "Flying units". Aviation Archaeology. Retrieved 27 March 2012. 
  4. ^ "18 (Polish) Operational Training Unit". Un-Official RAF Worksop. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "Military aircraft crashes in the south west Midlands - 1941". Aviation Archaeology. Retrieved 23 March 2012. 
  6. ^ "Military aircraft crashes in the south west Midlands - 1941". Aviation Archaeology. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  7. ^ "Military aircraft crashes in the south west Midlands - 1943". Aviation Archaeology. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  8. ^ "Military aircraft crashes in the south west Midlands - 1943". Aviation Archaeology. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  9. ^ "Military aircraft crashes in the south west Midlands - 1943". Aviation Archaeology. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  10. ^ "Military aircraft crashes in the south west Midlands - 1944". Aviation Archaeology. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "Military aircraft crashes in the south west Midlands - 1944". Aviation Archaeology. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  12. ^ a b c d e "Military aircraft crashes in the south west Midlands - 1945". Aviation Archaeology. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  13. ^ "Military aircraft crashes in the south west Midlands - 1950-88". Aviation Archaeology. Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  14. ^ http://www.aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=20520 Retrieved 15 January 2017
  15. ^ "MISINFORMATION". Timelapse. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 
  16. ^ http://www.ukairfieldguide.net/airfields/Bittesewell

External links[edit]