RAF Bottisham

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RAF Bottisham
USAAF Station 374
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Eighth Air Force - Emblem (World War II).png
Located Near Bottisham, Cambridgeshire, England
RAF Bottisham - 19 April 1944 - Airfield.jpg
Aerial photograph of Bottisham airfield, 19 April 1944
RAF Bottisham is located in Cambridgeshire
RAF Bottisham
RAF Bottisham
Map showing the location of RAF Bottisham within Cambridgeshire.
Coordinates52°12′50″N 0°15′26″E / 52.2138°N 0.2571°E / 52.2138; 0.2571Coordinates: 52°12′50″N 0°15′26″E / 52.2138°N 0.2571°E / 52.2138; 0.2571
TypeMilitary airfield
CodeIM
Site information
OwnerAir Ministry
Controlled byRoyal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Site history
Built1940
In use1940–1946
Battles/warsEuropean Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942–May 1945
Garrison information
GarrisonRAF Fighter Command
361st Fighter Group

Royal Air Force Bottisham or more simply RAF Bottisham is a former Royal Air Force station located 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England.

History[edit]

RAF Fighter Command use[edit]

RAF Bottisham opened in March 1940 and was first used by bomb-armed de Havilland Tiger Moths transferred from No. 22 Elementary Flying Training School RAF (EFTS) to be prepared for possible anti-invasion duties. Then beginning in October 1940, the airfield was used by 22 EFTS Tiger Moths as an Relief Landing Ground until mid-1941.[citation needed]

With the departure of the Tiger Moths, Bottisham was transferred to 241 Sqn Army Co-operation Command with Westland Lysanders, Curtiss Tomahawks, North American Mustang Mk 1's, moved to Ayr.[citation needed]

From 15 June 1942, the airfield was used by No. 652 Squadron RAF and No. 168 Squadron RAF.[citation needed]

A number of other Royal Air Force squadrons used the airfield before it was turned over to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF):

United States Army Air Forces use[edit]

With the arrival of large numbers of USAAF fighter groups in 1943, Bottisham was allocated to the Americans and assigned designation as Station 374 (IM). The airfield was enlarged and areas of steel matting were laid.

USAAF Station Units assigned to RAF Bottisham were:[10]

  • 50th Service Group (VIII Air Force Service Command)[11]
468th and 469th Services Squadrons; HHS 50th Service Group
  • 18th Weather Squadron
  • 66th Station Complement Squadron
  • 1073rd Quartermaster Company
  • 1097th Signal Company
  • 1184th Military Police Company
  • 1598th Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Company
  • 2118th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon

361st Fighter Group[edit]

P-47D-11-RE Thunderbolt aircraft Serial 42-75452 of the 374th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group, based at Bottisham Airfield, England.
P-51 Mustangs, including (E9-S, serial number 42-106707) nicknamed "Sleepytime Gal", (B7-E, serial number 42-106839) nicknamed "Bald Eagle III" and (E9-K) nicknamed "Vi" opf the 361st Fighter Group line up for take off on D-Day at Bottisham.
"The Bottisham Four", four USAAF North American P-51 Mustang fighters from the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group, from RAF Bottisham, Cambridgeshire (UK), in flight on 26 July 1944. All four aircraft were lost or crashed by the end of the war in Europe.

The airfield was first used by the United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force 361st Fighter Group, arriving from Richmond AAF, Virginia on 30 November 1943. The group was under the command of the 65th Fighter Wing of the VIII Fighter Command. Aircraft of the group were identified by yellow around their cowlings and tails.

The group consisted of the following squadrons:

The 361st FG entered combat with Republic P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft on 21 January 1944 and converted to North American P-51 Mustang's in May 1944. The unit served primarily as an escort organisation, covering the penetration, attack, and withdrawal of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress/Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber formations that the USAAF sent against targets on the Continent.

The group also engaged in counter-air patrols, fighter sweeps, and strafing and dive-bombing missions. It attacked such targets as airdromes, marshaling yards, missile sites, industrial areas, ordnance depots, oil refineries, trains, and highways. It participated in the assault against the German Air Force and aircraft industry during Big Week, 20–25 February 1944; the Normandy invasion, June 1944 and the Saint-Lô breakthrough in July.

The weight of the heavy P-47 fighters soon began to tell on the wet surface making take-offs tricky. A team of American engineers were called in during January 1944 and, in three days, they constructed a 1,470-yard-long runway with pierced-steel planking. This feat was considered a record for laying this type of prefabricated surfacing. The runway, which was aligned NE-SW, became the main at Bottisham the other also being constructed of PSP.

In September 1944 the 361st FG moved to RAF Little Walden when it became available after the departure of the 409th Bombardment Group (Light) for France. Little Walden was a Class A airfield with concrete runways and much better facilities than were available at Bottisham.

Post-war use[edit]

From mid-1945 until 5 January 1946 Bottisham was used temporarily by Belgian airmen until being closed. Today, few traces of Bottisham remain as the land has all been reclaimed for farming, however a few buildings remain in use. The outline of the PSP runway can still be seen, but now as a long thick row of trees. Also the track which intersected the PSP runway towards the SW end is now a permanent Road which cuts through this row of trees. There is now a volunteer run museum at the former site, in honour of the RAF and USAF who were stationed there during the war.

Bottisham Airfield Museum[edit]

The Museum opened in 2009 and is the only UK museum dedicated to the Royal Air Force, United States 8th Army Air Force and Belgian Air Forces. They are operating out of the last remaining airfield buildings to exist within the airfield's original perimeter.

The purchase of the site was completed in September 2014 and, since then, they have been renovating the airfield buildings and restoring them back to original appearance. A new Nissen hut has been installed in the original position where one was located in 1944.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 23.
  2. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 24.
  3. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 64.
  4. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 81.
  5. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 83.
  6. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 89.
  7. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 100.
  8. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 102.
  9. ^ a b c "Bottisham". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Bottisham". American Air Museum in Britain. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  11. ^ "50th Service Group". American Air Museum in Britain. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  12. ^ "About Bottisham Airfield Museum". Bottisham Airfield Museum. Retrieved 9 March 2019.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]