RAF Bovingdon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

MoD Bovingdon
RAF Bovingdon
USAAF Station 112
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Eighth Air Force - Emblem (World War II).png Shield Strategic Air Command.png
Near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
RAF Bovingdon - 13 Mar 1944 - Airfield - Annotated.jpg
Aerial photograph of Bovingdon airfield looking north , the technical site with four T2 hangars is at the southeast of the airfield, the bomb dump is to the west, 13 March 1944
RAF Bovingdon is located in Hertfordshire
RAF Bovingdon
RAF Bovingdon
Location in Hertfordshire
Coordinates51°43′37″N 000°32′36″W / 51.72694°N 0.54333°W / 51.72694; -0.54333Coordinates: 51°43′37″N 000°32′36″W / 51.72694°N 0.54333°W / 51.72694; -0.54333
CodeBV, BZ (1940s); ZZ (1956)
Site information
OwnerAir Ministry
OperatorRoyal Air Force[1]
United States Army Air Forces
United States Air Force
Controlled byEighth Air Force (1942–1946)
RAF Flying Training Command (1947–1962)
Strategic Air Command (1951–1962)
RAF Transport Command (1962–1969)
Site history
Built1941 (1941)
In use1942–1972 (1972)
Battles/warsSecond World War
  • Air Offensive, Europe
Cold War
Airfield information
Elevation500 ft (152 m)[2] AMSL
Direction Length and surface
02/20 1,634 yd (1,494 m) Concrete/tarmac
16/34 1,433 yd (1,310 m) Concrete/tarmac
09/27 1,433 yd (1,310 m) Concrete/tarmac

Royal Air Force Bovingdon or more simply RAF Bovingdon is a former Royal Air Force station located near the village of Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, England, about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) south-west of Hemel Hempstead and 2.5 miles (4.0 km) south-east of Berkhamsted.

During the Second World War, the airfield was used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Eighth Air Force. It was assigned USAAF designation Station 112, station code "BV", later changed to "BZ".

Royal Air Force use[edit]

Bovingdon was built in 1941–42 as a standard Class A RAF bomber airfield. The main NE/SW runway was 1,634 yards (1,494 m) long and the two secondary runways were each 1,433 yd (1,310 m) long. Over 30 dispersal hardstandings were built.

On 15 June 1942, No. 7 Group, RAF Bomber Command took up residence at Bovingdon. Operational missions were flown in June and July by the RAF until the field was turned over to the USAAF in August.

United States Army Air Forces use[edit]

USAAF Station Units assigned to RAF Bovingdon were:[3]

  • 1st Combat Crew Replacement Group[4]
11th Combat Crew Replacement Unit
  • 328th Service Group (VIII Air Force Service Command)[5]
347th Service Squadron; HHS 328th Service Group
  • 18th Weather Squadron
  • 26th Station Complement Squadron
  • Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron (VIII Fighter Command)

Regular Army Station Units included:

  • 1054th Signal Company
  • 1071st Quartermaster Company
  • 1787th Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Company
  • 978th Military Police Company
  • 2128th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon
American military journalists undergoing combat flight training for bombing missions in 1943. Left to right: Gladwin Hill, William Wade, Robert Post, Walter Cronkite, Homer Bigart, and Paul Manning.

The primary mission of Bovingdon was to support Eighth Air Force Headquarters and the Air Technical Section, both equipped with a variety of aircraft types. General Eisenhower's personal B-17 was housed on the base. During World War II, several film stars were assigned at one time or another to the base, including Clark Gable, James Stewart and William Holden. Among famous wartime visitors were Bob Hope, Frances Langford, Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, and Glenn Miller.

A unique mission undertaken at Bovingdon was the training of United States journalists to cover the air war over Occupied Europe. A group of military journalists underwent training in February 1943 to fly high-altitude missions in bombers, to shoot the flexible machine guns (although they did not actually fire them in combat), as well as parachute and life support training as aircrew.[6]

The group of journalists flew on a combat mission over Wilhelmshaven, Germany on 26 February 1943 to attack the German Naval submarine pens there. The mission saw heavy losses for the USAAF, and the aircraft of Andy Rooney of the Stars and Stripes was damaged by flak and Robert Post of the New York Times was killed in action when his B-24 exploded. This ended the training of journalists to fly along with Eighth Air Force bomber crews. Other journalists who underwent this training included Walter Cronkite, James Denton Scott, Homer Bigart, William Wade and Gladwin Hill.[6]

92nd Bombardment Group (Heavy)[edit]

Ground crew of the 92nd Bomb Group load bombs into a B-17 Flying Fortress (AAF Ser. No. 41-9148) nicknamed "Boomerang" at Bovingdon, 17 October 1942.

The first USAAF tenant at Bovingdon was the 92nd Bombardment Group (Heavy), being deployed from Sarasota Army Air Field, Florida. The group was known as "Fame's Favored Few", and it was assigned to the 40th Combat Bombardment Wing at RAF Thurleigh. The group tail code was a "Triangle B". Its operational squadrons were:

The group flew a few two combat missions in September and October 1942, then was assigned the role of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Combat Crew Replacement Unit (CCRU). In January 1943, it was transferred to RAF Alconbury where it was became an operational combat group.

11th Combat Crew Replacement Unit[edit]

Although the 92nd Bomb Group departed for Alconbury, the 326th Bomb Squadron of the 92nd remained at Bovingdon to form the core of 11th Combat Crew Replacement Unit. The training was performed on the B-17E aircraft, and most combat crews of 8th Air Force bombing units for the balance of the war received their introduction before moving on to their operational bases. Although based at Bovingdon, the 326th remained under the operational control of the 92nd at Alconbury until May 1943.

In September 1944 the 11th CCRU was disbanded and Bovingdon became the base for the European Air Transport Service (EATS). Many thousands of Americans returned to the States via the air terminal.

Postwar uses[edit]

After the war, Bovingdon was returned to RAF control on 15 April 1947. The British Ministry of Civil Aviation obtained the airfield for civilian airline use. On 15 September 1949, Bovingdon was the start point for a successful record air speed attempt by a de Havilland Hornet to and from Gibraltar.

Because of its elevation of about 160 metres, Bovingdon was often clear when Heathrow Airport and RAF Northolt were fog-bound; during the winter months especially, Bovingdon was used by British European Airways (BEA). British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) used Bovingdon as a maintenance facility and numerous other independent aircraft operators used the former technical site during the postwar years.

During the 1950s both civilian and military organizations used Bovingdon. The proximity of the USAF Third Air Force Headquarters at RAF South Ruislip and HQ RAF Fighter Command at Bentley Priory made Bovingdon the ideal location for service aircraft.

The USAF returned to Bovingdon on 25 May 1951, with the establishment of the 7531st Air Base Squadron. Douglas C-47 Skytrains were assigned to the unit, however many transitory USAF planes used the airfield routinely. In addition, the RAF operated the Fighter Command Communication Squadron RAF on the base. In October 1962,[7] the USAF departed from Bovingdon. During the 60s, RAF Transport Command (Southern Communication Squadron RAF) operated Anson, Devon, Pembroke and latterly Basset aircraft from Bovingdon. In the 1960s the base was home to the last flight of Anson Mk 21 aircraft, descended from a World War II design.

The Air Training Corps 617 Gliding School operated from Bovingdon between 1968 and 1970; the last flight by a military aircraft was by Kirby Cadet Mk.3 glider XN246 on 25 Oct 1970. The school had moved from RAF Hendon in 1968, but moved on to RAF Manston in 1971. In 1968 the airfield was used to store and dispose of several aircraft used in the making of the film "Battle of Britain". Recently it has been used as the location for the Masked Singer reality show.

Closure and civilian use[edit]

In 1968, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced that Bovingdon would be closed for budgetary reasons, and in 1972 the airfield was shut down, although from World War II to present day, the runway, 650m long × 49m wide, on Berry Farm has continuously[inconsistent with rest of article] been used for light aircraft activities. Berry Farm is owned separately by the Webb family and is unconnected to the part of the original airfield where the land has been used for various other uses, including the market. In 2012 Dacorum Borough Council confirmed that the Berry Farm stretch of runway 08/26 remains a legally active airfield for light aircraft operation.

In the early 1980s, flying returned to the airfield, first with hang-glider tow-launching (using a truck-mounted pay-out winch) and then microlight aircraft, mainly of the 'Trike/hang-glider' type. Some local residents complained on the grounds of noise and danger. After a local inquiry, the Ombudsman narrowly decided against allowing flying to continue. At that time the combined control tower and fire-tender garage were in 'reasonable structural condition' but deliberately[citation needed] damaged a few years later by earthmoving equipment, thereafter making restoration highly unlikely. The remains of the control tower were demolished in August 2010[citation needed].

An area of the former technical site was transferred to HM Prison Service for use as a prison, called 'The Mount' which opened in 1987.

The airfield site still houses a VOR navigational beacon, code BNN. The airspace above the airfield and nearby Chesham is known as the Bovingdon stack and is a holding area for aircraft approaching Heathrow Airport, 32 kilometres (20 mi) to the south. Aircraft are requested to join the hold, typically at an altitude of 7000–16000 feet, and then to fly a 'race-track' pattern around the Bovingdon VOR beacon, separated at vertical intervals of 1000 feet from other aircraft. Each aircraft is then instructed to descend to a lower available altitude as the lowest aircraft leaves the hold to make its final approach to Heathrow. At busy times there may be up to 10 aircraft holding at the available 1000 foot separations between 7000 feet and 16000 feet, and these may be seen circling overhead on a clear day.

The remainder of the airfield site is used for a regular Saturday market and there was also a permanent circuit for banger racing which closed in September 2008. The main runway and taxiways are still intact though in a poor state of repair, but are also used for other events such as autojumbles and classic car shows. Alongside a runway is a Delta Force Paintballing facility. The ruins of the control tower also remain.[8]

Film and television appearances[edit]

In the 1960s, Bovingdon was used in the production of four World War II films, The War Lover (1962); 633 Squadron (1964) Battle of Britain (1969) and Mosquito Squadron (1969). Although flying ceased at the airfield in 1969, it was also used to film parts of the flying car scenes in the James Bond film The Man With the Golden Gun starring Roger Moore, when the palm trees fold down as it takes off as well as some flying scenes for the film Hanover Street which were shot there in 1978. The site was also used in the 2016 Star Wars film Rogue One, representing the planet Scarif.[9]

On television it served as the location for at least one black and white episode of The Avengers "The Hour That Never Was", starring Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg featuring Gerald Harper and Roy Kinnear[10] as well as the 1980 Blake's 7 episode The Harvest of Kairos as the surface of the planet Kairos.[11] An airstrip at the airfield is also reputed to have been used in the opening credits of the 1967 television series The Prisoner in which Patrick McGoohan is seen driving a Lotus Super Seven car past the camera at speed. The control tower and airfield was the filming location for the 1981 movie Silver Dream Racer starring David Essex and Beau Bridges. In the movie, the montage scene before the final race shows Essex and Christina Raines training for the forthcoming grand prix. It has continued to be used in various TV shows up to the present day.

Since January 2018, Bovingdon is the filming location of ITV's Dancing on Ice where a full-size studio has been built for the series.[12] The airfield has also been used in the production of the film Bohemian Rhapsody, as the production crew were required to recreate the 1985 Live Aid set.[13] A number of other productions are also filmed at ITV Studios Bovingdon including The Masked Singer.[14]

Major units assigned[edit]

Royal Air Force[2]
United States Army Air Forces[2]
  • 92d Bombardment Group, ( 18 Aug 1942 - 6 Jan 1943)
  • 11th Combat Crew Replacement Unit, (Jan 1943 - Sep 1944)
  • 92d Bombardment Group, ( 18 Aug 1942 - 6 Jan 1943)
  • 1402nd Air Base Group (Oct 1944 - Apr 1946)
United States Air Force[2]
  • 7531st Air Base Squadron (25 May 1951 - 1962)
  • 2130 Communications Group (1961 to 1991)

See also[edit]


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


  1. ^ a b c d e "RAF Bovingdon". Control Towers. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "RAF Bovingdon". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Bovingdon". American Air Museum in Britain. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  4. ^ "1st Combat Crew Replacement Control Group". American Air Museum in Britain. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  5. ^ "328th Service Group". American Air Museum in Britain. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b "The Writing 69th". American Air Museum in Britain. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  7. ^ "Post war USAF/USAFE Airfields in the UK". Airfield Research Group. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  8. ^ "Bovingdon". Bovingdon Parish Council. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  9. ^ Lewis, Rebecca (20 December 2016). "11 things you may not have known about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story". Metro. Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  10. ^ "The Avengers Forever: The Hour That Never Was". theavengers.tv.
  11. ^ "Blake's 7 - Filming Locations". www.hermit.org.
  12. ^ "Dancing on Ice makes Bovingdon its new home". www.hemeltoday.co.uk.
  13. ^ "Fine-tuning Bohemian Rhapsody at Bovingdon". Invest Hemel. 29 October 2018.
  14. ^ Ravindran, Manori (12 October 2020). "ITV Wraps Filming on 'Masked Singer' Season 2 From Argonon's Bandicoot TV (EXCLUSIVE)".


  • Maurer Maurer, Air Force Combat Units of World War II, Office of Air Force History, 1983
  • Freeman, Roger A., Airfields of the Eighth, Then And Now, 1978
  • Freeman, Roger A., The Mighty Eighth, The Colour Record, 1991
  • Maurer Maurer, Air Force Combat Units of World War II, Office of Air Force History, 1983
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present

External links[edit]