RAF Chivenor

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RAF Chivenor
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Near Braunton, Devon in England
A BAE Hawk T1 of No. 151 Squadron which was based at RAF Civenor between 1981 and 1992.
A BAE Hawk T1 of No. 151 Squadron which was based at RAF Civenor between 1981 and 1992.
RAF Chivenor is located in Devon
RAF Chivenor
RAF Chivenor
Location in Devon
Coordinates51°05′14″N 004°09′01″W / 51.08722°N 4.15028°W / 51.08722; -4.15028Coordinates: 51°05′14″N 004°09′01″W / 51.08722°N 4.15028°W / 51.08722; -4.15028
TypeRoyal Air Force flying station
Area222 hectares
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
ConditionClosed
Site history
Built1940 (1940)
In use1940–1995 (1995)
FateTransferred to the Royal Marines and became RMB Chivenor.
Airfield information
IdentifiersICAO: EGDC, WMO: 03707
Elevation8 metres (26 ft) AMSL
Runways
Direction Length and surface
10/28 1,833 metres (6,014 ft) Asphalt

Royal Air Force Chivenor or RAF Chivenor (ICAO: EGDC) was a Royal Air Force station located on the northern shore of the River Taw estuary, on the north coast of Devon, England. The nearest towns are Barnstaple and Braunton.

Originally a civil airfield opened in the 1930s, the site was taken over by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in May 1940 for use as a Coastal Command Station. After World War II, the station was largely used for training, particularly weapons training. During the 1950s and 1960s, No. 229 Operational Conversion Unit (229 OCU) used Hawker Hunter aircraft for training. In 1974 the station was left on "care and maintenance", though No. 624 Volunteer Gliding Squadron (624 VGS) continued to fly from there. The RAF returned, forming 2 Tactical Weapons Unit (2 TWU), flying BAE Hawks, from 1979. In 1994, 2 TWU left Chivenor, merging with No. 4 Flying Training School RAF (4 FTS) at RAF Valley, and the airfield was handed over to the RM. The Marines have an existing equipment testing base at Arromanches Camp, in Instow, located across the Taw Estuary and approximately two miles from Chivenor.

No. 22 Squadron RAF (22 Sqn) operated a Search and Rescue flight at Chivenor from 1956, flying Westland Whirlwind, Westland Wessex and Westland Sea King Helicopters. In a spending review that was announced over the summer of 2004, the presence of 22 Squadron at Chivenor was under review. After the flooding at Boscastle, this threat was rescinded. "A" flight of 22 Squadron was disbanded in October 2015, with the Search and Rescue role being assumed by Bristow Helicopters on behalf of HM Coastguard.

In 1995, the site became Royal Marines Base Chivenor primarily used by 3 Commando Brigade.

History[edit]

Founding[edit]

In February 1940 the Air Ministry constructed an aerodrome on the site of Chivenor farm near a civilian airfield. RAF Chivenor opened on 25 October 1940 within No. 17 Group, Coastal Command.[1] There were two units based there initially, No. 3 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit RAF[2] and No. 252 Squadron RAF, both operating Bristol Beaufighters, Bristol Blenheims and Bristol Beauforts.[3]

1942—1945[edit]

From 1942 onward the role of Chivenor was changed from training to anti-submarine patrolling. From 1942 to 1943 the squadron flew the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, then in 1943 the Chivenor squadron converted the Vickers Wellington equipped with the ASV radar and Leigh lights.

November 1941 to September 1943
No. 51 Squadron RAF: (51 Sqn) Whitleys[4]
No. 77 Squadron RAF: (77 Sqn) Whitleys / Wellingtons[5]
No. 502 Squadron RAF: (502 Sqn) Whitleys / Wellingtons[6]
No. 1417 (Leigh Light Trials) Flight: (1417 Flt) Wellington Leigh light training and development unit[7]
July 1942 to September 1943
No. 235 Squadron RAF: (235 Sqn) Beaufighters[8]
No. 236 Squadron RAF: (236 Sqn) Beaufighters[9]
No. 248 Squadron RAF: (248 Sqn) Beaufighters[10]
September 1943 to the end of the war
No. 172 Squadron RAF: (172 Sqn) Wellingtons[7]
No. 407 (Demon) Squadron RAF: (407 Sqn) Wellingtons[11]
No. 612 (County of Aberdeen) Squadron RAF: (612 Sqn) Wellingtons[12]
No. 304 Polish Bomber Squadron: (304 Sqn) Wellingtons[13]
Plan for post war 1945
No. 14 Squadron RAF (14 Sqn)[14]
No. 36 Squadron RAF (36 Sqn)[15]

In November 1941 the structure of the base changed with three new squadrons 51, 77 and 502 flying a mixture of Whitleys and Wellingtons, and one new flight, 1417, that was used to training crews on the Leigh light and radar Wellingtons. In July 1942 three squadrons of Beaufighter were located at Chivenor to offer long range protection in the Bay of Biscay. By September 1943 all of the Whitleys had been taken out of active service at Chivenor, and four squadrons of Wellingtons, 172, 407, 612 and 304, were located at the base. No 172 was the Wellington Training Squadron, taking over from 1417 Flight. The base had personnel from Canada, Poland and the UK. The Plan for the post war, was for Chivenor to become a full-time anti-submarine wing with two squadron's 14 and 36 Squadron.[14][15]

1946—1949[edit]

After the Second World War ended, the future of the station was not certain. In 1946 a group of miscellaneous meteorological and anti-aircraft units moved to Chivenor, including Halifaxes of Nos 517 and 521 Squadrons which flew 10-hour sorties to collect weather information. At the same time the station played host to No 248 Squadron (Mosquitos), No 254 Squadron (Beaufighters), and the Spitfires and Martinets of No 691 Squadron, Army Air Corps. In October 1946, No. 11 Group RAF Fighter Command took command of the station with No.203 Advanced Flying School.[16] This lasted until July 1949 when the station was transferred to 5 and 7 Squadrons, Army Air Corps and No 1 Overseas Ferry Unit. This latter unit had the duties to ferry Meteors, Vampires and Mosquitoes to the Middle East and the Far East.[17]

1950—1957[edit]

In February 1950 the Chivenor station flight was formed with Tiger Moths. It was at this time that post-war civilian flying restarted, with Wrafton flying club later changing its name to the Puffin flying club. At this time the RAF was operating as No. 229 Operational Conversion Unit which flew Vampires and Meteors. Then in mid 1955 the first of the Hunter operational conversion courses was started: flying was still mainly on the Vampire FB5 with approximately 20 hrs on the Hunter F1 before pilots were sent to their operational squadrons. During the next 2 years the Vampires were phased out and the course became all Hunter once the Hunter T7, a two-seater trainer version, became available. There were 2 squadrons called simply 1 and 2, each capable of training a student from conversion to operational and weaponry training. Operational Units were 229 OCU, consisting of 2 squadrons and Chivenor Station Flight.[18]

Sea King helicopter of 22 Squadron

In May 1957 the RAF exercise 'Vigilant' changed Chivenor's Squadrons' status. They assumed a wartime reserve role and were renumbered as Nos 145 and 234 Squadrons. The squadrons were now flying the Hunter F4 and T7 until the F4 was replaced by the F6. The two squadrons were numbered and then renumbered until they became 63 (Reserve) and 79 (Reserve) Squadrons, tasked with training RAF fighter pilots. Hunter FR.10 fighter reconnaissance aircraft were also flown by 229 OCU in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In March 1967 the oil tanker Torrey Canyon ran aground on Seven Stones Reef near Lands End, spilling oil. For three days, Hunters from Chivenor and other bases fired training rockets at the ship to hole it below the waterline, before bombing it with high explosive and napalm in an unsuccessful effort to burn off the oil. [19] The final Hunter unit based at Chivenor was the Singapore Operational Training Flight. In 1974, 229 OCU was transferred to RAF Brawdy and the station was put into a rebuilding programme. It was in June 1957 that a new chapter in Chivenor's story started with the arrival of 'E' Flight 275 Squadron with their Sycamore HR14s on search and rescue duties. In 1958 'E' Flight changed to 'A' Flight 22 Squadron, which has over 50 years of twenty-four-hour search and rescue experience operating from Chivenor.[20]

Hawks at RAF Chivenor[edit]

In 1979 the RAF rebuilding programme ended and the station was reactivated, hosting 2 TWU, flying BAe Hawk T1's with No. 63 Squadron RAF (63(R))[21] and No. 151 Squadron RAF (151(R)) squadrons, training fast jet pilots and navigators.[22] In 1992, the government's options for change defence review resulted in the structure of the station changing with 2 TWU being re-designated as No. 7 Flying Training School RAF (7 FTS), the squadrons changing identities from 63(R) and 151(R) to No. 19 Squadron RAF (19(R))[23] and No. 92 Squadron RAF (92(R)).[24] 7 FTS operated in conjunction with No. 4 Flying Training School RAF (4 FTS) at RAF Valley, as the so-called Mirror Image Training Course which lasted for three years until 1995. when the Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced that RAF Chivenor would close, which it did on 1 October 1995.[25]

Operational Units[edit]

1979-1992[edit]

2 TWU
No. 63(R) Squadron RAF[21]
No. 151(R) Squadron RAF[22]

1992-1995[edit]

7 FTS
No. 19(R) Squadron RAF[23]
No. 92(R) Squadron RAF[24]

Post-RAF use[edit]

From 1 October 1995 onwards, the Royal Marines took control of the base, it being renamed Royal Marines Base Chivenor (RMB Chivenor) and is home to the Commando Logistics Regiment, Royal Marines[26] and 24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers.[27]

The airfield is still an operational airfield used by the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and RAF as well as No. 624 Volunteer Gliding Squadron RAF (624 VGS) operating Grob Vigilant T1 motor gliders, providing flights for the Air Training Corps and Combined Cadet Force.[28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "RMB Chivenor". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  2. ^ "No 3 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  3. ^ C.G.Jefford (1988). RAF Squadrons. UK Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  4. ^ "No. 51 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  5. ^ "No. 77 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  6. ^ "No. 502 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  7. ^ a b "No. 172 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  8. ^ "No. 235 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  9. ^ "No. 236 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  10. ^ "No. 248 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  11. ^ "No. 407 (Demon) Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force". Wartime Memories Project. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  12. ^ "No. 612 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  13. ^ "No. 304 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  14. ^ a b "No. 14 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  15. ^ a b "No. 36 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  16. ^ "Supermarine Spitfire" (PDF). RAF Museum. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  17. ^ "Better Than Working - A Life Of Service". Scottish Saltire. Archived from the original on 3 May 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  18. ^ "No. 229 OCU, Chivenor". National Archives. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  19. ^ BBC Radio 4 - Saturday Live - Tim Farrow, 8 May 2010
  20. ^ "No. 22 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  21. ^ a b "No. 63 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  22. ^ a b "No. 151 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  23. ^ a b "No. 19 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  24. ^ a b "No. 92 Squadron". RAF. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  25. ^ "RAF Chivenor's fascinating past unearthed in new book". Plymouth Herald. 5 September 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ "Commando Logistic Regiment". Royal Navy. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  27. ^ "24 Commando Engineer Regiment". British Army. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  28. ^ "624 Volunteer Gliding Squadron". Archived from the original on 23 January 2009.