RAF Cleave

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RAF Cleave

Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Airport typeMilitary (former)
OwnerAir Ministry
OperatorRoyal Air Force
LocationWest of Kilkhampton
In use1939-1945
Elevation AMSL400 ft / 122 m
Coordinates50°53′08″N 04°33′00″W / 50.88556°N 4.55000°W / 50.88556; -4.55000Coordinates: 50°53′08″N 04°33′00″W / 50.88556°N 4.55000°W / 50.88556; -4.55000
RAF Cleave is located in Cornwall
RAF Cleave
RAF Cleave
Location in Cornwall
Direction Length Surface
ft m
06/24 2,250 656 Grass
18/36 2,700 823 Grass

RAF Cleave[1] is a former Royal Air Force station located 4.2 miles (7 kilometres) north of Bude in Cornwall, United Kingdom, which was operational from 1939 until 1945.[1] Despite a few periods of intense activity, it was one of Fighter Command's lesser used airfields.


RAF Cleave was conceived as housing target and target support aircraft for firing ranges along the north Cornwall coast, and land was acquired from Cleave Manor.

In May 1939, two flights of 1 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit (1 AACU) with the Westland Wallace, and a naval steam catapult was soon erected near the cliffs for the pilotless Queen Bee aircraft due to be stationed there. Aircraft were initially housed in temporary Bessonneau hangars (type H of World War I vintage), and later replaced by more permanent structures.

In December 1943, the four flights were amalgamated into 639 Squadron, which served at Cleave for the remainder of the war.

The airfield was placed under care and maintenance in April 1945, and later became a government signals station.

Posted squadrons[edit]

unit dates stationed aircraft used duties
1 AACU (D, G & O Flights) - 31 October 1942 Hawker Henley, Westland Wallace target towing
1602 (AAC) Flt 1 November 1942 – 1 December 1943 Hawker Henley formed from D Flight 1AACU, target towing
1603 (AAC) Flt 1 November 1942 – 1 December 1943 Hawker Henley, Fairey Battle formed from G Flight 1AACU, target towing
1604 (AAC) Flt 1 November 1942 – 1 December 1943 Hawker Henley, de Havilland Tiger Moth formed from O Flight 1AACU, target towing
1618 (AAC) Flt 1 November 1942 – 1 December 1943 de Havilland Tiger Moth, de Havilland Queen Bee target towing & pilotless targets
639 Sqn 1 December 1943 – 30 April 1945 Hawker Henley, Hawker Hurricane formed from 1602, 1603, & 1604 Flts[2]

Current use[edit]

Remains of an RAF Cleave gun emplacement, with the modern satellite dishes of GCHQ Bude behind

Apart from an undisturbed piece of the grass runway to the north, a very short section of concrete perimeter track, and a few of the married quarters accommodation on Cleave Crescent, the site has been almost completely re-modelled as GCHQ Bude.



  1. ^ a b "RAF Cleave". RAFweb.org. RAFweb - Air of Authority. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  2. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 00.


  • Jefford MBE, Wg Cdr C G (1988). RAF Squadrons. A comprehensive record of the movement and equipment of all RAF squadrons and their antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Lake, A (1999) Flying units of the RAF, Airlife Publishing, Shrewsbury, 316pp & 16 App, ISBN 1-84037-086-6.
  • Smith, G (2000) Devon and Cornwall Airfields in the Second World War, Countryside Books, Newbury, 288pp, ISBN 1-85306-632-X.
  • Willis, S and Holliss, B R (1987), Military airfields in the British Isles 1939-1945 (Omnibus Edition), Enthusiasts Publications, Newport Pagnell, 283pp, ISBN 0-907700-12-8.

External links[edit]