RAF Elvington

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RAF Elvington

Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Elvington airfield - geograph.org.uk - 482395.jpg
Elvington airfield
Airport typeMilitary
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
In use1940-1992
Elevation AMSL39 ft / 12 m
Coordinates53°55′28″N 000°58′16″W / 53.92444°N 0.97111°W / 53.92444; -0.97111Coordinates: 53°55′28″N 000°58′16″W / 53.92444°N 0.97111°W / 53.92444; -0.97111
RAF Elvington is located in North Yorkshire
RAF Elvington
RAF Elvington
Location in North Yorkshire
Direction Length Surface
ft m
08/26 9,842 3,000 Tarmac

RAF Elvington was a Royal Air Force station which operated from the beginning of the Second World War until 1992 located at Elvington, Yorkshire, England.


Royal Air Force use[edit]

The station was originally a grass airfield within No. 4 Group. In the early 1940s the airfield was entirely reconstructed with three hardened runways replacing the grass. It re-opened in October 1942 as a station for 77 Squadron RAF and along with RAF Melbourne and RAF Pocklington was known as No "42 Base". The squadron had a strength of approximately 20 aircraft and initially used the twin engined Armstrong Whitworth Whitley medium bomber although this was quickly replaced by the Handley Page Halifax four engined heavy bomber which was being introduced. No 77 Squadron suffered heavy losses during its time at Elvington with over 500 aircrew killed, missing or taken prisoner and almost 80 Halifaxes lost as it played a major part in the Battle of the Ruhr and the bombing of Berlin.[1]

In May 1944 No 77 Squadron posted to the newly opened nearby RAF Full Sutton and was replaced at Elvington by two French squadrons, numbers 346 "Guyenne" and 347 "Tunisie" who both played a leading part in the bombing of Germany. Elvington was the only airfield in the United Kingdom used by the remainder of the Free French Forces, they also flew Handley Page Halifax heavy bombers until they moved to Bordeaux in October 1945 where they became the basis for the new air force of liberated France. In September 1957 a memorial was unveiled in Elvington village dedicated to the two French squadrons.[2] While they were at RAF Elvington nearly half of the squadrons' members were killed.[3]

After the war the 400-acre (1.6 km2) airfield was transferred to No 40 Group under the control of Maintenance Command until 1952 when it was greatly enlarged and extended for use by the United States Air Force.[2]

United States Air Force use[edit]

The United States Air Force (USAF) built a new 3,094 m (10,151 ft) runway, which was the longest in the north of England, and a huge 19.8 hectares (49 acres) rectangular hardstanding apron as well as a new control tower to turn Elvington into a "Basic Operation Platform" which would have operated as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) dispersal airfield.[4] After spending £4 million[5] the airfield never became operational as a SAC base and was abandoned by the US Air Force in 1958.

Other uses[edit]

In the early 1960s the Blackburn Aircraft Company, now part of British Aerospace used the runway for test flights of the Blackburn Buccaneer. Elvington retained its status as an RAF relief landing ground and was used by the RAF flying training schools at RAF Church Fenton and RAF Linton-on-Ouse until the airfield was finally closed in March 1992.[6]


LocationYorkshire, England
Closed1963 (cars only)

A race circuit was established which appears to have been used by the British Racing & Sports Car Club (BRSCC). The inaugural car race meeting took place on 8 July 1962 and was reported by Autosport, which said that the BRSCC hoped to run a further meeting September, but this appears not to have taken place. A second meeting did take place a year after on 7 July 1963, but these two appear to have been the sum total of car racing at Elvington.

However, in June 1970 Auto 66 Club held a Motorcycle Road Race meeting at Elvington, with a second meeting in September. The following season these were upgraded to National Status events. Although local critics thought the club had gone well over the top, but the National event attracted over 400 riders, including stars of the future like Mick Grant and Barry Sheene. The Auto 66 Club continued to organise meeting at this track.[7][8]

Record breaking[edit]

In October 1969, when preparing for a challenge at Monzas high-speed banked-oval circuit to a record held by Moto Guzzi, Ray Pickrell practiced by riding a Dunstall Norton road-going motorcycle during a regular sprint meeting. He set a new national record for the 750cc class flying quarter mile at 144.69 mph (232.86 km/h).[9]

On 3 October 1970 Tony Densham, driving the Ford-powered "Commuter" dragster, set the Official outright wheel driven record at Elvington by averaging 207.6 mph (334.1 km/h) over the flying kilometre course.[10] This broke Malcolm Campbell's record set 43 years previously at Pendine Sands.

In 1990 Elvington hosted an attempt to match the speed record run of the Sunbeam Tiger motor car, originally driven by Henry Segrave (on 21 March 1926, he set his first land speed record in his 4-litre Sunbeam Tiger Ladybird on the sands at Southport, England at 152.33 mph). The re-run at Elvington on the two mile (3 km) runway was recorded at 159 mph (256 km/h).

In the summer of 1998 Colin Fallows bettered Richard Noble's outright UK Record, driving his "Vampire" jet dragster at Elvington with an average of 269 mph (433 km/h).[11] The current non wheel-driven British Land Speed Record holder is Vampire, driven by Fallows], which hit a speed of 300.3 mph (483.3 km/h) on 5 July 2000 at Elvington.[12]

On 20 September 2006 Elvington Airfield was the location of a serious crash involving the Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond and "Vampire". The jet-powered car he was driving crashed while travelling at 280 mph (450 km/h). Hammond suffered serious brain injuries, but made a full recovery.[13][14] The accident investigation said: "an almost instantaneous blow out of the right side front tyre caused the accident." [15]

Zef Eisenberg of MADMAX Race team, who holds numerous land speed records, crashed his 560hp Rolls Royce Turbine powered motorbike at Elvington airfield on 18 September 2016, during a two way speed record attempt. It was reported that he did not see the finish line, causing him to leave the end of the runway and crash at a speed of around 230mph. He sustained 11 broken bones and was hospitalised for three months. It was believed to be Britain's fastest motorbike crash survivor. After rebuilding his Turbine powered bike and making a recovery that surprised the doctors, he was racing again on the anniversary of the crash at the same track and on the same (rebuilt) bike. [16][17][18]

Present day[edit]

The airfield is now owned by Elvington Park Ltd. The adjacent buildings and control tower have been restored, and serve as the Yorkshire Air Museum which has many varied and rare aircraft and exhibits, including a complete Halifax bomber. Elvington is also a popular motorsports venue for motorcycle racing.



  1. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 51.
  2. ^ a b Halpenny, Bruce Barrymore (1982). Action Stations: Military Airfields of Yorkshire v. 4. PSL. ISBN 978-0-85059-532-1.
  3. ^ "York remembers WWII French airmen based at Elvington". BBC. 18 October 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  4. ^ Cocroft, Wayne; Thomas, Roger (2003). Cold War: Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989. Swindon: English Heritage. ISBN 1-873592-69-8.
  5. ^ The Manchester Guardian, 8 May 1958, Page 3.
  6. ^ "Allied Air Forces Memorial, Elvington, York (Guide to an Operational WWII Bomber Command Station", Yorkshire Air Museum, Leaflet (No ISBN) Gives history of airfield.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 September 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Peter Swinger, Motor Racing Circuits in England : Then & Now (Ian Allan Publishing, ISBN 0 7110 3104 5, 2008)
  9. ^ Recollections of 'Quasimodo', Classic Racer, Winter 1988, pp.6-12 (EMAP) Accessed 3 January 2018
  10. ^ The Guardian, 5 October 1970, Page 6; The Times, 5 October 1970.
  11. ^ The Guardian, 8 June 1999, Page C4.
  12. ^ The Times, 21 September 2006. See
  13. ^ BBC News
  14. ^ BBC airs Top Gear crash footage
  15. ^ HSE Investigation into the accident of Richard Hammond:
  16. ^ "Crash and comeback of Zef Eisenberg - life after the 230mph crash".
  17. ^ "Zef makes comeback year after crash".
  18. ^ "Elvington 230mph Crash - Zef Eisenberg 2016".


  • Jefford, C.G, MBE,BA,RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.

Further reading[edit]

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