RAF Thruxton

RAF Thruxton

Infobox Military Structure
name= Royal Air Force Station Thruxton
USAAF Station 407
location= Located Near Thruxton, Hampshire, England
coordinates=coord|51|12|29|N|001|36|02|W|


caption= Thruxton Airfield - May 1945
type= Military airfield
code=TX
built=1941
builder=
materials=
height=
used=1942-1946
demolished=
condition=
ownership=
controlledby=Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
garrison=RAF Bomber Command
Ninth Air Force
commanders=
occupants=225, 297 Squadrons
366th Fighter Group
battles= European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945 Location map|Hampshire
caption= RAF Thruxton, shown within Hampshire
lat= 51.2079
long= -1.5833
width= 200
The former Royal Air Force Station Thruxton, more commonly known as RAF Thruxton, was a World War II Royal Air Force airbase in England, located convert|5|mi|km W of Andover in Hampshire. During the war it was used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces Ninth Air Force. It was also known as USAAF station 407, ID TX.

RAF Bomber Command Use

In the summer of 1940, Thruxton Down, on the eastern fringes of Salisbury Plain, was considered as an emergency landing ground for the regular RAF station at Andover. It was then scheduled for development as a regular airfield for Army Co-operation Command and No. 225 Squadron RAF moved in with Westland Lysanders in August 1941 while construction was still in progress.

Upgraded to bomber standard, three concrete runways were laid with the main aligned 08/26 was 4,680 ft long, the secondaries convert|3600|ft|m|abbr=on at 13/31 and convert|3000|ft|m|abbr=on at 02/20. On completion of the improvements there were 29 hardstands of which 24 were convert|125|ft|m|abbr=on diameter pans and six double pans. A T2 hangar supplemented the nine Blisters and an aged timber and fabric Bessoneau afforded shelter for the maintenance and repair of No. 225 Squadron's Lysanders.

225 squadron was re-armed during 1942 with Hawker Hurricanes and then North American Mustangs. Following use by several RAF units involved in the Dieppe Raid debacle in August, other Army Co-operation squadrons came and went, mostly equipped with Mustangs. In 1943, No. 225 was displaced as principal resident by No. 297 Squadron RAF with Whitley bombers, and later, Albemarle transports to tow Horsa gliders.

A glider training unit was also present during the winter of 1943-44 but all RAF tactical fighter and airborne support units were moved out in February 1944 to make way for the US Ninth Air Force.

USAAF use

Before Thruxton could be used by Ninth Air Force fighters, it was necessary for US engineers to put down Marsden Matting and concrete reinforcements beside the perimeter track to provide additional aircraft standings. While a good proportion of the personnel could be housed in the hutted accommodation on the dispersed camp, this only catered for 1124 persons so others had to live under canvas tenting.

366th Fighter Group

Thruxton was transferred to the USAAF Ninth Air Force on 3 January 1944. On 1 March the 366th Fighter Group was transferred to the airfield from RAF Membury. Operational squadrons of the group were:
* 389th Fighter Squadron (A6)
* 390th Fighter Squadron (B2)
* 391st Fighter Squadron (A8)

The 366th was a group of Ninth Air Force's 71st Fighter Wing, IX Tactical Air Command.

The 366th FG flew Republic P-47 Thunderbolts on ground attack missions and the group entered combat on 14 March with a fighter sweep along the French Normandy coast. Subsequent operations were designed to prepare the way for the invasion of the Continent. On D-Day, the group flew fighter sweeps over Normandy, attacking such targets as motor convoys and gun emplacements.

The group lost 27 P-47s on missions flown from Thruxton. In air fighting, the CO, Colonel Dyke Meyer, shot down two enemy aircraft on the 12 April mission but the most successful was 12 June when 10 enemy aircraft fell to the group's guns. The total of credits of enemy aircraft shot down while flying from Thruxton was 23. The group moved to its Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at St. Pierre du Mont, France (ALG A-1) on 17 June constructed right behind the coastline near Omaha Beach only six days after the first landings. The last squadron to move to France was the 398th FS, leaving on the 20th. A rear party of USAAF personnel remained at Thruxton until July.

From the continent, the 366th FG frequently attacked such targets as railroads, highways, bridges, motor transports, gun emplacements, supply depots and troops, providing tactical air support in support of U.S. First Army. The group often escorted bombers that hit airfields, factories, and marshalling yards and sometimes flew area patrols and on occasion dropped leaflets.

The group flew its last mission, attacking harbors at Kiel and Flensburg, on 3 May 1945 from its ALG at Münster/Handorf Airdrome (ALG Y-94), Germany. It remained in Germany after the war and, assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe, becoming part of the occupation force.

The 366th Fighter Group was inactivated at Fritzlar, Germany on 20 August 1946.

Post Invasion use

With the Ninth Air Force move to France, this marked the end of Thruxton as a base for combat flying units. The airfield was again available for use by airborne forces although only training, maintenance and storage units were based there during the months leading up to the end of hostilities.

Thruxton was also used by light communication and transport units, but the main use of the airfield was glider storage of Horsa gliders. The airfield was finally closed and sold in 1946.

Civil Use

Upon its release from military use, in 1947 the field was leased by the Wiltshire School of Flying. Over the next few years their training fleet was joined at Thruxton by substantial numbers of light aircraft. Flight training at the airfield is now provided by Western Air (Thruxton) Ltd.

Motorcycle racing started in 1950 followed by cars in 1952. The runway and perimeter roads formed the original circuit until a new track was laid in 1968. At 2.356 miles (3.792 km), the new circuit uses only the perimeter road with the addition of a chicane called Club and a series of three tight corners called Campbell, Cobb and Seagrave.

There is no flying on race days but the airfield is used for flying during practice and test days on the motor circuit.

ee also

* List of RAF stations
* USAAF Ninth Air Force - World War II
* Thruxton Circuit

References

* Freeman, Roger A. (1994) UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now 1994. After the Battle ISBN 0900913800
* Freeman, Roger A. (1996) The Ninth Air Force in Colour: UK and the Continent-World War Two. After the Battle ISBN 1854092723
* Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
* Thruxton Airfield at www.controltowers.co.uk http://www.controltowers.co.uk/T-V/Thruxton.htm
* ArmyAirForces.com 366th Fighter Group http://www.armyairforces.com/dbgroups.asp?Group=187
* USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers—1908 to Present [http://home.att.net/~jbaugher/usafserials.html]

External links

* [http://www.multimap.com/map/photo.cgi?client=public&X=427500&Y=145000&width=700&height=400&gride=430000&gridn=145000&srec=0&coordsys=gb&db=freegaz&pc=&zm=0&scale=50000&multimap.x=377&multimap.y=144 Aerial Photo of RAF Thruxton from Multimap.Com]
* [http://www.geograph.org.uk/gridref/SU2790045560 Photographs of RAF Thruxton from the Geograph British Isles project]


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