R.A.F Elvington

 

Info

Five miles south-east of the centre of York, this airfield lies south of the B1228 on the approach to Elvington village.

 

 

Above: 2012 aerial photo of Elvington

 

Field Build History

Originally as a satellite landing ground with grass runways , the flat extent of land was requisitioned in 1940. After clearing the site and laying a gravel and cinder perimeter taxiway, upgrading took place and hard runways were put down as well as several hardstanding areas. These were 02-20 and 14-32 at 1,400 yards and the main 08-26 at 2,000 yards, as a sub-station of RAF Pocklington.

A T2 hangar was erected on the technical site near the B1228 and two more T2s further to the south-east between the heads of runways 02 and 34 at a later date which eliminated one hardstanding. A B1 hangar was added early in 1943. The bomb stores were located off the south-east side of the airfield and the camp sites dispersed either side of the B1228 into Elvington village, and along with RAF Melbourne and RAF Pocklington was known as "42 Base".

 

Runways

After 1940 upgrading took place and hard runways were

put down these were

02-20 and 14-32 at 1,400 yards and the main 08-26 at 2,000 yards.

 

Squadrons

 

Motto:      Esse potius quarm videri (To be, rather than seem)

The Sqn Logo is used and produced under licence from the MOD 

The stations first occupants were the Whitleys of No. 77 Squadron, which arrived in October 1942. A veteran No. 4 Group squadron, No. 77 had been based at Leeming prior to being loaned to Coastal Command in May 1942 when it operated from Chivenor. Following its return to Bomber Command, after a brief period of retraining. 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 after converting to Halifaxes, the squadron joined Main Force operations in December.   Between Oct 1942 and May 1944. The squadron took part in the Battle of the Ruhr and in many other operations aimed at the destruction of German industry.. 77 Squadron suffered heavy losses during its time at Elvington with over 500 aircrew killed, missing or taken prisoner and almost 80 Halifaxes lost, 77 Squadron moved, in early 1944, to the newly opened airfield at Full Sutton.

Aircrews enjoy a cup of tea from the NAAFI wagon at Elvington in October 1942

Handley Page Halifax B Mark II Series I (Special), JB781 'KN-W', of No. 77 Squadron RAF gathers speed on the runway at Elvington, as it takes off for a bombing raid on Dusseldorf, Germany. This was the first occasion on which more than 200 Halifaxes took part in a raid, of which 12 were lost. Extensive damage was caused to the centre of Dusseldorf, which suffered its most destructive attack of the war. The aerial of the 'Monica' tail-warning radar can be seen protruding below the rear turret of JB781.© IWM (CH 10240)

 

Halifax B Mark II Series 1 (Special), JB911? KN-X?, of No. 77 Squadron RAF, making a low level pass over other aircraft
of the squadron at Elvington, Yorkshire.© IWM (CH 10594)

 

Farm labourers stack a load of late hay by a dispersal at Elvington, Yorkshire, in which Handley Page Halifax B Mark II Series I (Special), DT807 'KN-R' "Rita", of No. 77 Squadron RAF is standing.© IWM (CH 10598)

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Elvington had been selected as the base for two new heavy bomber squadrons manned by Free French personnel flying Halifaxes in No. 4 Group. These were 346 (Guyenne) and 347 (Tunisie). formed at Elvington in May and June 1944 respectively, both becoming operational in the latter month. Both squadrons played a major part in the bomber offensive. 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.  The last Free French operations from Elvington took place late in April 1945, but both squadrons did not leave for their new home base Bordeaux until October. During their operations, the French had lost 30 Halifaxes as missing in action.


A major Luftwaffe intruder operation ('Unternehmen Gisela') on the night of 3/4 March 1945, resulted in a Halifax being shot down while returning to Elvington. One of the Luftwaffe Ju88Gs involved in the operation struck trees and crashed while attempting to strafe the airfield, killing killing all 5 crew, as well as a farmer (Richard Moll), his wife and his mother. The war ended just 9 weeks later, making this is probably the scene of the very last Luftwaffe aircraft crash on British soil.
In total, Elvington lost 128 Halifaxes to operational causes (including crashes), 45 of them from the French squadrons

In the weeks following VE-Day, the French-manned Halifaxes were employed in transporting military personnel and material across liberated Europe. In October they were officially turned over to the French Air Force, taking the aircraft with them.

 

A Handley Page Halifax B Mark III of No. 347 (Free French) Squadron RAF, taxys to its dispersal at Elvington, Yorkshire.© IWM (CH 14614)

 

 

General M Valin, Commander of the French Air Force in Great Britain talking to aircrews of No. 346 (Free French) Squadron RAF during a visit to Elvington, Yorkshire. On the extreme right stands Air Vice Marshal C R Carr, Air Officer Commanding No. 4 Group.© IWM (CH 13406)

French crew of Halifax III 'La Marseillaise' of 346 Sqn (GB II/23 "Guyenne") walking from their bomber at Elvington in 1944 (defense.gouv.fr).

Other Occupants & Users

After the departure of the Free French, Elvington was used by No. 14 Maintenance Unit to store bombs. Eventually it went back to caretaker status.

 

United States Air Force

In 1953 Elvington was one of several redundant airfields passed to the USAF for updating as reserve bases for B-36 bombers. The following year 1954 US engineer organisations extended and strengthened the main runway to 3,094 m (10,151 ft) which was the longest in the north of England, and a huge 49 acres rectangular hardstanding apron as well as a new control tower to turn Elvington into a "Basic Operation Platform" The other old runways and much other wartime concrete were broken up for use as hardcore.


With the decrease in tension with the East and a change in strategy, the USAF withdrew its personnel in 1958, although the airfield remained in reserve status. The USAF had spent £4 million on Elvington but never became operational as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) the airfield and was abandoned by the US Air Force in 1958.

Above: USAF control Tower

 

Other uses

Elvington became a relief landing ground for RAF training establishments, the long runway provided a useful safety margin for student pilots. 

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.

On 3 October 1970 Tony Densham drove the Ford-powered "Commuter" dragster to a record at Elvington, averaging 207.6 mph over the Flying Kilometre course. The new record broke a 43 year old record.

In the 1970s, Elvington's technical and administrative sites were acquired by a group who formed the Yorkshire Air Museum. Over the years the this has become one of the UK's premier air museums.

Current Use

This field is used for various motor sport events and was the runway where Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond lost control of a rocket car and nearly died, also home to the Yorkshire Air Museum which host a various array of aircraft on static display and fantastic exhibits

 

UNKNOWN FACT:

ELVINGTON RUNWAY IS THE ONLY RUNWAY LONG ENOUGH FOR THE RETIRED SPACE SHUTTLE TO LAND IN THE UK !

 

Accidents

On December 28, 1944, a loaded Halifax caught fire on dispersal, the ensuing explosions causing 18 casualties of which 13 were fatal

Memorials

Above & Below:The Memorial at Elvington

Thanks