RAF Carnaby



South-West of Bridlington between Haisthorpe and Carnaby.

Runway: 9000ft by 750ft with 1500ft grass extensions at both ends


The large flat site on Carnaby moor was perfect for the construction of an emergency runway and being almost on the coast was ideal for shot up bombers needing to make a landing immediately after returning from an operation, this area also gave them a long clear approach and could be seen from a great distance.

There was a great need for an emergency landing for crippled shot up bombers making it back to England, other airfield were close but conditions could cause problems so an emergency landing ground was the perfect solution.

Construction started in 1943 and Carnaby opened on 26th March 1944 as a Bomber Command Emergency Landing Ground (ELG), other ELG’s were built three in total others were Manston and Woodbridge, all three of these were specially designed to handle aircraft in any difficult situation.

In June 1944 Carnaby became operational under No 4 Group Bomber Command, the huge bitumen surface runway stretching a massive 9000ft by 750ft was almost 5 times wider then a normal runway and with the added 1500ft grass extensions crippled bombers had no problems with visibility or landing, the control tower (type 343/43) was situated in the center and to the south of the runway and taxiway off which were dispersal loop hardstandings.

RAF Carnaby 1945

RAF Carnaby, photographed around May 1945. Clearly visible is the circular dispersal on the south side ( AirfieldInformationExchange ).

Carnaby was equipped with FIDO (Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation) so that landings could be made in all weather conditions, the site was fully equipped with emergency services.

Carnaby was one of fifteen airfields operating the fog dispersal system known as Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation (FIDO). The system consisted of two rows of burning petrol one on each side of the runway, the heat from this fire raised the air temperature above the runways, cutting a hole in the fog and provided crews with a brightly lit strip indicating the position of the runway.


There was never any hangers built in Carnaby and all accommodation was temporary the station strength as of 1st December 1944 was 548 personnel made up of 18 officers, 36 SNCOs and 494 other ranks.  There was no accommodation for visiting personnel they we sent to RAF Lissett which was the closest airfield to Carnaby.

This ELG was of great importance to Bombers crews December 1944 was one of the busiest mouths E.G 22nd December no fewer than 92 USAAF Liberators and fortresses landed here because of bad weather at their bases.

F/O Hans Hassler was flying Lancaster NF978 / HW-T of 100Sqn after a operation to Cologne on 28 Oct 1944 was damaged by flak on the bombing run. Port engines were damaged and hydraulics unserviceable. They then made a joyous landing at Carnaby and all lived to tell the tale. Thank God for Carnaby !!

A crew picture showing them at the end of their tour, after a third and final operation to Cologne. They seem to have a relieved look on their faces, as you would, after cheating death in the skies over Germany.


The crew were:

Pilot- FO. Hans “Pete” Hassler

F/E- Sgt. Freddy. Dorman

Nav- FO. Hector Craig

BA- Sgt Johnny Challice

W/OP- Sgt Harry Christopher

M/UP- Sgt Abe Mills

R- Sgt Danny Nathan

Flying Officer F H Greenhalgh, a wireless operator serving with No. 158 Squadron RAF based at Lissett, contemplates his lucky escape when the propeller from the damaged port inner engine of Handley Page Halifax B Mark III, MZ928 ‘NP-S’, smashed into his position during a raid on Duisburg,  Germany, in the early morning of 14 October 1944, (Operation HURRICANE).

The aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire over the target, putting the port inner engine out of commission and shooting away two of Flying Officer Greenhalgh’s toes. As the aircraft completed its bombing run and turned for home, the propeller and reduction gear sheared off and smashed a large hole in the fuselage, just where Greenhalgh’s legs would have been, had he not shifted position in order to bandage his wounded foot. The pilot brought the damaged aircraft back, making a landing at Carnaby Emergency Landing Ground, where this photograph was taken

The end of the war was coming and the excellent Crash and medical teams of RAF Carnaby finally stud down in September 1945, in the brief time it was operational over 1500 bomber landings were recorded the station closed in March 1946 and unfortunately the station was left and neglected until the outbreak of the Korean was making the RAF to expand its pilot training scheme, Carnaby was repaired and re-opened on 1st April 1953.

The airfield was used as a Relief Landing Ground) RLG for 203 advanced flying school at Driffield, the pilot used Carnaby to practice landings in there Meteors but closed in 1954.


In 1958 the site once more opened and became a THOR missile site, three platforms and long range theodolite buildings were constructed on the South west side of the airfield.  The blocks of 32 bases were constructed just west of the war time control tower, however in 1963 the THOR sites were dispended and the airfield closed.

RAF Carnaby became one of Britain's Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile bases.

RAF Carnaby, photographed around 1960. The circular dispersal on the south side was converted with NATO-like parkings and an additional taxi track with parkings to the centre of the runway. Three Thor launch pads can be seen also

In 1972 the airfield was bought by Bridlington Corporation and Bridlington RDC for the sum of £50.000. Today the field is an industrial estate and the runway became the main road through the estate.

The control tower and dispersals loops have been removed.

There is only one building left from the war time era

Images from withinside the building

© RAF Badges and other Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of and under the terms of a licence issued by the Directorate of Intellectual Property Rights, Ministry of Defence.

Photographs marked ‘© IWM’ are used with the permission of the Imperial War Museum and may not be copied without the permission of the IWM.

Researched and compiled by Martyn Owst (martyn@heraw.co.uk)

Photos Matthew Francis 

Acknowledgments: Airfield information Exchange