This remote site on a hilltop immediately south of the hamlet of Cottam, after which the airfield was named, was considered to be suitable for use as a satellite airfield for RAF Driffield and opened in that capacity during September 1939.
Despite so many unfavourable factors, the airfield was developed as a bomber station under No 4 Group, Bomber Command. With no thought given to its position or access to the site by road, which were very poor. Because of its close proximity to the North Yorkshire Moors the airfield was subject to unusual wind affects which are problems for aircraft in the circuit. However, work proceeded and Cottam with its three concrete runways 5280 ft, 3960 ft and 4050 ft in length, perimeter track and dispersed hard standings was completed and ready to use by September 1940. But owing to the adverse weather conditions, it was rejected and only used on rare occasions.
Cottam was first used as a crude grass dispersal satellite by the Whitley squadrons at Driffield, 77 Squadron and 102 Squadron between September 1939 and August 1940 following the devastating raid on RAF Driffield,
On 20th August 1940 Whitley bomber N1355 (Pilot – Sgt James Walter Ward RAFVR (741435), of Hull) undershot on landing at Cottam airfield and hit a fence, the undercarriage then collapsed at 19.00hrs. It was initially considered for repair but was struck off charge on 22nd September 1940 with the repair not carried out. Cottam airfield was not completed until later in the year but it appears to have been used by 77 Squadron while repairs were being carried out to Driffield. 77 Squadron only stayed here briefly until they moved to Linton on Ouse later in the same month.
There is no record of any other flying units being based a Cottam.
During March 1944 a USAAF B-24 Liberator made of forced landing at Cottam after returning from ops and after a period of near disuse the station was later used as a bomb dump by No 91 MU (maintenance unit) who put the concrete runways and hardstandings to good use by storing on them vast quantities of bombs which were delivered by road from the rail head at Driffield. This was the only major use made of the airfield and as soon as 91 MU moved out it was abandoned the airfield operated until June 1954. During the late 1970 the control tower was demolished and during the early 1980s the airfield was in the process of being cleared the watch office and runways were being removed. Today there are very little remains.
RAF Cottam is still in use by the RAF, in the simulators at the RAF ATC School.
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Researched and compiled by Martyn Owst
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