SU0571 : Hangar, former RAF Yatesbury air base

taken 7 years ago, near to Yatesbury, Wiltshire, Great Britain

Hangar, former RAF Yatesbury air base
Hangar, former RAF Yatesbury air base
One of two Grade II* listed hangars LinkExternal link originating from the First World War, and used during WW2 at the former RAF Yatesbury West Camp air base. This one has been restored. See also SU0571 : WW1 hangars, former RAF Yatesbury air base
RAF Yatesbury

In 1916, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) developed two airfields at Yatesbury specialising in training Corps Reconnaissance pilots. Two camps were established either side of the minor road from the A4 to the village itself: the West camp comprised the officers' and men’s quarters with the usual facilities and three large hangars, while the East camp was adjacent to the A4 and had hangars and workshops. The airfields opened in November 1916 with No. 55 Reserve Squadron arriving from Filton, equipped with the Avro 504A and the Scout D.

Although the War ended in November 1918, training continued into 1919, when squadrons were sent to Yatesbury to be disbanded. The station finally closed in early 1920. The land was returned to its original owners and reverted to farmland until 1936.

In 1935, Bristol Aeroplane Company (BAC), which had been operating a school at Filton in Bristol since 1923, purchased part of the former western airfield and built a flying school, which opened in early 1936. This was the No.10 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School (Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC trained there in 1936). Various facilities were built including an officers’ mess and accommodation blocks. In 1939 the airfield was taken over by the Air Ministry and brought up to wartime standards, which included the construction of Bellman and Blister hangars, Stanton air raid shelters, and the laying down of a Sommerfield Track (steel mesh matting) on the two runways. Training was carried out with Tiger Moth aircraft. This continued until the outbreak of war in September 1939, when pilot training was transferred away to other stations to allow the field to be used for training airborne wireless operators.

Meanwhile, in 1938/9 on the site of the eastern camp, the RAF, realising that it would need a large number of radio operators, built the No. 2 Electrical and Wireless School, (later renamed No. 2 Radio School). The theory of wireless and Morse code was taught on the ground and Dominie and Proctor aircraft were used for the aerial training. Over 50,000 men successfully passed out of the school between 1939 and 1945. In 1942 a heavily guarded compound was built at the eastern end of the camp to teach the new top-secret radar. This was originally known as No. 9 RDF School but was later called the No. 9 Radio School. Over 19,000 men and women were trained there.

The Flying School at the east camp was briefly used to train pilots after the war but in 1947 was abandoned. From 1954 to 1958 it was converted to RAF Cherhill, 27 Group Headquarters; with the start of the Cold War the camp had become busy again, mainly with the training of radar operators, mechanics and fitters. Large numbers of men on National Service passed through the camp, but with the end of National Service in 1961 demand reduced. In 1965 the camp was finally closed. During this period, over 70,000 personnel had been successfully trained there. In 1969, the wooden huts were demolished and the land returned to agriculture, with the exception of the gymnasium, the only brick building on the camp; the Flying School and buildings were abandoned. LinkExternal link LinkExternal link

The Wiltshire Microlight Centre now operates from the site of the east camp. LinkExternal link

In 2002 proposals were put forward to modify the Flying School for accommodation and, after a public enquiry, work started in 2007. LinkExternal link This included the repair of one of the WW1 hangars. However, during the financial crash of 2008, developers ran out of money, and the site was abandoned. Since then, despite the Grade II* listing of the three hangars LinkExternal link LinkExternal link and the Grade II listing of the combined officers’ mess and offices, LinkExternal link and the ‘at risk’ priority level of A(A) given to the two dilapidated hangars by English Heritage in 2009, LinkExternal link the infrastructure deteriorated significantly (see SU0571 : Disused hangar, Yatesbury and SU0571 : Disused hangar, Juggler's Lane, Yatesbury (western two hangars) and SU0571 : Derelict hangar, Yatesbury and SU0571 : Derelict hangar, Yatesbury (eastern hangar) for comparison); and although the owner was served by English Heritage with an Urgent Works Notice to arrest further decline of the condition of the western hangar, before the works were implemented there was a substantial roof collapse. LinkExternal link A new comprehensive application seeking to redevelop the whole site of the military buildings was submitted to Wiltshire Council in March 2014. These were opposed by the Council for the Protection of Rural England, who called for a public consultation on the matter, LinkExternal link but by then, consent had been granted to demolish the dilapidated western hangar. The proposals did not include the remaining restored hangar, and English Heritage is awaiting amendments that should include a new use for it. LinkExternal link

For more photographs, see LinkExternal link LinkExternal link LinkExternal link and LinkExternal link Also see LinkExternal link

The west camp also featured as a set for the video of Doctorin’ the Tardis by the Timelords/KLF (1988). The concrete runway was then intact, as were the two westernmost hangars. LinkExternal link LinkExternal link

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SU0571, 78 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Saturday, 13 December, 2014   (more nearby)
Thursday, 18 December, 2014
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Air transport  Derelict, Disused  Defence, Military 
Period (from Tags)
Second World War  First World War 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SU 0518 7126 [10m precision]
WGS84: 51:26.4187N 1:55.6118W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SU 0517 7124
View Direction
North-northeast (about 22 degrees)
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Other Tags
Airfield (Former)  WW2  World War II  Second World War  RAF  RAF Yatesbury  Former RAF Airfield  WWI  WW1  WW2 Hangar  First World War  Hangar  WWI Hangar 

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