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Duxford

Military site : airfield

RAF Duxford, now a museum and still a working airfield, was operated by the USAAF from 1943 to 1945. The base was briefly the home of the 350th Fighter Group in late 1942, but it was not until April 1943 that it became a fully American station when the 78th Fighter Group moved in. Previously based at the temporary Goxhill, the Group appreciated the comfort and size of Duxford’s well-appointed, steam-heated buildings, christening the base the 'country club of the ETO’. Duxford was not immune to the harsh weather of an East Anglian winter, though, and the damp muddy airfield was given a further nickname in 1944 'Duckpond'.

Detailed history

Duxford was built in the final months of the First World War. Its role was to train pilots for the rapidly-expanding Royal Flying Corps. It was built to a standard 'Training Depot Station’ design, with the site split by the Royston to Newmarket road. On the north side was the 'domestic camp' with all of the accommodation and mess buildings. On the south side was the technical site, including the airfield itself, the hangars, training huts and administration buildings.

The first Americans to serve at Duxford did so in 1918, when the ground crews of several US Aero Squadrons helped erect the temporary hangars that housed Duxford’s aircraft before the permanent buildings were completed.

Duxford continued to be used for pilot training until 1924, when it became a fighter airfield. The airfield was expanded and modernised in the 1920s and 1930s, when many of the barrack blocks, messes and institutes that so impressed the men of the 78th Fighter Group were built.
In 1938 Duxford became the first airfield to house the now-legendary Supermarine Spitfire. In 1939 Duxford’s pilots flew in support of the Dunkirk evacuation, and in 1940 played a controversial role in the Battle of Britain, when arguments over how best to defend the UK revolved around the use of large formations of Duxford’s aircraft.

Duxford was home to a series of test and experimental units, including a flight of captured enemy aircraft, before the base was handed over to the Americans. The US Eighth Air Force’s 78th Fighter Group operated first P-47 Thunderbolts, then P-51 Mustangs from the airfield. They took part in escort and ground attack missions over Europe. The USAAF made several changes to Duxford, constructing new temporary huts, laying a pierced steel planking runway and adding concrete 'hardstanding' areas for the Group’s aircraft.

Duxford continued to be a base for fighters after it was handed back to the RAF in 1945. Much of the concrete laid by the USAAF was added to, to create an airfield suitable for jet fighters. This work included laying a new concrete runway. Duxford closed in 1961. It was decided that the airfield was too small for the newer generation of jets entering RAF service. The Imperial War Museum moved in in 1974, and alongside several partner organisations still operates the site as both a museum and an active airfield.

English Heritage's record description

A former military airfield, now part of the Imperial War Museum. The site was briefly used for military aviation in the military maneuvers of 1912. It was developed as a Training depot station in 1917-1918 using German prisoners as labour. It was retained after World War One. Its interwar role was as a training airfield then as a fighter station. In 1938 it became the first Royal Air Force station to receive Spitfire fighter aircraft. The airfield facilities, much of which were originally wooden, were rebuilt in stages between 1928 and 1939. In World War Two the airfield formed part of 12 Group Fighter Command, and during the battle of Britain was used to reinforce the hard-pressed 11 Group further south- it was also a Sector Airfield of 12 Group with a Sector Operations Room and staff. Douglas Bader was Squadron leader at Duxford during part of that time (after moving from Coltishall). The base was used by Czech and Polish squadrons. Later it was used to evaluate and test new aircraft by the Air Fighting Development Unit. In 1942 the United States Army 8th Air Force, 78th Fighter group took control of the base (as Station 357). The Americans laid down a new longer runway. The post-war military use of the base for jet fighters entailed the further redevelopment and extension of a runway by 1951. It closed for operational flying in 1961. In 1968 the site was used for filming of a film entitled "The Battle of Britain"- during the course of which a real World War One aircraft hangar was destroyed. After 1976 the site became part of the Imperial War Museum. One domestic building and small of groups technical buildings from World War One remain, but a larger number of Inter-war and World War Two period buildings have survived. A conservation area has been proposed for the site.

Service

Units

People

  • John Abbate

    Military

  • Luther Abel

    Military | First Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot | 495th Fighter Training Group
    Assigned to 84FS, 78FG, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to 552FTS, 495FTG 8AF USAAF as instructor. P-47C 41-6234 lost engine on local training flight on 9 Jan 1944. A/C broke out of undercast too low and crashed into a plowed field near Loughborough,...

  • Ishmael Abernathy

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Fighter pilot | Base Air Depot 2
    Trained with 312FS, 338FG. Assigned to 82FS, 78FG, 8AF USAAF.

  • Robert Abernathy

    Military | Flight Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot
    Assigned to 82FS, 78FG, 8AF USAAF. Ended Tour of Duty (ETD).

  • Abdou Aboud

    Military | Master Sergeant

  • Robert Adamina

    Military | Captain | Pilot
    Robert Adamina served as a pilot with the 82nd Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group. He was shot down on 14 May 1943 in P-47C (serial number 41-6198). He became involved in a dogfight with FW190's in support of B-17s. He came down in North Sea near...

  • James Allison

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot
    Assigned to 82FS, 78FG, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to 83FS, 78FG 8AF USAAF. Transferred to 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron. End of War. Awards: WWII Victory.

  • Kenneth Allstaedt

    Military | First Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot
    Assigned to 83FS, 78FG, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to Transferred to HQ Sqn.

  • Bryant Anderson

    Military | Colonel | Fighter Pilot | 357th Fighter Group
    Assigned to 82FS, 78FG, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to 364FS, 357FG, 8AF USAAF. Completed (End) Tour of Duty (ETD). 2nd tour with 6th Fighter Wing. Awards: WWII Victory. Post War: Remained in USAF serving in Korea and Vietnam, retiring as Colonel.

  • Edwin Anderson

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Fighter Pilot
    Assigned to 82FS, 78FG, 8AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) bomber escort to Hannover. On run in to strafe ground targets, hit by flak. Abandoned P-51D 44-63177 24-Feb-45. 2nd Lt Anderson Prisoner of War (POW). MACR 12613.

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Aircraft

  • 41-6240

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    P-47C-2-RE 41-6240 [WZ:E] was assigned to the 78FG/84FS at Duxford, UK. On 18-Oct-43 the aircraft, piloted by 2LT Frankin B. Resseguie, was despatched with other fighters from his group to provide escort to B-17 bombers planned to attack at Duren,...

  • 41-6411 'Muscle Bound'

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    P-47C-5-RE 41-6411 [HL:N], was assigned to 78FG/83FS at Duxford, UK. ...

  • 42-102937 'Ready Freddie'

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 20/4/44; Kearney 16/5/44; Grenier 27/5/44; Assigned to the 412th Bomb Squadron/95th Bomb Group as [QW-E]. Based at Horham 30/5/44; non-operation crash, pilot given permission to land at Duxford airfield, UK 19/7/44, to pick up others...

  • 42-22463 Apple Knockers

    P-47 Thunderbolt

  • 42-25698 'Okie II' 'Jeanie'

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    Assigned to 84FS, 78FG, 8AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) strafing mission to Ostend after pulling off Aerodrome at Miltonberg seen to be smoking, reported zero oil pressure. ...

  • 42-25871 'Nigger II', 'Roger the Lodger'

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    P-47 42-25871 was flown by Captain Richard Holly, who gave it the nickname 'Nigger II', named after his wife because of her sun tan. The aircraft was also flown by Lt. Charles D Whitefield, who nicknamed it 'Roger the Lodger'.

  • 42-25981

    P-47 Thunderbolt

  • 42-25994 "Hustlin' Hussy"

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    Assigned to 369FS, 359FG, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to 82FS, 78FG, 8AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) escort to Dijon, hit by flak strafing Dijon A/D A/C abandoned crashed 10 miles Sth Dijon 11-May-44 Lt Anthony I Kosinski Evaded (EVD) MACR 4691.

  • 42-26016

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    Assigned to 83FS, 78FG, 8AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) bomber escort Dummer Lake mid air collision with P-51 42-106486, pilot Capt Alwin M Juchheim Jr baled out Prisoner of War (POW) 28-May-44 MACR 5280.

  • 42-26461

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    P-47 # 42-26461 of 78th Fighter Group / 82nd Fighter Squadron was piloted by 1st Lt Harold J. Morris when it was lost on a fighter-bomber mission 26 July 1944 to attack fuel dumps at Fournival, Bois de Mons and Givet (France, close to the Belgian...

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Revisions

Date Contributor Update
03 September 2019 13:48:22 Emily Changes to english heritage description
Sources

Historic England National Monument Record TL 44 NE 148

Date Contributor Update
19 July 2017 11:31:17 Lucy May Changes to person associations and aircraft associations
Sources

Connected aircraft and person records that have Duxford in their biography fields.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:02:16 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Barry Anderson, Army Air Forces Stations (Alabama, 1985) / Stephen Woolford and Carl Warner, IWM Duxford Guidebook (London, 2010)

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