Bassingbourn

Airfield
Aerial photograph of Bassingbourn airfield looking east, Whaddon is at the top, the bomb dump is to the left of the main runway, which runs vertically; the control tower and technical site with four C-Type hangars is on the right, 23 August 1945. Photograph taken by No. 542 Squadron, sortie number RAF/106G/UK/692. English Heritage (RAF Photography). eh-564.jpg RAF_106G_UK_692_RS_4173 Aerial photograph of Bassingbourn airfield looking east, Whaddon is at the top, the bomb dump is to the left of the main runway, which runs vertically; the control tower and technical site with four C-Type hangars is on the right, 23 August 1945. Photograph taken by No. 542 Squadron, sortie number RAF/106G/UK/692. English Heritage (RAF Photography). Historic England

IWM, English Heritage Collection

Object Number - RAF_106G_UK_692_RS_4173 - Aerial photograph of Bassingbourn airfield looking east, Whaddon is at the top, the bomb dump is to the left of the main runway, which runs...

Bassingbourn airfield is situated south-west of Cambridge and to the north of Royston.  It was built for the RAF in the late 1930s as a bomber base.  Three concrete runways were constructed in 1942.  Bassingbourn became home to the USAAF 91st Bomb Group from October 1942 until July 1945.  It is unclear whether the 91st BG were ordered to set up shop at Bassingbourn after leaving Kimbolton or whether their group Commanding Officer, Colonel Stanley Wray, decided that the permanent, centrally-heated air base was the best accommodation to be had in the area.  Gen. Eisenhower visited the 91st at Bassingbourn on 11 April 1944.  The 94th BG briefly shared the airfield in the summer of 1943 and the 78th Fighter Group also located there in the winter of 1944 when Duxford became too muddy.  Post-war the airfield returned to RAF use and in 1970 it became a British Army barracks.  A museum for the 91st BG opened in the control tower in 1974 but has since closed with its exhibits understood to be passing to museums in the USA.

Connections

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English Heritage's Record Description

A former military airfield, now an army base used for infantry training. The airfield was opened in 1938. From 1938 to September 1942 it was a Royal Air Force Operational Bomber Command Station; it was the base for 35, 98, 104, 108, 215 Squadrons, mainly flying Wellington bombers. The base was used in some of the Royal Air Forces early "1000 bomber raids". After expansion of concrete and tarmac runways and hard standing areas in October 1942 it became a "flagship" United States Army Air Force station. The 91st Bomber Group of the 8th Air Force was stationed there, including the famous B17-Flying Fortress aircraft "Memphis Belle". The original wartime film (not the 1990 remake) was shot at Bassingbourn. By December 1944 there were 2972 personnel at the base, in permanent accommodation, and the airfield was equipped with four type C hangars. The base also had a range of specialised buildings and a control tower. The airfield had a system of ground and perimeter defences. The crash site of a B-17 of the 91st flying from Bassingbourn has been found about 5 miles away at Foxton. From June 1945 to June 1949, the airfield was used once more by the Royal Air Force (units of Transport Command flying Liberator and York aircraft). from 1950 to 1953 both Royal Air Force and American units continued to use the base, though from 1951 it was under USAFE command. The Royal Air Force continued to use the base until 1969, when the airfield was closed and subsequently transferred to British Army use. Because it is used by the army, there is restricted access to the base.

People

  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group 323rd Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 31012937 / O-676529
  • Highest Rank: Second Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Bombardier
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group 323rd Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 13052154
  • Highest Rank: Staff Sergeant
  • Role/Job: Waist Gunner
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group 401st Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 32466450
  • Highest Rank: Technical Sergeant
  • Role/Job: Radio Operator
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group 323rd Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 13028912 / O-789365
  • Highest Rank: First Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Pilot
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group 323rd Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 18060896
  • Highest Rank: Technical Sergeant
  • Role/Job: waist gunner

Aircraft

  • Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Nicknames: Man O War
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group 323rd Bomb Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Nicknames: The Saint
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group 401st Bomb Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Nicknames: Danellen
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group 401st Bomb Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Nicknames: Chief Sly
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group 322nd Bomb Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Nicknames: Kickapoo
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group 401st Bomb Squadron

Related videos and documents

  • Media Type: Document
  • Collection Name: The Eighth in the East
  • Object Number: Document 17526
  • Description: Official Air Ministry Record Site Plan - Layout Plan 1944. Bassingbourn.
  • Media Type: Document
  • Collection Name: The Eighth in the East
  • Object Number: Document 17527
  • Description: Official Air Ministry Record Site Plan - Dispersed Site 1944. Bassingbourn.
  • Media Type: Document
  • Object Number: UPL 72824
  • Description: "35 Missions" by Wayne "Tex" Frye, Navigator, 323rd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group.
  • Media Type: Document
  • Object Number: UPL 72838
  • Description: Dairy of SSGT. Raymond Butler, Ball Turret Gunner, 323rd BS, 91st BG
  • Media Type: Document
  • Object Number: UPL 72850
  • Description: Diary of Lt. Norman Retchin, Pilot, 323rd BS, 91st BG
  • Media Type: Document
  • Object Number: UPL 72862
  • Description: Diary of Edward C. Gates, Co-Pilot, 323rd BS, 91st BG
  • Media Type: Document
  • Object Number: UPL 72874
  • Description: Diary of 1st Tour by Thomas J. Hansbury, Tail Gunner, 322nd BS, 91st BG

Revisions

Date
ContributorDuckpond
Changes
Sources

Revised following closure of the Tower Museum.

Date
ContributorDuckpond
Changes
Sources

Revised following closure of the Tower Museum.

Date
ContributorThreeB
Changes
Sources

correction

Date
ContributorThreeB
Changes
Sources

Nose art recognized.

Date
ContributorEmily
Changes
Sources

Historic England National Monument Record TL 34 NW 65

Date
ContributorLucy May
Changes
Sources

Connected aircraft records from information in their records.

Date
ContributorAAM
Changes
Sources

Barry Anderson, Army Air Forces Stations (Alabama, 1985) / Roger Freeman, Airfields of the Eighth Then And Now (London, 1978)

Bassingbourn: Gallery (632 items)