Duxford

Airfield
Line up of P-47 Thunderbolts of the 82nd Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group, at Duxford air base. September 1944. Printed caption on reverse of print: '55432 AC - War Birds Home To Rest - Republic P-47 Thunderbolts lined up on an 8th Air Force field in England after a daylight sweep over Germany. Crews have finished inspections and refueling.'

Object Number - FRE 310 - Line up of P-47 Thunderbolts of the 82nd Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group, at Duxford air base. September 1944. Printed caption on reverse of...

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'.

Connections

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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.

People

  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 66th Fighter Wing Headquarters (66th Fighter Wing)
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron (78th Fighter Group)
  • Service Numbers: 18089933
  • Highest Rank: Master Sergeant
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 6th Fighter Wing 495th Fighter Training Group 84th Fighter Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 11041631 / O-792792
  • Highest Rank: First Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Fighter Pilot
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Highest Rank: Staff Sergeant
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 84th Fighter Squadron
  • Highest Rank: Second Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Fighter pilot

Aircraft

  • Aircraft Type: P-47 Thunderbolt
  • Unit: 78th Fighter Group 82nd Fighter Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: P-47 Thunderbolt
  • Unit: 78th Fighter Group 82nd Fighter Squadron
Personnel of the 78th Fighter Group stand on the wing of a P-47 Thunderbolt (HL-T). caption on image: "'Flash' Gordon, 83, same bird as 7963."
  • Aircraft Type: P-47 Thunderbolt
  • Unit: 78th Fighter Group 83rd Fighter Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: P-47 Thunderbolt
  • Nicknames: Ajax / Rocket Jo
  • Unit: 495th Fighter Training Group 78th Fighter Group 552nd Fighter Training Squadron 82nd Fighter Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: P-47 Thunderbolt
  • Nicknames: Sweet Pea
  • Unit: 406th Fighter Group 495th Fighter Training Group 78th Fighter Group 513th Fighter Squadron 551st Fighter Training Squadron 84th Fighter Squadron

Revisions

Date3 Sep 2019 13:48:22
ContributorEmily
Sources

Historic England National Monument Record TL 44 NE 148

Date19 Jul 2017 11:31:17
ContributorLucy May
Sources

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

Date27 Sep 2014 18:02:16
ContributorAAM
Sources

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

Duxford: Gallery (266 items)