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Report - RAF Bicester - December 2011

Discussion in 'Military Sites' started by Session9, Dec 21, 2011.

  1. Session9

    Session9 A life backwards
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    History (shortened Wikipedia)

    In 1911, flying first took place on the site, when Lt H.R.P Reynolds landed a Bristol Boxkite biplane on the field. Organised flying began in 1916 when a Training Depot was established. In January 1917, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) moved into the site, then 180 acres (0.73 km2), with the arrival of 118 night bomber squadron. Canvas-covered Bessonneau hangars were used until more substantial aircraft sheds were built. In November 1918, No. 44 Training Station Depot arrived, followed in 1919 by 5 Squadron, flying Bristol Fighters returning from France, having flown in the First World War. All the squadrons disbanded by 1920, and the airfield was closed in 1920 after being used briefly as a clearing centre for repatriated soldiers. In 1925, work began on redeveloping the site as a bomber station, and flying began again in January 1928. Various large RAF bombers operated from the field, including the Vickers Virginia. Other aircraft included Hawker Horsleys and, in 1935, Hawker Harts arrived. In November 1932, the only RAF squadron of Boulton Paul Sidestrands arrived, replaced by Overstrands in 1936. Development of the station continued throughout this period, with many new buildings being erected.

    World War II

    In 1937/1938, two squadrons of the new Bristol Blenheim bomber arrived, followed in 1939 by two more squadrons with Spitfires and Avro Anson support aircraft, forming the No. 1 Camouflage Unit. The aircraft were used for training, with no operational sorties being flown from the field. Later in 1939, the first Handley Page Halifax was assembled at Bicester, and on 25 October 1939 the type made its maiden flight from the airfield, flying to Boscombe Down (the Halifax's entry gives an earlier date - 24 September, date confirmation needed). The type went on to become the first four-engined bomber to drop bombs on Germany in World War II. In July 1940, the second RAF Bomber Command Training Group (No.7 Group) was formed, with its Headquarters at RAF Bicester. This was required due to a demand in operational training, supplying squadrons of No. 2 Group.

    Throughout the war, RAF Bicester was used as a training centre, and in April 1940 became home to No. 13 Operational Training Unit, under the control of RAF Bomber Command. In June 1943, the unit transferred to Fighter Command, flying Spitfires and Mosquitos. Although no offensive missions were flown, flights were not without risk. In April 1940, 13 OTU experienced the first losses of the newly formed Bomber Command operational training units. On 6 December 1941, a Blenheim stalled on take-off, killing all three crew members. Just four days later, a second Blenheim crashed in an identical accident, again with no survivors. During World War II, the base was also used as a glider base. During some raids in Germany, gliders were towed from Bicester to Germany, full of troops and equipment. The gliders would land quietly in the German fields, and the troops were deployed. The glider raids were very successful, and are now considered great tactical feats of aviation.

    Post-war

    At the end of 1944, Bicester became a non-flying unit, used for maintenance, and later as a Motor Transport depot. In 1953, No. 71 Maintenance Unit arrived, that salvaged, repaired, and then transported damaged aircraft. In 1956, Windrushers Gliding Club arrived, having moved from Little Rissington, and gliding began at the field. In 1963, the RAFGSA (RAF Gliding and Soaring Association) began using the site, eventually merging with Windrushers Gliding Club. In 1966, No. 1 LAA Squadron RAF Regiment arrived from RAAF Butterworth, Malaysia, along with No. 26 LAA Squadron RAF Regiment − from Changi, Singapore. In 1976, the RAF ceased to use the airfield as a military base, but still maintained staff there to run the gliding training operation as adventurous training for servicemen. These courses were intended to develop teamwork and self-sufficiency among the servicemen by putting them in unfamiliar situations, such as sports that involved a low risk factor. However, in the mid-1980s, the USAF briefly used the Technical and Domestic Area for storage. Between 1979 and 1992, the RAF Gliding Club allowed US Servicemen from RAF Upper Heyford to become members and to fly gliders. There was a US Servicemen's family housing next to the airfield in Bicester, and a lot of Americans became glider pilots at RAF Bicester. In 1990, during Operation Desert Shield, the USAF deployed medical personnel to the site, and equipped a number of buildings in both the Technical and Domestic area as a hospital. This was done in anticipation of the large numbers of casualties that were expected, but never materialized, during the 1991 First Persian Gulf War.

    Today

    The Ministry of Defence still owns part of the site, that is used for British Army training. In June 2004, the RAF Gliding and Soaring Association moved to RAF Halton. The main use of the site is now civilian gliding, being home to both a newly-reformed (July 2004) Windrushers Gliding Club, and also the Oxford University Gliding Club. The airfield is one of the finest examples of an unmodified pre-war RAF station still almost completely in existence, with many listed buildings. The brick-built 1934 "Fort" type 1959/34 control tower survives, as do the two C-type and two A-type aircraft hangars. In the late 1990s, plans were proposed to develop the airfield for housing and industry, but they were abandoned due to strong local opposition and the historic nature of the site. In 2002, Cherwell District Council listed the area as a Conservation area.


    The explore

    Relaxing explore which after a while felt like a real time warp. It is rare that a site has had so little external building modifications during its life. Therefore it is not surprising that the site is so highly regarded as a fine example of an unmodified pre-war RAF station. Lets hope the site doesn't get trashed before it can be preserved for future generations.


    On with the fots:

    [​IMG]
    Looking towards the Station Offices.



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    I'm not going to argue.



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    Bell enclosure on top of the Guard and Fire Party House.



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    Bomb store, open for viewing...



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    The two feet thick walls surrounding the store.



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    Interior of the Bomb Store.



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    The Main Stores.



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    [​IMG]
    Petrol Tanker Shed.



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    Great Toilet Block, note the ornate roof windows.



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    Is this an American term?



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    Looking an 'A' Type Aeroplane Shed and another Petrol Tanker Shed.



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    Interior of an 'A' Type Aeroplane Shed.



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    'C' Type Aeroplane Shed.



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    Aeroplane Shed door wheels.



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    Station Armoury and Lecture Rooms.



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    High Level Water Tank.



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    and finally..what about this for a flower bed?



    Thanks for looking :)
     

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