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Report - RAF Culmhead - March 2014

Discussion in 'Military Sites' started by Hector Rex, Mar 23, 2014.

  1. Hector Rex

    Hector Rex 28DL Regular User
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    Right then, this is a bit of a two part explore.

    My mum was meant to be going on a history trip, but unfortunately couldn't make it and asked me to take her place. I thought it can't do any harm so i decided to do it, even though i was the youngest by a good 25 years at least! One of the stops was a brief look at one of the WW2 fighter pens at RAF Culmhead, it was a very quick visit as part of the trip and the old fogies, lovely as they were weren't up for a good poke around the rest of the airfield. So, I decided to return later to do a bit of a more thorough explore, so yes, a short permission visit and a longer general explore (no permission). As you know, security is non existent on old WW2 airfields so not much need to go full ninja, you'd be damn unlucky if you bumped into an angry farmer! Even so the small business park in the centre of the airfield is former GCHQ property, i don't know what goes on there but there is lots of razor wire and cameras ;)

    So yes, having been on the history trip, i picked up a bit of extra info about the place and and didn't have to wonder so much about the purpose of each building. I will have to go back again though, there are plenty more pillboxes, buildings and apparently one or two underground shelters on the site.

    rat256 visited in 2009 and covered much more of the site than me. his report can be found at http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/military-sites/44701-raf-culmhead-08-11-09-a.html

    From good ol' Wikipedia

    RAF Culmhead was a typical three-runway fighter airfield, with blast pens built around the site along with ten blister hangars. It was used by fighters from RAF Exeter from June but officially opened on 1 August 1941. Ground defence was provided by the Somerset Light Infantry.

    The airfield was occupied by No. 2 Polish Wing of the Polish Air Force.[2] The first squadrons to arrive were No. 316 (Warsaw) and No. 302 (Poznań) equipped with Hawker Hurricane Mk.Is. No. 302 soon left to be replaced with No. 306 (Torun) who operated Spitfires. In the summer of 1942 the polish squadrons were replaced by No. 313 and No. 312 Squadrons which were Czechoslovakian-manned.[1] The site was also used for the testing of barrage balloon wire cutters in 1942 by 02 Detachment of the Royal Aircraft Establishment from Farnborough.In 1943 the Czech units were replaced with No. 66 and No. 504 (City of Nottingham) Squadrons.

    RAF Culmhead was initially known as RAF Church Stanton, but it was renamed on 22 December 1943 to avoid confusion with RAF Church Fenton. It was then used by No. 165 and no. 131 (County of Kent) Squadrons. In 1944 the Royal Navy's 24th Naval Fighter Wing took over with 894 and 897 Naval Air Squadrons using Culmhead as a location for their Supermarine Seafires, which were a naval version of the Supermarine Spitfire specially adapted for operation from aircraft carriers.

    After D-Day in 1944, the airfield was used for training on Gloster Meteors, the first jet engined aircraft in RAF service. 616 Squadron RAF tested them Culmhead before deploying them for their first operational sortie on 27 July from RAF Manston when it intercepted V-1 flying bombs launched against southern England. In the autumn of 1944 the surviving squadrons were transferred to other sites and the station wound down, becoming a glider training school and maintenance unit until RAF Culmhead closed in August 1946.

    From the 1950s, the site was partially re-used as Composite Signals Organisation Station (CSOS) Culmhead, performing signals research functions, operated under the aegis of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), with a cluster of buildings covering some 4.4 hectares being constructed approximately in the centre of the former airfield. It was closed in this role in 1999. Several of the control towers and fighter pens have been designated as Scheduled Ancient Monuments and are included in the Heritage at Risk Register produced by English Heritage.


    The fighter pens are of interesting construction as they each contain air raid shelter for 25 personnel. I will need to go back and get photos of these next time I'm in the area. Another interesting feature is the blast walls at the shelter entrances contain loopholes pointing toward to centre of the airfield and away from the airfield. It was deemed that the Germans may try and take the south west of England as a footing for invading the rest of the country. As such the MOD believed that large open areas such as RAF Culmhead would be potential landing spots for German airborne troops, hence inward and outward pointing defensive positions.

    I looked round a few fighter pens, briefing and storage buildings, pillboxes and the control tower. As I say i didn't spend the whole day looking round and there is much more to see. however my photo's should be a bit of an improvement on my last reports now a have a decent camera, oh and a nice lens!

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    1, 1944 plan on the airfield. highlighted are the areas I explored most thoroughly.

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    2, 3, Fighter pen and layout.

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    4, briefing and storage huts. turned into animal pens by the look of things inside after the war.

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    5, inside the huts.

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    6, The old porch.

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    7, pens.

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    8, The window

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    9, Lights out

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    10, Nature is back

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    11, 50 cal machine gun mount.

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    12, No ammunition here any more.

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    13, loopholes

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    14, Pillbox, the larger machine gun loophole points towards the centre of the airfield to cover any attempted enemy landing. (other side)

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    15, Control tower later in the day. The third highest airfield in the UK is just the place you'd expect to find a boat!

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    16, Inside the control tower at night

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    17. Upstairs

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    18,

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    19, Out to the balcony. i did have a mooch outside but there wasn't a lot to see, not to mention it's got some nice cracks in the 70+ year old concrete

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    20, the stars even came out!

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    21, Looking back.

    I hope you like to pictures, I know a 70 year old site isn't always the most interesting or challenging explore but there's something about world war two architecture!

    as always constructive criticism and questions appreciated!

    HR
     

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  2. wellingtonian

    wellingtonian Subterráneo
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    Nicely done mate and very interesting. Loads of history in there.
    Nice to see Orion in your last shot too :thumb
     
  3. Hector Rex

    Hector Rex 28DL Regular User
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    Cheers dude! probably a fairly local one for you!
    If it's not really the most daring explore it's nice to make up for it with a bit of extra history. Not that you shouldn't look into the history if you have done something more daring haha!

    Hopefully see you next weekend!

    HR
     
  4. ^Qwerty^

    ^Qwerty^ 28DL Full Member
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    I think you answered your own question, the razor wire and cameras being a hangover from the CSOS days. Spent some time there.
     
  5. wellingtonian

    wellingtonian Subterráneo
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    Look forward to it
     
  6. JaneEyre

    JaneEyre The clumsiest explorer in Yorkshire!
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    ooooo pretty stars!
    Nice one sweetness, good shots x
     
  7. Urbanscrounger

    Urbanscrounger 28DL Member
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    Great pictures, look's like a very interesting location to explore. Always nice to see some original fixtures in place like doors etc...
     
  8. Ordnance

    Ordnance Moderator
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  9. julesmctrainspotter

    julesmctrainspotter 28DL Full Member
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    Some superb photos here, really well done!
     
  10. krissigalores

    krissigalores Poison Ivy
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    I love those external shots!
    Great shots of the stars behind it, I almost thought that was photoshopped! Unless I'm being blonde...
     
  11. Xan_Asmodi

    Xan_Asmodi Cave Monster
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    Nice one mate! not a whole lot to see but you've made it interesting :thumb
     
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