RAF Beaulieu

Summary

Royal Air Force Beaulieu or more simply RAF Beaulieu is a former Royal Air Force station in the New Forest, Hampshire, England. It was also known as Beaulieu airfield, Beaulieu aerodrome and USAAF Station AAF 408. It is located next to the village of East Boldre, about 2 miles (3.2 km) west of the village of Beaulieu and 5 miles (8.0 km) east-northeast of Lymington.

RAF Beaulieu
USAAF Station AAF-408
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svgPatch9thusaaf.png
Beaulieu, Hampshire in England
Beaulieu-04mar44.jpg
Beaulieu airfield on 4 March 1944, just after the 365th Fighter Group arrived.
RAF Beaulieu is located in Hampshire
RAF Beaulieu
RAF Beaulieu
Shown within Hampshire
Coordinates50°48′27″N 001°30′17″W / 50.80750°N 1.50472°W / 50.80750; -1.50472Coordinates: 50°48′27″N 001°30′17″W / 50.80750°N 1.50472°W / 50.80750; -1.50472
CodeBQ
Site information
OwnerAir Ministry
OperatorRoyal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Controlled byRAF Coastal Command 1942-44
RAF Second Tactical Air Force 1944
Air Defence of Great Britain 1944
USAAF 1944
RAF
Site history
Built1942 (1942)
In useAugust 1942-1959 (1959)
Airfield information
Elevation41 metres (135 ft)[1] AMSL
Runways
Direction Length and surface
04/22 1,700 metres (5,577 ft) Grass
10/28 1,200 metres (3,937 ft) Grass
16/34 1,200 metres (3,937 ft) Grass

During the First World War there was a Royal Flying Corps training airfield, RFC Beaulieu, at East Boldre that was closed in 1919; the new RAF Beaulieu was built on the opposite side of the road.[[2]]

Opened on Saturday 8 August 1942, it was used by both the Royal Air Force and then later United States Army Air Forces. During the war it was used as a bomber and fighter airfield. After the war, it was used for experimental work before it was closed in 1959.

Today the remains of the airfield are on heathland managed by the Forestry Commission. Areas of the old airfield are now designated as a flying area for model aircraft.

HistoryEdit

Royal Air Force useEdit

The airfield was also used by the following units:[3]

USAAF useEdit

Beaulieu was known as USAAF Station AAF 408 for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location. Its Pundit Code was "BL".

365th Fighter GroupEdit

 
Republic P-47D-28-RA Thunderbolt, AAF Ser. No. 42-28932, of the 388th Fighter Squadron.

From 1 March 1944 Beaulieu airfield was made available for USAAF Ninth Air Force use. With the imminent arrival of more bomber groups in Essex the 365th Fighter Group was transferred from RAF Gosfield on the 5 and 6 March 1944.

The 365th was a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt group, with the following operational squadrons:

The 365th was a group of Ninth Air Force's 84th Fighter Wing, IX Tactical Air Command. The 365th Group began its move to Europe on 21 June 1944, the first squadron taking up residence at a temporary airfield Advanced Landing Ground A-7 Azeville, France on 26 June.

323rd Bombardment GroupEdit

 
Martin B-26G-5-MA Marauder the 454th Bomb Squadron at RAF Beaulieu

Between 1 and 21 July the Martin B-26 Marauders of the 323rd Bombardment Group arrived from RAF Earls Colne. The group was assigned to the 3d Bombardment Wing with a Horizontal white tail band for its group marking. Operational squadrons of the 323d were:

Between the 16 and 26 of August the 323rd moved to Lessay airfield in France (A-20).

Postwar military useEdit

In December 1944, the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment (AFEE) moved to the airfield, where it remained for nearly six years using a variety of aircraft, including unusual ones such as the General Aircraft GAL.55 glider "Trixie" - the nickname bestowed from its Air Ministry Specification "TX.3/43", the Supermarine Type 322 "Dumbo", the Hafner Rotachute and Rotabuggy, and the Hamilcar X, along with various Handley Page Halifaxes used for supply-dropping experiments. The AFEE was involved in experimental work with glider towing and parachute drops, using the former East Boldre Airfield site on the far side of the Lymington-Beaulieu road as a drop zone.[14]

On 14 September 1950, AFEE was disbanded, and most of its equipment and personnel were transferred to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at RAF Boscombe Down. Helicopter training functions were transferred to RAF Andover.[14] Beaulieu airfield was then without any flying units, placed under Care and Maintenance status, and then declared inactive. On 1 April 1953 control passed once again to the United States Air Force, and the facility was upgraded, but in the event no further flying units arrived.

Finally, on 8 September 1955 Beaulieu airfield was handed back to the Air Ministry, in whose care it remained until November 1959 when it relinquished control of the land.

Current useEdit

 
Aerial view of RAF Beaulieu (2018)
 
Perimeter track at the west end of the 010 runway in 2007.

With the facility released from military control, it once again became part of the New Forest Crown lands managed by the Forestry Commission. Half a century on from its use as a military airfield, the vast majority of the concreted areas of the airfield have been removed and returned to heathland, although the former locations of the runways along with the perimeter track are all clearly identifiable in aerial photography.

The RAF Base Identification Code, Pundit Code letters BL can still be seen at this location 50°48'31.2"N 1°30'28.4"W.

 
RAF Beaulieu Pundit Code

A small section of the eastern end of the 27/09 main runway near the Lymington road is still concreted and used as a runway, pit and pilot control area for model aircraft. The connecting length of the eastern perimeter road is used as a cycle track. No buildings around the airfield area exist although the old water tower still stands to the north west of the airfield on Roundhill campsite, a Forestry Commission site which uses part of the old access roads of the airfield. Small parts of the former airfield are now covered with conifers.

Model FlyingEdit

Model aircraft are flown on a regular basis on the airfield. There are separate flying areas set aside for radio controlled flight and free flight. The flying club pay fees to the Forestry Commission each year, to allow them to use the last surviving piece of concrete runway area to the east of the airfield to fly radio controlled aircraft.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

CitationsEdit

  1. ^ Falconer 1998, p. 14.
  2. ^ See East Boldre
  3. ^ "Beaulieu III". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  4. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 42.
  5. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 51.
  6. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 63.
  7. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 73.
  8. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 79.
  9. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 80.
  10. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 85.
  11. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 89.
  12. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 94.
  13. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 103.
  14. ^ a b Sturtivant 2007, p. 38

BibliographyEdit

  • Dorr, Robert F., and Thomas D. Jones (2008). Hell Hawks!: The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler's Wehrmacht. St. Paul, MN: Zenith Press. ISBN 978-0-7603-2918-4.
  • Falconer, J (1998). RAF Fighter Airfields of World War 2. UK: Ian Allen Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-2175-9.
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1994) UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now 1994. After the Battle ISBN 0-900913-80-0
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1996) The Ninth Air Force in Colour: UK and the Continent-World War Two. After the Battle ISBN 1-85409-272-3
  • Jefford, C.G. (1988). RAF Squadrons. A comprehensive record of the movement and equipment of all RAF squadrons and their antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Sturtivant, Ray and Hamlin, John (2007). RAF Flying Training and Support Units. Air-Britain. ISBN 0-85130-365-X
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present
  • British Automobile Association (AA), (1978), Complete Atlas of Britain, ISBN 0-86145-005-1