Saturday, June 08, 2013

War Stories: RAF Windrush and the Ghosts of Heroes

On my travels through the English countryside I chanced across a disused WWII airfield, RAF Windrush. It's located in Gloucestershire off the A40 Burford to Cheltenham road.  I parked my car at the end of a lane, walked across a couple of fields past a farm* and there it was. A large, shadowless 'blister' hanger,  two smaller Nissen or Quonset huts, the control tower, a pill box, some taxiways and a perimeter path running parallel to a field which was once the main runway. There's something fascinating about old military installations and battlefields: the ghosts of warriors that once occupied these places seem palpable and the echoes of the war machines as they prepared or retuned from battle still ring around the site. Here are a few photos I managed to grab:

Blister hangar, nissen hut (there are several on the site, all used for storage of agricultural supplies) and taxiways
Bricked up 'blister' hangar: these structures are shadowless from the air
A windsock still flies proudly: somehow it gives the site a living but slightly eyrie feel
The control tower still stands and is intact. Indeed it looks in remarkably good condition.   This was the operational centre of the site. My Uncle remembers that WWII a wooden structure sat atop of the building during the war years
A pillbox guards the control tower and provides shelter  from enemy air raids
Another view of the pillbox: this one is in remarkably good order and looks like it's undergone some restoration
This track was probably once a runway perimeter road                                   
I discovered this plaque on the wall of the control tower: what a great story! We must never forget the sacrifices made by these young servicemen
Pilot Officer Douglas Eaton, c1940, age 19, on the occasion of his 'going solo'. He was later stationed at RAF Windrush
Shortly after this excursion, I visited my Uncle. I knew that he was a pilot in the RAF during the war years and I thought he'd be interested in my snapshots. To my amazement he told me that he's be stationed at Windrush and had learned to fly twin engined airplanes there. His training on twins was carried out in Airspeed Oxfords: in wartime operations he flew Douglas DC3 Dakotas, notably resupplying General Wingate's special forces, the Chindits, in Burma.

*Update: 5th January 2014: My Uncle notes that the farm which I mention at the beginning of this article and on which the airfield is now situated, was originally the Sergeants' Mess.


geri bishop said...

Just came across the RAF Windrush exploration. I have been interested in wartime airfields for some time now.I travel to Gloucester from Thame nearly every week along the A40. On one particular day near the Windrush turning I saw an air craft ahead crossing the A40 fairly low,it was either dark grey or green.Not a light aircraft but about the size of a Dakota. As I got to a break in the trees at the side of the road I looked to my right expecting to see it flying out over the valley but to my amazement it had disappeared. There was just nowhere it could have gone .The nearest airfield it could have landed at was Rissington but then I would still have seen it flying in that direction. Really weird. Each time I take that route I keep hoping I will see it again. Could this have been a Ghost Aircraft? Regards Geri

Mad Dog said...

Hi Geri, Thanks for stopping by. Your observation is interesting...maybe it was a WW2 aircraft doing a flypast or maybe you did catch a glimpse of a ghost aircraft (the Avro Anson of Flight Sgt Bruce Hancock, perhaps)...? Let me know if you see it again. Best wishes for the festive season, John

Anonymous said...

I am informed that the airfield is still actually active - in that it can be used by aircraft to land there if so desired/needed. The tenant farmer is obliged to keep the grass strip (visible on Google Earth) mown and suitable for landings.

It's likely it was a real aircraft that actually did land there for whatever reason.

James Mills

Mad Dog said...

Interesting! Thanks for your comment, James

Russ Stein said...

We landed there today and fascinating to read the info above. atmosphere there esp when we booked in at the tower. Russ . from Redlands Swindon

Mad Dog said...

Russ: thanks for your comment. Brilliant that you could land've confirmed the remarks by James Mills (see above) that the landing strip is still active. I wasn't aware that the tower is still functional. It was all locked up on my visit but clearly wasn't derelict.