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This is a Summary of the RAF Broadwell information taken from the book Action Stations, (Military airfields of the Cotswolds and the Central Midlands) by Michael J.F.Bowyer and printed by Patrick Stevens Limited an imprint of Haynes Publishing.

This book is well worth viewing as it has masses of information on RAF Broadwell as well as other war time stations in the Oxfordshire area

RAF Broadwell, Oxfordshire

SP250065, 3 1/2 miles South of Burford

 

RAF Broadwell lies to the left of the Buford Lechlade Rd, all that remains now in 2001 is parts of the runways and the ruins of the control tower. The only planes now are perhaps to the sound of a VC-10, from RAF BrizeNorton.

 

A 70 Group opening up party arrived on November 15, 1943, and Transport Command took control on January 24, 1944. An advance party of 46 Group personnel arrived from Down Ampney on February 2, 1944 and, four days later, the first representatives of 512 and 575 Dakota squadrons from Hendon. Aircraft and main parties arrived on February 14, 1944, some bringing Horsa gliders.

 

Like other 46 Group stations, Broadwell had a three-fold role: i) delivery of airborne forces and supplies, ii) transport runs to the Continent and iii) retrieval of wounded troops. To organise the ambulance service, elements of Nos 91, 92 and 93 Forward Staging Posts reached the station on February 29, 1944, by which time 220 commissioned and 1,400 non-commissioned men were stationed there.

 

On April 4, 1944, Broadwell took part in Exercise Dreme, its first major practice landing. This involved night landing of troops of the 1st Air Landing Brigade lifted in 30 Dakotas supplied by the two squadrons. Following this came other exercises and leaflet dropping over France in April 1944

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The Luftwaffe deposited three unexploded HEs on the southern extremity of the airfield on Apri, 23. If the Luftwaffe had dropped incendiary loads upon the wooden Horsa gliders, the outcome would have been much more serious.

 

On April 24 and 25 more leaflet dropping and night sorties.

 

May brought a rapid increase in exercises.. At the end of May spare gliders were towed away to Ramsbury by USAAF C-47s.

 

Tension rose quickly at the end of May for the invasion of the continent was not far off. Orders were given to seal the station and impound all mail as of 14.00 on June 2, for Broadwell was hosting over 1,000 troops for the Normandy landing. Upon receipt of the executive order on July 5 a final briefing for those taking part was arranged for 20.00. Fifty-nine crews attended, including six spare crews, for Operation Tonga. Present al. the briefing was the AOC, 46 Group, who stressed the vital importance of the venture before the crews and troops boarded their aircraft.

 

Leading Broadwell's contingent was Wing Commander Coventry of 512 Squadron who took off at 23:14. His 32 aircraft were away in 15 minutes, then came Wing Commander Jefferson with the first of 575 squadron's crews. The whole force was airborne by 23:36, and the Para drop went well and without loss. On to the two dropping zones 952 troops had parachuted.

 

At 14:00 on June 6 crews of both Broadwell squadrons were briefed again, 18 from 512 and 19 from 575, for Operation Mallard. They were to tow loaded Horsa gliders to Normandy in daylight, protected by a massive fighter screen. Again all went well until one aircraft had trouble, which meant attaching its glider to a spare Dakota. All returned except for one which ditched in the Channel. Additional Dakotas took part the following night in Operation Robroy a special operation during which they dropped supplies.

 

Commencement of Broadwell’s third phase on June I7 set the tone for the rest of the war. At 06:00 15 Dakotas of 575 Squadron took off for Holmsley South taking aboard 191 RAF personnel and their kit. One Dakota became unserviceable leaving the others to make history by touching down at B5 landing strip (Camilly), the first Dakota squadron to land in France in force after D-Day. Landing was chancy and two damaged Dakotas had to be left there whilst the others hurried to 82 (Bazenville) there to retrieve 254 casualties who were back in England before mid-afternoon. This was the first huge input to the Air Ambulance Pool.

 

Before mid-September brought the tragedy of Arnhem.  Broadwell's contribution on September 17 comprised 22 aircraft of 512 Squadron and 24 of 575 Squadron with one from 437 Squadron, each Dakota towing a Horsa glider. Low cloud base during take off led to five glider pilots casting off before the Suffolk coast was reached. The pilot of another glider was killed by machine-gun fire near Oustahouet, Finally, 41 gliders carrying 544 troops of the 1 st  Border Regiment No 1 Airborne division along with 22 jeeps, 13 trailers, 30 motor cycles, 17 ordinary cycles, 34 hand cart and seven anti-tank guns, were launched onto a landing zone west of Arnhem. All Broadwell's Dakotas returned safely.

 

A Dakota of 575 Squadron was involved in a alarming incident over the DZ when the tow rope from an aircraft overhead wound itself around the wing of Flying Officer McTeare's machine, making it very difficult to fly, before he landed at Framlingham.

 

On September 19, 30 Dakotas operating from both Broadwell squadrons each losing an aircraft. Next day 31 crews were involved and 512 Squadron lost another Dakota.

 

With the situation at Arnhem desperate it was decided to place one Dakota squadron much nearer to the dropping zones. On September 23, crews of 16 Dakotas of 512 Squadron found themselves taking personnel of 575 Squadron to B56 Brussels/Evere with that squadron's 18 Dakotas tagging along. Late in the afternoon 575 Squadron set out to drop food and ammunition west of Graves. About 75 per cent of the supplies appeared to reach Allied troops, so a second operation was ordered. Eventually four aircraft took off next day and faced plentiful flak.

 

On September 25, seven crews dropped supplies to 800 men who were desperate for supplies. There was again much machine-gun fire which damaged four Dakotas. All returned except KG449 which was hit in the port elevator and rudder, but which flew on quite well. Some ten miles northwest of Eindhoven the aircraft then ran into intense flak which put the port engine out of use. Nevertheless it flew on whilst gradually losing height and force landed near Pael, the crew having a lucky escape.

 

Arnhem passed, the round was again transportation of various loads to the Continent and returning with casualties. No reduction in the number of sorties flown followed the end of hostilities in Europe, for troops needed supplies and there was repatriation flying to be done. The immediate post-war phase ended for 512 and 575 Squadrons when they moved to Melbourne and Holme-in-Spalding Moor, on August 6, 1945. Replacing them were 10 and 76 Squadrons, here to equip with Dakotas prior to Far East service. On August 29 1945, 77 and 78 Squadrons began to arrive for similar conversion. Soon the move of 78 Squadron was halted; it was instead to go to the Middle East.

 

Conversion of these squadrons was rapid, 10 and 76 having set off for St Mawgan and Portreath on August 28. Training was intense at Broadwell, the two squadrons completing 720 glider tows and dropping 2,050 containers. No 77 Squadron left for India in October 1945.

 

On October 5 1945, Dakotas of 271 Squadron moved in from Odiham, continuing scheduled services within Transport Command's extensive continental network. To ease administration Broadwell was switched from 46 to 47 Group on October 9, 1945 and by December, 271 Squadron found itself flying along the busy trunk route to India. (A 271 Squadron Dakota normally took four days to reach India.)

 

Broadwell was returned to 46 Group early in April 1946. Throughout that year 271 Squadron concentrated on passenger and freight services mainly to Europe and particularly to areas where British Forces were stationed.

 

Closure of Broadwell was discussed towards the end of 1946, likewise a new siting of 271 Squadron. At the end of October 1946, Bicester was announced as chosen, but Broadwell had more to offer by way of accommodation and it had concrete runways. Therefore the move was cancelled. On December 1, 1946, 271 Squadron was renumbered 77 Squadron and it continued the pattern of passenger and freight services to, among others, Warsaw, Rome, Prague and particularly Buckeburg. Broadwell’s end was not far off and on December 17, 1946 most of 77 Squadron left for Manston. On the final day of 1946 station strength was reduced and preparations for closure began. With the rear part of 77 Squadron gone by January 9 1947, closure began. March 31, 1947 marked the last day of RAF tenure of the station.

 

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