3 1/2 miles South of Burford
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
April 24 and 25 more leaflet dropping and night sorties.
brought a rapid increase in exercises.. At the end of May spare gliders
were towed away to Ramsbury by USAAF C-47s.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
September 19, 30 Dakotas operating from both Broadwell squadrons each
losing an aircraft. Next day 31 crews were involved and 512 Squadron lost
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.