R.A.F/U.S.A.F.E Upper Hayford

R.A.F/U.S.A.F.E Upper Hayford

R.A.F/U.S.A.F.E Upper Hayford

The History.

Upper Heyford was used during ww2 by bomber command and then during the cold war was chosen by the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command and strategic bombers on 90 day deployments unit 1965. In 1969 it was used by the United States Aire Force in Europe  for tactical reconnaissance missions and then in 1970 f-111 strike aircraft.

The R.A.F Involvement 

In 1 June 1918 land was cleared and work began on the construction of R.A.F upper hayford bya detachment of the Canadian forestry corps shorty after completing similar work at  R.A.F Hooton Park and the base was ready for opening by the Royal Air Force in june.  By 1920 the aerodrome had closed, and the land returned to the owners, New College Oxford, to lease out for agricultural use. In 1923 there were concerns over the French occupation of the Rhineland after Germany had defaulted on the payment of war reparations. Upper Heyford was one of the sites chosen for a new strategic bomber force capable of attacking targets in France. Upper Heyford was intended to be the blueprint for the other bases. Land for the new airfield and technical site was purchased in 1924, and for the domestic site in 1925. Rising costs and delays mean that the first aircraft (the Oxford University Air Squadron) did not arrive until October 1927. No. 99 Squadron RAF arrived from RAF Bircham Newton in January 1928. The rearmament of Germany in the 1930s led to a change in role for Upper Heyford, as German targets were beyond the range of RAF bombers then in service. As a result, Upper Heyford became a base to train newly formed squadrons or for squadrons re-equipping with new aircraft types. Bomber squadrons then moved to East Anglia or Yorkshire to aerodromes closer to Germany. When the Second World War broke out the two resident RAF Bristol Blenheim Squadrons deployed to France and did not return. Instead, Heyford trained bomber crews to fly, navigate and bomb at night. For this they used Handley Page Hampdens and Vickers Wellingtons, supported by Avro Ansons, switching to de Havilland Mosquitos in 1945. No. 1 Parachute Training School RAF arrived from RAF Ringway (Manchester Airport) in March 1946, expanding later to include glider training, and moving to RAF Abingdon in 1950. The airfield was used by many units of the Royal Air Force (RAF), mainly as a training facility between 1918 and 1950..

The U.S.A.F Involvement  

In response to what was perceived as a growing worldwide threat, Strategic Air Command decided to house a strong force of American bomber aircraft in England. It was decided to convert four airfields in and around Oxfordshire to serve as their regular stations. Upper Heyford was one of those selected, the others being RAF Brize NortonRAF Fairford and RAF Greenham Common. On 26 June 1950, men of the 801st Engineer Aviation Battalion started work on extending the 6,000 ft (1,829 m) runway to 8,300 ft (2,530 m). Also new hardstands were constructed for the very heavy bombers of SAC’s Intercontinental Bombing Force of B-36s and B-50s. A secure weapons storage facility was also added. On 7 July 1950, the first group of United States Air Force personnel arrived on the station. The original organization consisted of one officer and 26 airmen. It was designated as RAF Station Upper Heyford, and used by the 7509th Air Base Squadron. The 7509th would act as the host organisation to support the temporary duty (TDY) aircraft and personnel detached from their home airfields in the United States of America. Upper Heyford was formally handed over to the USAF 3rd Air Force on 15 May 1951. This was formalised at a special ceremonial parade on 1 June 1951. Visiting TDY rotational units at Upper Heyford were: 93rd Bomb Wing, 97th Air Refueling Squadron, 509th Air Refueling Squadron, 301st Bomb Wing, 8th Air Sea Rescue Squadron, 2nd Bomb Wing, 5th Bomb Wing Detachment, and the 22nd Bomb Wing.

On 25 May 1951 the 7509th Air Base Squadron was re-designated the 7509th Air Base Group. Then on 10 January 1952, the 7509th Air Base Group at Upper Heyford became the 3918th Air Base Group. On the same day the Third Air Force, under United States Air Force Europe, relinquished control of the station and turned it over to the Strategic Air Command.

After The Bases Closure. 

On 15 December 1993 the flight line at RAF Upper Heyford was closed. On 1 January 1994 the 20th Fighter Wing at RAF Upper Heyford was transferred without personnel or equipment to Shaw AFBSouth Carolina, United States, where it inherited the personnel and F-16s of the inactivated 363rd Fighter Wing.

At that time RAF Upper Heyford came under the 620th US Air Base Wing until 30 September 1994, when the U.S. Air Force returned the airfield to the British Ministry of Defence.

The runways are now home to a variety of wildlife including the scarce lowland calcareous grassland and bird species such as peregrine falconEurasian skylark and common buzzard. Some of the buildings are used as an automotive storage compound for new and used vehicles. Other functions include police driving activities such as training. There is a boat builders called Kingsground Narrowboats located at building 103, this building is the oldest on the airfield and used to be the fire department originally, outside the boat-building workshop there are still parking spaces road marked as “FD”. The majority of the residential buildings are now let out as rented accommodation and some of the shops and services have been re-opened to service the community.

There are however many buildings which are still boarded up and it is currently unclear what the future of those will be. It seems that many of the buildings such as the hospital have been targeted by vandals who have smashed glass and walls in as well as internal fittings. Graffiti has also occurred, as well as the whole hospital suffering from damage from leaking rainwater that has subsequently caused extensive mould, damp floors and a flooded cellar. The building, however has now been secured as it is rumoured to be sold. The disused buildings have also become popular with local urban explorers.

Several of the hardened aircraft shelters were placed on the English Heritage list of scheduled monuments in 2010. A bid was made in 2011 for the site to receive World Heritage Site status but it did not make the UK shortlist.

In May 2012, the residential section was leased to First And Only Airsoft for a short period of use as an airsoft site. This lease ended in January 2013.

In March 2020, several of the hangers were converted into temporary morgues during the Covid-19 pandemic

The Explore.

Being extremely into military urbex i had to do this one. well ended up doing this place twice over a cupple of years and yet i dont have many pictures. Not said in the history of the base is the involvement of nuclear weapons during the cold war. This base did house nuclear weapons and had at all times a plane that could be flight ready and armed in 15 minutes ready to deliver a nuclear weapon. During the cold war the base was also site to many anti war and anti nuclear protests (not to be mistaken with the protests at R.A.F Greenham common).

The explore was very demanding on climbing, walking, and keeping out of site and with most of the base currently being active and with regular activity day and night it did make it a bit challenging for taking pictures out side of building with out being seen. Never the less i was able to get into the a command bunker and also what was the bases old post office block. not to many pictures where taken but its not always about quantity but more quality unlike most urban explores.

Another revisit will happen again. Enjoy

All Photos Are Subject To Copy Right And Belong To The Photographer




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