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RAF Mendlesham

RAF Mendlesham
USAAF Station 156
Located Near Stowmarket, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Aerial Photo of Mendlesham Airfield - 18 January 1947.
RAF MendleshamUSAAF Station 156 is located in Suffolk
RAF Mendlesham
USAAF Station 156
Coordinates
Type Military airfield
Code MD
Site information
Owner Air Ministry
Controlled by  Royal Air Force
 United States Army Air Forces
Site history
Built 1943 (1943)
In use 1944–1954 (1954)
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
Garrison information
Garrison RAF Fighter Command
Eighth Air Force
RAF Maintenance Command
Occupants 34th Bombardment Group

Royal Air Force Station Mendlesham or more simply RAF Mendlesham is a former Royal Air Force station located 5.5 miles (8.9 km) east of Stowmarket, Suffolk, England

Contents

  • History 1
    • RAF Fighter Command use 1.1
    • USAAF use 1.2
      • 34th Bombardment Group (Heavy) 1.2.1
    • RAF Maintenance Command use 1.3
  • Current use 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
    • Citations 4.1
    • Bibliography 4.2
  • External links 5

History

RAF Fighter Command use

Mendlesham airfield was built in 1943 and the first flying unit based there was a Royal Air Force Fighter squadron which moved in during February 1944 and out in April. This was No. 310 Squadron equipped with Spitfire IXs and manned by Czechoslovakian pilots.

USAAF use

In March 1944, Mendlesham was allocated to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Eighth Air Force. It was assigned USAAF designation Station 156.

From 30 March 1944 though 11 July 1945, Mendlesham served as headquarters for the 93d Combat Bombardment Wing, 3d Bombardment Division, Eighth Air Force.

34th Bombardment Group (Heavy)

The first USAAF tenant was the United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force 34th Bombardment Group (Heavy), arriving from Blythe AAF California. The 34th was assigned to the 93d Combat Bombardment Wing, and the group tail code was a "Square-S". Its operational squadrons were:

The group flew both Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses and Consolidated B-24 Liberators as part of the Eighth Air Force's strategic bombing campaign.

34th Bomb Group Lockheed/Vega B-17G-65-VE Fortress Serial 44-8457
Douglas-Tulsa B-24H-15-DT Liberator Serial 41-28851 of the 7th Bomb Squadron. This aircraft was damaged during a mission on 24 August 1944 and made an emergency landing in Sweden (MACR 8461). The aircraft was interned until the end of the war then repaired and flown back to the UK in 1945.

The 34th flew 170 operations from the station, the first sixty-two while flying B-24 Liberators and the remainder with B-17G Fortresses. The change-over was made during the summer of 1944 when, in common with other groups assigned to the 93rd Combat Wing, the 3rd Division standardized on the Fortress. The group helped to prepare for the invasion of Normandy by bombing airfields in France and Germany, and supported the landing in June by attacking coastal defenses and communications. Continued to take part in the campaign in France by supporting ground forces at Saint-Lô, 24–25 July, and by striking V-weapon sites, gun emplacements, and supply lines throughout the summer of 1944.

The group converted to B-17's in September 1944 and engaged primarily in bombardment of strategic objectives from October 1944 to February 1945. Targets included marshalling yards in Ludwigshafen, Hamm, Osnabrück, and Darmstadt; oil centers in Bielefeld, Merseburg, Hamburg, and Misburg; factories in Berlin, Dalteln, and Hanover; and airfields in Münster, Neumünster, and Frankfurt. During this period the group also supported ground forces during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944-January 1945. In March 1945, with few industrial targets remaining and with Allied armies advancing across Germany, the 34th turned almost solely to interdicting enemy communications and supporting Allied ground forces.

Before V-E Day, it carried food to flooded areas of the Netherlands (Operation Chowhound), and after V-E Day transported prisoners of war from German camps to Allied centers. The 34th Bomb Group returned to Sioux Falls AAF, South Dakota on 28 August 1945 and was inactivated.[1][2]

RAF Maintenance Command use

After the war, the field was used as the sub-site of No. 94 Maintenance Unit RAF being used as an ammunition storage depot. It was reduced to inactive status in June 1954 and sold.

Current use

With the end of military control the former technical site of Mendlesham to the southwest of the airfield was developed into an industrial estate. Large, expansive buildings were constructed over the area, no wartime buildings remain. The balance of the airfield was returned to agricultural use; the runways, hardstands and perimeter track being largely removed for aggregate and today are fields, although parts of the perimeter track and the 02/20 runway remain as single-track farm access roads. No evidence of the wartime control tower remains. The NE end of the 20 runway has a small portion remaining at full width. A few wartime buildings are in use by farmers. Only the faintest hint of a perimeter track remains visible. A small but impressive memorial bronze plaque, subscribed to by the men of the 34th Group before their departure and erected in 1949 on the old airfield next to the A140 road, was stolen in April 2010 and presumably melted down for scrap. In January 2014 an appeal was started to raise £35,000 to replace it in the more secure location of St Mary's Church in Mendlesham.

Some aerospace-related use still remains though: one portion of runway 08/25, although now covered with grass, is now in use by local microlight pilots and by Suffolk Coastal Floaters hang-gliding club along with a blister-type hangar at the EOR.

See also

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

Citations

  1. ^ Freeman 2001, p. 00.
  2. ^ Maurer 1980, p. 00.

Bibliography

  • Freeman, R. Airfields of the Eighth - Then and Now. After the Battle. London, UK: Battle of Britain International Ltd., 2001. ISBN 0-9009-13-09-6.
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1991) The Mighty Eighth: The Colour Record. Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-35708-1
  • Maurer, M. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. USAF Historical Division. Washington D.C., USA: Zenger Publishing Co., Inc, 1980. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Mendlesham Airfield at mighty8thaf.preller.us
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present

External links

  • Mendlesham Airfield photo gallery
  • 34th Bomb Group website
  • Suffolk Coastal Floaters hang-gliding club
  • Mendlesham Parish website, USAAF 34th Bomb Group War Memorial Appeal
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