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Thread: RAF Warmwell

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    Default RAF Warmwell

    RAF Warmwell

    RAF Warmwell was a Royal Air Force station near Warmwell in Dorset, England from 1937 to 1946. During World War II it was used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force Ninth Air Force as USAAF station 454. Construction of No. 6 Armament Training Camp began in 1936 and upon completion in 1937 the 300 acres (1.2 km2) of former farmland was known as RAF Woodsford, after the village a mile to the north, and it soon played host to target-towing aircraft and a variety of visitors from RAF squadrons wishing to use the Chesil Bank range. In the spring of 1938, its name was officially changed to RAF Warmwell to avoid confusion with Woodford aerodrome in Cheshire, Warmwell being a village a mile and a half to the south of the airfield

    The airfield consisted of free draining grass landing runways, with a strip oriented 2,700 ft (820 m) north-east/south-west and the same for a south-east/north-west run, but the longest strip was west-northwest/east-south-cast covering 5.040 ft (1.536 m) Two Hellman hangars were erected on the technical site and there were eight Blisters. Six double pens, 12 single pens and 18 small pan aircraft standings were sited around the perimeter along with accommodations for 1,675 personnel.

    The station hosted RAF fighters during the Second World War, including a flight from 609 Sqn which was Dorset's only RAF fighter base during the Battle of Britain. It was not long before the Luftwaffe turned its attention to the airfield with a daylight attack in August 1940 and several hit-and-run had weather raids, plus some night bombing on a number of occasions during the spring of 1941.

    Warmwell was home or temporary station to fighter squadrons engaged on both offensive and defensive operations and 33 different RAF fighter squadrons are known to have used the airfield between the autumn of 1940 and January 1944, predominantly those with Supermarine Spitfires but Hawker Hurricanes, Hawker Typhoons, Westland Whirlwinds and North American Mustangs were also present at times.

    Warmwell had been allocated for use by American fighter units in August 1942 but was not taken up at that time and RAF units continued in residence. USAAF Spitfire and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt squadrons occasionally made use of the airfield as a forward or transit base. There were several US Emergency 'lame duck' landings, the most spectacular being an unannounced Twelfth Air Force Martin B-26 Marauders that had been en route to North Africa in November 1942 with two other Marauders which had been shot down when flying over occupied France.

    Warmwell was an unsuitable landing ground for a B-26 in good conditions, but the wet slippery turf caused this attempted B-26 landing to end in a crash with the crew being slightly hurt. With the Ninth Air Force requirement for airfields around the New Forest area for Operation "Overlord", Warmwell airfield was allocated for use by USAAF tactical fighters.

    474th Fighter Group
    The sandy soil at Warmwell was considered suitable to support the 80 aircraft of a fighter group without metal tracking support and the personnel of the 474th Fighter Group arrived on 12 March from Oxnard Flight Strip California flying Lockheed P-38 "Lightnings". Operational squadrons of the group were:

    428th Fighter Squadron (F5)
    429th Fighter Squadron (7Y)
    430th Fighter Squadron (K6)
    The 474th was a group of Ninth Air Force's 70th Fighter Wing, IX Tactical Air Command.

    Probably because they detrained at Moreton railway station - the group often referred to the Warmwell as Moreton. Squadron markings on the vertical tail surfaces were a square for the 428th, a triangle for the 429th and it circle for the 430th. The 474th FG was the only one of the three Ninth Air Force groups equipped with the P-38 in England that had trained with the type in the United States.

    The 474th carried out its first mission on 25 April with a sweep along the French coast. The P-38's ability to carry two 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs with ease, and its heavy nose-mounted armament, made it an excellent ground attack aircraft. although it appeared to he far more vulnerable to light anti-aircraft and small arms fire than the redoubtable P-47. During 15 weeks of operations from Warmwell. 27 P-38s were missing in action, all but five known or suspected lost due to ground fire. Three of these were lost to a 'bounce' by FW 190Ds while escorting B-26s on 7 May.

    On the night of June 5/6, the group flew patrols over the invasion fleet and the two aircraft lost are believed to have collided. On the credit side, during an armed reconnaissance on 18 July, a 474th formation led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Darling surprised a force of bomb-carrying Focke-Wulf Fw 190s and shot down 10 Luftwaffe aircraft with the loss of only one P-38.

    The 474th FG was the last of the Ninth Air Force's 18 fighter groups to move to an Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) in France, departing from Warmwell for St. Lambert, France (ALG A-11) during the first week of August 1944, the main body of aircraft departing on the 6th. The last mission from Warmwell, the group's 108th, was flown on the previous day.

    The group continued operations on the continent providing tactical air support in support of U.S. First Army until V-E Day, being stationed at Bad Langensalza, Germany (ALG R-2) at the end of hostilities. The 474th FG returned to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey during November 1945 and was inactivated on 8 December 1945.

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