Unit History: RAF Ridgewell

RAF Ridgewell
The former World War two airfield at Ridgewell is constructed to a Class A standard and located 7 miles NW of Halstead in Essex.  The runways were laid down in 1942 and during the war the airfield was used by the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces Eight Air Force.  By 1943 the hardstandings were increased from 36 pans to 45 along with other buildings to accommodate 2,900 men.
The airfield was then handed back to the RAF in the following months of July 1945 after use of the USAAF.  There it stayed under the care of No. 94 Maintenance Unit until March 1957, the runways having been used at one time to store surplus wartime bombs.
The airfield was closed in the early 1990s many building were torn down or returned to agriculture.  Though recently the airfield was purchased by a gliding club and used as a home base throughout the summer months.

RAF Ridgewell during WW2


The station was originally scheduled for the USAAF, though it was first used by No 3 Group which needed an operational base. This was rejuvenated by No.90 Squadron of the RAF Bomber Command, equipped with Short Sterling Bombers until May 1943, the station being at that time a satellite of RAF Stradishall. The night of January 8th RAF Ridgewell had its first operation, with the Squadrons Stirling bombers continuing to operate until late May when No.3 groups’ new airfield at West Wickham was ready for use. Losses were high during the stay of the No.90’s Squadron, with 24 Stirling failing to return or crash in the UK during the course of the raids and three more lost due to non operation accidents.

From 30th June 1943 RAF Ridgewell was handed over to the US Eighth Air Force, which installed the 381st Bombardment Group (Heavy) and its four B-17’s squadrons early in June and arriving from Pueblo, Colorado. Its tail code was ‘Triangle-L’.

The 381st stayed at RAF Ridgewell for a total of 2 years during which time it flew 296 missions and lost a total of 131 B-17’s in action. After V-E Day the USAAF 381st Bomb group returned to Sioux Falls AAF, South Dakota in July 1945.

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