Unit History: RAF Dunkeswell

RAF Dunkeswell
The construction began in 1941. George Wimpey was the main contractor. RAF Dunkeswell came under the command of 19 Group Coastal Command from approx May 1942.
All major construction work had been completed by June 1943 and on the 26th June, Group Captain E.C. Kidd moved in becoming the first Commanding Officer, RAF Station Dunkeswell.
Anti - Submarine Patrols
The weather was often unfavorable, take-offs of heavily loaded Liberator aircraft in instrument conditions and in darkness were routine.
479 Anti - Submarine Group U.S. Army Air Force
The 479th Anti-Submarine Group was activated in July 1943 in Cornwall, consisting of the 4th and 19th Anti-Submarine Squadrons. The group operated under the control of No 19 Group RAF Coastal Command. The 479th had some success when based in St Eval, sinking two U-boats and sharing another with an RAF Squadron. The 479th ASG moved to Dunkeswell on the 6th August 1943. The first operational missions were flown from this base on the 7th. The next day Dunkeswell lost its first Liberator when Captain R.L Thomas and his crew failed to return from their anti-submarine patrol. On the 21st August two more squadrons, the 6th and 22nd, joined the group. Due to the proposed takeover of all anti-submarine duties by the United States Navy the 6th only remained for one month, moving out to make room for Navy Squadron VB-103. The 479th ASG lost four Liberators while based in Dunkeswell and twenty nine men had been killed in action by the time the group ceased operation on 31st December 1943.
Fleet Air Wing Seven U.S Navy
On the 24th September 1943 Patrol Bombing Squadron, (VB-103) moved to Dunkeswell from St Eval, Cornwall where squadron personnel trained in RAF operational procedure. In October VB-105 and VB-110 arrived from St. Eval. These three squadrons, equipped with PB4Y-1 Liberators, remained in Dunkeswell until the war ended. In June 1944 a detachment from VB-114 with searchlight equipped PB4Y-1s arrived to fly  night patrols. The United States Navy took over the base on 23rd March 1943. RAF Station Dunkeswell then became the  United States Naval Air Facility Dunkeswell and the squadrons became known collectively as Patrol Air Group One, United States Atlantic Fleet Commander Thomas Durfee relieved Group Captain E.C. Kidd as base commander. When Fleet Wing Seven ceased operations from Dunkeswell, the squadrons had flown a total of 6,464 missions, sunk five submarines and assisted in sinking at least four others. The Wing lost 183 officers and men, a further 49 were killed in connection with the FAW-7 operation.
No 16 Ferry Unit Royal Air Force
No 16 Ferry Unit was formed by the merger of No 11  Ferry Unit and No 3 Aircraft Preparation Unit. The task for No 16 FU was to prepare various types of aircraft for overseas services.
The unit moved to Dunkeswell on 9th August 1945.
Aircraft prepared by No 16  FU included Anson, Stirling, Vengence, Mosquito, Lancaster Spitfire and Warwick. In December 1945 twenty four Lancasters were dispatched overseas. No 16 Ferry Unit moved out in May 1946.
Dunkeswell then became a storage depot for various Maintenance Units  until February 1949 when the RAF vacated the airfield.

Memories of RAF Dunkeswell

(Memories written by members of Forces Reunited)

RAF Dunkeswell in

Written by Phil Beacall

When I was posted to Dunkeswell in Dec 66,2 join the M.R.B.P.S.U who themselves had recently arrived having moved to Dunkeswell from scotland. The little history we had gleaned of the now disused airfield, (that was now being used for grazing sheep civillian weekend gliders and people learning to drive) but during the war I believe the station became a glider base for the raids to Germany. The passengers included Americans, including a brother or cousin of the Future President Kennedy who was reputed to have been killed when one of the gliders crashed on take off in to a small wood close to the runway. When I arrived, the control tower was the hub of the camp with 4 or 5 of bomb plotting vehicles and generators stationed around it. A major renovation scheme was under way. One other building was used as an m.T bay, where i would respray my car on average every 6 weeks,(when i was on weekend duty, I had the smartest 1950 Morris minor convertables in Devon. No floor but a cracking paint work)our transport to and from our digs, was an old crew coach with seats the length of the of the bus, back to back, so passengers sat facing the windows,rather than the front. Water was from a bowser trolly & caravan on site was the main cook house, Cpl Jock Rennie & L.A.C Geordie Bell were the cooks feeding all 28 or so staff. The mail was collected and extra rations purchased from the thatched cottage post office, in the village. Our parent unit for rations was RAF Locking. The O.C was a Sqdn Ldr, his name escapes me,he lived 5 miles away in Honington, his deputy was a real gent Flt Lt Blacklock. Our digs were 20 odd miles away across the Blaggdon hills, at a WRAC camp called Sherwood ,(now a housing estate)on the outskirts of Taunton. But due to a few pregnancies & sudden marriages, the lads were moved out of the WRAC camp to a hotel about a mile further along and an easier walk to the town. After 6 months we had a kitchen inside the tower a rest room and a duty bunk room for two weekend staff,a collie mascot (to keep the sheep from wondering in to the compound) and one or two offices offices including the Co,in the main towers glass house. I left in March 68, for Murharraq,but I visited 31 years later, in 1999. The tower was then a joint Services Parachute Site. I was allowed to look around, it was marvelous seeing the old solid ghosts jogging my memories from room to room. Then in 2009 ,but sadly I was unable to approach the actual tower,as the air field was now in use fairly commercialy and efficiently as a private flying school. Alas i dont know if the tower is used for anything now as the control tower for the flying school was newish and housed on the approach to the airfield. the original tower I could just see in the far distantance on the other side of the airfield. I hope my recollections have been of some use and any confirmation/feedback on the fate of the tower or history would be of considerable interest to me. Regards Harry Knowles Ex RAF Sergeant

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