Unit History: RAF Syerston

RAF Syerston
RAF Syerston was an expansion scheme airfield located ten miles north-east of Nottingham. Initially opened as a Bomber Command station in 1940 operating Wellington, Manchester and Lancaster bombers.   Allocated to No. 1 Group, the station was first occupied in December 1940 by Nos. 304 and 305 Squadrons, manned largely by Polish.
Post war No.49 Squadron's residence at Syerston was terminated in October 1945 when it was moved south to Mepal. Syerston was then turned over to Transport Command which was installed a succession of training units. However, in May 1946, No. 504 (County of Nottingham) Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force, re-formed at Syerston to fly Mosquito’s and was present for eleven months. The station then passed to Flying Training Command in November 1947, which held sway until 1971 with basic instructional units. From 1971 Syerston was on care and maintenance with its accommodation and flying field used by service units, notably in connection with gliding activities. Most of the buildings were demolished in 1997 save for the control tower, two hangars and one H-Block used today by the Central Gliding School for the Air Training Corps.

RAF Syerston during WW2


The first aircraft were Vickers Wellingtons crewed by Polish flyers. In July 1941 they were replaced by members of the RCAF flying Handley-Page Hamden’s. Squadrons made their first operation from RAF Syerston on the night of April 25/26, 1941, attacking oil storage at Rotterdam. In July, RAF Syerston was transferred to No. 5 Group and Lindholme to No. 1 Group, the Polish squadrons departing for the latter and No. 408 Squadron, an RCAF unit, arriving from the former. Like the Poles when they first arrived at Syerston, the Canadian squadron had yet to become operational. Its first raid came on August 11/12 when, also like the Poles, Rotterdam docks were again the target.

From December 1941 until May 5, 1942, the base was closed whilst a concrete runway was built with two T2 hangars. When it re-opened, it became part of No. 5 Group. In 1942 several squadrons of Avro Lancaster aircraft arrived. The three new intersecting runways laid down were the main 07-25 at 1,950 yards long and 12-30 and 16-34, both at 1,400 yards. The surrounding perimeter track provided access to 36 pan type hardstandings. At the same time, additional domestic sites were built on land to the north-east, chiefly in Flintham Park, providing accommodation for 1,782 males and 411 females. The station was ready for re-occupation by flying units in April 1942. At sometime during the following eighteen months, three more T2 hangars were erected for glider storage.

No. 61 Squadron with Manchester’s and Lancaster’s arrived in May from Woolfox Lodge, joined in September by No. 106 Squadron from Coningsby, both units remaining until November 1943. During their participation in Bomber Command main force operations, Syerston aircrew were awarded many decorations for their conduct. This included a VC to Flight Lieutenant William Reid

Captain Roberty White led the station for bomber command training when operational squadrons departed from November 17th 1943. It then became known as the Lancaster Finishing School from January 1944. From November 1943 to July 1944 there was also a Bombing and Gunnery Defence Training Flight in attendance with several Wellingtons, Spitfires, Hurricanes, plus a few Martinet tug aircraft, all employed in brushing up the skills of air gunners on air to air exercises. Then on April 22, No.49 Squadron's Lancaster’s left austere Fulbeck for permanent lodgings at Syerston, flying their only and last raid of the war from the station-the attack on Hitler’s retreat at Obersalzberg on April 25. Altogether, 147 aircraft failed to return or crashed in the UK from Syerston: five Hamden’s, four Manchester’s, 14 Wellingtons and 124 Lancaster’s

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