Unit History: RAF Upwood

RAF Upwood
RAF Upwood station adjacent to the village of Upwood, Cambridge first came into use as an aeroplane landing ground in 1916, when the RFC (Royal Flying Corp) established a training station there for night flying.
A few huts and aeroplane sheds were erected, only to be quickly removed when the RAF left the site in 1919.  Though the location wasn’t forgotten and it was converted into a permanent RAF station in 1935-36.  It was at the time when the building where being put up that the station was renamed Upwood.
The station reverted to Bomber Command in July 1946 with Lancasters of No. 7 Squadron being brought in from Mepal. Three more Lancaster squadrons arrived later in 1946, Nos. 49, 148 and 214, and in 1949 all Upwood squadrons re-equipped with Lincolns. Between 1954 and 1956 the Lincolns departed and their squadrons were disbanded to be replaced by four Canberra squadrons. New hardstandings were constructed by Mowlem in 1955. The Canberras endured until the end of the decade but were gone by late 1961.  By late 1960 Upwood ceased to be occupied by flying units and instead became an RAF ground station but in the following decade it was taken over by the USAF as a support base for Alconbury.  For several years it housed a USAF NCO college and hospital until the former facility was wound up in 1995. The clinic hospital remains but the rest of the station has been sold for housing and light industry.

RAF Upwood during WW1


In September of that year the station opened as Bury (Ramsey). This initial name referred to its location near the village of Bury and the larger market town of Ramsey. Initially there were no permanent flying units assigned to the station. Instead, No. 75 Squadron flying BE.2 aircraft out of Elmswell, Suffolk used the station as a night-landing ground and satellite field.

RAF Upwood during WW2


As part of the RAF expansion programme this airfield was in dire need of revamping, the grass-surfaced and had some 250 acres. A camp of permanent buildings where built in the south-west corner adjacent to the village of Bury. They consisted of the steel and brick flat-roofed buildings that were the hallmark of these expansion period stations. Three Type C hangars fronted the bombing circle in the usual arc arrangement, with a fourth situated behind that on the west side. The original bomb store was on the north-west side of the landing area. The new station was designed to accommodate two medium bomber squadrons with room for a third.

On 27 February 1937 the first flying unit arrived at Upwood in the form of No. 52 Squadron flying Hawker Hinds. This unit was joined on 1 March 1937 by No. 63 Squadron and its Hawker Audaxes.
During their time at Upwood, 52 and 63 Squadrons became training units and took on both Fairey Battle and Avro Anson aircraft. In August and September 1939, the two squadrons were reassigned opening the field up to its new tenant, No. 90 Squadron flying Bristol Blenheims. With World War II now underway No 90 Squadron spent most of its time in air-to-air firing and bombing practice. They were joined in February 1940 by another medium bomber unit, No. 35 Squadron, flying both Blenheims and Ansons.
Both Upwood squadrons were not destined to see front-line combat as, on 8 April 1940, they were merged into the new No. 17 Operational Training Unit and tasked with training aircrews.

During the following months tarmac hard standings were put down round the airfield boundary together with a perimeter track. Until Blenheim usage was in decline Upwood hosted No. 17 OTU but the unit moved to Silverstone in April 1943, the reason being that the airfield was scheduled to receive hard runways. Maximum accommodation at Upwood at this time was given as for 2,085 males and 336 females.

The first flying unit to use the new runways at Upwood was No 139 Squadron flying Mosquitos. The following month No. 156 Squadron joined them from Warboys to give Upwood an operational Lancaster unit and these two squadrons remained in residence for the rest of hostilities. Operational losses from Upwood totalled 66, half being Lancaster’s and half Mosquitos.
In June 1945, No. 156 was transferred to Wyton, the Mosquitos of No. 105 Squadron taking their place. This squadron was disbanded in February 1946 and moved to Hemswell in the same month. Upwood was then in the hands of Transport Command with Liberators of No. 53 Squadron present for three months.

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