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Royal Air Force 1939-1946

By SPP Reporter

Bramcote was planned as a training aireld for the Midlands in the latter part of the 1930s. It was also part of a general plan to be used as a dispersal aireld in the event of the airelds in East Anglia becoming easy targets for enemy bombers.

The work of construction began in the early part of 1939. The weather, during construction, was not particularly good that year and seems to have affected the progress towards completion. However in September 1939 some Wellington Bombers of No 215 Squadron actually arrived at the aireld at the outbreak of war, though, the aireld was nowhere near completion. They stayed only two weeks before moving to Bassingbourne.

The aireld was eventually completed to become operationally effective on 4 June 1940 in No 6 Bomber Command, under Group Captain Davidson. Although a Royal Air Force Station, the air eld defence was entrusted to the Army. At commissioning, a detachment of the 50th Leicestershire Regiment took charge of defence but shortly afterwards the Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment) tookover.

Bramcote immediately became responsible for training all bomber aircrew for the Polish element of the RAF. It saw the formation of the four Polish manned bomber squadrons. The rst to be formed was No 300 (Masovian) on 1 July 1940. No 301 (Pomeranian) was formed on 22 July 1940 and in August Nos 304 (Silesian) and 305 (Ziema Vielkopolska) were formed. After training they moved to RAF Swinderby.

General Sikorski, commander of Polish forces, visited Bramcote on 7 August 1940 together with other high ranking ofcers. They arrived by air and after the usual inspections and march past, watched a demonstration of dive-bombing by the Fairey Battles with which the Bomber Squadrons were equipped at this time. They were most impressed by the morale of the men and the standard of aviation.

On August 1940, the King, George VI visited the aireld, having travelled to Nuneaton by train, then by car to Bramcote. He inspected the British and Polish Guards of Honour, watched a demonstration of low level bombing, had lunch in the Ofcers’ Mess and departed for Nuneaton at 1440 hours. The main training unit at Bramcote was No 18 OTU (Operational Training Unit) which arrived at Bramcote on 15 November 1940. It had been formed at RAF Hucknall on 1 May 1940.

After the initial formation and training of the four Polish manned squadrons, 18 OTU trained all aircrew who were then posted to join the operational squadrons. The establishment of aircraft of 18 OTU on arrival was 54 Wellington bombers and 9 Ansons. The four Polish squadrons were all eventually equipped with Wellington bombers and the rst Polish pilots to y these bombers did so on 1 January 1941.

Although a bomber base, some elements of ghter squadrons spent a little time here. Coventry received its fateful heavy air raid on 14 November 1940 and following that, 151 Fighter Squadron of Deants were based here for a short while.

In May and June of 1942, 18 OTU (despite being a training unit) provided aircraft and crews to take part in the thousand bomber raids over Germany, including Cologne, Essen and Bremen.

The rst fatal ying accident at Bramcote took place on 8 August 1940, during night ying practice. On 26 September 1940, a Junkers 88 ying at approx 50-100ft machine –gunned the aireld, hitting aircraft but inicting only slight damage. On 13 March 1941, the aireld was bombed, destroying two Wellington bombers and one Magister aircraft and damaging the then Hanger 2 (now demolished).

The lack of reserves for training had, by March 1943, brought about the reduction of 18 (Polish) OTU to just one Flight and it was then moved to the training unit at RAF Finningley. Bramcote then took on as its main role the training of aircrew for Transportation and the longer ights such a role would require. This became the task of 105 OTU when Bramcote passed from Bomber command to Transport command. Bramcote was featured in an article in Flight magazine as an example of the high quality of training. In August 1945, 105 OTU ceased its operations and its duties were taken over by 1381 (Transport) Conversion Unit. By now Wellingtons were no longer used and the unit was completely equipped with Dakotas.

Bramcote had also been the home of No 1513 BAT Flight equipped with Oxford aircraft since 1941. BAT stands for Beam Approach Training – a form of blind ying. On 16 July 1946 it was replaced by No 1510 Flight.

They stayed until November of that year. This ended the Chapter of the RAF period, as on 3 December 1946 the station was handed over to the Royal Navy.

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