RAF Barkston Heath

Barkston Heath airfield is located west of the B6043  south of its junction with the A153. The airfield started life in 1936 as a grass surfaced landing ground for the RAF College at Cranwell, approximately six miles to the north. When WWII broke out, the site continued to be used for training and other facilities were added, including four blister hangars. The airfield was selected as suitable for development to Class 'A' standard in 1941. 

Construction to upgrade Barkston Heath as a bomber airfield began in the summer of 1943, with the provision of three concrete runways of the standard lengths. A perimeter track connected the runway heads and 50 aircraft dispersals. The airfield ultimately had seven hangars, one B1 and six T2s, four of which were erected in early 1944 and were sited across the B6043 and linked to the perimeter track by a loop system. The technical site was to the south and communal & accommodation sites were dispersed to the south. The bomb stores were located off the western perimeter track. 

The airfield was allocated to 5 Group, and was parented by Swinderby, which was the base station for a group of airfields tasked with the training of bomber crews. A change of ownership occurred in January 1944, when the airfield was reopened as Station 483, part of the Ninth Air Force.

In February, the 61st TCG equipped with the Douglas C-47, arrived to prepare for the D-Day landings in June 1944. 


For operations during 6th-7th June 1944 the group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for dropping paratroops of 82nd Airborne Division and supplies near Cherbourg. Involved in the first drops were two serials of 36 C-47s and C-53s, each serial having taken off in a remarkable 2½ minutes.

Following this, aircraft from Barkston Heath participated in Operation Market Garden, the ill-fated Allied assault on the Rhine Bridges at Arnham, Holland, between 17-25th September 1944.

OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN (September 17th–25th 1944)

On the 17th Septemher 1944 two serials of the 61st TCG left Barkston Heath with men of the British 1st Airborne Divisionfor Arnhem. The first serial of 36 C-47s dropped 559 paratroops and the second of 35 C-47s carried 609 men. all aircraft returning safely. Next day, 81 C-47s hauled 80 CG-4As to Groesbeek. On D plus 2, 35 C-47s of the 61st, flying from RAF Aldermaston, dropped re-supply in the Nijmegen area. losing another two. On the 23rd. The 61st towed 43 gliders to Overasselt, near Grave, one C-47 being shot down.

The headquarters of the 61st Troop Carrier Group moved to an Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Abbeville (ALG B-92), in France, on 13th March 1945, but it's squadrons went to RAF Chipping Ongar from where they participated in Operation "Varsity" on 24 March carrying British paratroops who dropped near Wesel.

Later in March the 349th TCG arrived from Indiana with C-46 Commando transport aircraft but they stayed only three weeks, before moving to France on 18th April. 

Following the end of the war, Barkston Heath was retained by the RAF and today, it remains an operational station involved with aircrew training on the Grob Tutor. 

RAF Barkston Heath has the Naval and Army Elements of No. 3 Flying Training School (3 FTS) which, for a period between approximately 1995-2010 operated the Slingsby T67M260 Firefly two seat trainer. The school now operates the Grob Tutor T1.[1] A secondary role of RAF Barkston Heath is as a Relief Landing Ground for the flying training activities at RAF Cranwell.

barkston 1

Photo by DSS

Elementary Flying Training School

barkston 2

Photo by DSS

Airborne Forces Memorial - RAF Barkston Heath 31st May 2014


Photo by DSS


Photo by DSS


Photo by DSS

One of the side panels

The ceremony can be watched on Youtube by typing the following into your browser.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0cmCqJnqfQ

Aircraft and Squadrons
Squadron Notes:
1939 Station opened as a satellite landing ground for use by training aircraft.

1943 Flying ceased for concrete runways to be laid. Re-opened in January 1944.

January; Station changed hands to the USAF - Station 483.
February;  14th TC Sqn USAF Operating the Douglas C-47 Skytrain and Airspeed Horsa. Left Barkston in March 1945.
February; 15th TC Sqn USAF Operating the Douglas C-47 Skytrain and Airspeed Horsa. Left Barkston in March 1945.
February; 53rd TC Sqn USAF Operating the Douglas C-47 Skytrain and Airspeed Horsa. Left Barkston in March 1945.
February; 59th TC Sqn USAF Operating the Douglas C-47 Skytrain and Airspeed Horsa. Left Barkston in March 1945.
c47rowPhoto by americanairmuseum.com

glidersPhoto by BBC.Co.Uk

349 group

Photo by wikipedia

349th Carrier Group BH 1945

bhembarkPhoto by wikipedia

61st TC embarking BH

June  Station returned to RAF control.
June  256 MU RAF Maintenance Unit move in to clear the surplus from WWII.
September  2 RAF Regiment move in to use the airfield for training. Left Barkston in July 1946.

May  Station became satellite landing ground again for RAF Cranwell. Still acting in this role.
November  Station put on care and maintenance.

July  Station manning was reduced and confined to refuelling and air traffic services.

No.25 Sqn RAF Operating the Bloodhound surface-to-air guided missile unit. Left Barkston in July 1989.
bloodhoundsPhoto by subbrit.org

File Picture of Wattisham Bloodhounds

BBMF Based at here while RAF Coningsby had it’s runways resurfaced. Left Barkston in 2004.
spitPhoto by fightercontrol.co.uk

Spitfire Start up at BH

Elementary Flying Training School for the Army, Royal Navy flying Grob Tutor T1.

Photo by Chris Hall


bh towerPhoto by  © Mark Musson 2011
Barkston Heath Control Tower


Photo by Mark Musson BHRG

Further information is available from Barkston Heath Research group