RAF Great Dunmow (Also known as Little Easton) is a former World War II airfield in England. The airfield is located East of Bishops Stortford and a mile north of Stane Street, the A120. the main road from Bishops Stortford to Colchester in Essex.
Great Dunmow airfield was one of 15 airfields in Essex
that was allocated to the United States Army Air Forces
by the Air Ministry in 1942. It was designed as a standard Class A bomber airfield, built by the US Army 818th Engineer Battalion (Aviation) with specialised work by British contractors. It had a 6,000 ft long main runway, aligned 15-33 and two secondary 4,200 ft long secondary runways, aligned 11-29 and 04-22. An encircling perimeter track was also constructed, containing 50 loop-type hardstands. The airfield was built on ancient parkland and over 200 mature trees had to be removed during its construction. In addition two T-2 and one blister-type hangars were built along with accommodations for 2,888 persons.
It was opened on 1 July 1943 and was used by the United States Army Air Force Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. It was assigned as USAAF station 164 (GD).
386th Bombardment Group (Medium)
The first American unit to use Great Dunmow was the 386th Bombardment Group (Medium)
which arrived from RAF Boxted
on 24 September
1943. The group was assigned to the 3d Bomb Wing and flew Martin B-26B/C Marauders
. Operational squadrons of the 322d were:
- 552d Bomb Squadron (RG)
- 553d Bomb Squadron (AN)
- 554th Bomb Squadron (RU)
- 555st Bomb Squadron (YA)
Missions of the 386th concentrated on airfields but also bombed marshalling yards and gun positions during the first months of combat.
In common with other Marauder units of the 3d Bomb Wing, the 386th was transferred to Ninth Air Force on 16 October 1943. Tactical operations were carried out against V-weapon sites along the coast of France in the winter of 1943-1944, and bombed airfields in Holland and Belgium during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944.
Great Dunmow was the first airfield visited by General Eisenhower in his USAAF airfield tour on Tuesday, 11 April 1944, and he arrived in time to see thirty-nine Ninth Air Force Marauders take off at twenty second intervals for a mission to attack the marshalling yards in Charleroi Belgium.
The 386th hammered gun positions, and airfields preceding the invasion of Normandy and made numerous assaults on bridges of the Seinelate in May. Struck coastal batteries on D-Day and hit bridges, supply and fuel stores, gun positions, and defended areas during the remainder of the Battle of Normandy. Supported Allied forces at Caen, and participated in the massive blows against the enemy at St Lo on 25 July 1944. Knocked out targets to help clear the Falaise pocket of German forces in August 1944 and hit strong points at Brest during September.
In July 1944, the 553d Bomb Squadron was selected to perform operational testing on the new Douglas A-26 Invader. However due to technical troubles with the aircraft, the type was withdrawn in September. Several damaged aircraft were moved to one side of the airfield, being abandoned along with wrecks of several Marauders and a Boeing B-17 which crash-landed at the airfield.
On 2 October 1944, the 386th Bomb Group moved to Beaumont-sur-Oise (A-60) Airfield, in Normandy France. On the continent, the 386th BG used the following Advanced Landing Grounds:
- A-60 Beaumont-sur-Oise France 2 October 1944
- A-92 St Trond Belgium 9 Apr-Jul 1945
After V-E Day the group returned to the United States, deactivating at Seymour Johnson AFB North Carolina on 7 August 1945.
RAF Bomber Command use
In October 1944, Great Dunmow was transferred to the RAF as a base for No. 38 Group. Two Stirling squadrons, Nos. 190
and 620, arrived on the 14th of the month both squadrons converting to Halifax aircraft in 1945. These squadrons took part in Operation Varsity
, the British airborne assault across the Rhine
. After V-E Day
, No. 190 squadron was disbanded on December 28
and No. 620 posted to Palestine
During 1946, the Army moved in to use the airfield for storing hundreds of surplus military vehicles which were disposed of at auctions during the following year. The airfield was abandoned in 1948.
With the end of military control the grassed areas were cut for a grass meal company in the 1950s which supplied it to various farms in the region. Starting in 1960, farming operations commenced and the concrete areas were removed for aggregate in 1965/66 for use as part of the new A12 road
Today, there is very little left except some single track agricultural roads remaining from the perimeter track and a blister hangar with a few nissen huts near Easton Lodge. The 22 end of the secondary northeast runway does however, have a short full width of runway intact, being used for haystack storage. There is a small museum in Great Dunmow which holds some exhibits of the airfield and the 386th Bomb Group, along with a stained glass window memorial in the church.
- Freeman, Roger A. (1978) Airfields of the Eighth: Then and Now. After the Battle ISBN 0900913096
- Freeman, Roger A. (1991) The Mighty Eighth The Colour Record. Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-35708-1
- Freeman, Roger A. (1994) UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now 1994. After the Battle ISBN 0900913800
- Freeman, Roger A. (1996) The Ninth Air Force in Colour: UK and the Continent-World War Two. After the Battle ISBN 1854092723
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
- mighty8thaf.preller.us Great Dunmow
- USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present