RAF Spanhoe (originally known as RAF Wakerley) was a World War II airfield in Northamptonshire, England located 4-1/2 miles E of Uppingham. During the war the United States Army Air Force Ninth Air Force 315th Troop Carrier Group was stationed there with Douglas C-47 Skytrain transports.
Spanhoe was also known as USAAF station 493, Station Code "UV".
Built in 1943, the airfield was also known as Harringworth to local people as much of the site lay within that parish.
Built to the late Class A standard, it featured the desired runway lengths, a 6,000 ft. main aligned OS-26 and two 4,200 ft secondaries aligned 12-30 and 14-32. All 51 hardstands were loops and would come to support two C-47s each by the late summer of 1944. Two T-2 hangars were both placed on the main technical site about a quarter of a mile apart. The seven domestic sites featured the Nissen and Maycrete hutting with sleeping accommodation for 2,400.
On 7 February 1944, the headquarters of the 315th Troop Carrier Group took up residence, a somewhat reduced organization as most of the air echelon had been sent on detachment to North Africa in May 1943. For a month only some 65 (1 men and eight aircraft were to be found at Spanhoe. but on 11 March the North African detachment returned with 21 C-47s. The operational squadrons and fuselage codes of the group at Spanhoe were:
The 315th TCG was part of the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing.
In order to build the group up to full strength, the 309th and 310th Troop Carrier Squadrons were transferred from the 10th TCG training at Grenada AAF, Mississippi, although all that arrived was their titles. The cadre of personnel and aircraft for these units were crews and 26 C-47s came from the 61st and 62nd TCGs based in Sicily, some of the men having been with these groups in England in 1942. By April there were 60 C-47s on hand and numbers would rise to 90 by August.
Training exercises with paratroops kept the group occupied during April and May, and on 3 June men of the 82nd Airborne Division, which was located around Leicester, started to arrive at Spanhoe to be accommodated in hangars where camp beds had already been set up. On the same day. ground personnel were employed painting black and white stripes on all aircraft. At 23:16 hours on D minus 1 the first of 48 C-47s operating took off, each aircraft carrying 19 or 21 paratroops and five or six parapacks on underwing racks. The drop was carried out successfully north-west of Sainte-Mère-Église at 02:03 hours and all aircraft returned to England safely, although some had battle damage and wounded aboard.
Following the initial assault, the group hauled ammunition and supplies to France and continued training. On 8 July two C47s of the 315th collided shortly after take-off for an exercise. One crew member managed to parachute safely but eight others and 26 Polish paratroops perished in the crash at Tinwell, near Stamford.
For Operation "Market Garden", the 315th again carried 82nd Airborne paratroops. Two serials of 45 C-47s each delivered 664 and 690 paratroops, plus parapacks north and just south of the River Maas, one aircraft being shot down by flak. On D plus 2, two serials of 27 aircraft each met very strong fire when taking British paratroops and equipment to Ginkel Heath and two C-47s were shot down before the dropping point.
An attempt to drop Polish paratroops at Oriel on 21 September turned into a disaster, the first serial being defeated by weather and the second, reaching the dropping zone, flying headlong into a vicious flak barrage that brought down five and damaged many other C-47s. On 22 September 41 aircraft delivered some 565 Polish airborne troops to the Overasselt DZ. The last mission for 'Market Garden' was the transportation of British troops and equipment to a landing strip at Keent on 26 September in which 72 of the 315t's aircraft took part without loss.
Early in 1945. the 315th received a few Curtiss C-46 "Commando" transports and it also had two fuel tanker converted B-24 Liberators. In March, the group was alerted for another combat operation and on the 14th a ground party moved to RAF Boreham with aircraft and crews following on the 22nd.
For Operation Varsity, the group carried men of the British 6th Airborne Division. It proved the most costly operation in the group's history, with 19 C-47s shot down or written off as beyond repair.
Between 6/11 April 6 1945, the 315th TCG moved from Spanhoe to their Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Amiens/Glisy airfield, France (ALG B-48), the last of the 52nd TCW groups to move to the Continent. However, IX TCC maintained Spanhoe and on 30 April a detachment of 315th TCG C-47s returned for a training exercise but by June the IX TCC had departed.
In the 1970s, the north and west areas were excavated for iron ore and today little of the airfield remains. A memorial obelisk on the approach road to the airfield commemorates the 315th TCG and a memorial in Tinwell Church commemorates US and Polish victims of the C-47 collision.
As of 2007, the airfield is currently active and houses various privately owned aircraft. It is also the home of Windmill Aviation. The south-western taxiway is now runway 27, and a section of the old 14-32 runway was re-opened in 2004.