View Full Version : RAF Castle Doningtion

Mickey Kaye
5th Mar 2010, 10:16
Growing up only a few miles from east mids airport and having wasted most of my formative years in the seventies and eighties kicking around the place. I always wondered what the old RAF Castle Donington looked like. Iím aware it used to have two runways but does anyone have any photos of what the place used to look like

Atcham Tower
5th Mar 2010, 10:47
CD actually had three runways. Traces of them beneath the grass and a few dispersal hard-standings are visible on Google Earth. Wartime photos seem to be non-existent or at least I've never seen one.

5th Mar 2010, 12:07
Nearest I've managed to get to any photos is a book called "East Midlands Airport in Wartime" by Geoff Wilkes which recounts his time at RAF CD. Very interesting book but unfortunately no photos of the old airfield as such.

As Atcham Towers says there were 3 runways: roughly W/E, NE/SW and NW/SE. The W/E runway forms what is now part of 27/09 although I believe it was completely dug out and started again from scratch. Parts of the old peri-track on the south side now forms part of the internal road system. I vaguely remember reading that the NE/SW runway was abandoned before the end of the war.

Dispersal was all around the airfield but mainly along the line of the old Diseworth to Kegworth road which now constitutes the internal road (ish) from the Thistle Hotel to round about the Royal Mail facility. There were also dispersal areas near the 'new' fuel farm, to the S/W of the 09 runway and to the north of the W/E runway. Traces of the latter can still be seen if you walk around on the Airport Trail.

The old main entrance and guard house were by what was the back entrance entrance into the airport (off Charnock Crossroads) until about 10/15 years ago (near the maintenance hangars). The airfield technical area was situated around here too along with a T2 type hangar. One or two of the old RAF building still exist tucked in amongst the present day hangars. There was also a B1 type hangar on the E of the airfield amongst the dispersal.

The Domestic Site was to the west of the airfield close to where the DHL buildings are now and the Bomb Stores are to the north of the airfield and east of the now closed road down to Lockington. This area is known locally as 'the dumps'.

There was no ATC tower on the airfield. This sevice was provided from a hut on wheels which was towed to whichever runway was in use at the time.

I've got a copy of the record site plan for the airfield which isn't very clear but I'll try and answer any specific questions.anyone may have.

But sorry I can't find any photos either.

6th Mar 2010, 21:25
There is a picture of the building of EMA in BG Cramp's British Midland Airways book ...

Slightly larger this time ...

Also just remembered that EMA retained a grass NE/SW (ish) runway until the 70s/80s until some offices (Orion Airways?) were built at one end. I don't think this was along the track of the original NE/SW runway though ... ?


Mickey Kaye
7th Mar 2010, 07:25
You couldn't make the picture a bit bigger could you.

Thanks for idea of looking at google earth in better detail I always wonderd why the sierra taxiway was at an oblique angle yet the others are perpendicular and its because its part of the old NE/SW runway

8th Mar 2010, 02:54
Hello Mickey,

You may like to consult the following publications, which should be available locally:

Bird's Eye Wartime Leicestershire 1939 -1945
Terence C Cartwright
( T.C.C Publications 2001) ISBN: 0-9534497-1-8

Aviation In Leicestershire & Rutland
Roy Bonser
(Midland Counties Publications 2001) ISBN: 1-85780-089-3



8th Mar 2010, 06:46
There was also a book published by the airport to commemorate it's 40th birthday which has some good aerial photos of the wartime airfield. I have a copy somewhere and, if I can find it, I'll try and get the photos up on here.

With regards to the post war grass strip, it was certainly still there when I first started flying from EMA in about 1979 but I can't remember ever using it. It ceased to be when the Orion offices were built as stated above. There was also a signals square in existence at this time situated in front of the old ATC tower.

midnight retired
8th Mar 2010, 20:02
Hello Mickey,
To add to the jigsaw pieces of information .In the 1981 edition of Action Stations 2 by Bruce Barrymore Halfpenny , on page 61 ,there is an oblique aerial shot showing the grass runway and many of the wartime hangers and infrastructure relative to the new 27/09 and terminal.

The date of the photo is not shown but was certainly a lot earlier than 1981 which was when I first operated commercially from CD and I found the detail of the photo quite interesting.

The book was published by Patrick Stephens. ISBN 0-85059-484-7.

These books are still in circulation second hand as they are regarded as something of a historical reference manual .


MN retd

1st Jan 2014, 12:30
Castle Donington had 3 runways but by 1945 the sw/ne runway was declared unusable. There was a tower, it was situated just north of the end of the present Anson Road, as was the signals square and the letters 'CD'. The T2 hangar stood until at least the mid 1970s and another hangar was built on its footprint - that is why the maintenance area is at a 45 degree angle as it followed the alignment of the original peri track. There was an Italian PoW camp at the end of the Diseworth Road at the crossroads and the men worked on the base.

2nd Jan 2014, 09:56
Correction, the T2 hangar is still standing amongst all the new buildings. Two wartime buildings also survive, I believe one was an admin block and one a store. There are also two pill boxes just north of the Aeropark. Most of the bomb dump track remains but there is very little in terms of structure, just piles of rubble and the odd bit of wall.

There's a good aerial shot on Bird's Eye Wartime Leicestershire by Terence Cartwright and another in the Roy Bonser book. As for wartime shots of buildings, these are like hens' teeth.

Midland 331
2nd Jan 2014, 10:55
Few and fewer of the original buildings survive. This one does, although my dad does not.

Dad's Old Place | Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/point_and_click/4061458794/)

2nd Jan 2014, 11:33
Which airport is it where the old Officer's Mess has been turned into a hotel? I think it is your neck of the woods Midland. There may be more than one of course.

Alan Baker
2nd Jan 2014, 12:40
The layout of Castle Donington is shown on the Ordnance Survey one inch seventh series map. Viewable online at Sabre maps.

2nd Jan 2014, 12:47
Exascot... How about Teeside... formerly RAF Middleton St. George

As was...

As is...


Midland 331
2nd Jan 2014, 16:50
Yes, that's the one. Not sure if they have any guests these days.

Apparently, it's haunted.


3rd Jan 2014, 09:10
Thank you Phalconphixer that's it. Now I have to check my log books. I am sure that I have been in there with both of my beer money contributors.

Midland, my comment about being your neck of the woods was smack on then!

3rd Jan 2014, 21:58
There's quite a few reminders of CD left if you know what you're looking at. Viscount Road follows the line of the southern peri track, plus the road which once formed the road to Lockington is still extant. There was something here on the aerial shot but I can't make out what it is. Also, the entrances to the fields south of the DHL building still have the wartime concrete tracks which would have led to the dispersed sites. If you look at Google Earth these are very obvious, as are the outlines of the ablutions blocks near the old sewage plant.

I've just consulted Action Stations 2... not very useful, plus there's quite a few errors, at least for Wymeswold.

Midland 331
5th Jan 2014, 09:51
The lane up from Hemington Hill had a long length of concrete paved sections, which would suggest that it was an RAF construction. This lane used to end in a large similarly-paved apron-type area which had space for around thirty cars and was an outstanding viewing area as it faced the terminal building. Sometime in the 'nineties, the airport authority moved the fence and isolated it, leaving only a crash gate now.

I have a vague memory of some buildings on the west side of this lane.


Exascot. Well done!

5th Jan 2014, 16:11
Apparently, it's haunted.

One room is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of Flg Off Norman. In 1951 while attempting an asymmetric touch-and-go he crashed his Meteor into the officers mess, which is now a hotel.

Midland 331
5th Jan 2014, 16:25
Yes, the late Barney Concannon, former BMA captain, has written about it somewhere.


5th Jan 2014, 18:56
attempting an asymmetric touch-and-go

Was this normal practice?

Sleeve Wing
5th Jan 2014, 19:46
Midland 331.

From your MME callsign, I can only assume we know each other !
The book you refer to, written by Barney Concannon, was entitled "Black Billy".
It was first published. in paperback, by The Writers Cooperative in 2001 as ISBN1-902651-52-9.
It does indeed fictionally refer to the "ghost of Room 5(?), the upstairs room on the western spur of the present St.George Hotel.

I bought a copy from Barney, an old friend, and the b*gg*r didn't even sign it !
My old mate passed away on the 23rd.December, 2012.

BH.(DC9 fleet)

5th Jan 2014, 20:25
Was this normal practice?

No.....which is why he crashed.

Article by Barney here;

ARTICLES - Barney Concannon (http://www.freewebs.com/barne/articles.htm)

Midland 331
7th Jan 2014, 21:11
Mr Sleeve Wing,

I was a humble ticket agent '83-'85, so probably cashed some of your traveller's cheques at some time. However, my family's roots with the airline go back to 1965. I did bump into the maverick Capt Belcher at my uncle's funeral around a year ago.

My ID comes from the prime flight on the route, which you may recall, was frequently chock-full of suits , all paying the full fare. Happy days (most of the time...)

Now the airport has grass peeping through the paving slabs, a deserted terminal, and a doubtful future.


Mickey Kaye
17th Jan 2014, 20:13
I remeber "the Dumps" well i wasted many an hour there. I also remember the mini apron at the road up from hemington hill. In fact I stood there when concord made its first vist to EMA in 1977?

I've just been givern a copy of Action Stations 2 and it has a couple of really good photos of RAF Castle Donington in it. It also mentions Eric Dyer who was in charge of the airport when it first opened. My old man used to know him and his daughter went with school with my sister.

It also has a cracking photo of the old grass runway. Could anyone tell me when it closed?

The book also

Midland 331
18th Jan 2014, 10:31
I did a bit of "courting" there, over thirty years ago with my future wife....

A fine lady and the odd Merchantman and Viscount. Super.

I seem to recall the grass runway closed well before the sim. block opened. In all the time I spent around the place with my dad, I don't think I ever saw it used more than once. I always willed those traffic lights to change.

Was it 01/19-ish? I had a summer job working for the airport authority in 1978, and remember the lights still in place then. I hadn't passed my test, but the lads let me drive the maintenance vehicles around the peri track and even onto the ramp. Mr Dyer would not have been pleased...