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RAF station or not?

Old 31st Mar 2021, 15:18
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RAF station or not?

Can the airfield specialists help me out here? It's my belief that, once the US Army Air Force had raised Old Glory at the start of its tenure of a wartime UK airfield, the base was no longer 'RAF Station Anyname' ie, it dropped the RAF prefix for the duration of the Americans' stay, becoming simply AAF-123 or just 'Anyname base/camp/aerodrome'.

An RAF officer (Flt Lt or Sqn Ldr) would meanwhile serve there for liaison, but the station was officially American under reverse Lend-Lease.

By contrast, USAF bases in the UK since 1951 have all been prefixed as RAF stations (by agreement, as I understand it).

I'm getting fed up with modern references to, for example, RAF Boreham (Essex), an airfield that was built by the Americans and only used, operationally, by American aircraft. I think Wikipedia is partly to blame almost every military airfield entry is listed an an RAF station.

Post-war, when many airfields reverted to C&M or Air Ministry stewardship, an RAF prefix may well have been appropriate. But I've never seen a contemporary wartime reference to an active USAAF air base as being 'RAF' this or similar that.





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Old 31st Mar 2021, 17:01
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This document written by an American says they were all RAF something
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Old 31st Mar 2021, 17:13
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Originally Posted by ZH875 View Post
This document written by an American says they were all RAF something
...but written in 1985.
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Old 31st Mar 2021, 17:15
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I think the difference is that in the '50s, USAF bases would usually/always have an RAF Station Commander, whereas WW2 USAAF bases didn't. I've often seen references to "AAF xxx" but can't recall period USAAF documents using the term, "RAF xxx".
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Old 1st Apr 2021, 04:16
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The reason why the RAF designation will not be found in contemporaneous records is explained in the very first sentence of the document.
United States military units assigned in the United Kingdom (UK) during World War II had to avoid any direct connection with specific geographic locations for security reasons . Most United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) units therefore identified their location with a "station number ." Although each USAAF installation in the UK was named--generally after the nearest railway station--official correspondence and unit histories most often employed the station number
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Old 1st Apr 2021, 09:47
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Originally Posted by ZH875 View Post
This document written by an American says they were all RAF something
​​​​​​
Please tell me on which page I can find that reference thanks.
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Old 1st Apr 2021, 14:01
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Originally Posted by XV490 View Post
​​​​​​
Please tell me on which page I can find that reference – thanks.
It's at the top of page iv - the introduction.

BTW,I used to live nearby,and fly from,Shipdham in Norfolk,a wartime B24 base,and I never heard the 'RAF' prefix used.
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Old 1st Apr 2021, 15:35
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Originally Posted by ex82watcher View Post
It's at the top of page iv - the introduction.

BTW,I used to live nearby,and fly from,Shipdham in Norfolk,a wartime B24 base,and I never heard the 'RAF' prefix used.
Thanks. In 50-odd years of studying this stuff, I've never seen any contemporary examples, just names (like plain 'Shipdham'). I don't think Capt Anderson grasped the full story in his compilation which contains a number of errors and misconceptions.
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 04:04
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A search of "RAF Shipdham" brings up hits, eg,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...Force_stations
I don't think Capt Anderson grasped the full story in his compilation – which contains a number of errors and misconceptions.
Without going through his listing item by item I find it difficult to agree. I selected a few at random from the document and came up with the following, on that basis I'd accept the authors statement that they had a RAF designation, remembering it only applied to airfields, unless you can be specific as to his errors and misconceptions.

AAF-131 RAF Nuthampstead
AAF-146 RAF Seething
AAF-173 RAF Dunkeswell
AAF-342 RAF Atcham
AAF-412 RAF Headcorn
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 08:23
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A quick poll of some of the many USAAF memorials in the UK here fails, despite the misleading captions, to find any references to "RAF xxxx".
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 10:09
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Originally Posted by megan View Post
A search of "RAF Shipdham" brings up hits, eg,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...Force_stations
Without going through his listing item by item I find it difficult to agree. I selected a few at random from the document and came up with the following, on that basis I'd accept the authors statement that they had a RAF designation, remembering it only applied to airfields, unless you can be specific as to his errors and misconceptions.

AAF-131 RAF Nuthampstead
AAF-146 RAF Seething
AAF-173 RAF Dunkeswell
AAF-342 RAF Atcham
AAF-412 RAF Headcorn
That Wikipedia list prefixes every site with 'RAF' which, strictly speaking, would be accurate in 1946 after the Americans had left completely, leaving the sites on C&M.

What I'm trying to find is any written reference from 1942-45 that describes a US-operated base with an RAF prefix. For example, "My B-17 unit flew out of RAF Anyplace, near Norwich."

Capt Anderson's misconceptions include bases usually being named after their nearest railway stations; and navigation within the UK being so difficult that the USAAF had to set up a Pathfinder unit! In the air and on the ground, the Americans used standard maps marked with place names.

Errors include listing Eighth AF headquarters at High Wycombe it was at Bushy Park (which Anderson has misspelled, perpetuating a confusion the Americans had with Bushey Hall (or Ajax, VIII Fighter Command HQ).



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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 11:34
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Down under in Oz the Yanks named the airfields after some notable air person eg Mareeba aerodrome hurriedly built at the time of the Battle of the Coral sea, was called Hoevet Field, after Major Dean Hoevet who was killed along with his crew when his B 17 crashed into Trinity Bay near Cairns. Far North Queensland.
Further up the Cape, Bamaga strip was Higgins Field

After the attrition of The RAAF sqdns 75 and 76 in the air battles for Port Moresby, Old John (Jackson) air fighting veteran, when he was killed in combat the strip was named Jackson’s.
Might now be called Port Moresby InternationalAirport, but is still referred to as Jackson’s. How good is that.

In the 70s had the honour of having to land on that original Marsden matting strip as the main runway was blocked. Rather rough and rattlely but it sure gave one a sense of the history of what had occurred here.
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 11:41
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Originally Posted by DaveReidUK View Post
A quick poll of some of the many USAAF memorials in the UK here fails, despite the misleading captions, to find any references to "RAF xxxx".
Indeed. I know from experience that US veterans' organisations were keen to use their own wartime parlance, or nomenclature, on their memorials.
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Old 6th Apr 2021, 11:33
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Also suggest you try the 'VIsiting Forces Act". for current legislation.
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Old 6th Apr 2021, 12:13
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The US forces landed on Guadalcanal to capture an airfield the Japanese had just completed the day before. It was named Henderson Field after the Marine Major Loften Henderson who was killed in the Battle of Midway. It eventually became Honiara International and when I was there about fifteen years ago the original tall air observation tower was still upright.
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Old 6th Apr 2021, 13:30
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I can find no reference in any of the books by Roger Freeman ( THE expert on the 8th.) to USAAF stations in the UK, in WW2, to being anything other than Station no xxx whilst under US control. Once taken over by the RAF they became RAF "whatever".
Whist I've been unable, at presenrt, to trace a source I'm sure that I've read that the post war naming of a US occupied station, as an RAF station, was nothing but a "figleaf" to try and divert or, at least, reduce attention from it's US occupation. There was quite a strong body of opinion post war which opposed the US bases on the basis that they made us a likely target for a Soviet attack.
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Old 9th Apr 2021, 10:28
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Originally Posted by papajuliet View Post
I can find no reference in any of the books by Roger Freeman ( THE expert on the 8th.) to USAAF stations in the UK, in WW2, to being anything other than Station no xxx whilst under US control. Once taken over by the RAF they became RAF "whatever".
Whist I've been unable, at presenrt, to trace a source I'm sure that I've read that the post war naming of a US occupied station, as an RAF station, was nothing but a "figleaf" to try and divert or, at least, reduce attention from it's US occupation. There was quite a strong body of opinion post war which opposed the US bases on the basis that they made us a likely target for a Soviet attack.
Roger Freeman spent time on Boxted airfield when the Americans flew from there, so his testimony is probably the best we have. Moreover, his uncle had been the 'caretaker' RAF officer at Horham before the USAAF moved in, so RF is likely to have known the various definitions.

This 'masterclass' promo is a recent example of misunderstanding the base titling system the Americans having occupied "RAF" Thorpe Abbotts exclusively from 1943-45. Wikipedia has much to answer for here.


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Old 10th Apr 2021, 03:35
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This 'masterclass' promo is a recent example of misunderstanding the base titling system – the Americans having occupied "RAF" Thorpe Abbotts exclusively from 1943-45
History is often a murky subject. Looking around the web it is said that Thorpe Abbotts was constructed by the RAF as a satellite field to the RAF constructed Horham. Both fields were later handed over to US squadrons. Would it be a fair guess that both fields received a RAF prefix at the construction phase?

I was also thinking about sovereignty, the US didn't own the ground upon which the airfields were constructed, so who was the legal custodian, the RAF through the Air Ministry? Who would have been responsible for the necessary requisitioning of land?

Should anyone visit Kew and look at the following they may be able to give a definitive answer,

https://discovery.nationalarchives.g...132595&catln=6

Have posed the question re airfield naming to the RAF Museum, so will post the answer.
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Old 10th Apr 2021, 11:53
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Originally Posted by megan View Post
History is often a murky subject. Looking around the web it is said that Thorpe Abbotts was constructed by the RAF as a satellite field to the RAF constructed Horham. Both fields were later handed over to US squadrons. Would it be a fair guess that both fields received a RAF prefix at the construction phase?

I was also thinking about sovereignty, the US didn't own the ground upon which the airfields were constructed, so who was the legal custodian, the RAF through the Air Ministry? Who would have been responsible for the necessary requisitioning of land?

Should anyone visit Kew and look at the following they may be able to give a definitive answer,

https://discovery.nationalarchives.g...132595&catln=6

Have posed the question re airfield naming to the RAF Museum, so will post the answer.
I'm not disputing that, before and after US tenure, all such sites would doubtless have had RAF or Air Ministry descriptors and retained them officially at all times (ie they held the "title deeds", as it were).

But in USAAF operational WW2 parlance, I have never seen any written or heard any veterans' spoken references to their British bases as 'RAF this' or 'RAF that'. Indeed, that could well have led to dangerous confusion.

Meanwhile, Horham and Thorpe Abbotts were constructed by civilian contractors, and certainly not by the RAF, as your web searches indicate.

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Old 11th Apr 2021, 03:14
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Horham and Thorpe Abbotts were constructed by civilian contractors, and certainly not by the RAF, as your web searches indicate
Did not mean that the RAF actually did the work themselves, rather they were built to a RAF contract. The RAF wouldn't have had the resources to do the work themselves, I doubt any RAF UK airfield was actually built by the RAF themselves.

There must be an act of parliament or legislation laying out the terms of agreement re USAAF airfields.

Interestingly found this re WWI.

http://www2.westsussex.gov.uk/learni...41e&version=-1

Last edited by megan; 11th Apr 2021 at 03:38. Reason: link
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