This was the airfield used by the 9th USAAF as well as transport and glider trials. Chelveston had the curved J Type hangar and the 518/40 watch office when it opened in 1940.
The Airfield: was constructed in winter 1940/41, as an RAF station, one of fifteen added to the county during WWII. A hill-top was removed during construction works and rubble from bomb damage in London was brought and used as hard-core for the foundations. Three 50-yard wide runways were laid and the main one was extended from 1400 yards to 2000 by 1942. Three hangars, a control tower and two brick crash/fire crew sheds with asbestos roofs were constructed on the site, as well as huts for airmen’s accommodation. At first this was an RAF training centre and Central Gunnery School, and was also used for glider experiments.
N1435, a glider tug with Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment, ‘A’ Flight, based at RAF Chelveston May – August 1942.
A half-scale Hamilcar glider, carrying the class B marks of T-0227, was test flown with ‘A’ Flight, Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment, Chelveston, 5th May 1942 – 31st August 1942. This was towed by the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley V Glider Tug s/n P5104.
Wellington and Hampden bombers from Bomber Command did gunnery practice from the airfield, often flying over Rushden. Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) quarters were built in Church Lane, Yelden but were not used until the Americans came.
The American Eighth Air Force came in 1942 with the 60th Troop Carrier Group but they left after 6 months and the 301st Bombardment Group followed and then the 12th Bombardment Group. Then came the heavy 305th Bombardment Group who brought the B17 Flying Fortress planes. Constituted as a heavy bomb group in January 1942 and activated two months later, the 305th Bomb Group soon moved from the USA to England and adopted after training an operational role at Chelveston. On 17th November 1942, the new Bomb Group undertook its first mission. The first wartime mission from there was in December 1942; a diversionary flight. Within two months it was upgraded to undertake precision raids on German industrial complexes. The building prepared for WAAF was used as their mess hall. Radio call signs were now being standardised and the control tower was called John Burn, the one-zero-five being the RAF Station number. The title of Bill’s book, 'John Burn One–Zero–Five', was the radio call sign for the 305th USAF Bomb Group who were based at Chelveston from 1942. Over 8000 Americans passed through Chelveston during WWII. The airfield, together with those at Podington & Thurleigh, was home to the First Bombardment Wing (later the 40th Combat Wing) of the 1st Air Division of the 8th United States Air Force. Over the next twelve months the 305th executed missions over Norway, France, Germany, the Low Countries and Poland all precision attacks on aluminium, magnesium, oil and nitrate works. As part of the prelude to the D Day aerial offensive, the 305th neutralised "V" weapon sites, airfields and repair facilities whilst during D Day and under the overall command of the RAF's Air Marshall Tedder, they were utilised to attack German infantry positions within the battlefield area, because of the expertise developed in precision bombing.
Issued to the 305th Bombardment Group, 8th U.S. Army Air Force, Chelveston, Northamptonshire, on 17 May 1944. ‘Flak Eater’ of the 364th Bombardment Squadron, saw much action as WF-J but sustained battle damage on 12 September 1944 and following repair was recoded WF-U. On 4 December 44-6009 failed to return to Chelveston following another raid on Germany, she made an emergency landing on a newly created continental airstrip. Repaired once again, the aircraft survived the war, carrying out in excess of 28 missions. It was transferred to the 351st BG on 23 May 1945, before returning to the USA in June. She was scrapped at Kingman the following December.
Colonel Macdonald won a Silver Star (3rd highest honour) for leadership. He also led the largest operations mission to Gdynia for which he was awarded the Cluster which is the equivalent of the British Bar. Captain Bruce Bairnsfather was the camp’s artist and was noted for the pictures he painted, as identification, on the aircraft based there, “Old Bill” being the most noted. He also did some murals in the staff community rooms at the Base and he painted a wall in the Conservative Club at Rushden. Tragedies: On the 15th of November 1943 two B17’s crashed, after a training flight, over Newton Bromswold parish and both crews were killed. The following March on the 24th, another B17 crashed after take-off and killed the crew, eight RAF men billeted in Yelden and two sleeping children at Glebe Farm. Then on the 15th February 1945 a plane hit a tree and crashed near High Hayden at Rushden and another from the same mission crashed near Newton Bromswold. During hostilities over 769 lives were lost and a memorial to them is on the wall of the church that stands between the two villages of Chelveston cum Caldecott. By July 1944 the group had become the first choice aerial bombing support, and they attacked ground forces to cover the British advance into Holland. Aerial support was given too, to hard pressed American infantry during the Battle of the Bulge. In March 1945, the 305th were supporting the American assault on the Rhine, and after this time it was often used to drop propaganda leaflets until, on the 25th April 1945, the last mission of World War II was flown. During their stay at Station 105 (Chelveston) the 305th flew 480 missions, lost 174 aircraft to enemy action and 787 airmen gave their lives. Social: Free time was spent in the locality, often at the public houses; the Star & Garter in Chelveston, the Swan at Newton Bromswold, the Chequers at Yelden, as well as those in Rushden. Several romances ensued with local girls and marriages followed. These 'G.I Brides' left for a new life in America, but some did not settle to the different way of life and returned.
Chelveston 1956 -1962 The first B47's of the Strategic Air Command arrived in May 1956. These were jet bombers which carried nuclear weapons, and were maintained on a 24 hours alert status as part of the NATO response to the Warsaw Pact. In August 1959, Boeing RB 66 reconnaissance jets joined the Chelveston air base. These were electronic counter measures versions of the B66 bomber, and they stayed at the base until August 1962. All the crews lived in mobile homes alongside their aircraft. After World War II and from stations in Belgium and Germany, the group undertook an aerial photographic survey of Germany and North Africa before being inactivated in 1946 on Christmas Day. Reactivated in 1947 as part of the Strategic Air Command, the 305th continues to serve the USAF in the air mobility role and has served in this capacity during the Gulf War as well as in the American invasions of Panama and Grenada.
31963 of the 301st Reconnaissance Wing at Chelveston, 1959.
Douglas RB-66B Destroyer, 42nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, RAF Chelveston, 1961.
The land has returned to agricultural use with few remains there’s a few old huts to the North of the site.
2009 Former airfield development applications – The Council has assisted Phillips Planning Services (agents of Chelveston Renewable Energy Ltd (CRE)) in providing two residential locations in the parish for the baseline noise monitoring exercise during June & July.
The measurements are used to set the noise levels as they exist before any development of the site. The planning permissions have conditions limiting the amount of noise CRE may produce, so it was important to establish the baseline against which any future potential noise infringements will be assessed. Former USAF Housing site – MOD has decided the housing is no longer required and the formal disposal process has now begun – see below Former Owner (Crichel Down) Considerations Former RAF Chelveston, Married Quarters Estate Land at this location has been declared surplus to MOD requirements and is to be sold. The Crichel Down Rules require Government Departments, under certain circumstances, to offer back surplus land to the former owner or their successors in title at market value. It has been decided in this instance that the land will not be offered back because exemptions apply. Defence Estates therefore wish to trace anyone who may fall within the definition of former owner or successor as contained in the Crichel Down Rules. Former Owner: William Frederick Bradshaw Esq. Any former owner or their successor(s) in title (other than through purchase) are invited to contact Defence Estates by writing within two months of the date of this notice to: James Ryley, Defence Estates, Operations North, Room F114, Building 351, RAF Brampton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE28 2EA Successors in title should state and provide evidence of their relationship to the Former Owner.