RAF Syerston

Royal Air Force Station Syerston,[2] commonly known as merely RAF Syerston (ICAO: EGXY), is a Royal Air Force station in the parish of Flintham, near Newark, Nottinghamshire. Opened in 1940, it was used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a bomber base during the Second World War, operating Vickers Wellingtons, Avro Manchesters, and the Avro Lancaster heavy bombers.[1] Post-war, it became home to Jet Provosts of the 2 Flying Training School. It is now home to the Royal Air Force Central Gliding School.[2]

Royal Air Force Station Syerston
Air Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Syerston
Near Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, NG23 5NN in England
SyerstonTower-203.jpg
The air traffic control tower in 2006
Raf syerston badge.gif
Praesta in officiis
(Latin for 'Excel in duties')
RAF Syerston is located in Nottinghamshire
RAF Syerston
RAF Syerston
Shown within Nottinghamshire
Coordinates53°01′24″N 000°54′42″W / 53.02333°N 0.91167°W / 53.02333; -0.91167Coordinates: 53°01′24″N 000°54′42″W / 53.02333°N 0.91167°W / 53.02333; -0.91167
TypeRoyal Air Force flying training station
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byNo. 22 Group (Training) RAF
(originally No. 1 Group RAF)[1]
ConditionActive
Websitewww.RAF.mod.uk/rafsyerston
Site history
Built1939; 81 years ago (1939)/40
In use1940 - present[2]
Garrison information
Current
commander
Group Captain Barry (Baz) Dale LLM, MA, LLB, CMGR, FCMI, RAFR[2]
GarrisonRoyal Air Force station
Occupants
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: None, ICAO: EGXY, WMO: 03372
Elevation69 metres (226 feet) AMSL
Runways
Direction Length and surface
06/24 1,827 metres (5,994 ft) asphalt
15/33 1,347 metres (4,419 ft) asphalt
11/29 1,292 metres (4,239 ft) asphalt
02/20  grass

HistoryEdit

Bomber CommandEdit

RAF Syerston was built as part of the bomber expansion in the late 1930s, but did not open until 1 December 1940. The first aircraft were Vickers Wellingtons[2] crewed by Polish flyers who had joined the RAF. In July 1941, they were replaced by members of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), flying Handley-Page Hampdens. From December 1941 until 5 May 1942, the base was closed whilst a concrete runway was built with two T2 hangars. When it re-opened, it became part of No. 5 Group. In 1942, several squadrons of Avro Lancaster aircraft arrived.[1]

In March 1943, Wing Commander Guy Gibson was commanding officer of 106 Sqn at Syerston, before he was given the task of forming 617 SqnThe Dambusters, at RAF Coningsby.[3]

In 1943, Bill Reid of 61 Squadron won a Victoria Cross on a mission flown from Syerston.[1]

On 17 November 1943, the operational squadrons departed, and the station was used for bomber crew training,[2] led by Captain Robert White. It became known as the Lancaster Finishing School (LFS) in January 1944. From November 1943 to July 1944, there was also a Bombing and Gunnery Defence Training Flight in attendance with several Wellingtons, Spitfires, Hurricanes, plus a few Martinet tug aircraft; all employed in brushing up the skills of air gunners on air-to-air exercises. The LFS left on 1 April 1945, with No. 49 Squadron arriving from RAF Fulbeck later in the month who only had one operation before leaving to RAF Mepal in September.[1]

Post-war useEdit

 
Harvard IIB trainer of No. 22 Flying Training School (22 FTS) landing at RAF Syerston in July 1954

On 25 October 1945, the station became part of Transport Command[2] with a Heavy Conversion Unit arriving from RAF Leicester East, which stayed until 5 January 1948 when it moved to RAF Dishforth. Syerston was taken over by Flying Training Command on 1 February 1948, when No. 22 Flying School (22 FS) arrived from RAF Ouston, which trained pilots for the Fleet Air Arm (FAA). Other nearby RAF airfields used for flying circuits were RAF Newton, RAF Wymeswold, and Tollerton airfield (now Nottingham Airport). The training school became No. 2 Flying Training School RAF (2 FTS) in 1955.[2] In November 1953, Percival Provosts began being used, being replaced by the (Hunting Percival) Jet Provost in 1959. The flying training school was disbanded on 16 January 1970 when the need for pilots had diminished, and the station lay vacant. Syerston was placed under care and maintenance from 1971.[2]

Role and operationsEdit

In January 1975, the Central Gliding School (CGS)[2] and No. 644 Volunteer Gliding Squadron (644 VGS) moved to Syerston, and have been there since, with No. 643 Volunteer Gliding Squadron also being based at Syerston since 10 October 1992. This was only meant to be a short term stay.

From 1990, Nottingham University Gliding Club, when affiliated with the Four Counties Gliding Club, used the airfield until 2004, when both moved to RAF Barkston Heath. In 2005, Nottingham University Gliding Club affiliated itself to Cranwell Gliding Club at RAF Cranwell, when Four Counties Gliding Club moved to RAF Wittering.

Most of the original station buildings were demolished in 1997 except for two hangars, the air traffic control tower, and one H-block[disambiguation needed].[1]

2014 saw the reformation of No. 2 Flying Training School (2 FTS) at Syerston, along with a permanent home for Headquarters No. 2 Flying Training School (HQ 2 FTS), the Royal Air Force Central Gliding School (RAF CGS), and No. 644 Volunteer Gliding Squadron (644 VGS).[2]

Based unitsEdit

 
RAF Viking T Mk1 (ZE625), a type currently based at Syerston, used by the Royal Air Force Air Cadets.

Notable units based at RAF Syerston.[2]

No. 22 Group (Training) RAF (22 Grp)

Parented unitsEdit

Royal Air Force Station Syerston is parent to four satellite airfields, namely RAF Kenley, RAF Kirknewton, RAF Topcliffe, and RAF Little Rissington.[2]

Historical unitsEdit

 
Wing Commander F R Jeffs, OC No. 207 Squadron RAF, wishes his aircrews good luck at RAF Syerston, before they board their aircraft for a night raid on Bremen, Germany. 207 Sqn were detached from their base at Bottesford, Leicestershire, to Syerston in August 1942, and moved from Bottesford/Syerston to Langar, Nottinghamshire, the following month.
 
Armourers make final checks on the bomb load of an Avro Lancaster B Mk I of No. 207 Squadron RAF at Syerston, Nottinghamshire, before a night bombing operation to Bremen, Germany, 13 September 1942. The mixed load (Bomber Command executive codeword 'Usual'), consists of a 4,000 lb HC bomb ('cookie') and small bomb containers (SBCs) filled with 30 lb incendiaries, with the addition of four 250 lb target indicators (TI).

IncidentsEdit

 
'At Home' part programme cover

On 20 September 1958, the prototype Avro Vulcan VX770 crashed during a fly past at RAF Syerston Battle of Britain At Home display.

A Rolls Royce test pilot was authorised to fly VX770 on an engine performance sortie with a fly past at the Battle of Britain display. The briefing was for the pilot to fly over the airfield twice at 200–300 feet (60–90 metres), flying at a speed of 250–300 knots (460–560 kilometres per hour; 290–350 miles per hour). The Vulcan flew along the main 07/25 runway (now 06/24 due to magnetic shift), then started a roll to starboard and climbed slightly. Very shortly after, a kink appeared in the starboard mainplane leading edge, followed by a stripping of the leading edge of the wing. The starboard wingtip then broke, followed by a collapse of the main spar and wing structure. Subsequently, the Vulcan went into a dive, and began rolling with the starboard wing on fire, and struck the ground at the taxiway end of runway 07. Three occupants of a controllers' caravan were killed by debris, a fourth being injured. All the crew of the Vulcan were killed. Proposed causes of the accident have included pilot error, fatigue failure, and inadequate maintenance.[5]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Unit History: RAF Syerston". www.Forces-War-Records.co.uk. Forces War Records. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "RAF Syerston". www.RAF.mod.uk. Royal Air ForceMinistry of Defence. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  3. ^ "Wing Commander Guy Gibson". www.RAFBF.org. RAF Benevolent Fund. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  4. ^ Gibson, G. Enemy Coast Ahead.[ISBN missing]
  5. ^ "BBC video 50th Anniversary of Vulcan crash". News.BBC.co.uk. BBC News.

External linksEdit