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Exploring Gloucestershire's abandoned airfields

Overgrown blast shelter
Dozens of abandoned buildings are hidden around the Chedworth airfield site

Did you know that there are dozens of abandoned airfields in Gloucestershire?

From Stoke Orchard to Temple Guiting, Northleach to Bibury, it's believed there are around 50 disused airfield sites in the county.

A handful of them, such as Fairford and Staverton, are still in use, but most fell into disuse after World War II.

One man who has a passion for them, and who knows more than most about them, is Neil Jedrzejewski, known to his friends as 'Jed'.

A lot of the excitement of this is stumbling through a wood and finding a building and it looks untouched.
Neil Jedrzejewski

"They range from a small field to a 400 acre bomber airfield, there's a vast range," he said.

"You've got larger ones like Broadwell and Down Ampney which have pretty much started to disappear now - the runways have been dug up.

"Then there was a small field of only 54 acres in Temple Guiting which was owned by the RAF and declared a landing ground but I don't think ever saw any real use.

"There's probably about 50 of which maybe six are still in use, about a third are still in good condition, the rest have just been swallowed up by agriculture.

So why does Jed have such an interest?

"A lot of the excitement of this is stumbling through a wood and finding a building and it looks untouched," he said.

Emotional

"It looks as if somebody's literally just been plucked out and it's just been left there for 60 or 70 years.

"Sometimes you find some places that really can be quite emotional.

Jed Rzejewski
Jed has been exploring disused airfields for over 20 years

"You get a sense that somebody was sat in that chair, or somebody was looking at that board, or looking out of that window, and I think for me that's part of the draw of these sites, they are almost time capsules in themselves.

"Unfortunately because of the temporary nature of the original buildings they're not going to last much longer.

"The last winter we had caused a lot of damage to hangers and huts so I think now is the time where these places need to be explored and recorded so they don't completely disappear off the face of the earth and be completely forgotten."

Crossbow layout

One airfield that Jed has researched extensively is Chedworth. He explains its history:

"Planned during the early years of the war as utility airfield, RAF Chedworth opened in April 1942.

"Formed in a crossbow layout it had two large blister hangers, and numerous dispersals and domestic buildings hidden within Withington woods.

"At its peak some 600 men and 60 women were working at the airfield.

"During its operational lifetime, Chedworth saw both the RAF and USAAF using the airfield.

"Initially the Spitfires of 52 Operational Training Unit (OTU) from RAF Aston Down used the airfield until early 1943, replaced later in the year by twin engined Oxfords from the Advanced Flying Unit of South Cerney.

Fighter-bombers

"From October of 1943 until January 1944 the air gunnery squadron of 60/63 OTU moved in with Mosquito II fighters and Martinet target towing aircraft.

Nissen hut

"June and July of 1944 saw American use of the airfield by the 9th Air Force and 125th Liaison Squadron flying small L-5 Sentinels for communication flights.

"Aston Down once again returned to Chedworth flying both Mustang and Typhoon fighter-bombers.

"From the end of the war in Europe to December 1945 Chedworth lay unused before being given over to the Admiralty who used it for storage, covering every inch of its runways and perimeter tracks in vehicles and containers.

"During the 1960s the Central Flying School of RAF Little Rissington used Chedworth to practice forced landings being joined later by a civilian gliding club.

"During the 1970s Chedworth stopped being used except for the occasional military exercise and since then the airfield site has returned to agricultural use.

"Some of the old RAF buildings have been used for other things, notably the armoury as a the local Scout hut.

"Nowadays the only flying you'll find at Chedworth are small radio controlled aeroplanes!"




SEE ALSO
In pictures: Chedworth airfield
11 May 10 |  History
Airfield takeover by private firm
26 Feb 08 |  North west
Pilot buys disused control tower
24 Aug 05 |  Norfolk
New use for abandoned control tower
13 Feb 03 |  England


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