1940 - Purchase of the land         Top

In 1940, agricultural land that was to become Shenington Airfield was bought from its farming owners with war bonds.

1941 - Runway building and 21 Operational Training Unit (OTU) move in        Top

Runway and building work continued all year until, on 21st October 1941, RAF Edgehill was completed as a satellite airfield for 21 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at Moreton-in-Marsh under Bomber Command, though some Wellington 1c aircraft had been flying out of Edgehill since August.

Airfield layout 1945

Airfield layout 1945

Airfields are traditionally named after the nearest village, but this airfield was originally named RAF Edgehill rather than RAF Shenington to prevent, despite the different spelling, confusion with another Shennington airfield in Scotland.

Edgehill was built with three hard runways, one 1600 yards long, the others 1200 yards.  As a bomber airfield it was unusual because the western edge of the ground fell away in a scarp face to the valley, hence the reason for the control tower (which still stands among the farm buildings at the north-west end) having an extra floor to aid visibility of the approaching aircraft beyond the ridge.

The first incident involving aircraft based at Edgehill happened only three days after its official opening when a Wellington stalled at 400 feet crashing into Lower Brailes.  The aircraft was destroyed by fire and only the rear gunner survived.  During its active wartime life, many trainee pilots and crew were killed in training around the area.  This is a testament to the difficult weather conditions that cam prevail around the airfield especially in winter - the airfield has reputedly the highest weather related accident record for any RAF base in Britain during World War 2.

1942 - The first jet aircraft         Top

The Gloster E28/39 Pioneer W4041 - the Whittle jet - had first flown at Cranwell in 1941. Edgehill was selected as the base for flight tests due to its proximity to the manufacturer's Gloster and Power jets.  It is interesting to note that the first flight tests of jet engines were conducted by attaching the jet to the rear fuselage of a Wellington bomber - strapped to the tail cone.

Goster Pioneer

W4041 Gloster Pioneer (Royal Air Force Museum P016377)

A hanger was built to house the jet in secrecy on the aerodrome perimeter between Christmas Corner and Shenington turn (near where the John Deere buildings are now).  The jet made its first trial taxi on February 4th 1942.  Flight testing began and it flew successfully until March 24th when part of a turbine blade broke away in flight and an emergency landing was made on the airfield.

Flight trials of the Gloster were resumed in June 1942.  The jet was test flown throughout the summer, occasionally suffering fuel starvation or flame out difficulties, while in September, in front of a group of visitors, among them Americans, an oil pressure problem caused another forced landing.  In November, the Gloster was taken to Farnborough for engine development work.

Wellingtons and Ansons from Edgehill were also used for active duties at this time;   a dozen Wellington 1cs were despatched for the Cologne raid in May 1942, eleven crews operated in the Essen raid and ten took part in the June 1000 plane attack on Bremen.

1943 - A new jet and 21 OTU take over         Top

Rover built the next jet engine and in February 1943 the second Gloster jet aircraft, W4046, was taken to Edgehill.  It first flew from the airfield on March 1st 1943, reaching just over 400 mph with a ground run of only 330 yards.  The jet was only allowed to venture five miles away from the airfield or to fly within a two mile wide corridor between Edgehill and Cheltenham.

In April, 12 OTU, based at Chipping Warden, took over the station together with two flights of Wellington 111s from Turweston.  Edgehill hosted the 12 OTUs gunnery flight of Martinets and Hurricanes as well as the initial training element of the OTU.

The following month, the second Gloster jet was taken to Farnborough and so that was the end of jet testing at Edgehill.

1945 - The end of wartime operation        Top

The last flight was made in June 1945.  Lancasters had superceded Wellingtons but Edgehill's runways were not long enough and could not be lengthened due to the village, valley and hill

The airfield was put under Care and Maintenance.  It then became a sub storage depot for 25 Maintenance Unit, Hartlebury.


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