RAF Ashbourne, Derbyshire
Site Visits: 1991; 22nd August 2005; 6th May 2009
Construction began on RAF Ashbourne in late 1941, work being undertaken by principal contractor Lehane, McKenzie & Shand. The airfield was built to Class-A bomber standards, with three paved runways (concrete/woodchip surface): 32/14 - WNW/ESE (2600 yds/2370 m); 27/09 - E/W (1600 yds/1460 m) and 20/02 NNE/SSW (1600 yds/1460 m). Four T2 hangars were erected, along with 30 frying-pan type hardstandings, including the usual collection of technical buildings and control tower - Watch Office for all Commands (12779/41 & 343/43). Facilities and accomodation was spread over twelve sites to the south-west (excluding sick quarters and sewage) for 2555 personel, RAF and WAAF, all ranks. The station identification code was 'AS' and the satellite station was RAF Darley Moor.
Opened in early 1942, RAF Ashbourne was originally constructed as a Class-A bomber airfield and was to be a satellite of RAF Seighford, Staffordshire. However, due to the unsuitability of the airfield - both in terms of geography (altitude) and local weather - it was relegated to the training role and assigned its own satellite at nearby RAF Darley Moor, Derbyshire as part of 92 (Training) Group, Bomber Command and intended as a base for Wellingtons of 81 OTU at Seighford. Only a small advanced party arrived and they quickly transferred out; the first (and only) unit to occupy Ashbourne was 42 OTU, who moved in from RAF Andover, Hampshire, in April, 1942 and were to stay until the end of the War. There was a range of aircraft used, including Ansons, Blenheims, Whitleys, Albermarles and for air-to-air training, Lysanders and Martinets (target towing) and Whitleys, Albermarles and Spitfires (fighter affiliation duties). Glider towing by 42 OTU was undertaken by the Whitleys and Albermarles, using a handful of Airspeed Horsa gliders which were issued to the unit..
In 1943, Ashbourne and 42 OTU were transferred to No 38 (Airborne Force) Group within Fighter Command. Apart from activities such as fighter affiliation, the OTU was now heavily involved in training for supply dropping and glider towing, supplying trained crews to the front line Squadrons of 38 Group. The live firing on fighter affiliation was undertaken over Kinder Scout, a plateau of land a few miles to the north. Practice supply drops were on, amongst others, the range at nearby Carsington, now under Carsington Water.
Although not permanently involved directly with operations, on the eve of D-Day four Albermarles from C Flight, 42 OTU were seconded to RAF Hampstead Norris, Berkshire. One, P1442, on drop-zone marking in the Caen and River Orne area, was lost and the circumstances and its whereabouts is still a mystery to this day.
After the war, the airfield was used for the open air storage of munitions by 28 MU. This ceased in 1954 and the site was run down and closed. The Communal Site is now a private camping and caravan site.
Elsewhere on Airfield Archaeology
RAF Darley Moor, Derbyshire
Peak Gateway, Ashbourne (memorial)
Related External Links
Peak Gateway Caravan Park