Steeple Morden Airfield

Construction of the airfield by John Laing and Son started in 1939, after three farmers were told that under the defence of the realm act their land was to be requisitioned by the Air Ministry .The airfield initially was to be a satellite to nearby RAF Bassingbourn.

Airfield Photographs

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The airfield opened in 1940, the first occupants were 11.OTU (Operational Training Unit) flying Mkls. las. and lcs. Wellington Bombers. In February 1942 an unusual event occurred, when a German JU -88 Bomber, thinking they were over France, and totally disorientated, crash landed at the airfield. The crew were quickly captured and taken to Bassingbourn for interrogation.

In late September 1942, 11 OTU was transferred to RAF Westcott and Oakley in Buckinghamshire. October saw the ingress of the American 12th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron and on 25th the 15th Photographic Mapping Squadron of the 3rd Photographic Group arrived under the command of Col.Elliott C. Roosevelt, the American President's son, flying P-38 Lightnings. In November 1942 the 5th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron arrived with nine P-38s. These squadrons were to stay very briefly and on November 3Oth they were gone, with the airfield falling silent again.

January 1943, a new sound was heard over the village, as the airfield was taken over by 17.OTU flying Blenheim Bombers. In April 1943, 17. OTU departed with a move to RAF Silverstone. In the village rumors were rife that the Yanks were coming back. The 355th Fighter Group arrived on the Clyde, Scotland on July 6th en-route to Steeple Morden, which they later renamed Station F -122.

The first commander of the 355th was Lt. Col. William J. Cummings. Under his command were the 355th Group Headquarters, 354th, 357th and 358th Fighter Squadrons, respectively named the Bulldogs, Dragons, and Angels. Initially the 355th were flying P-47 Thunderbolts and later P-51 Mustangs. Steeple Morden was also home to the 2nd. Scouting Force. This group of very brave pilots flew ahead of the bombers and radioed back weather information and enemy aircraft positions, thus saving the lives of thousands of bomber crews.

During their stay the 355th received a unit citation for their extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance. They were also the highest Group for destroying aircraft on the ground, earning them the name the' Steeple Morden Strafers ' .They saw action in the D- day landings and destroying the Luftwaffe when they ventured aloft. In July 1945 the 355th departed to Gablingen, Germany to become a part of the Army of Occupation.

Following the departure of the 355th the airfield was taken over by the 4th Fighter Group, who stayed until November 1945, when it was handed back to the RAP . The airfield was closed in September 1946 and was offered back to the original owners, George Jarman, George Smyth and Bert Parrish.

During their stay the 355th made firm and lasting relations with the communities of Steeple Morden and Litlington. A wonderful memorial now stands on the Litlington Road dedicated in May 1981 to the brave men who served at Steeple Morden.1n 1993 a beautiful stained glass window was dedicated in St.Catherine's Church, Litlington, to the 355th Fighter Group. In 2003 the memorial was extended to take in the names of the 355th and RAF personal who died whist serving at the airfield. In Litlington, The Crown Public House lounge bar has memorabilia and photographs depicting life on the airfield with the RAF and the Eighth Air Force.

Little remains of the airfield today except a few buildings, a part of the main runway and the perimeter track. The sound of Wellington Bombers and Mustangs Fighters has disappeared. The only sound to be heard now is the wind rustling through the fields in the Cambridgeshire countryside.


 

A Village Airfield at War

Village at War Book

This hardback book concerns the building of the airfield and its occupation by the RAF from 1940 to 1943 by 11. and 17. OTUs, flying Wellington and Blenheim Bombers, in the early part of the war. The book is illustrated with 115 B/W photographs and a fold out map of the airfield.
ISBN 0 905858 87 5

Steeple Morden Strafers

Steeple Morden Strafers Book

The story of the airfield continues with the occupation by the 355th Fighter Group and the 2nd Scouting Force. Amply supported by 275 B/W photographs taken at the time plus four pages in colour .The book tells of a remarkable story of courage and dedication with many individual combat reports, stories of escape and evasion, and the courage of the Resistance fighters who helped downed airmen. It also recalls the visit of Glenn Miller and his band who played to one of the largest audiences of the Eighth Air Force. The book contains the pilots roster and names of aircraft flown, plus a fold out map of the airfield dispersed sites.
ISBN 1 869987 02 0

Wimpys to Mustangs

Wimpys to Mustangs Book

The airfield at Steeple Morden was just one of the many airfields built across East Anglia during the Second World War. The first to occupy were the RAF units, 11 O.T.U. and later 17 O.T.U. In 1943 the 355th Fighter Group of the American 8th Air Force took over and renamed it Station F-122. This pictorial book using many unseen photographs tells of the life and times of a small village airfield called Steeple Morden. The book contains over 400 black and white photographs and eight pages in full colour.
ISBN 1 869987 08 X (hardback) 1 869987098 (paperback)

Available from: East Anglia Books, Station Road, Elsenham, Bishop's Stortford Herts. CM22 6LG Tel: 01279813791 www .eastangliabooks.com

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