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RAF Upwood in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

The Wartime Memories Project

- RAF Upwood during the Second World War -

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RAF Upwood

   In 1917, approximately 160 acres of land at Simmonds Farm was requisitioned for use by the Royal Flying Corp and this subsequently became a home defence first class night landing ground for no. 75 squadron. The airfield was named Upwood, having previously been known as Bury (Ramsey) airfield, and henceforth it came under the control of the 6th Brigade, midland area of the 47th home defence wing. In July 1918, 191 night training squadron had descended on Upwood from their base in Marham, Norfolk. However, less than a year later, after the arrival of a second unit from Newmarket Heath the site was cleared of buildings and returned to agricultural use.

The second world war saw the return of aircraft to the area, when, in 1944, 156 squadron moved to Upwood from Warboys with their Lancaster Mk111s and Mk1s to continue their role as part of the Path Finder Force (PFF) The squadron was fortunate to return unscathed from two raids on Stuttgart in March 1944. A flight to Berlin left one of the squadron missing, but they returned without loss from Essen. A raid on Nuremberg, however, was to result in the loss of four Lancaster's, along with their crews.

Today part of the site is used by a gliding club.

Squadrons stationed at Upwood during World War Two

  • 35 Squadron. Feb 1940 to Apr 1940
  • No. 90 Squadron.
  • No: 139 Squadron.
  • 156 Squadron.


7th September 1939   No. 52 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Hounslow, Middlesex in 1916, serving as an army co-operation squadron on the Western Front. Disbanded in 1919, it re-formed at Abingdon from a nucleus provided by No 15 Squadron as a bomber squadron in January 1937. In November/December 1937 it was equipped with Fairey Battles and for special training purposes, Avro Ansons. In February 1939, the squadron became a group pool squadron tasked with training crews for the other units in its group. At the outbreak of war it was based at RAF Alconbury in Huntingdonshire, but four days later it moved to RAF Upwood.  More info.

7th September 1939 

17th Sept 1939 On the move  On 7th September 1939 No.63 Squadron moved to RAF Abingdon, but moved again to nearby RAF Benson ten days later where it served as an elementary flying training unit.

17th Sept 1939 On the move

December 1939 Re-equipped and relocated

April 1940 Re-designated and disbanded

30th Jul 1941 Aircraft Lost

12th Aug 1941 Aircraft Lost

12th Jun 1944 139 Squadron Mosquito lost

1st Jul 1944 139 Squadron Mosquito lost

12th Aug 1944 139 Squadron Mosquito lost

6th Mar 1945 139 Squadron Mosquito lost

If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

Those known to have served at

RAF Upwood

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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Don Wilding

I served in the RAF from 1943 until 1947, first as an electrician, then as a radar/mechanic/air in Bomber Command, then Transport Command. My main stations were at Tuddenham, Mildenhall, Upwood and Wymeswold. I was, at one time, with a Canadian squadron.

Don Wilding

Kenneth Gilmore Greasley RAF Upwood

I am looking for any details relating to my great uncle's history while he was stationed at RAF Upwood towards the end of WWII. His name was Kenneth Gilmore Greasley.

Dean Greasley

PO John Donald Range Cromarty 6(P) AFU (d.3rd Jan 1944)

My first cousin once removed was Jack Cromarty of Liverpool. In 1939 his parents lived in Berwick Gardens, Little Sutton, Cheshire He was a dental mechanic before he enlisted in 1941 He was a sergeant then flight sergeant then pilot officer and received his commission in November 1943 Prior to arriving at 6 (P) APU on 16th of February 143 he was at various other training units. After training at 6 (P) AFU he went to 81 OTU on 13th of April 1943 and then onto 1656, then 12 and finally after training at Upwood to 156 squadron, one of the Pathfinders. He was the pilot of Lancaster JB640 and died the night of 2nd/3rd of January 1944 when the plane was shot down on a mission to Berlin The other crew members were:
  • Sgt. Frederick Edwin Woolven.(Navigator) aged 23 years
  • Sgt. Norman Henry Colebatch (Wireless Operator)
  • F/Sgt Leonard Norman Lapthorne aged 21 years.
  • F/Sgt Dennis Frederick Burtenshaw RAAF (Second Navigator/Bomb Aimer) aged 20 years.
  • F/Sgt R.J.Collens Mid-upper Gunner aged 31 years.
  • F/Sgt. Kenneth Sidney James Chapman. Rear Gunner aged 20 years.
They completed approx 16 missions all over Germany between joining 156 sqdn in Nov 1943 and the last flight.

It was discovered in 1976 that the plane had crashed into a lake in what was by then the Russian zone. The remains were handed over to the RAF in 1976. It has taken from then until approx 2011 for the MOD to identify where these remains were buried and then another three to find relatives of the lost airmen. On the 27th of April 2016 there was a rededication ceremony in Berlin for four of the crew of JB640 whose remains have been found. The headstones now changed to reflect they were crew members of JB640. Alas as John had no wife, children or siblings there are no known photographs of him as an adult in the RAF. I have this one photo of him in my late mother's photo album.

Rebecca Owen

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