Dunkeswell’s war story
The Air Ministry began building an airfield at Dunkeswell in 1941. It was allotted to Coastal Command and started operations in 1943. First the RAF and then the US Navy flew antisubmarine patrols from here in Liberators. In 1945 the RAF returned with a ferry unit, and a variety of aircraft departed for the Middle East and other overseas destinations. For three years after the war the site was used for storage and maintenance and then the RAF departed and the airfield was sold by the Ministry of Defence into private hands. It gradually became increasingly derelict, although it was in intermittent use as a private airfield throughout the sixties — and seventies, when flying training began. It was acquired by its present owners in the early eighties.
Two disused wartime airfields are visible from the overhead of Dunkeswell: Upottery/smeatharpe and Culmhead. Upottery was a transport station for C-47s and the launching point for the US 101st Airborne’s ‘Easy Company’ on D-day, made famous by TV’S Band of Brothers. It later also functioned as an anti-submarine Liberator base.
The third in the trio of Blackdown airfields is Culmhead (once known as RAF Churchstanton). Now a business park and solar farm, it was formerly a GCHQ signals outpost and before that a WWII fighter station, home variously to Hurricanes, Spitfires, Seafires, and after D-day acted as a training base for Meteors.