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.

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