Latitude 50°59'9"N Longitude 02°21'23"W

 

 

ACQUISITION

 

OPENED

 

COMMISSIONED

01 March 1943

 

PAID OFF

1946 to C&M at 6 months notice to re-open

21 march 1953 to C&M at 3months notice to re-open for MONAB 10

CLOSED

 

   

COMMANDING OFFICER

Captain J. N. Sparks RN 01.04.1033

Captain A. A. Murray 21.02.1045

 

 

FUNCTION

Army Co-operation/Air Reconnaissance Training Unit

No.2 Naval Air Fighter School

 

1950:

 D.L.C.Os. training.

Satellite to R.N.A.S. Yeovilton

 

 

ADDRESS

R.N. Air Station

Henstridge

Templecombe

Somerset

 

LOCALITY

The airfield lies inland 28 miles N. of Portland Bill and I mile E. of the village of Henstridge. Yeovil lies 10 miles W. by S. and Shaftesbury 6 miles E. by N.
R.N.A.S. Yeovilton, lies 12 miles W. by N.
 

LANDMARKS

The right angled junction, 2½ miles WNW. at Templecombe, of the British Railways Southern Region and a line running through Henstridge. The junction, immediately SE. of the airfield of the rivers Cale and Stour. The main Shaftesbury-Yeovil road passing 700 yards NNW.

 

ROAD AND RAIL ACCESS

 Access to the main Shaftesbury-Yeovil road to Henstridge, distant 1¾ miles (R). Railway station at Henstridge, 1¾ miles (R), on the British Railways Southern Region railway connecting 1½ miles N. with the Abbas and Templecombe station on the main Southern Region line to London. Personnel should be routed to Templecombe, Southern Region. Stores should be sent to Stalbridge, Southern Region.

 

   

CONTROL

Control building 200 yds. inside the perimeter track, on the W. side of the landing area.

 

ELEVATION

184 ' above M.S.L.

 

RUNWAYS

Four, tarmac.

     

    Extensibility

03/21

QDM. 029° -20

1000 x 30 yds. 

1400

07/25

QDM. 075° -255°

1000 x 30 yds.

1250

1129

QDM. 114° -294°

1200 x 30 yds.

2000

16/24

QDM. 160° -340°

1000 x 30 yds.

1500

 A fifth runway incorporating the Dummy Deck, lies on the N. side.

07/25

QDM. 075° -255°

1000 x 30 yds.

 

Runway extensions all require road closures and heavy works.

 

TRACKS

 40' perimeter track.

 

OBSTRUCTIONS

Navigation

W/T masts, I50' high, standing on an elevation of about 450', distant 3 miles W.

Circuit

None.

Approach

None.

 

APPROACH

No special approach recommended.

 

WIND INDICATOR

 
   
   

HOMING - VISUAL

By day:

By night:

 

Not known

Not known

 

HOMING--RADIO

D/F: Beacon:

 

Not known

Not known

 

APPROACH - VISUAL

By day:  

By night:  

Not known
Not known

 

APPROACH - RADIO

Not known

 

COMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT

W/T and R/T:

VH/F:

 

Not known

Not known

 

GROUND RADAR

Not known 

 

   

ACCOMMODATION

Living quarters at Priors Down, 1¾ miles (R) S. and at Marsh Farm adjacent W. of the airfield.

 

Capacity:

Officers:

211

Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings:

1,232

W.R.N.S. Officers:

13

W.R.N.S.  Chiefs, P.O.s and ratings;

440

 

ARMOURIES

 

 

COMPASS BASE

One tarmac, diameter 70'

 

DISPERSAL

 3 A/c standings off the perimeter track. 3 aprons in hangar areas.

 

HANGARS

Dispersed around the perimeter track.

 

Number /Type

Size

Door Height

Door Width

 4 Tee Side S  6o' x 7o'  70'  60'
 24 Mains  6o' x 7o' 17' 55'
 2 Callender Hamilton  185' x 110' 25' 110'
       
 

MEDICAL

 

 

METEOROLOGICAL

 

 

FUEL AND OIL

Aviation:

72,000 gallons.

M/T:

4,000 gallons.

Oil :

2,000 gallons.

   

TEST BASE

 A/c radar base on E. side of landing area.

 

TEST BUTT

 Test butt and 25 yd. range on N. side of airfield.

 

WORKSHOPS

 Workshops to 4-6 squadron scale.

 

VISITORS

 

 

EXPLOSIVES

 

 

BOMBING AND FIRING RANGES

 

Air to air

 

Air to ground and R. p. Firing

 

Live and practice bombing

 

Practice bombing

 

Assault training

 
   
   

Information taken from BR 1807. Admiralty Handbook of Naval Air Stations Dec. 48

 

 

List of first and second line squadrons, station flight and other flying units based at this location

 

Ferry Pool No.1

Formed at Henstridge 02.02.11946

Moved to RNAS Yeovilton 02.04.1946


718

 

Army Co-operation Training Unit - later School of Naval Air Reconnaissance

Formed here o5.06.1944. Moved to RNAS Ballyhalbert 17.08.1945.#

Equipped with 6 Seafire IIIs and 6 Spitfire PR,XIIIs.


748

 

No.10 Naval Operational Training Unit

Moved here from RNAS St. Merryn 04.02.1944. Moved to RNAS Yeovilton 09/03/1944

Equipped with various Marks of Seafires, Spitfire Vb, Martinet and Reliant.


760

 

Part of No.2 Naval Air Fighter School

Moved here from RNAS Lee-on-Solent 27.12.1945. Disbanded here 23.01.1946.

Equipped with Seafire IIIs.


761

 

Part of No.2 Naval Air Fighter School

Moved here from RNAS Yeovilton 10.04.1943. Disbanded here 16.01.1946.

Equipped with a mix of 18 Spitfire & Seafire with 6 Miles Master..


767

 

Deck Landing Control Officers training Squadron

Moved here from RNAS Yeovilton 04.01.1952. Moved to RNAS Stretton 20.09.1952.

Equipped with Firefly AS.4 and Sea Fury FB.II.


794

 

No,1 Naval Air Firing Unit

Moved here from RNAS Dale 22.11.1843. Moved to RNAS Charlton Horethorne 01.12.1943.

Equipped with 16 Sea Hurricanes, 4 Master II, 4 Defiant TT.I. 8 Martinet TT.I.


799 'C' Flt

Sea Otter Conversion & Refresher Flying course

Moved here from RNAS Lee-on-Solent 17.12.1945. Returned to RNAS Lee-on-Solent 23.01.1946.

Equipped with Sea Otter


808

Single Seat Fighter Squadron

Moved here from RNAS Lee-on-Solent 07.03.1944, Moved to RNAS St. Merryn 31.03.1944

Moved here from RNAS St. Merryn 11.04.1944. Moved to  RAF Dundonald 26.04.1944

Equipped with Seafire L.IIc.


885

Single Seat Fighter Squadron

Moved here from RNAS St. Merryn 31.04.1944. Moved to  RAF Dundonald 22.04.1944

Equipped with Seafire L.III.


886

Single Seat Fighter Squadron

Moved here from RNAS Lee-on-Solent 11.03.1944, Moved to RNAS St. Merryn 25.03.1944

Moved here from RNAS St. Merryn 04.05.1944. Moved to RNAS Ayr 06.05.1944

Equipped with Seafire L.III.


887

Single Seat Fighter Squadron

Moved here from RNAS Machrihanish 13.12.1943. Moved to RNAS Burscough 08.01.1944.

Equipped with Seafire L.III.


894

Single Seat Fighter Squadron

Moved here from RNAS Machrihanish 19.09.1943. Moved to RNAS Burscough 08.01.1944.

Equipped with Seafire L.III.


897

Single Seat Fighter Squadron

Moved here from RNAS Lee-on-Solent 02.03.1944, Moved to RNAS St. Merryn 11.03.1944

Moved here from RNAS St. Merryn 22.04.1944. Moved to  RAF Dundonald 06.05.1944

Equipped with Seafire L.III.


 

Preparatory work began in August, 1941 on 335 acres of farm land 1.5 miles East of Henstridge village, for a naval airfield with a five-runway layout specially designed for Deck Landing Training (DLT). Progress was slow and it was not until April 1st 1943 the station was commissioned as HMS DIPPER.


No. 2 Naval Air Fighter School

RNAS Henstridge was planned as a satellite to RNAS Yeovilton but the growing pressure of training new aircrew meant that Henstridge would become a Fighter Training station in its own right. No. 2 Naval Air Fighter School (2 NAFS) took up residence on April 19th having moved from the now overcrowded RNAS Yeovilton. Initially equipped with 18 hooked Spitfire Vs and 6 Miles Master trainers, these were supplemented later by the addition of Seafires, Sea Hurricanes and Harvard trainers. No. 2 NAFS was the only fighter school for Seafire pilots, and by September was turning out 40 trained Seafire pilots per month. The school also taught Deck Landing skills, 'D' flight being dedicated solely to DLT courses utilising the stations ‘dummy deck’.

The need for more space soon arose, and a further acquisition of 18 acres at Gibbs Marsh Farm, became the site for an Aircraft Rectification Hanger and other ancillary installations; a further acquisition at Fifehead Magdalen was made for a dispersed accommodation site in addition to those at Marsh Farm and Priors Down. The next arrival at the station was 794 squadron, (No. 1 Naval Air Firing Unit) with a mixture of Martinets and Defiant target tugs, Fulmars Sea Hurricanes, arriving from RNAS Dale on September 16th; this was only a short stay however the unit moved on to neighbouring RNAS Charlton Horethorne on December 1st.


Formation and work-up of Naval Fighter Wings

Henstridge received its first front-line aircraft on October 19th when 894 squadron disembarked their 12 Seafire IIs from the Carrier HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, the extra manpower being housed in the newly completed B Camp at Priors Down. The squadron was on the station to re-equip with Seafire IIIs in preparation for the formation of No. 24 Naval Fighter Wing (24 NFW) with 887 squadron, which arrived 1from RNAS Machrihanish on December 13th, also to re-equip with Seafire L IIIs; 24 NFW moved to RNAS Burscough, Lancashire, on January 8th 1944.

On February 4th 1944 No. 748 Squadron, No. 10 Naval Operational Training Unit (10 NOTU), arrived from RNAS St. Merryn  operating a mixture of aircraft currently in front line service, like 794 squadron its stay was to be a short one, it transferred to RNAS Yeovilton on March 9th to make room for the arrival of No. 3 Naval Fighter Wing (3 NFW) arrived during March from RNAS Lee-on-Solent to work up for Bombardment Spotting duties during Operation Neptune, the invasion of Europe. The Wing comprised of Nos. 808, 885, 886 and 897 Squadrons, totalling 42 aircraft and 60 pilots. The first of these to arrive was 897 on March 3rd, switching to shore-based Spitfire VBs for this role, followed closely by 808 on the 7th, 886 on the e11th and 885 on the 31st, all from RNAS St. Merryn . The wing operated some Spitfire PR.XIIIs as well as some Seafire L.IIcs. 808 and 885 Squadrons moved to RAF Dundonald for further training on March 22nd, 897 followed on May 6th; 886 moved to RNAS Ayr on the same day.

With the departure of 3 NFW Henstridge settled back into its primary role of training; 761 squadron had been greatly expanded iand now operated 68 aircraft and a they were joined by a new unit, 718 Army Co-operation Training Unit which formed here on June 5th 1944. with initial equipment issue of 9 Seafire IIIs & 6 Spitfire PR.XIIIs,. The later were used to train naval pilots in Tactical reconnaissance flying and the squadron eventually became the School of Naval Air Reconnaissance, the Army Co-operation role being dropped.


Post War use

With the war over the Fleet Air Arm began to contract, the School of Naval Air Reconnaissance moved to RNAS Ballyhalbert, Northern Ireland on August 17th 1945 leaving only 761 operating from the station. A detachment from 799 squadron, 'C' flight, arrived from RNAS Lee-on-Solent on December 17th operating a Sea Otter Conversion & Refresher Flying course. On December 27th 760 squadron also arrived from RNAS Lee-on-Solent; formerly the Corsair Familiarisation Unit part of No. 1 NAFS tat RNAS Zeals the squadron moved to Lee-on-Solent in September 1945 to become a detached element of No. 2 NAFS, exchanging their Corsairs for Seafire IIIs in October.

By the start of the New Year No. 2 Naval Air Fighter School was no longer needed; 761 disbanded at Henstridge on January 16th 1946, followed by 760 on the 23rd, their aircraft being absorbed into 759 Squadron (No. 1 NAFS) at Yeovilton. 799 ‘C’ flight also returned to Lee-on-Solent on this date. There was to be one final flying unit formed at RNAS Henstridge, this was No. 1 Ferry Pool, who formed here on February 2nd 1946, equipped with Oxfords, the unit left for Yeovilton two months later on April 2nd. HMS DIPPER, RNAS Henstridge was paid off on October 11th 1946 and the facility held as 'station in reserve on care & maintenance, at 6 months’ notice for reactivation’.

The station was not closed for long; in 1949 it was reopened for use as a satellite to RNAS Yeovilton but saw little use until No.767 Sqdn began using the Dummy Deck for the training of Deck Landing Control Officers (DLCOs), the squadron personnel being housed at Yeovilton, the aircraft remaining at Henstridge. The squadron completely moved into Henstridge for one week, beginning June 18th 1951 for intensive Aerodrome Dummy Deck Landings (ADDLs) prior to embarking in the training carrier, HMS TRIUMPH. Further embarked periods in HMS TRIUMPH & HMS ILLUSTRIOUS meant Henstridge was little used for the remainder of 1951. The squadron moved into the station completely at the start of 1952, taking up residence on January 4th while RNAS Yeovilton was closed to all flying for major runway reconstruction and extension works. The squadron’s Firefly FR.4s and Seafury FB.IIs where the last flying unit to operate from the station, moving to RNAS Stretton on September 20th 1952. RNAS Henstridge was again reduced to non-flying status and returned to care & maintenance, at 3 months’ notice to re-open.


Mobile Naval Air Base No. 10 moves in

Although not an operational airfield RNAS Henstridge had been selected in the spring of 1951 to become the home of Mobile Naval Air Base No. 10. This unit, a remnant of a Second World War programme to provide mobile aviation facilities capable of occupying and operating captured enemy airfields, completed its formation period after the end of hostilities but was not commissioned for active service, instead it was retained for use as a development unit at RNAS Lossiemouth. (see The MONAB Story for more details).

Confidential Admiralty Fleet Order (CAFO) 139/51 called MONAB 10 out of retirement, effective from September 7th 1951; the unit was to be installed at RNAS Henstridge, Dorset. Once the unit had been re-constituted and manned it began to mobilise; the first components of MONAB 10 arrived at RNAS Yeovilton in the late spring of 1952, and was installed at RNAS Henstridge by the autumn of that year. The exact nature of MONAB 10's activities at Henstridge are not clear, however the MONAB that was installed at Henstridge differed slightly from those which operated during WW2, whilst many components still utilized the original specialist vehicles as designed in 1944, other components were reconstructed or replaced completely by new ones. Therefore, this move may have been intended to evaluate the new MONAB for use in other conflicts.

It is believed that no flying operations were conducted by the unit, at the time of its arrival all operational flying units had moved to Yeovilton andRNAS Henstridge was again reduced to Care & Maintenance status at three month's notice to re-open for use by MONAB 10 on January 23rd 1953. Areas of the airfield being allowed to return to agricultural use, buildings and hangars were retained for MONAB use. Equipment installed at RNAS Henstridge was maintained on a daily basis, the majority of the MONAB equipment and vehicles were stored in hangers at RNAS Yeovilton for much of the time, being rolled out for maintenance and then returned to storage. MONAB 10 was disbanded on July 2nd 1955; the equipment was still at Henstridge and Yeovilton until at least the end of 1955, maintained by a small retard party of 12 men who were bussed out from Yeovilton daily.


Dummy Deck reactivated for the Jet age

Henstridge was thought unsuitable for further use by Yeovilton, the station was now operating jets which Henstridge was not capable of handling on its WW II runways, however it was reopened again in 1954 for use by Yeovilton for Night Deck Landing Practise, a fact that upset many local residents. The Dummy Deck was suitable for Jet aircraft 'touch & go' approaches even though the station would have difficulty handling them on the existing runways. Henstridge remained open for Yeovilton’s use until June 1957 when it ceased to be a naval base,

Henstridge finished its days as a Naval Air Station in use as overspill accommodation for Yeovilton. What remained of the station was sold off from 1956, although parts of the airfield had been sold after the station was returned to C&M status in 1953, most if the hangars were sold in 1958. Bristows Helicopters rented a hangar from June 1953 and operated from Henstridge until relocating to Redhill in 1960. With their departure the whole 425 acres had been disposed of.

 

Civilian use

The first civilian use of Henstridge occurred in June 1953 when one hangar was rented out to Air Whaling Ltd run by Mr. Alan Bristow which established itself on the site; initially the company operated a single Dragonfly helicopter which was leased to a Norwegian company by westland Helicopters, Between 1954 until 1957 the annual servicing of four Westland S-55s operated by the South Georgia Co. Ltd. for whale spotting duties was carried out at Henstridge prior to their embarking for their journey to the South Atlantic each October. In June 1955 a new company, Bristow Helicopters, was formed at Henstridge operating four Widgeon helicopters for oil exploration in the Persian Gulf, the company relocated to Redhill in 1958. After their departure the Admiralty sold the hangers, the site nearest the A30 becoame the Henstridge Trading Estate, the remainder of the site being sold to local farmers.

One land owner on the Henstridge site began using Henstridge for light civil flying, holding annual fly ins during the 1970s, the number of residents grew to 16, a mixture of light and executive machines making regular use of the field. On June 27th 1980 the BBC purchased the whole site sold intending to use it as broadcasting relay station for overseas broadcasts and notice to vacate was served on the flyers. However, mounting local opposition resulted in the planning application being rejected and the BBC sold the land during January 1987.

Of the original five runways only one, 07/25 survives; the concrete ‘dummy deck’ and the underground machinery chamber form part of it, it is a tarmac runway slightly shorter than its original 1000 yards (914m) it is 820 yards (750m) long. The Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance and the Yakovlevs formation display team are based at the airfield and The Wessex Strut of the Light Aircraft Association (LAA), a general aviation club formed in January 1977, which holds an annual fly in and other events their first fly-in was on 17 April 1977 and attracted 107 aircraft; the airfield has become their adopted headquarters. on 16 January 2012 the Henstridge Airfield Ltd was incorporated as the airfield owner operator.

 


 

Click here for a list of Primary sources


Additional sources:

 

Admiralty Fleet Orders:

 

Confidential Admiralty Fleet Orders:

 CAFO 139/51  Aviation—M.O.N.A.B. 10—Assembly (may 1951)

 CAFO 247/51  Aviation—M.O.N.A.B. 10—Assembly (September 1941)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


View Larger Map

 

 August 1944, HMS Dipper, an Armourer loading the film magazine into the G45 camera gun fitted in a Seafire. © IWM (A 25343)

 

 August 1944, HMS Dipper, a photographic rating winding the processed film on to a drying drum © IWM (A 25345)

 

 In a Nissen hut at HMS Dipper a WRNS projectionist screens camera gun film shot on a training exercise for an instructor and a small group of trainee Navy pilots. © IWM (A 25346)

 

 

 


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