ST ATHAN AIRFIELD, RAF ST ATHAN

Site Details



NPRN
300513
Map Reference
ST06NW
Grid Reference
ST005685
Unitary (Local) Authority
The Vale of Glamorgan
Old County
Glamorgan
Community
St Athan
Type of Site
AIRFIELD
Broad Class
Defence
Period
Modern

Site Description

Construction work on St Athans began in January 1937, with the official opening on 1 September 1938. Initially the base only had one runway, but another was added in 1939-40. Both runways were lengthened in 1944. By November 1944, there were 56 hangars around the perimeter, including twenty Bellmans; two D types; six earth covered E types; four C types and approximately twenty Robin and Super Robin hangers. There were also four large hanger workshops and Blister type hangars. St Athans remains an active RAF station with many of the original wartime period expansion buildings and hangars still in use.

Event and Historical Information:
In February 1939, St Athan became the home for 4 School of Technical Training with over 1500 staff and trainees, a number which soon doubled. 19 Maintenance Unit (MU) formed in March as a civilian Aircraft Storage Unit. By January 1940, 280 aircraft were in storage, mostly Fairey Battles and Hawker Hurricanes, to be followed by Bristol Blenheims, Westland Lysanders, Boulton Paul Defiants and Bristol Beaufighters. These were followed by Supermarine Spitfires, Armstrong Whitworth Whiteleys, Vickers Wellingtons, Avro Lancasters, and De Havilland Mosquitos, taking the total to over 700 by the autumn. 32 MU were also assigned to St Athan in August 1939 and specialised in installing electronic devices such as Air-to-Surface Vessel radar (ASV), Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) and Airbourne Inspection radar (AI). Other work included strengthening Wellington wing spars. In April 1940, a School of Air Navigation moved to St Athan from RAF Manston, with 12 Radio School utilising a flight of Avro Ansons from September 1943 - May 1944 under the command of 27 Signals Group. When the war ended, the two maintenance units remained, and the base continues with the important functions of repair, overhaul and storage for both the RAF and Royal Navy (DARA). The aircraft that make up the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are also noted as having been repaired here. Areas of the base are also now used by army units.

Sources include:
Defence of Britain Project
Jones, I, 2007, Airfields and Landing Grounds of Wales: South, pg84-106
Phillips, Alan, 2006, Military Airfields Wales, pg 199-204
Smith, David J, 1982, Action Stations 3: Military Airfields of Wales and the North West, pg 152-4

RCAHMW, June 2008

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