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RAF Dunsfold (Airfield Outliers)

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What: Military airbase and associated buildings
Where: Dunsfold, Surrey
Built: 1942-3
Architect: Air Ministry/Royal Canadian Engineers
Abandoned: Outlying buildings c.1953-1990, airfield still in use.
Listed: No
Visited: 2005-6, 2013-4
Last Known Condition: Partly derelict, threatened by development.


Although no longer governed by the Official Secrets Act, Dunsfold Aerodrome still retains an air of mystery: closed to the public for most of the year and surrounded by high fences, only distant glimpses can be seen of the runway and factory buildings. Outside of track days and occasional flights, no sound escapes the belt of trees surrounding the airfield and in the the woods which now cover what remains of the airmen's barracks all is quiet. In three hours of exploring I heard only the plaintive call of the cuckoo and the far off barking of a farm dog, even my own footsteps being deadened by a thick carpet of moss.

Airfield Plan, 2014 [ 320 KB]

Handcraft Hut for Bofors AA gun crew
Handcraft Hut for Bofors AA gun crew

Communal site Stanton shelter
Communal site Stanton shelter


Underground Battle Headquarters

[click images below to expand & enlarge]

Ground crew of No. 98 Sqn. RAF with Mitchell Mk. III   <br> 
'Grumpy' at Dunsfold c. 1943 (Imperial War Museum) Hawker Siddeley P1127 'Kestrel' experimental VTOL    <br>
aircraft at Dunsfold c.1964 (Imperial War Museum) The disused Wey & Arun Canal served as a ready-made   <br> 
anti-tank ditch on the eastern perimeter Old wireless set found in the canal bed Aluminium aircraft component. In 1946, tons  
of surplus parts   <br> were dumped in the canal and nearby woods RAF VC-10 Tanker Aircraft BAe Control Tower built c1987 Douglas C-47 Skytrain (Dakota) with factory buildings  
behind Airfield view showing Boeing 747-200, G-BDXJ, now used as  
a prop in films An assortment of aircraft parked on the runway An outlying factory building with a newly-built solar  
field behind Southern Bofors AA gun position Handcraft Hut for Bofors AA gun crew Stanton surface shelter Discarded Phomene Fire extinguisher Unidentified hut in the former dispersal area Stanton surface shelter on the southern perimeter Main entrance to the underground Battle Headquarters BHQ entrance from the partly-infilled lobby BHQ cable run BHQ telephone exchange (PBX). The hatch leads to   <br> the Defence Officer's room while the door leads to   <br> the Messenger Post Co-ordinates in the BHQ Telephone Exchange (PBX). The hatch leads   <br>to the Defence Officer's room BHQ Defence Officer's room  with hatches to Messenger Post and Telephone Exchange (PBX) BHQ Emergency Exit with entrance to Observation Cupola on left BHQ observation cupola showing part  of 360 viewing slot Truck tyres abandoned outside the northern gate Standby Set House Concreted road leading to Communal and Domestic Sites Communal Site squash court Communal Site squash court RAF Pottery found in the Communal Site midden Domestic site Stanton shelter Defended sub-station near the Domestic Site W/T (Radio) Station on a remote site to the northeast of the airfield W/T (Radio) Station on a remote site to the northeast of the airfield

Construction of the Royal Canadian Airforce Station, Dunsfold was begun on the 11th May 1942 by the the 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Engineers using explosives and heavy-duty earth-movers to clear the land. Completed in just twenty weeks, Dunsfold entered service as a 'Class A' bomber airfield, home to 3 RCAF Squadrons: the 400, the 414 and the 430. In 1943, the base was transfered to RAF control and the Canadian Mustangs and Tomahawks were replaced by the Mitchell MkII medium bombers of the 98, 180 and 320 (Netherlands) Squadrons. After D-Day, the bomber squadrons moved to the Continent and were the base was used by 83 Group Support Unit RAF to train new pilots and supply replacement aircraft to squadrons now based in Europe.

In April 1945, Dunsfold became a repatriation centre for 47,529 liberated Allied Prisoners of War returning from camps across Europe and shortly afterwards was re-designated 83 Group Disbandment Centre, receiving returning squadrons and their equipment. In September 1946, following the disbandment of all 83 Group units, the Aerodrome was declared inactive.

Still under RAF ownership, the airfield and barracks (apart from a few huts which were converted to house sixteen resettled Polish families) were leased to airline Skyways Ltd as a maintenance base. Skyways found early success carrying oil industry personnel to Iran and supporting the Berlin Airlift, growing to become Europe's biggest charter airline, but the post-war boom was short lived and the company ceased trading in 1952. The aerodrome was subsequently leased to the Hawker Aircraft Company, which developed it at a factory and test facility.

In October 1960, Dunsfold saw the first air test of the Hawker Siddeley P.1127 'Kestrel' VTOL prototype, followed shortly by the start of testing and assembly line work on aircraft such as the Harrier, Hawk and Folland Gnat aircraft which continued here until 1998 under British Aerospace (which took over in 1977). The aerodrome was sold in 2002 to a private consortium which converted the factory buildings for use as a business park. The airfeld is still used for occasional flights but is most famous as a motor circuit and the filming location for the BBC's Top Gear series.

This page is respectfully dedicated to the memory of the airmen and ground crew who lost their lives in the course of duty while serving at RCAF/RAF Dunsfold 1942-6 and all those who died as a result of accidents during airtests for Hawker and BAe aircraft, 1952-98.

Concise Bibliography


McCue, P., 1992, 'Dunsfold: Surrey's Most Secret Airfield'
New Malden: Air Research Publications.

Rogalski, W. & Z., 2006 'Tweedmuir Military Camp: Chronology of Noteworthy Events' [http://www.tweedsmuirmilitarycamp.co.uk/TL_48.html] Accessed 27/5/14

Waverley Borough Council, 2012 'Dunsfold Park Environmental Statement: Appendix 12: Cultural Heritage and Archaeology' [http://www.waverley.gov.uk/planningdocs/wa20080788/Appendix %2012_Cultural%20Heritage%20and%20Archaeology.pdf] Accessed 27/5/14

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The Derelict Miscellany: website and all content © D. A. Gregory unless stated to be otherwise.