RAF Hinton-In-The-Hedges

4 Feb

So as I am trying to show what life is like as a Flying Instructor I thought it would be a good idea to give some history on the Airfield where my company Go Fly Oxford is based.

The airfield has many aviation activities from Skydiving to Gliding including a Flying School which I work at. It also houses a nice selection of private aircraft such as a Super Cup and a Antonov AN-2. There are three runways that remain in which one is hard and around 700 meters long in the direction of 06 & 24. The grass are shorter but well maintained by the glider club and have a good drainage system in place.

Hinton Airfield

Hinton Airfield

Below is a article from a History book written in 2000 on the surrounding area (Charlton & Newbottle) which I read yesterday:

Hinton was built as a Grass Satellite for 13 Operation Training Unit (OTU) at Biscester who trained crews to operate Blenheim aircraft. Hinton was first used on 27 November 1940, but was soon waterlogged, a situation that did not improve until May 1941, when the concrete runways were completed.

On 12 June 1941 the German Luftwaffe carried out its one and only attack on Hinton. An unidentified aircraft dived from 800ft and machine gunned the airfield. There were no casualties but one aircraft on the ground ‘suffered slight damage’. A month later Hinton’s first accident occurred, when a Blenheim crashed when landing at night. This was followed by a fatal accident in February 1942, when a Blenheim being flown solo by Sgt Everard-Smith Struck a tree while taking off and crashed near Farthinghoe.

On 2 Hune 1942 six Ansons set out on Hinton’s first active mission; to carry out Air Sea Rescue for ditched bomber crews who has been returning from the first 1000 bomber raid. It is unknown whether they were successful or in locating survivors.

A month later Pilot Officer H I Bichard found himself in a situation which most pilots fear….fire. He was on a solo approach to Hinton at 300ft when the post engine caught fire, quickly spreading to the fuselage and cockpit. He touched down but was unable to apply the footbrakes because of the intense heat. As a result the aircraft swung to starboard and the port undercarriage broke, but surprisingly Bichard escaped with only slight injuries.

13 OTU departed Hinton on 23 August 1942 to be replaced by ‘A’ Flight 16 OTU. 16OTU’s role was training crews to fly Wellingtons. ‘A’ Flight stayed for less than a year, leaving for Barford St. John on 2 April 1943.

On 15 April 1943 the Signals Development Unit formed at Hinton. The most significant element of the Unit was the Beam Approach Development Flight, flying Masters, Oxfords and Ansons. It the this flight that left Hinton’s legacy for future aviators. Their role was to develop methods of helping aircraft to land in very poor visibility. This involved developing Ground Controlled Approach equipment and procedures. By the time their development work was over, aircraft had landed in 1/4 mile visibility and with 100ft cloud base. The Development Flight also tested the first prototype Instrument Landing System which had been imported from the United States.

A Wellington of Calibrations Flight was involved in the last wartime accident at Hinton on 13 May 1944. Pilot Officer Gunn carried out a landing in very bad visibility and overshot, coming to rest 100 yards beyond the end of the runway across the gated road to Hinton Village. There were no injuries.

Hinton’s complement reached its highest level at over 900 personnel just one month before the Signals Development Unit left, the last RAF aircraft leaving on 30 July 1944. Hinton was then quiet until October, when the Radio Vehicle Storage Unit moved in from Manchester. Its role was to act as a storage depot for all sorts of RAF radio and radar vehicles to wherever they were needed. Many of the vehicles were shipped off to the Far East to join the war against the Japanese. At its peak there were 7,775 vehicles stored at Hinton.

Flying officially ended in July 1944 but the last military aircraft to use Hinton was a US Fortress on 5 October 1944, when it was returning from an operation having suffered flak damage. Two of its four engines were out and Hinton was the nearest place to land. The Fortress landed successfully, and happily none of the crew was injured by either flak or the landing.

It is believed that the Radio Storage Unit departed Hinton sometime in 1947. It was not until the ’60’s that aviation returned to Hinton, then the Aquila Gliding Club was formed. Since then Hinton was become a thriving airfield; on any day power planes, glider and parachutists can be seen over the field. What would those Blenheim crews thing?

Martin Brombier

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