Beechwood Park: The Final Landing Place Of Wartime Bombers


The airfield, which served from May 1942 to March 1946, was later requisitioned by the government to be used as storage space for damaged aircraft or at the end of their service. This is how many planes arrived but not too many got to take off again.

The locations of over 50 sites of these type, which were spread around the country, remained secret until the end of the war.

The runway, which went from Ballingdon Farm to Beechwood House, was one mile long. Pilots were supposed to land only during daylight, as it was a grass runway and it didn’t have any landing lights.

A group of 25-30 people was assembled to work on the site when parts of the aircraft needed to be replaced. Among the aircraft stored at Beechwood were Sterlings, American Seamews and Bristol Blenheims, the Hemel Today reports.

Before landing in Markyate, all the equipment on board was taken out, including the radio stations and the fuel left in the tanks was kept by farmers.

Fred Smith, one of the dog handlers who used to supervise the airfield, arrived to Markyate after finishing his training at Staverton, Gloucestershire and went back to the site after the war ended.

The supervisers, who worked in shifts, would sometimes go to dance at the ‘Iron Room’, Markyate Parish Hall and would leave the airfield unguarded during those nights.

The landing ground, which was part of RAF Wroughton, Swindon, was supplied by Wing, Buckinghamshire.

While the three officers were living at the Sebright Arms in Markyate, the landing supervisers and the cook were staying in Nissen huts near Beechwood Farm.

Although the huts weren’t the most comfortable places to live in, they were close to the farmhouse and the handlers had supplies of milk, eggs and home-made cakes from the Logan family, in return for their work around the farm. The men would also hunt for rabbits, using rifles from the Logans.

After the airfield closed down, Fred Smith moved to Wing and in 1953 became the landlord of the Plume of Feathers.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE