As you step out onto the apron and climb aboard the aircraft that will take you on a breathtaking flight, you’re probably too excited to remember that you’re following in the footsteps of generations of pilots. Airfields are steeped in history, and, in the first of a new series of blog posts, we look today at the history of an airfield close to our hearts here at Air Experiences: Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield, in South Warwickshire.
Wellesbourne Airfield was built to help meet the need for airfields during the second World War. It all happened in 1941: early that year, the Government purchased over 200 acres of land from the Littler family (who own and operate the airfield today).
Within a few months, the land to the east of Stratford-upon-Avon had changed forever. By the summer, a fully functioning airfield was standing on the Wellesbourne site.
Wellesbourne Airfield became the home to the 22nd Operational Training Unit, with a fleet of Wellington Bombers and Avro Ansons. Each month, Wellesbourne completed the training over a hundred airmen, and by the end of the war, over nine thousand men had been trained at Wellesbourne.
As well as training, the airfield saw some action. Thirty-four bombers from Wellesbourne took part in the 1,000-bomber raid on Essen, from which all returned home safely. Despite their safe return on that occasion, over the duration of the war, over three hundred men from Wellesbourne Airfield lost their lives in either training or bombing missions, along with 96 Wellington bombers.
The airfield was also targeted a number of times by bombers on their way to the industrial cities of Birmingham and Coventry.
After the war, Wellesbourne Airfield became home to a number of squadrons: firstly a glider training unit, then an aerial photographic unit, and later an advanced flying training unit.
RAF Wellesbourne closed in 1964 and was sold to the Littler family, who had owned the farm before the war. The airfield lay dormant until 1981, when some private flying started. Over the years, the popularity of Wellesbourne grew to what we see today, which is a thriving General Aviation airfield. Hundreds of thousands of people visit Wellesbourne each year, for the famous Saturday market, for the popular Wellesbourne Wings and Wheels event, or for a good old English fry-up in the Touchdown Cafe. The airfield is visited from the air by aviators flying in from all over the country to enjoy a day out at one of the best and friendliest airfields in the UK.
Today, the airfield’s most prominent landmark is a true piece of aviation history. In 1984, Wellesbourne took delivery of a Vulcan bomber.
Unfortunately XM655 no longer flies, but the engines are regularly run and each year on the Father’s Day Wings and Wheels event, during which the Vulcan demonstrates its power by completing a fast taxi on the main runway and lifting the nose gear. This event is open to the public.
You can take to the skies from Wellesbourne yourself with Air Experiences. A flight from this WWII airfield can cost as little as £50, and you can go sightseeing on a light aircraft flying lesson, go on an exciting helicopter experience, or even try your hand at aerobatics.