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Wings Over Heyford
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We will never forget
ROYAL AIR FORCE STATION
Memorial Web Site
"Gone But Not Forgotten"
"When I Was There..."
First-hand historical accounts of RAF Upper Heyford as it was known
from the 1950's to the 1990's.
I was at RAF Upper Heyford from July 1954 through May, 1957 when the 4th AAA Bn, and
indeed, the 32 AAA Brigade were deactivated. All of us that had less than 12 months
overseas duty were rotated back to the states. Those with over 12 months were shipped to
Germany, France, etc.
It was an interesting time as we would periodically go to Langham Camp, near Cromer,
and fire at Radio Controlled Aerial Targets over the North Sea. When we were TDY to
Langham, another battalion, usually the 92nd from Brize Norton would take over our alert
Regarding the incident with the F84 dropping a wing tank. I saw that as our gun site
was on alert that day. When the pilot of that F84 taxied by our site, he slid his canopy
back, grinned and gave us a thumbs up sign. We joked about the chewing he would get as
we figured the Base Commander would be waiting for him to park the aircraft.
We always hated it when the B47 and B36 wings came in on TDY as it meant we had to go
on 24 hour alert. Those of us that were married and living off base had a difficult time
getting home to visit our familys.
Hopefully, you will get more info on the 4th Battalion as more of the Army personnel
become aware of this site.
Delbert (Del) Jeter
Battery A, 4th AAA Battalion; Gun Section Leader
July 1954 - June 1957
Submitted by Rob R. Gordon, Jr., PFC, Headquarters Battery,
4th AAA Battalion, 32 Brigade, Jan 1954 - May 1956, United States Army
I was on an outpost where we had to carry our water in a "jerry can" and we
had an outdoor privy. Conditions were very primitive in those early days. I
was an operations and intelligence specialist (a fancy description for an
early warning radar operator). We had to walk along the flight line for
approximately 2 miles to the air mess and showers. Eventually we were moved
into garrison in air barracks located near Lower Heyford. They had a very
small PX at this end of the base. Our radar site was setup inside the gate
leading to the army motor pool.
The most excitement that we had during my tour was a B-47 crashing after
aborting a takeoff near our radar site. The B-47 Wings would come over for
90 days and the B-36 Wings would come over for 2 weeks. As long as there was
a bomber on the ground we had duty.
There were also two chemical companies located near us. Their duty was
to lay smoke screens when unidentified aircraft would penetrate the security
of the base and they knew how to choke us with smoke. They would be in place
before first morning light and not return to garrison until well after dark.
They had it rough in the during the summer hours because of the extended days
hours. The Army personnel were subject to duty 24 hours a day as long as you
were on the base.
The AP's wrote us up constantly because we were on the main part of the
base in our fatigue uniforms after duty hours. We used to visit the "BLOKE"
tea shop which was located approximately midway between the main base and
the army area while walking to the main base for haircuts, sickcall and
visits to the mainbase PX. We were always getting DR's, which the Army
disregarded because we were not supposed to look pretty all the time. The
AP's never could comprehend our status. Incidentally we were paid
by the Department of the Air Force.
In general duty with the AIR FORCE was a drastic improvement over
sleeping in holes and the standard ARMY lifestyle. During the luxury of
off time we spent our time in Northampton, Oxford and occasionally London.
We used to patronize Whites Bar and The Nagshead Bar in Oxford at least one
evening per week.
There is an airman who was stationed at Upper Heyford who has been
organizing annual reunions. His name is Bill Whitehurst and he runs an ad
on the website regarding the reunions. I have never been able to attend
because the reunions are in conflict with a veterans organization of which
I am an active member and they hold their National Convention at the same
time. I am on his roster which consist army personnel and airman. you may
want to look him up on the website. I believe that I found him searching
RAF STATION-UPPER HEYFORD.
Submitted by James Corbin, Supply, Aug 1951 - 1953.
I would just like to say I enjoy the material found in this site, however,
I have roots at Upper Heyford that started long before the F-111's were born.
In August 1951 I was assigned to the Air Base Group stationed at Upper
Heyford. I traveled to England on a troop ship (USS Upshire) and arrived at
South Hampton. We went to a staging base that I cannot recall the name, and
from there I went to Upper Heyford. My primary AFSC was in munitions. Upon
arriving at Upper Heyford I discovered that munitions for which I trained did
not exist at Upper Heyford. I then volunteered for duty in Korea and my
request was denied. The Air Force decided that I could better serve my
country working in "Supply." They took us to a large hangar and we were kept
busy for quite some time chipping concrete from the tracks that the hangar
doors rolled on. Eventually we started building racks to accommodate the
supplies that were being sent to Upper Heyford , and then sorting and
labeling everything and placing them in their appropriate location.
The supplies that were received were to support the airplanes that were
coming to Upper Heyford TDY from various state side bases.
In those days we were accustomed to seeing KB-50s, B-36s, and eventually the
modern jets designated as B-47s. What a job. What a base. Very interesting
for a young Airman such as myself.
Not too long before returning stateside we started receiving 50 Cal
ammunition as our wartime stock and NO bomb dump to put it in. An old
inactive runway was designated as the storage. This ammo came in during a
BLIZZARD (I believe March 1953) and the then Base Commander, Col. Alvin C.
Gilliam lll, was carrying food to us in his private auto because we could not
break long enough to go on base and eat at the chow hall. That is how fast
the 2 million, five hundred and fifty- thousand rounds of 50 Cal ammo was
arriving on English Lorries. We made 8 large A-Frames to store that large
amount of ammo. Quite a task.
During the early part of my assignment to Upper Heyford the Army Engineers
were busy building (rebuilding) the runway to support the newer and modern
A/C. Those Engineers and lots of Air Force personnel resided on what was then
called "Site 2", which was the development closest to Lower Heyford. We would
have to go outside and down the walk to a latrine to take our showers. That
was the good old days. I don't think the Airmen of today would do that.
I have many fond memories of England in general, and Upper Heyford in
particular. I passed through there in 1982 and everything had changed. I did
get to spend one week in England but only two days at Upper Heyford. Enjoyed
it very much.
I would be happy to answer any questions you may have about that period of my
life. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You have my permission to post the info on the web site that I sent you. My
name is James (Jim) A. Corbin. I did go on to make the Air Force a career,
and upon retirement from the AF I had another career in Civil Service. After
a heart attack and subsequent surgery I retired and am now residing in North
James Corbin, Supply, Aug 1951 - 1953.
Submitted by Tom Grisham, 3918th Air Police Squadron, 1952 - 1955.
I arrived at South Hampton in Aug. 1952 on the Wm. O. Darby.
We lived in small white barracks. Each held about 16 men if I remember right. We had to go outside to another building to use the latrine. In the winter it was real cold.
We ate at the Army Messhall. Site #3 was 2 AF squadrons. The rest was Army. It didn't feel right; we had to go to the main base to pull K.P., but not eat there.
We had a small P.X. in site #3. It was also at the end of the runway and very noisy, until you got used to it.
U.H. was a TDY base as long as I was stationed there. The first wing were B50's converted B29. In 1953 we got B47 & B36. Had 47 the rest of the time I was there. It was pretty nice duty when there were no wings TDY. They would stay 90 days.
I pulled some Flight Line duty, but was pretty lucky; mostly worked base patrol or town patrol. We pulley base & town patrol in class "A"s only.
I married an English girl. Have been back to U.H. two times; 1969 and 1973. It sure changed over the years. It wasn't S.A.C. last time I was there. We lived in Banbury from Aug. 54 - Aug. 55. It was a nice town.
When you are stationed overseas you can't wait to get stateside. I think back now and realized it was about the best time of my life. You make your best friends in the service. Sad we never keep in touch when you leave the service. This website is a wonderful thing for us.
I am sending something to help with the website. Sorry it can't be more.
The pictures are from A/1C Grisham and A/1C Fischer. Fischer spent 20 years in the A.F. Retired CMSgt.
Submitted by Leo Barish, 1955 - 1956, PFC, Army
Let me tell you some of my experiences at UH to the best of my fading
We came over by troopship (Butner) in about January of 1955 from either New
Jersey or Staten Island. We landed in Southhampton after 8 stormy days.
We were processed at Shaftesbury; I believe that it was a converted
hospital since they called the barracks "wards."
We were taken to Bushey Hall, outside of London for assignment. This was
the headquarters for the 6th Chemical Battalion which covered all the
chemical companies in England. My MOS at the time was Chemical Supply
Specialist; I was trained for this principally because a had an MS chemical
degree. I found that this MOS was not or was ever needed there. This was a
disappointment since I could be assigned to almost anything.
At Bushey Hall they asked a group of us "Who can type?" I instinctively
raised my hand. This was sort of a white lie. I did typing in school but
was not really a good typist. We were taken to RAF Station Upper Heyford,
APO 194. The permanent organization here was 3918th ABG.
UH was divided into two parts. Area A was the main base and headquarters.
It contained the PX, dispensory, mess hall, BOQ. NCO club, barber shop,
beer hall (in a bunker) etc. There was no real hospital in UH. The main
hospital was at Burderop Park near Swindon. There were some RAF personnel
present at UH; I was told that they packed parachutes. They had their own
snack bar which I occasionally went to.
About a mile west from main base toward Lower Heyford was Area B where the
Army was stationed. The barracks here were probably from WW II, some being
concrete, some wooden and some Quonset huts. There were 2 chemical
companies at UH, the 83rd and the 98th. After a while the 83rd deactivated
and we all became part of the 98th. The mission of the chemical corps in
England was to lay smoke screens to obscure bases and to lessen flash
damage from an atomic attack. The troops for making smoke were on the
flightline from first light to last light. This was not bad in Winter when
the days are short, but it was terrible in Summer when the days in Summer
were almost continuous. Because of the long days in Summer, they were
served 4 meals a day!
UH was a SAC base; the aircraft were mostly B 47s with B 36s. Occasionally
a lone B 50 would appear as would an RAF Camberra. There were many KC 97s
We were not paid in greenback dollars but in script, which looked like
Monopoly money; these included paper Nickels. One could convert script into
Sterling but not the other way around.
On arriving at UH, I became the finance clerk, alternate company clerk and
I&E NCO for both companies. This was wonderful news since I became exempt
from duty. (guard, KP, latrine etc.) Some other good news was that I could
bring my pregnant wife to England and live off-base. Being only a Private
at that time, the military would not bring her over and that I would have
to bring her over on my own. There were quite a few financial allowences
if she came over and it would be quite practical for this arrangement. She
flew over and we lived in Oxford; my older son was born at Burderop Park.
We managed to visit London every weekend we could and took my leave on the
In August of 1956 we left England on a troopship (Randall). After 8 days,we
arrived at the Brooklyn Army Base. I was discharged a few days later from
Just writing this has made me recall many memories. lf you have any
questions, please let me know.
Leo Barish, 1955 - 1956, PFC, Army
Serving in two chemical companies (smoke), the 83rd and the 98th.
Submitted by Gerald E. Moore, USAF, 1952-1956
In coming across the UH web site, you might be interested to know that
Heyford was activated by USAF in 1951, as a SAC forward operating base,
under the command of 7th Air Div., South Ruislip. The command line then
went to SAC at Offutt AFB. All tenant units (or most) were under the
jurisdiction of Third AF, also at Ruislip, which was under the command of
USAFE. I was at Heyford from 1952 to 1955. We had three aircraft
assigned -- A B17G and two C-47s. In addition to SAC bomb wings on TDY, we
periodically had transient aircraft visitors. The base was manned by the
3918th Air Base Group and defended by an army 40mm anti-aircraft batallion
and an army chemical smoke company. The 3918th was also host to what was
called an Air Depot Squadron, a unit which controlled special weapons for
visiting B-47s and B-36s. From reading online material, the base obviously
grew through the years and became the home for many people. I served in
Headquarters Squadron and at various times edited the base paper, wrote
speeches and conducted tours. In retrospect from reading more contemporary
accounts, the base I was familiar with was probably somewhat primitive
compared to later years.
Feel free to use any info I send you, re UH. I arrived there in Dec. 1952
and for three years was sort of de facto public information guy with 3
stripes, in addition to working at Group Hq. for the adjutant and Sgt.
Maj., and working in what was called top secret control. I edited the first
base paper, wrote speeches and releases and some months before coming back
was invited to edit a Readers Digest-size magazine at 7th Air Div., then at
South Ruislip, outside of London. I declined the latter offer since I had
such little time remaining at Heyford. Such an assignment would have been
great in the early days of my tour. I have a wealth of information dealing
with the base in the 50s, which I'll share with you. Of great value is a
"yearbook," which was published in 1954, plus AF pamphlets dealing with USAF
From the web photos (which I'll pass on to some pals who were there) the
place fundamentally looks the same, although it appears that UH evolved into
a much more attractive installation than the one we knew, which must seem
somewhat primitive to those who were there in later years.
In the fifties, all the SAC bases (units prefixed with 39-- ours the 3918th)
were under the command of 7th Air Div., and it directly under SAC at Offutt.
Tenant units were generally under 3rd AF, with Hq. at Ruislip
(across the street from 7th Air) and overall command being USAFE, in
Wiesbaden. About the only thing in common between 7th Air and 3rd AF, I
think was the English language and American citizenship.
Gerald E. Moore, 3918th Hq. Sq., USAF, Dec 1952 - Dec 1955.