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TimSlater

Physical Location of RFC Airfields in France and Belgium

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TimSlater

All,

Does anyone know of a source that lists/illustrates the physical location of the all the airfields used by the RFC/RAF on the Western Front during WW1? The Official history provides the names of the airfields and Mike O'Connor's 'Airfields & Airmen' provides location detail for some airfields, but there are many gaps. I'm building a series of layers that depict the order of battle and airfield location information that I can then share via Google earth.

Many thanks

Tim

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Bernoullis

Sadly, I don't think what you describe exists ..... yet. It is a subject that I have pondered myself, and it took a while to find the specific geographic locations of the some of the handful of airfields that I am personally interested in.

Mike O'Connor's books are a useful starting point but it did surprise me that several of the airfields I was sure would be included (known to be well used and their names featured in many accounts of the War) were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps Mike had plans to eventually cover them all - we lost a very knowledgeable man with his passing.

The www.anciens-aerodromes.com is probably a good start for French aerodromes, but you will need to have an understanding of French, or be comfortable putting the text through Google Translate or similar. They have a French atlas on this page, but details and locations of many airfields are not yet complete. The atlas for Belgium does not appear to have been started yet. It appears that once upon a time (2007) it was possible to download a PDF with airfield details but that no longer seems to be the case. The site seems to now be publishing detailed atlases of specific areas or airfields, in French, that can be purchased.

You should be aware that amongst the research that they do, there are both WW1 and WW2 airfields, and others, so be careful not to confuse airfields from entirely different eras that may have the same name - they may not have the exact same physical location.

Another site that may be of use is www.forgottenairfields.com. Once again, be absolutely sure of the era of the airfield you are looking at - similar named airfields are not necessarily on the same site of earlier ones.

Perhaps your project is the beginning of the Holy Grail that so many seek? ;-) Good luck!

Edited by Bernoullis

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Waggoner

I know there was one at Crecy. The little museum there has information about it...and a nice diarama of the WWII V1 rocket nstallation.

All the best,

Gary

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TimSlater

Bernoullis, Many thanks for the links, the French site is new to me so I will now have to brush up on my french. I suspect your 'holy grail' statement is correct and I can see myself having to spend some time researching the archives at Kew.

Gary, Crecy is now on my list many thanks, I'll be driving passed there on holiday during the summer and will ensure I pay the museum a visit.

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Howard

Here is a map with a couple of dozen marked in about Feb. 1918.

Howard

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MikeMeech

Hi

For an overview of aerodrome locations there is Map 11 on page 218 of 'RAF Squadrons' by Jefford, the opposite page has 231 aerodromes listed. There is also Map 10 on page 216 of France, Belgium, Germany, 1914-20 with 69 aerodromes listed.

Mike

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Bernoullis

Folks, I don't wish to appear presumptious in making a comment on behalf Tim Slater, but his opening post refers to "the physical location" of the airfields in France and Belgium. Tim further states that "Mike O'Connor's 'Airfields & Airmen' provides location detail for some airfields, but there are many gaps" [my italics]. I feel sure that Tim is after the precise co-ordinates or field boundaries of the aerodromes within which the aircraft and personnel operated.

It isn't particularly difficult to find the towns and villages after which many aerodromes were named, but fixing the precise geographic location (latitude & longitude, or military map coordinates) has to be the real key. I myself have a handful of airfields that I would like to know the coordinates of, but have been unable to yet find documentary evidence of their precise locations. Yes, I know they were in the vicinity of the villages/towns after which they were named, but in which fields did they stand? That is the question I feel sure that Tim is asking.

The quarter-mill map linked in Howard's post is certainly an interesting one, and all thanks to him for sharing it here. You will see that the unit markers on the document largely just point at the village/town and/or it's printed name. For example, have a look at the red marker indicating the location of 40 and 4 AFC squadrons at Bruay (south-west of Bethune), a former aerodrome I have become quite familiar with. The arrow on the marker merely points to the printed name of the town of Bruay. It certainly doesn't point to the precise physical location of the aerodrome, which is some distance away, south of the town. It isn't that we don't appreciate Howard sharing the map, it is just that it doesn't give us precise aerodrome locations.

Many contributors here will have already trawled much of the WW1 material that exists in varous archives and museums, and they will likely have uncovered plans, maps and aerial photos (as, no doubt, author Mike O'Connor did) which show the precise geographic locations of the various and many Western Front aerodromes used by the RFC/RAF in WW1. Some locations are pretty well known, many are not. Tim is "building a series of layers that depict the order of battle and airfield location information that I can then share via Google earth" [my italics]. It could take a lifetime for him to trawl the same historical material to eventually uncover these locations - if folk here know that, and share it, Tim's project could become the useful reference that many long for, and all in one place!

I am sure that Tim will pitch in again and clarify precisely what he needs, but I am convinced that he would like accurate geographical locations. Perhaps Tim can tell us in what form he would like the information - the lat/long of the centre of the aerdrome take-off/landing surface? Google Maps/Earth kmz markers of the same? A screen-capture of a Google Map/Google Satellite view with the airfield boundary sketched thereon? Adding a short note about the source for the coo-ordinates could be useful? Bear in mind that there is unlikely to be any need to cover the airfields already included in Mike O'Connor's 'Airfields and Airmen' series of books, which Tim already knows about.

Tim, over to you.

Edited by Bernoullis

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Howard

The map I posted was Haig's. No doubt he and his staff only needed an approximate location. I have scanned 9000+ IWM maps for the WFA Mapping The Front Project and had a hand in creating the associated map database, I do not remember even one map that shows precise aerodrome locations. For those you may have to go to the RAF historical section.

Howard

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Bernoullis

Howard, that is interesting background info. Over 9000 maps? Crikey, must have been a hell of a job ...... but a fascinating one too, I guess!

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Roger Austin

I have researched the precise location of aerodromes in France for some time and worked with the French Anciens Aerodromes group who are producing excellent mini-atlases. Contemporary maps are of little help because our people never marked the position of our aerodromes - only the German ones. Of course, some of that is helpful because many aerodromes changed hands, sometimes more than once. The only reliable source is the files at Kew and I do not claim to have found all the plans therein but I have located a good number, plus a few overhead photgraphs - the Holy Grail. If anyone is interested in a particular aerodrome, I would be happy to send them anything relevant which I have.

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Tom Goode

If it is of any assistance the War Diary of the 5th Australian Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company Sept 1918 (AWM4-15-6-11) describes a section of railway line they operated on in late 1918. There are three references to airfields.

It refers to a large Aeroplane depot at Vron with a spur line to a vast petrol depot.

Approaching Estrees Les Crecy Guecart the remains of a large Aerodrome can be seen which through the Allied Advance has been removed to a more forward area.

Further on it refers to Autheux Fienvillers a large British Aerodrome where numerous aeroplanes of all types are being assembled and tested by men of the Royal Air Force.

My interest is the railway line if anyone has a map. It appears to have been specifically constructed to provide logistic support to the airfields in the area between the Somme and Authie Rivers from the coast down to about Candas.

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Greeentim

Hi Roger, my grandfather was with 4Kite Balloon Section and was at Lillers when he died in 1918, I don't know if his section was in the field or at an airfield, would you know of any near there at that time.

 

Many thank

Tim

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Handley Page
On 20/04/2016 at 22:21, Roger Austin said:

 If anyone is interested in a particular aerodrome, I would be happy to send them anything relevant which I have.

 

Roger

Looking particularly for birthplace of 216 Sqn RAF formed on 1st April 2018 (like many others) from RNAS. I believe they were at Villeseneux nr Reims at the time...do you have any information you could share that may confirm that?

 

Thanks

Dave

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MikeMeech
On ‎22‎/‎01‎/‎2018 at 09:01, Handley Page said:

 

Roger

Looking particularly for birthplace of 216 Sqn RAF formed on 1st April 2018 (like many others) from RNAS. I believe they were at Villeseneux nr Reims at the time...do you have any information you could share that may confirm that?

 

Thanks

Dave

Hi

According to Jefford in 'RAF Squadrons' (2nd Edition) page 74, the timeline/location for 216 Sqn. is:

March 1918 received HP  O/400, while at OCHEY.  30 March 1918 to VILLESNEUX.  1 April 1918 redesignated No. 216 Sqn. RAF, at this time they appear to have had a detachment at CRAMAILLE as well as home base at VILLESNEUX.  On 9 May 1918 the squadron moved to OCHEY.

 

I hope that is of use.

 

Mike 

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Annette Carson

My needs are a little different, but maybe I could mention them here?  I am hoping to find a photograph of either Bancourt or Bouvincourt aerodromes as they were in the later stages of WWI. I know their locations - I am just seeking images to illustrate my book. 

Any help gratefully received

Regards, Annette

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TimSlater

All, Really sorry for a very very tardy response. I've now started to populate a Google Maps layer (https://drive.google.com/open?id=1n6YlZfWZ8WVsV0rT_UCDYdY6GOLjtKxa&usp=sharing) with the locations of the RFC/RAF airfields on the Western Front 1914-1918.

My intent is to add plans/pictures once I have sourced them from the National Archives. If anyone is able to further refine the information on the Google Maps layer please let me know. 

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SleepyHead

I am aware of a map that shows a great many locations, but probably not in the resolution you are looking for. I don't have a photo but it's on the wall at the Tangmere aviation museum near Chichester. 

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Historian2

This thread was active a while ago but is perhaps not now. Nevertheless I thought I would reproduce relevant pages January/February 1918 from the personal diary of (then) Lt Frederick Chater-Jack, 255 Highland Div, Field artillery, :

 

1st – 3rd  “G” Office working on Div Defence Scheme

4th entire day going round the Left Bde. Front and seeing work in progress. Called in at 256 H.Q. and ‘B’ Battery on my return journey, and “passed the time of day”

 

5th – 7th Wretched Div. Defence Scheme claimed practically all my attention, and kept me tied to the office.

8th Will is going off on leave tomorrow, so I spent the day with him

 

Very quiet.  Set up H.Q. at Achiet-le-Petit, rode on 22nd through Irles, Pys and Miraumont. ‘Thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the old places, including candle-tree, which we had fired at in Dec 1916. Pys hardly been touched since its capture.

23rd lunch in Amiens

26th Tent-pegging, tea and ride on countryside back to see ‘Balmorals’

27/28  Dinner at Savoy in Amiens

29th lecture, weather perfect, went flying.

 

29th January 1918

It was supposed to be a short flight of about an hour, so, before my turn came, I wandered round with several others and saw how a Squadron was organized. We visited the office, and saw the system of reports and the methods of dealing with information and targets. Next the engine-room in which we saw various types of aero engines, then the wireless room, where they were picking up some distant station, the the photograph-room, and eventually the gun room.

 

At this last place I stopped, being rather interested to find out how the gear worked which admitted of the machine gun being fired through the propeller. I had not been there long, however, when it was my turn to fly, so into leather coat and helmet I got, and off we started. Taxied down the field, turned into the wind, throttled cut, turned her nose down, gained speed and rose. It was lovely, the day was perfect, and as we flew high above the green fields I was able to pick out every detail of the landscape below. We flew over Amiens, then down the Somme for a bit, and then headed back for the ‘dome’. However, I asked the pilot stay up a bit longer, and we turned off towards an observation balloon, circled round it a couple of ties, waving to the observers, then made for a a T.M.School and felt the bum[s n the air as each round burst. Back again to the ‘drome’, and landed safely feeling very hungry – a hunger which was duly appeased by a most excellent luncheon.

 

In the afternoon we were due to fly again, but it looked like mist over the Somme battlefield, so the Squadron-Commander would not permit any flying. Therefore we spent the time as we like, and I spent mine with the machine guns.

 

Lecture in the evening by Major James. Amiens for dinner at the Savoy Bed 11 p.m.

 

30th January  Started off at 9 a.m. for the Somme battlefields. I chose the route I wanted to take, so we headed first of all for Ahiet-le-Petit (Div. H.Q.) where I dropped a message to Bewsher. After dropping it we circled round several times, then came down very low, waved to everyone, rose and headed north. Flew over Arras and looked down on the Vimy ridge, picking out all the old familiar spots. Returned to Bertangles via Albert. On the way back I took control for a short time, but soon shook the pilot’s nerve by doing something sudden. A perfect day and a most excellent flight. It was 2 p.m. by the time we landed, and after lunch I was so sleepy after 3 ½ hours flying that I snoozed till 5 p.m. Attended the lecture, and went off again to Amiens.

 

31st January . Bad day cold, windy, and dull. No flying  so off we went in tenders to Candas, and spent several hours going all over the huge aeroplane works there. We saw everything being made and put together. Aeroplanes being constructed, painted and tested, aero instruments being repaired and tested, cameras and all sorts of air-photographic apparatus being constructed. It was really most interesting morning. Back again to the ‘drome. Lunched, attended a most interesting lecture by Major James. Spent the evening in the ante-room writing letters.

 

February 1918

 

1st.  Fine day for flying. Arrangements were made for ll infantry officers to do “Fighting in the air” with camera-guns, while gunners did ‘puff-shoots’. I had a most excellent puff-shoot, spotting every round except one.

Afternoon with the machine-gun expert. Amiens for tea, with the intention of meeting Bewsher, but never met him, so returned to Bertangles and spent a quiet evening.

 

2nd.  Off at 9 a.m. over the Somme. Dropped a message at Div. H.Q. asking for a car but unfortunately none was available. Headed for Arras, got in touch with Infantry Bttn, who wanted to test signals from aeroplanes. To do this we fired coloured lights at various heights from 500 ft. to 8000 ft, and they answered with flares from the ground. Landed at the ‘drome, had lunch, and rose again immediately after. This time I wanted to see the Channel, so off we headed for Amiens, and took the line of the Somme to Abbeville and, passing over this town at 8000 ft., struck the sea at the mouth of the Some. We were so high up I was able to see the white cliffs of England – where I hoped to be in a few days – and realized how narrow this Channel really is. I was just beginning to feel homesick when the pilot banked the machine almost vertical, and  was recalled to realities. Back again we came, circling over Abbeville at 200 ft, waving to everybody, and landed home again in time for tea. After tea my pilot and I started for Amiens, and had a most excellent dinner together.

 

3rd.  February:  Air Battle   Two-thirds of the Squadron to fly in formation and prevent the remaining third (flying individually) to cross a certain road. The ‘plane I was in, one of the attackers, got through with the greatest of ease, and quite unmolested.

 

My pilot then asked if I would like to fill in the remainder of the time with a few turns. “Rather”, says I, not knowing what I was in for.  We started off with some very steep banks and spiral turns which were quite O.K. then we “Zoomed”. Have you ever “zoomed”?  If you haven’t, don’t. You attain a height of 8000 ft., open the engine full out, turn her nose down and drive straight for the ground for several thousand feet, turn her nose up in a sickening swoop, until the engine ‘conks out”, stand still for the fraction of a second, slip back on your tail, till the weight of the engine turns her nose down again, and then start all over again. This proceeding may be continued ad lib. Eventually we landed and I said goodbye to my pilot, had lunch, collected Beggs and kit and got into the tender for Bapaume, eventually landing safely at Achiet-le-Petit.

 

Very quiet, day off, practice attacks on village, practice attack by 4 Seaforthsl

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pierssc

Very interesting, but where was it?

 

is this the Chater-Jack who was Spike Milligan’s CO in WW2?

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