KEEVIL: Military aerodrome, later gliding site
Note: All pictures by the author - Picture 1 was taken through perspex.
Military users: RAF Flying Training Command 23 Group
22 HGCU (WACO Hadrians & Airspeed Horsas)
J Sqdn GPR [Glider Pilot Regiment] (Airspeed Horsas)
196 & 299 Sqdns (Short Stirlings)
22 HGCU [Heavy Glider Conversion Unit] (Armstrong-Whitworth A.W.41 Albermarle tugs & Waco Hadrian gliders)
61 OTU [Operational Training Unit] (Vickers-Supermarine Spitfires, later North American P-51 Mustangs)
(Later to become 203 Advanced Flying School)
Spitfire final assembly for shadow factories.
USAAF 8th Air Force 62nd Troop Carrier Group (From September 1942)
4th, 7th, 8th & 51st Troop Carrier Squadrons (Douglas C-47s & C-53s)
67th Reconnaissance Group (Douglas DB-7 Bostons, Douglas A-20 Havocs & Vickers-Supermarine Spitfires)
USAAF 9th Air Force 363rd Fighter Group
380th, 381st & 382nd Fighter Squadrons*
US Army Air Corps liaison?
Operated by: 1960s to 1980s: Bath Gliding Club later renamed Bath & Wiltshire Gliding Club
Note: Later a parachute drop-zone
Location: S of Keevil & E of Steeple Ashton villages, 4nm E of Trowbridge
Period of operation: Military: 1942 to 1965 (Gliding listed in 1975 to - )
Runways: WW2: 07/25 1829x46 hard 13/31 1280x46 hard
02/20 1280x46 hard
In 1998 runway 02/20 was certainly still in use it seems, for gliding
Note: In October 2017 Stephen Perry kindly sent me this plan for the new 'Tactical Landing Zone' orientated 06/24. If this development does materialise it will the the first new sizeable 'hard runway' to be constructed in the UK for many years. In fact I am struggling to recollect when the last entirely new sizeable 'hard' runway was built. I may well be mistaken but I think it was the LONDON CITY airport runway in 1986/87.
NOTES: *It appears the personnel of these squadrons waited here in vain for their aircraft to appear, and were then posted to RIVENHALL in ESSEX.
It was used in 1944 by Short Stirlings towing Airspeed Horsa gliders as part of the ill-fated airborne force which participated in Operation Market to capture the road bridge at Arnhem in The Netherlands. And, quite probably by USAAF C-47s and C-53s.
In late 1944 2093 RAF & 449 WAAF personnel were stationed here. It must be mentioned that the incredibly important activities of 38 Group, using Armstrong Whitworth Albermarles and Short Stirlings in a variety of roles such as supporting SOE activities, dropping SAS troops and their supplies should be remembered. Plus of course their glider towing during the D-Day, the hugely mishandled ‘Operation Market’ invasion. The later and much more successful Operation Varsity does seem to get mostly overlooked today. And, it appears, part of these operations were conducted from KEEVIL.
THE END OF MILITARY USE?
According to an entry on Wikipedia, when the 203 Advanced Flying School, (previously 61 OTU), moved to RAF CHIVENOR in July 1947 - "...this marked the end of RAF Keevil as a fully staffed and equipped operational airfield." However, it appears that betwenn 1955 and the 1964 the USAF used the airfield from time to time. Also, it seems that training aircraft from 2 FTS (Flying Training School) at HULLAVINGTON, also in WILTSHIRE, used KEEVIL during 1956 and 1957 flying the Mk.1 version of the Hunting-Percival Jet Provost..
A PERSONAL ASIDE
In June 2015 en route to a family bash in NE Devon I spotted a sign to RAF Keevil, (indicating it was still an operational airfield - the sign having a red boundary), and persuaded my long suffering wife to allow me drive around to photogragh what could be seen, from the ground. This ended in dismal failure, finding nowhere to picture the airfield and the best I could find was a locked gate with signs posted. A few weeks later in August, (see Picture 1), when en route to Newquay (St MAWGAN) in a PIper PA-28 Warrior, I had an opportunity to photograph KEEVIL from the air. The not exactly brilliant picture was taken from the right-hand seat, looking across through perspex, and asking the pilot, (Lee Merritt who constructed this web-site), to lean well back.
However, these signs did reveal a lot of information. Firstly that KEEVIL was an active parachute drop zone - still used by the miltary it appears. Secondly that the Bannerdown Gliding Club. a member of the RAFGSA, were offering flights in a glider to see the wonderful countryside that surrounds this airfield. And thirdly but not least, another sign announces that the Warminster and District Radio Control Flying Club also operates from this site.
As pointed out elsewhere in this 'Guide' model aircraft have performed a very important role in the development of powered aircraft, and still do. Indeed, the first successful examples of fixed wing and powered aircraft were, in most cases, models.
It should also be pointed out that restorers of especially miltary aircraft very often refer to notes compiled by modellers to get the exact colours and markings correct.
In 1977 the Auster 5A G-ARXU of the Bath & Wilts Gliding Club and the privately owned Auster 6A G-ASTI were based here.
steve perryThis comment was written on: 2017-09-30 23:03:00
Keevil airfield info The RAF Brize Norton site has a Local Area Flying info, frequent visitors include C130, C17, A400, Wildcat, and AH64. There are plans on hold for the building of a Tactical Landing Runway in addition to existing ones. Military parachuting also takes place. Two WW2 hangers remain, the one on the airfield is shared by the gliding club and the RAF, the one off of the airfield was the assembly hanger for locally produced ww2 aircraft and is now in the hands of The Kite Company.
Reply from Dick Flute:
Hi Steve, Many thanks for this information which I shall keep posted. Best regards, Dick
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