RAF BreightonDrive through Breighton village and you can't help but notice some pretty old looking buildings scattered around. These are what remains of RAF Breighton's technical site, part of the bomber base that was situated on this very spot during the Second World War. To the north of our main grass runway you can still see an original 'T2' specification hangar. This was once used to accomodate the big Handley Page Halifax and Avro Lancaster bombers whilst the engineers and fitters repaired and serviced them. There were originally three of these huge buildings at Breighton but only one now remains and that is used for storage rather than fixing aeroplanes. Take a flight over our airfield and you will still see the original runways as well as some of the post war infrastructure which was built to house Britain's early nuclear deterrent.
Construction work began on the original air base back in 1941 and it was officially opened in January 1942 as part of No. 1 Group, Bomber Command. The first occupants were an Australian Bomber Squadron, 460 Sqd RAAF, flying Vickers Wellington bombers. Later that year, they re-equipped with the mighty Avro Lancaster and its pre-cursor, the Avro Manchester. The Squadron fought bravely and with distinction from Breighton until May 1943 when they moved south to RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire. We often receive Australian visitors who either flew from, or have connections with, 460 Squadron RAAF.
In June 1943 the airfield was transferred to 4 Group Bomber Command and became home to No 78 Squadron RAF equipped with Handley Page Halifax Bombers. Operations began almost immediately, the Squadron taking part in many of the major bombing raids including the attack on the top secret rocket base at Peenemünder. The Squadron also bombed gun emplacements on the French coast in support of the Allied landings on the eve of D-day in June 1944.
In May 1945 RAF Breighton switched from Bomber Command to Transport Command with 78 Squadron flying Halifax VIs and, latterly, Douglas Dakotas. In September 1945 the Squadron moved to Egypt and RAF Breighton was placed on Care and Maintenance. During those dark years 78 Squadron had dropped approximately 17,000 tons of bombs and destroyed 31 enemy aircraft. They lost 182 aircraft during the 6,017 bombing and 320 mine laying sorties flown. There is a memorial to 78 Squadron in Bubwith churchyard as well as an airfield memorial to both 460 Squadron RAAF and 78 Squadron RAF adjacent the Real Aeroplane Club crewroom.
A comprehensive record of all RAF Breighton's wartime losses, from both 460 Squadron RAAF and 78 Squadron RAF, is on display in the Real Aeroplane Club crewroom.
In 1959 RAF Breighton was brought out of mothballs and became a Thor Intercontinental Missile Base with the formation of 240 Squadron. Assigned to defend and protect these weapons was 112 (Fighter) Squadron armed with 32 Bloodhound surface-to-air missiles. Personnel were billeted at RAF Church Fenton (singles) and in RAF Married Quarters in Acomb, York. RAF Breighton was one of a cluster of sites in Yorkshire to house this most deadly nuclear deterrent, the others being RAF Driffield, RAF Carnaby, RAF Catfoss and RAF Full Sutton.
The airfield was finally vacated by the RAF in the mid 1960's.
With thanks to the families of Leo P. Robertson, Tom Parsons, Earnest Arthur McGregor, Carl Dumka and to Alan Kershaw.