RAF Oakington

Longstanton Burials

The following burial information has kindly been supplied by the author John Hamlin.

RAF Oakington – Burials In Longstanton

RAF Oakington – Synposis by John Hamlin

This introduction to RAF Oakington has been written specifically for the LDHS website by the author John Hamlin (January 2010). John has written a number of books on on airfield history and his latest book RAF Oakington – By Day and By Night can be purchased through LDHS. Please contact us for further information. The society is most grateful to John Hamlin and all those other aviation experts who are supporting LDHS and our ambition to create a heritage facility in the former Officer’s Mess building, located here in Longstanton.

Built at the end of the 1930’s RAF Expansion period, RAF Oakington was situated eight miles (12.5 km) north-west of Cambridge city centre. To provide the necessary land, the Air Ministry acquired 353 acres (143 hectares) of land in the parish of Longstanton. While the airfield itself was close to Oakington village, the main buildings, and hence most of the activity, were on the other side, with access through Longstanton. The land on which the airfield was built was very flat, at an altitude of about 45 feet (14 m) above sea level.

Intended for use by RAF Bomber Command, Oakington was provided with permanent buildings of a good architectural standard, unlike many airfields, such as nearby Bourn, which was not expected to last to last beyond the end of hostilities. However, no paved runways were built at first, a fact which quickly caused major problems.

The first occupants, in July 1940, were the Bristol Blenheim light twin-engined bombers of 218 Squadron, which carried out training raids on enemy territory, but during their tenure the enemy came to them, in the shape of a Luftwaffe Junkers 88 bomber which landed inadvertently on the airfield with engine problems!

The shape of things to come presented itself in October 1940, when the first Short Stirling four-engined heavy bomber arrived at Oakington. After close inspection by many people, the lightly-laden Stirling took off, but a further visit five days later heralded the arrival of 7 Squadron from RAF Leeming in Yorkshire. The Squadron’s first five aircraft flew in on 29th October, as did a number of personnel, who were housed in the new H-block, after which a training programme began.

During November 1940 218 Squadron began to re-equip with the larger Vickers Wellington bomber before moving to RAF Marham in Norfolk. A specialised unit, 3 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit, was formed in the same month, its task to fly damage-assessment missions over enemy territory. 3 PRU was equipped with a number of Spitfires and a few Wellingtons for night photographic work. Enemy aircraft raided Oakington several times during 1941, causing some damage and one casualty, but operations by 7 Squadron and 3 PRU were not unduly affected.

Work on the construction of three essential concrete runways began in the summer of 1941 and they came into use in May 1942. Meanwhile, the Wellingtons of 101 Squadron moved in in July 1941, as they could operate from the grass areas without causing too much damage. Soon after the completion of the runways, three Royal visits took place; the first by the Duke of Gloucester, the second by the King and Queen, and the third by the Duke of Kent.

RAF Oakington, now with 1409 Meteorological Flight’s Mosquito aircraft in residence, was transferred to 8 (Pathfinder) Group in April 1943. In November of that year, another Mosquito unit, 627 Squadron, was formed and began to work in conjunction with 7 Squadron’s Stirlings, and this pattern continued until the end of hostilities in Europe, when Transport Command inherited the Station.

From July 1945 to April 1946 four-engined Liberator bombers fitted with rough seating made many flights to India to repatriate troops. Oakington then became the home of several squadrons of Dakota aircraft, which were employed on general medium-distance transport tasks, and notably on the Berlin airlift of 1948.

RAF Oakington’s final metamorphosis began in 1950, when Flying Training Command took control and 1 Flying Training School moved in to provide training for new pilots on Harvard aircraft. However, this unit left after a year and 206 Advanced Flying School was formed to give training on Meteor and Vampire jet aircraft. This task continued until 1963, by which time the unit had been re designated 5 Flying Training School. At that point, 5 FTS was given a new commitment and piston-engined Vickers Varsity aircraft replaced the jets. In turn the Varsities were replaced by turboprop Jet-stream aircraft in 1973, but by then RAF Oakington’s days were numbered, and all RAF flying ceased at the end of 1974.

For it’s final task, the Station became one of the Army’s homes, and 657 Squadron moved in from Colchester in 1979 to operate Lynx and Gazelle helicopters. Most of the runways were removed, apart from a short stretch which was kept available for use by the Army light aircraft. In 1991 the last helicopters left, and subsequently the site was relinquished by the Ministry of Defence and has come into use as an Immigration Centre.