During the 1930s, as it became obvious that the policy of Appeasement was failing, a massive expansion of RAF airfields took place throughout the United Kingdom; with a large number being sited in the East of England. Close enough to mainland Europe for operations, the airfields themselves were vulnerable to enemy attack. By creating many separate airfields across the country the military strategists hoped to reduce the threat to our RAF planes and their crews. It was evident even before war broke out that air supremacy was going to play a vital role in what was to follow. Both the defense of the country, as well as winning any future offensive, were reliant on the fighters and bombers of the RAF.
RAF Oakington was established for the new breed of heavy bombers that had been judged essential for carrying the assault to mainland Europe. Destruction of German strategic targets such as manufacturing sites; ports; railways etc. was deemed to be essential in controlling the German advance through Europe.
In order to stop another Blitz on British cities the fight had to be taken across the Channel. It was to be the bombing of German cities, and manufacturing centres, in the latter stages of the war that, with the benefit of hindsight, has meant that the contribution of Bomber Command and the role of airfields like RAF Oakington has largely been ignored. But hindsight in the comfort of a free and democratic society is easy. Less easy were the heat of the moment decisions that were deemed necessary to bring freedom to Europe and WWII to an end.
Whilst we can never forget that thousands of innocent lives were lost as a result of the activities carried out from airfields such as RAF Oakington; neither can we forget the immense courage of the hundreds of young men who flew night after night never knowing whether this night would be their last. Indeed for many of these young men it was! There was a 1 in 10 chance that a bomber crew would not survive the night’s raid.
History cannot conveniently air-brush out the horrors of war for political or social expediency, whatever side you are on. Perhaps remembering RAF Oakington and the part it played during WWII will serve as a reminder that war is a tragic waste of human life and resources and that young men and women throughout the world deserve better.
We are very interested receiving photographs and memories from Europe, relating to RAF Oakington personnel, or the raids in which they took part. To ensure that our historical record is fair, accurate and un-biased is important to LDHS and we greatly appreciate contributions from those who may have suffered the consequences of the RAF bombing raids. After the war RAF Oakington was also involved in the Berlin Airlift – again information and memories on this subject would be most appreciated.
We already have details of some crashes which occurred in France and Belgium during WWII and we hope to load on some of the stories in due course.
For further information please also see John Hamlin’s synopsis here.
Written by HAE Stroude – May 2010