Friday, 20 August 2010

RAF Boulmer (NU255135)

In 1940, at the height of the German bombing raids during World War II, land was requisitioned from a local farmer by the War Department and Northumberland County Council was tasked with the construction of a dummy airfield near the village of Boulmer on the North-East coast. Within weeks, grass runways had been cut, plywood and canvas ‘aircraft’ assembled and several false outbuildings erected.

The idea was to draw the Luftwaffe away from ‘proper’ bases nearby, such as RAF Acklington a few miles to the south. And it worked. Two raids are recorded at Boulmer, one each in 1940 and 1941 – both of which caused considerable damage. However, information thereafter came to hand that the Germans had pretty much sussed Britain’s cheeky nationwide subterfuge, and the decoy airfield network was not maintained beyond late 1942. It therefore seemed as if RAF Boulmer’s days were over as the government changed tack.

However, in March 1943, the airfield was back in favour as its conversion into a fully-fledged airfield began. Three runways and a scattering of outbuildings were laid out, the new RAF Boulmer acting as both a satellite airfield to RAF Eshott (near Felton) and a training base.

The end of hostilities in 1945 brought the closure of the complex; but the onset of the Cold War saw the airfield resurrected yet again. A new Operations Site was built a little to the west of the old base (with a number of the old buildings being recycled), and from 1953 RAF Boulmer once again became a valuable link in the UK’s defence system as an Air Defence Control Centre – high powered radars and all.

And it still plays an important monitoring role to this day as a NATO Control Reporting Centre, with responsibility for the 24-hour surveillance of UK airspace. Aircraft operations proper did not return until 1978 when a Search & Rescue Team were relocated there after the closure of RAF Acklington. Sea Kings continue to whirl out of RAF Boulmer to this day, as over 1,000 staff man the various operations based there.

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