|As a result of the
RAF expansion in 1936, concern was being expressed as to the
vulnerability of airfields in the southern half of Britain. At this time
it was the practice to fly new aircraft from the factories to the
squadrons who would then be responsible for fitting armament and
operational equipment. In time of war it was obvious that this practice
could not continue and in order to overcome these difficulties, the Air
Ministry planned to establish Aircraft Storage Units (ASUs) in safer
areas of the country.
The first official intimation that an airfield at Dumfries was
to be built was made in late 1938. The site chosen had accommodated
light aircraft since about 1914. Work progressed quickly, and on 17th
June 1940, the 18 Maintenance Unit (18MU) was opened at Dumfries and was
allocated to No. 41 Group. However, no aircraft could be flown in until
the obstructions placed on the airfield to prevent enemy aircraft from
landing were removed. This was achieved by the end of June.
On 13th July 1940, 18MU reverted to the status of a tenant unit,
and the station was re-allocated to No. 25 Group in Training Command as
a decision was made to move No. 10 Bombing and Gunnery School from
Warmwell in Dorset to the safer areas of South West Scotland.
The 10B&GS began training bomb-aimers and gunners in Handley
Page Harrow and Fairey Battle aircraft, before passing them on to
Operational Training Units. At this time the airfield was grass surfaced
and with the increase in operational flying soon became a quagmire.
While hard surface runways at Dumfries were being constructed, 10 B&GS
temporarily used a satellite landing ground at Winterseugh near Annan 15
miles south of Dumfries.
No. 18MU continued to expand and storage space was at a premium
with aircraft arriving from the factories in ever increasing numbers.
With the possibility of an enemy air raid aircraft were dispersed to
satellite landing grounds as far away as Low Eldrig near Stranraer, 80
miles west of Dumfries, Lennoxlove, near Haddington East Lothian and
Wath Head in Cumbria. Also used for a brief time was Hornby Hall,
Cumbria. To cope with the increase in ferrying, No. 11 Sub-Ferry Flight
was based at Dumfries from April 1940 until July 1940 approximately.
In September 1940, 10B&GS was re-designated 10 Air Observer
School (10AOS), in a move to include the training of navigators.
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley aircraft were introduced at this time. It is
interesting to note that servicing was taken over by civilian
contractors - Scottish Aviation Ltd. Another civilian contractor, LEP
Transport Ltd, which operated the aircraft packing unit which was formed
in April 1942. The above company. packed aircraft for overseas delivery
In April 1942 the 10AOS was again re-designated to 10 (Observer)
Advanced Flying Unit and exchanged its Blackburn Bothas for Avro Anson.
The high level of flying activity from RAF Dumfries can be gauged from
the following figures for September 1942: Flying hours - 2,016 by day;
629 by night; ammunition used - 82,700 rounds; bombs dropped- 4,595;
fuel used- 83,853 gallons.
RAF Dumfries had a moment of danger on 25th March 1943, when a
German aircraft shot up the airfield beacon, but crashed shortly
afterwards. The pilot, Oberleutnant Martin Piscke was later interred in
Troqueer Cemetery in Dumfries town, with full military honours.
With the intense flying activities around RAF Dumfries, South
West Scotland, and airfields in Cumbria many training accidents took
place with a significant number losing their lives. Two Dumfries Ansons
collided over Maryport in Cumbria on May, 1943 with all occupants being
killed. The blackest night was 9 August 1943 when three Ansons crashed
into the Lake District mountains. While not a training accident, an
incident took place on the night of 3/4 August 1943 when a Wellington
bomber with engine problems crashed 1½ miles short of the Dumfries
runway. 30 years on, this crash site would become the catalyst for the
formation of the Museum (see Museum history).
By the end of the war, over 400 courses had been trained at
Dumfries. 10(O) AFU was again re-designated 10 Air Navigation School in
August 1945 and disbanded the following month. The original unit, 18MU
closed in 1957. During WWII, it is estimated that 18MU prepared and
dispatched to units nearly 5,000 aircraft. Between 1945 and 1947
aircraft that were dispatched from Dumfries probably came back to be
scrapped, as aerial photographs taken in 1946 show over 300 aircraft on
the airfield and probably the same again on the satellite areas around
Between 1947 and 1957 RAF Dumfries was a training station for
national service recruits to the Royal Air Force Regiment. The airfield
was then put into care and maintenance until the site was sold to a
private company in 1960.
The substantial "L" and "J" type hangers are
still in use today, as indeed are many of the war-time buildings used by
large and small businesses. It is hoped that they will remain for many
years as a testament to RAF Dumfries.