Thor IRBM Bases

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RAF Driffield,  RAF Feltwell,  RAF Hemswell,  RAF North Luffenham

Thor was deployed at four main bases: RAF Driffield, RAF Hemswell, RAF Feltwell and RAF North Luffenham. Surrounding each main base were four satellite bases, with missiles deployed at each location in groups of three.

Thor IRBM UK Squadron Milestones

RAF BASE Squadron  Launchers  Activated  Deactivated
Driffield No.   98 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Aug 01, 1959 Apr 18, 1963
Full Sutton No. 102 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Aug 01, 1959 Apr 27, 1963
Carnaby No. 150 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Aug 01, 1959 Apr 09, 1963
Catfoss No. 226 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Aug 01, 1959 Mar 09, 1963
Breighton No. 240 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Aug 01, 1959  Jan 08, 1963
         
Feltwell No. 77 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Sep 01, 1958 Jul 10, 1963
Shepard's Grove No. 82 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Jul 22, 1959 Jul 10, 1963
Tuddenham No. 107 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Jul 22, 1959 Jul 10, 1963
Mepal No. 113 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Jul 22, 1959 Jul 10, 1963
North Pickenham No. 220 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Jul 22, 1959 Jul 10, 1963
         
Hemswell No. 97 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Dec 01, 1959 May 24, 1963
Ludford Magna No. 104 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Jul 22, 1959 May 24, 1963
Bardney No. 106 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Jul 22, 1959 May 24, 1963
Coleby Grange No. 142 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Jul 22, 1959 May 24, 1963
Caistor No. 269 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Jul 22, 1959 May 24, 1963
         
North Luffenham No. 144 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Dec 01, 1959 Aug 23, 1963
Polebrook No. 130 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Dec 01, 1959 Aug 23, 1963
Harrington No. 218 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Dec 01, 1959 Aug 23, 1963
Folkingham No. 223 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Dec 01, 1959 Aug 23, 1963
Melton Mowbray No. 254 (SM) 3 - Thor IRBM Dec 01, 1959 Aug 23, 1963

RAF Driffield

Type: IRBM Base. Operator: USAF/RAF. Country: UK. Latitude: 54°00' N. Longitude: 00°27' W.
At this location the 98th RAF Strategic Missile Squadron operated 15 Thor IRBM launchers from 22 December 1959 to April 9, 1963. They were withdrawn as part of the secret agreement between Kennedy and Khrushchev ending the Cuban missile crisis, under which all Thor missiles were to be removed from Europe. RAF Driffield's satellite bases were, RAF Full Sutton, RAF Carnaby, RAF Catfoss, RAF Breighton.

RAF Driffield - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No.   98(SM) Squadron RAF - Aug 1, 1959 - Apr 18, 1963.

53:59:42N (53.9951), 0:28:56W (-0.4823)

Thor was deployed at four main bases: Driffield, Hemswell, Feltwell and North Luffenham. Surrounding each main base were four satellite stations, with missiles deployed at each location in groups of three. On 29 November 1962 the first Thor came off alert at the 98th Royal Air Force SMS in Driffield.

Driffield is situated approximately two miles west of the small market town of Great Driffield on the north side of the A163 road. The facility was first used by 'C' Flight of 33 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, while on Home Defense Duties, though it was never developed as a permanent aerodrome until 1918. During the early 1930s the site was surveyed and found suitable to re-activate as an airfield. Although work did not start until the end of 1935. The new airfield, now known as Driffield, opened on July 30th 1936 as a bomber station within No.3 Group. The grass airfield was far from complete and the hangers and living quarters were not completed until 1937.

Driffield was transferred to the Army on 01 January 1977, and re-named Alamein Barracks. On April 1st 1977, the Army School of Mechanical Transport formed here and it now houses 32 Junior Leaders Squadron, Royal Corps of Transport and a Support Flight, Royal Air Force. Many wartime buildings still remain, including the fort-type control tower, but the airfield as been converted into a cross-country driving circuit.

 

RAF Full Sutton - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 102(SM) Squadron RAF - Aug 1, 1959 - Apr 27, 1963.

53:58:36N (53.9767), 0:51:29W (-0.858)

Full Sutton was one of the last Second World War airfields to be opened in Yorkshire and became operational in May 1944 as a bomber station in No.4 Group, Bomber Command. It was a standard heavy-bomber station with the usual three paved runways, the main one 5,940ft long and the two subsidiaries 5,100ft and 3,900ft in length. These were linked by a perimeter track around which were dispersed hardstandings for the aircraft. By April 1947 the airfield had outlived its usefulness, all units had moved out and at the end of the month the station was put on a Care and Maintenance basis.

Some repair work was carried out at the airfield and Full Sutton re-opened in 1951 as a result of the emergency in Korea. In 1954, the airfield was vacated by the RAF and 1955 to 1957 it was designated a reserve site for the US Air Force but it was not used operationally and housed only 3930 Air Base Squadron SAC.

The station was returned to UK control on 05 February 1957 and re-occupied by the RAF. Full Sutton then became a satellite of the Driffield Thor missile complex and housed three missiles. In April 1963, Full Sutton finally closed.

 

RAF Carnaby - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 150(SM) Squadron RAF - Aug 1, 1959 - Apr 9, 1963.

54:03:34N (54.0594), 0:15:35W (-0.2599)

Carnaby opened in March 1944 as an emergency landing ground for Bomber Command to enable crippled bombers a safe place to land near the coast.
Carnaby Moor, near Bridlington, was ideal. A single runway almost 2 miles long and over 700ft wide was constructed. The airfield had to be available in any weather conditions and as well as an anti skid bitumen surface for the runway, FIDO (Fog Investigation Dispersal Operation), a device of petrol burners used to burn off fog, was installed. The system used lighted petrol to lift the fog from the airfield thus enabling aircraft to land safely.
Canrnaby's wartime service was short but in it's operational life over 1400 emergency landings were recorded.
The base closed in March 1946 and was left to the elements until the outbreak of the Korean war, where the RAF increased its pilot training program and Carnaby opened again in 1953 becoming a relief landing ground for Driffield.
Again, life to Carnaby was short lived and the base closed in 1954.
It wasn't until 1958 that Carnaby become operational again, this time deemed as a Thor missile site. 150 Squadron was reformed and designated the Thor unit.

1963 saw the base close for the last time and the site was left to decay. In 1972 the site was bought by Bridlington Council and turned into an industrial estate, as it is today.

 

RAF Catfoss - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 226(SM) Squadron RAF - Aug 1, 1959 - Mar 9, 1963.

53:54:57N (53.9157), 0:16:24W (-0.2734)

The history of Catfoss can be traced back to the early 1930's but only really came into fruition in 1940 after re-development.
In October 1940 No2 Operational Training Unit (Coastal) was formed with Ansons and Blenheims.
Catfoss was again re-developed with three concrete runways, hangars and the general buildings associated with a wartime airfield.
1944 saw No2 OUT disbanded and replaced by the Central Gunnery School, who moved from Sutton Bridge. The Gunnery School operated a variety of aircraft including, Beaufighters, Wellingtons and Martinets using the coastal ranges at Skipsea.
As well as bomber crews, Catfoss also trained fighter pilots. Spitfires, Mustangs and Thunderbolts were all familiar visitors.
After the war there were a number of civil possibilities for the airfield but none of these came to fruition.
It wasn't until 1959 that interest in Catfoss was regenerated, with Thor Missiles being housed here as a satellite to Driffield.

In 1963 the unit disbanded and that was the end of operational life at Catfoss.

 

RAF Breighton - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 240(SM) Squadron RAF - Aug 1, 1959 - Jan 8, 1963

53:48:15N (53.8041), 0:54:43W (-0.912)

Breighton Airfield is located north of Howden on the west side of the B1228 road, sign posted from the village of Bubwith. RAF Breighton opened in 1942 as part of 1 Group Bomber Command as a satellite for RAF Holme-on-Spalding Moor. 460 Squadron RAAF were the first residents, with their Wellington bombers. Later that year, their Wellingtons were replaced by Roy Chadwick's legendary Avro Lancaster. In 1943 the illustrious 460 Squadron moved to RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire and Breighton was transferred to 4 Group Bomber Command, 78 Squadron moving in from RAF Linton-on-Ouse with their Halifax bombers. After hostilities had ended, 78 Sqd. transferred to Transport Command on Halifax VI's and eventually Dakotas before moving out to Egypt. Breighton became an MU (bomb storage facility) before being cleared and placed on Care and Maintenance.

In 1959, it reopened as a Thor IRBM unit and Bloodhound Anti-Aircraft Missile base but these had disbanded by the mid-sixties.

Today, much of the old airfield infrastructure is still evident, including sections of the runways and a hangar. A small corner of the airfield also houses a growing collection of airworthy warbird and classic light aircraft and is operated by The Real Aeroplane Company. The airfield/museum is open to the public during summer weekends and is well worth a visit, facilities include car park, snack bar, toilets and a souvenir stall.

 

 

RAF Feltwell

Type: IRBM Base. Operator: USAF/RAF. Country: UK. Latitude: 52°29' N. Longitude: 00°32' E.
At this location the 77th RAF Strategic Missile Squadron operated 15 Thor IRBM launchers from 15 June 1959 to 10 July 1963. They were withdrawn as part of the secret agreement between Kennedy and Khrushchev ending the Cuban missile crisis, under which all Thor missiles were to be removed from Europe. RAF Feltwell's satellite bases were, RAF Shepard's Grove, RAF Tuddenham, RAF Mepal, RAF North Pickenham.

 

RAF Feltwell - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No.   77(SM) Squadron RAF  - Sep 1, 1958 - Jul 10, 1963.

52:28:38N (52.4771), 0:31:15E (0.5208)

Thor was deployed at four main bases: Driffield, Hemswell, Feltwell and North Luffenham. Surrounding each main base were four satellite stations, with missiles deployed at each location in groups of three.

Transferred to the Royal Air Force on 22 June 1959, the 77th RAF Strategic Missile Squadron at Feltwell, England became the first British-based Thor IRBM squadron to reach operational status. At the same time, SAC retained control over the squadron's nuclear warheads and assigned a detachment to perform four functions: (1) retain custody and control over, and provide maintenance for, reentry vehicles and warheads; (2) receive and initiate US warhead release orders; (3) operate USAF communications facilities; and (4) provide training to the Royal Air Force.

In 1958 RAF Feltwell was transferred to Bomber Command, where it became a strategic missile station responsible for Nos. 77, 82, 107, 113, and 220 Squadrons and the Command Strategic Missile School. In August 1958, Bomber Command's first IRBM squadron, No.77, was formed at RAF Feltwell. The first Douglas Thor Missile for the squadron was received on 19 September 1958. In August 1963 the Thor base was disbanded and preparations commenced to receive the Officer Cadet Training Unit from Jurby.

Feltwell's connection with aviation began more than thirty-five years ago, during World War 1, when No. 7 Training Depot Station was housed here. Thus Feltwell's original function was flying training as it is today. From March, 1937, however, when the present installations were built, until 1946, squadrons of Bomber Command were stationed here. Feltwell contributed to the increasing effort directed against Germany at home, culminating in the "Thousand Bomber" raids of May and June, 1942. In the last two years of the war, still under Bomber Command, a squadron at Feltwell was engaged on radio intelligence work, while at the end of 1943, No. 3 Lancaster Finishing School was formed here to convert aircrews who had been trained on Wellingtons to working in Lancaster aircraft. This work continued until January, 1945, when the end of the war was imminent. In the last phase at Feltwell under Bomber Command, navigators were trained in the use of a new long-range navigation device intended for use in the Pacific theatre of war. Feltwell's connection with Bomber Command was severed in April, 1946, when the station was transferred to Flying Training Command to house the present unit, No. 3 Flying Training School, formerly at South Cerney.
 

RAF Shepard's Grove - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No.   82(SM) Squadron RAF  - Jul  22, 1959 - Jul 10, 1963.

52:19:09N (52.319), 0:55:06E (0.9184)

RAF Shepherds Grove was built for American use, but was opened by 3 Group, RAF on 03 April 1944. The name came from a small copse nearby and the airfield is close to Walsham le Willows in Suffolk.

After World War II F-86 Sabers were stationed here in 1951, and in 1954 F84 Thunderstreaks were based here. At this time, the 78th Fighter Bomber Squadron, flying Republic F84F's were here, as part of the 81st Fighter Bomber Wing.

The nuclear store dates from February 1957. The rectangular area was originally double fenced, and was guarded 24 hours a day. Dogs patrolled between the fences dusk to dawn and in bad weather when visibility was reduced. There are two watch towers, one inside and one outside the surviving perimeter fence, which were manned at all times, as was the gate picket There are two igloo type buildings for the major part of the bombs, in the case of Shepherds Grove these were first Mk7's and later Mk28 thermonuclear weapons. The third igloo building, externally identical to the bomb stores where the main casings were kept on their bomb trolleys, was used for nuclear component storage. This building is only about half as long as the main stores, and contains a huge concrete safe. The two bomb stores are reinforced concrete boxes, mounded in earth, with gravel filled steel doors. The largest building other than these is a large building on a single story, used for maintenance of the weapons. There was also a Nissen hut for general storage, and for painting the weapon casings.

Later when the planes had gone, this airfield was used for Thor missiles, but the Thor site was on the main airfield and not on the bomb storage site. Once the fighter bombers and their weaponry was withdrawn, Thor missile pads were built on the main airfield in 1959 and the new personnel associated with them moved in.

Part of the main airfield site is now an industrial estate.

 

RAF Tuddenham - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 107(SM) Squadron RAF  - Jul  22, 1959 - Jul 10, 1963.

52:19:06N (52.3182), 0:33:58E (0.5661)

One of the new bomber airfields to Class A standard, work commenced on Tuddenham late in 1942 on a land east of the village of that name, partly on Cavenham Heath close to the Q-site dummy airfield that had been established in the early days of the war. Completed during autumn of 1943, in October No. 90 Squadron's Stirlings vacated Wratting Common to settle in at Tuddenham. Like the other operational Stirling equipped units, No. 90 engaged chiefly on mine laying until converting to Lancasters in May 1944. The squadron remained at Tuddenham for two years, until the station was closed for flying in November 1946.

Like so many of the airfields constructed during the war, Tuddenham was soon deserted in preference for the comfort of the pre-war expansion scheme airfields with their centrally-heated barracks and spacious messes. At first the buildings were used to meet housing shortages and the land between runways returned to agriculture. However, the Cold War saw the airfield reserved for possible use if the situation deteriorated and in 1957 its location in a rural site of low population saw Tuddenham selected as a site for a Thor medium range missile unit. In July 1959, No. 107 Squadron was re-formed to operate the three missiles deployed in the special launch area constructed in the centre of the airfield.

The Thors were withdrawn in 1963 and the site closed in July that year. This was to be the last military use of the airfield.

 

RAF Mepal - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 113(SM) Squadron RAF  - Jul  22, 1959 - Jul 10, 1963.

52:23:54N (52.3984), 0:06:52E (0.1143)

Mepal airfield was built to Class A specification as one of the two satellite stations for the Waterbeach cluster. The site on a 20-foot rise out of the Cambridgeshire fens, was confined by the New and Old Bedford Rivers to the west; the villages of Sutton to the south, Mepal to the north and Witcham due east.

Officially opened in June 1943, its first occupants were the Stirlings of No. 75 Squadron, removed from the turf of Newmarket Heath, which conducted its first operation from Mepal on the night of July 3. Named the New Zealand Squadron and manned largely by citizens of that country, No. 75 was to remain in residence for a little over two years, seeing out the war from Mepal. No other squadron was based there during this period as No. 75 maintained three flights, their complements often totaling more than 30 aircraft, particularly after Lancasters replaced the Stirlings in March 1944. The squadron lost 104 bombers in operations from Mepal, 50 being Stirlings and 52 Lancasters.

No. 75 Squadron moved out in July 1945 to make way for the assembly and training of Tiger Force, the RAF bomber contingent scheduled to move to the north-east Pacific for operations against the Japanese homeland. These were Nos. 7 and 44 Squadrons, although the latter was soon replaced by No. 49 Squadron. However, the contraction of the RAF during the first year of peace provided several stations with better accommodation than the `tin can huts' at Mepal and the Lancasters left in July 1946. Thereafter Mepal remained empty of active units for 12 years.

In 1957, the airfield was one of the sites selected to deploy Thor medium-range missiles and three emplacements were built in the north-east corner of the original airfield. When the missiles became active, the operating unit was No. 113 Squadron. By 1963 the Thors were considered obsolete and were removed, the airfield later surrendering to commercial and agricultural use.

RAF North Pickenham -  3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 220(SM) Squadron RAF  - Jul  22, 1959 - Jul 10, 1963.

52:37:36N (52.6266), 0:43:57E (0.7325)

North Pickenham  3 m SE of Swaffham: 492nd (856/857/858/859 BS) and 491st (852/853/854/855 BS) Bomb Groups (B24 Liberators), 479th Sub Depot, 1261st MP, 326th Station Complem., 1450th Ordnance S&M Co., 1234th Quartermaster Co., 2108th Eng. Firefighter Plt., 266th Med. Dispensary (Avn), 208th Finance (Avn) Det. B, 882nd Chemical Co.; post-war Thor nuclear missile station, then test site for Harrier prototype, the Hawker Siddeley P1127 Kestrel, now: industrial area. The former airfield is now occupied by one of the largest turkey farms in Norfolk.

 

RAF Hemswell

Type: IRBM Base. Operator: USAF/RAF. Country: UK. Latitude: 53°24' N. Longitude: 00°35' W.
At this location the 97th RAF Strategic Missile Squadron operated 15 Thor IRBM launchers from 11 Sept. 1959 to 15 May 1963. They were withdrawn as part of the secret agreement between Kennedy and Khrushchev ending the Cuban missile crisis, under which all Thor missiles were to be removed from Europe. RAF Hemswell satellite bases were, RAF Ludford Magna, RAF Bardney, RAF Coleby Grange, RAF Caistor.

 

RAF Hemswell - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No.   97(SM) Squadron RAF - Dec 1, 1959 - May 24, 1963.

53:24:10N (53.4028), 0:34:21W (-0.5726)

Between 1958 and 1963, RAF Hemswell was a base for American "Thor" missiles which were installed to the north of the air field, having been delivered by giant C-124 and C-133 aircraft. The missiles were based at five dispersal sites, all reporting to a central headquarters. The Lincolnshire headquarters was at Hemswell, with the dispersals at Bardney, Caistor, Coleby Grange and Ludford.

Thor was deployed at four main bases: Driffield, Hemswell, Feltwell and North Luffenham. Surrounding each main base were four satellite stations, with missiles deployed at each location in groups of three.

Hemswell Cliff was first used in 1916 as a night landing ground for The Royal Flying Corps but closed in 1919 after hostilities ended. Royal Air Force Station Hemswell was re-opened, after a major building programme, on 31st December 1936, flying Hawker Hind, Hawker Audax, Avro Anson, Blenheim and Boulton Paul Overstrand aircraft in the early days.

During the second world war the station had undertaken a variety operational tasks including bombing raids throughout Europe and against enemy shipping plus acting as a training and conversation center. In 1939 Hampdens were introduced with the station flying its first operation sortie of the 2nd World War on 26th September 1939 against enemy shipping. The station with its now resident Polish squadrons was re equipped with Wellington bombers in 1941. Lancaster heavy bombers arrived in 1943 and a "production line" was set up to fit rear turrets, manufactured by Rose Bros. of Gainsborough, to all Lancasters.

After the war a variety of aircraft were stationed including Mosquito, Lincoln and Canberra, and various roles were undertaken including ex-prisoner-of-war repatriation, the dropping of food supplies, goodwill visits, electronic counter measures, nuclear air sampling etc.

Preparations were made to receive the ill fated and costly TSR2, which was canceled in 1965. Thereafter recruit training and gliding took place before the station was put on care and maintenance in about 1967. In 1972, the station was re-activated to receive the Ugandan Asians displaced by President Idi Amin.

 

RAF Ludford Magna - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 104(SM) Squadron RAF - Jul 22, 1959 - May 24, 1963.

53:22:22N (53.3728), 0:11:46W (-0.1961)

Ludford Magna opened in June 1943 and closed in May 1963. RAF Ludford Magna, 12 miles east of Lincoln, was equipped with three Thor long- range ballistic missiles, each armed with a one-megaton nuclear warhead, controlled by the US Air Force under so-called dual-key arrangements. The missiles were based at five dispersal sites, all reporting to a central headquarters. The Lincolnshire headquarters was at Hemswell, with the dispersals at Bardney, Caistor, Coleby Grange and Ludford Magna.

The village of Ludford consists of the two villages of Ludford Magna and Ludford Parva, and straddles the Louth to Market Rasen Road at roughly the mid-point. During and just after the second world war, RAF Ludford was the base for 101 Bomber Squadron. The squadron suffered the highest number of casualties of any squadron during those hostilities. Conditions on the airfield were very muddy and it was popularly known as Mudford Magna or Ludford Magma.

 

RAF Bardney - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 106(SM) Squadron RAF - Jul 22, 1959 - May 24, 1963.

53:13:26N (53.2238), 0:17:38W (-0.2939)

RAF Bardney was equipped with three Thor long- range ballistic missiles, each armed with a one-megaton nuclear warhead, controlled by the US Air Force under so-called dual-key arrangements. The missiles were based at five dispersal sites, all reporting to a central headquarters. The Lincolnshire headquarters was at Hemswell, with the dispersals at Bardney, Caistor, Coleby Grange and Ludford Magna.

Bardney opened in April 1943 as a 53 Base substation, and closed in 1963. IX Squadron was based there from its opening, and 227 Squadron and 189 Squadron were briefly based there in the autumn of 1944. 189 Squadron was also based there between April and October 1945.

 

RAF Coleby Grange -  3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 142(SM) Squadron RAF - Jul 22, 1959 - May 24, 1963.

53:07:52N (53.1311), 0:29:22W (-0.4893)  

RAF Coleby Grange was equipped with three Thor long-range ballistic missiles, each armed with a one-megaton nuclear warhead, controlled by the US Air Force under so-called dual-key arrangements. The missiles were based at five dispersal sites, all reporting to a central headquarters. The Lincolnshire headquarters was at Hemswell, with the dispersals at Bardney, Caistor, Coleby Grange and Ludford Magna.

Coleby Grange was acquired by the RAF in 1939, and shortly afterwards became operational as a Fighter Command airfield. 253 and 264 Squadrons were briefly based there, before 409 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force moved in on a more permanent basis in July 1941. This was followed by 410 Squadron until October 1943. Thereafter it was a transit station and in autumn 1944 was transferred to 27 Group as a satellite of 17 Service Flying Training School. Coleby Grange closed in 1963.

 

RAF Caistor - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 269(SM) Squadron RAF - Jul 22, 1959 - May 24, 1963.

53:30:17N (53.5048), 0:21:59W (-0.3664)

 

Caistor was a very small airfield, with a brief life span. It acted mainly as a support field for training units. It was first used in 1940 as a relief airfield for Kirton Lindsey, but by 1942 it was used by the 15 (P) Advanced Flying Unit from Kirmington, and then by Cranwell. Flying ended in 1944, and the airfield closed at the end of the war. In 1959, it reopened as a Thor IRBM unit Missile base but these had disbanded by the mid-sixties.

RAF North Luffenham

Type: IRBM Base. Operator: USAF/RAF. Country: UK. Latitude: 52°37' N. Longitude: 00°37' W.
At this location the 144th RAF Strategic Missile Squadron operated 15 Thor IRBM launchers from 29 April 29 1960 to September 1963. They were withdrawn as part of the secret agreement between Kennedy and Khrushchev ending the Cuban missile crisis, under which all Thor missiles were to be removed from Europe.  RAF North Luffenham's satellite bases were, RAF Polebrook, RAF Harrington, RAF Folkingham, RAF Melton Mowbray.

 

RAF North Luffenham - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 144(SM) Squadron RAF - Dec 1, 1959 - Aug 23, 1963.

52:37:55N (52.6321), 0:37:00W (-0.6166)

Thor was deployed at four main bases: Driffield, Hemswell, Feltwell and North Luffenham. Surrounding each main base were four satellite stations, with missiles deployed at each location in groups of three.

This hilltop site lay between the villages of Edith Weston in the west and Ketton in the east. North Luffenham village was at the southern end of the airfield. It was chosen for development into a bomber airfield and work started in 1940, to be completed in December. In June 1943 the airfield closed for reconstruction work and remained inactive until March 1944. The airfield now had three concrete runways, one main and two intersecting ones, with an encircling perimeter track.

After the war the station began to run down and in September 1945 the airfield was opened for the first time to the general public. The following month, on October 28th, No.1653 HCU moved out to Lindholme. This unit was replaced with the return of No.21 HGCU that arrived from Elsham Wolds in December 1946 to be disbanded at the end of the year.

 

RAF Polebrook - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 130(SM) Squadron RAF - Dec 1, 1959 - Aug 23, 1963.

52:27:58N (52.466), 0:23:06W (-0.3849)

One of the airfields earmarked for the original No. 8 Group did come into operational use during the summer of 1941 for the first Fortresses received by the RAF - Polebrook. Located 3.5 miles east-south-east of Oundle, the airfield was built on Rothchild estate land from August 1940, George Wimpey & Co. Ltd being the main contractor. The concrete runway lengths were 08-26 at 1,280 yards, 14-32 at 1,200 yards and 02-20, 1,116 yards. Thirty square hardstandings, most on the eastern side, were reached by very long access tracks. The weapons store was unusual in that it lay within the perimeter track at the southern end. One Type J and two Type T2 hangars were erected on the technical site outside the northern perimeter with the domestic sites dispersed in woodland beyond. Post-war the station came under No. 273 Maintenance Unit and the airfield was kept in useable state until October 1948 when it was closed. Agriculture returned to the flying field but in 1959 No. 130 Squadron was formed at Polebrook to operate three Thor missile emplacements constructed in the centre of the airfield. The rockets were removed and the unit disbanded in August 1963. Thereafter the land was repurchased by the Rothchild estate and the St Ives Sand and Gravel company broke up all concrete apart from the ends of runways 02 and 32 during the next decade. In 1999 the airfield has few reminders of its wartime past.

RAF Harrington - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 218(SM) Squadron RAF - Dec 1, 1959 - Aug 23, 1963.

52:23:40N (52.3946), 0:51:45W (-0.8625)

During the early sixties the UK's nuclear deterrent was in the form of Thor missiles. These were situated at a number of RAF stations including RAF Harrington in Northamptonshire.

The USAAF referred to it as Station 179. It was used during World War II for transporting special operatives and equipment into occupied Europe. Housed in the old Operations Building on the administrative site of USAAF Station 179, the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum offers a rare look at life on the base of the 801st/492nd American Eighth Air Force Bomb Group during World War II.

 

RAF Folkingham - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 223(SM) Squadron RAF - Dec 1, 1959 - Aug 23, 1963.

52:51:42N (52.8618), 0:26:31W (-0.4418)

Between December 1959 and 1963, Folkingham airfield was home to three sleek, gleaming white ballistic missiles sporting the RAF bull's eye emblem, each armed with 1.44-megaton nuclear warheads, 100 times greater than the atom bomb that decimated Hiroshima in 1945. The missiles were 65 feet long, eight feet in diameter, weighed 110,000 lbs when fuelled and were capable of reaching Russia. They were part of an overall secret operation codenamed Project Emily. In May 1960, the order was given to fit the warheads on to the missiles, while in July 1960 it was decided that 40 of the 60 Thors should always be at 30-minute readiness round the clock. Then at the height of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, 59 of the 60 Thors were placed on 15-minute readiness, stood on their launch pads, fuelled and prepared for firing.

 

RAF Melton Mowbray - 3 Thor IRBM launchers - No. 254(SM) Squadron RAF - Dec 1, 1959 - Aug 23, 1963.

52:44:34N (52.7428), 0:53:39W (-0.8943)

Melton Mowbray served as a Thor IRBM base from 1958 through August 1963. It was vacated by the RAF in 1964.

Sited between the southern outskirts of Melton Mowbray and the village of Great Dalby, work started on constructing an airfield in mid-1942. The airfield was built to the standard pattern with three standard 50-yard-wide concrete runways, the main being 5,400ft and the two intersecting runways 4,350 and 4,020ft long with an encircling perimeter track around which were 15 'spectacle' loop concrete hardstandings and four 'T2' hangers. It was built originally as a station for Maintenance Command but, by the time it opened on August 1st 1943, control had been taken over by No.44 Group of Transport Command and the first unit to arrive was No.4 Overseas Aircraft Preparation Unit which handled many types of aircraft- Spitfires, Mosquitoes, Corsairs, Vengeances, Hellcats and even Halifaxes. With the closure of the APU the station was able to accept from November 1944 part of a training unit, No.107 OTU, from its parent station at Leicester East. This unit was equipped with Dakota and Halifax aircraft, plus a fleet of Horsa and Hadrian gliders.

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