RAF Balderton

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'RAF Balderton' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'RAF Balderton' page

A glimpse at a now-obsolete wartime heritage site


This was the subject addressed by researcher Peter Stevens at the Society’s first meeting of a new season.

The RAF station at Balderton, active during the Second World War and for most of the following decade, is no longer in existence. The site lies off the old Great North Road, two miles to the south of Newark.  Prior to 1939, when the land was pronounced available by the ministry, the area had been occupied by three farms. For the community was still very much a rural one.  Balderton was, characteristically, a rural village surrounded by farms and countryside, detached from Newark town by a green belt area.  Beyond that village lay the historic road to London and the south.  This latter highway passed through Newark centre as it took its path through the country.  In 1964, as the volume of through traffic increased dramatically, what was then called the A1 road was diverted to the east of the town by the building of a dual carriageway link, the ?Newark bypass'.  This new stretch of road was laid over the Balderton airfield site, by then discarded.

But let the reader go back almost eighty years.  Initially, RAF Balderton opened in June 1941 to operate as a satellite station for Finningley and Syerston.  It was used for the flying of Hampdens and Wellingtons, previously stationed at RAF Hucknall, and occasionally Manchesters from 9th December of that year.[1]    The facilities lacked permanence, for there were no sturdy buildings, and the runways were of grass.  Indeed, one Hampden bomber was involved in a tragic accident, causing it to crash into houses with the loss of three infant lives. The harsh winter of 1941–1942 created dangers to take-off and landing.  On 19th September of the following year, the station was made dormant for a time in order for the base to be properly established.  Station buildings were erected and a concrete runway laid.  RAF Balderton was made into a technical site for RAF operations.  Then, in August 1943, a conversion unit (1668 unit) was formed, and the airfield broadened its scope to fly Lancaster bombers.  Lancasters were well-known in the many local aerodromes of the Trent Valley.[2] Soon afterwards, the RAF property was expanded outwards to line nearby roads such as Hollodyke Lane and Shire Lane, and hangars were built.  Heavy glider maintenance began, lasting until April 1944.

However, January 1944 had seen an American airbase open on the Balderton site, with 2,000 billeted crewmen.  Dakotas were flown.  This was followed by the arrival of the first jets, initiated by Frank Whittle, who lived at Old Hall, Main Street.  Gliders continued to be flown, but much of the base became used for maintenance and storage.  Rolls Royce was also tried.  In September the base was used for transport to Holland.  Operations were moved to Ramsbury for a brief time, but by August, 1944, they had been restored to Balderton.  On 19th October, 227 squadron came along, flying Lancasters until 5th April of the following year.  Then, the war being nearly over, RAF Balderton was closed and activity restricted to aircraft maintenance.  There was no shortage of this!  It was to be another nine years before there were any further changes; then in 1954 Balderton was used for the transport of munitions, supposedly to Redmile.  The next closure, in August 1954 was to be the last, and the station fell into disuse.  After three years of decline, the land was offered for sale back to the farming community, a gesture which amounted to history’s ?turning full circle'.  The concrete runways had their recycling opportunity for the building of the A1 bypass[3].  Other components of the RAF community, such as the gym, chapel and air-raid shelters, have remained in position, whilst the base of the hangar, initially overridden, was later recovered before gypsum mining began over the site.  In 2016, the value of heritage was recognised, and a nature park was planned for the environment, together with a memorial plaque marking the previous existence of the RAF station.  A small research 

[1] This was 408 Squadron.

[2] See the report on RAF Syerston, an address given by Tim O’Brien, dated 19th September 2015, in the NALHS file.

[3] See earlier note in the first paragraph of this report.

This page was added by ROGER PEACOCK on 30/11/2017.

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