The Royal Air Force Station Lyneham
RAF Lyneham's History more..
Lyneham to Change
With the expansion of the Royal Air Force, the area was surveyed
for a possible airfield in 1937. First reconnaissance indicated
that the water table would be to near the surface, but this
did not become a hinderance the builders arrived in 1939.
A local resident recalls the early days when things historicity
changed in Lyneham village. "Officials came, men dug
holes over the fields and decided that was the place for
the new station". She remembers vividly the day she
was en-route to play her daily game of tennis, to be confronted
with industrial machinery changing the loved corn fields,
field-paths and lanes into the aerodrome. The Village Green
was used to build
"phoney" Spitfire Hangers, one camouflaged as a
The RAF station’s arrival in 1940 and its housing
developments have obscured parts of the village of Lyneham,
straddling the Hilmarton – Lyneham road. The nucleus
of the village lay to the north where houses are still grouped
around the green. Also at that time the green was crossed
by the Hilmarton and Chippenham – Swindon roads. Since
the Second World War Lyneham’s development was limited
to an area west of Church End. This was where the new schools
were located, surrounded by housing for the RAF base. There
was also an extension to this housing in the apex of the
Preston and Hilmarton roads. The airfield of the RAF base
lies to the west of the Calne – Lyneham road. It stretches
the width of the Corallian ridge from Bradenstoke to the
edge of Catcomb Wood.
RAF Lyneham was opened in 1940 and assumed full station status
in 1942. By 1968 it covered over 1,200 acres and was the main
employer in the parish. Land which had belonged to Lyneham
Court Farm, Church Farm, Cranley Farm and Bradenstoke Abbey
Farm was now used to create the airfield.
There were no married quarters for several years, few off
duty facilities for servicemen, so the Women's
Volunteers Service took over the village hall and opened
a Forces Canteen as an off station rendezvous. The hall had
no electricity- as the villagers were ostracised from the service
until the termination of the war.
The Royal Air Force station opened as Number 33 Maintenance
Unit on the 18th May 1940 with no ceremonies and very few people.
The early record books indicate station strength comprised
of 4 officers, 1 other rank and 15 civilians. Mobility was
provided by 9 vehicles - 1 staff car, 2 tenders, 1 van, 2 tractors,
a mobile crane, an ambulance and a Crossley fire
Refuelling of the aircraft was carried out with a 450 gallon
tanker with 2 petrol trailers, and for the fitter people 2
bicycles were used for transport.
Since the arrival of the airforce base the village has grown
dramatically and can now boast of having many shops and services,
as is often the case of towns near a military base. In 1968
the C130 Hercules, built by Lockheed, arrived and the station
became home to the RAF’s fleet of Hercules.
De Havilland Comets were also stationed here at the same time
as 216 Squadron. These aircraft were used for transporting
the Royal Family and other VIPs. One of them, “Sagittarius”,
is now the RAF base’s gate guardian.
In the 1970s Lyneham became the main tactical transport base
for the RAF in the United Kingdom. The Hercules have assisted
in moving both troops and supplies in times of conflict, famines
or other emergencies, and are now a common sight in the skies
over Lyneham and the surrounding countryside. They are a much
loved aircraft by pilots and locals alike being affectionately
known as “Fat Albert”.
Sadly, however, in July 2003 the MOD announced plans to close
the base by 2012 and to transfer the 50 strong Hercules Fleet
to the airbase at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. This will lead
to 580 jobs being lost on the base and the remaining 1920 jobs
being re-deployed to other sites.
This will have an effect on the economic welfare of Lyneham
and on its social climate too but we will have to wait and
see exactly what these effects are likely to be.