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Denis J. Corley, May 1993
Distasters, and after 1945 .....

Chelveston Base Disasters
Flying Fortress 42-29508 of 364 BS 305 BP
Engine caught fire and exploded.
Flying Fortress 42-30647 of 366 BS 305 BP
Collided with another Fortress when breaking formation. Chelveston.
Flying Fortress 42-30643 of 364 BS 305 BG
Under carriage retracted jndispersal.
Flying Fortress 42-97522 of 422 BS 305 BG
Caught fire on Landing, burned out.
Flying Fortress 44-6122 of 305 BG
Controls locked up on landing, nosed up and fell back.
Flying Fortress 43-38973 of 422 BG
Hit radio mast in fog.
Flying Fortress 43-38354 of 305 BG
Lost control on take-off and crashed.
Flying Fortress 43-38291 of 366 BS 305 BG
Hit pole and tree on take off, crashed landed.
Flying Fortress 43-37922 of 422 BS 305 BG
Lost control on take off due to turbulence.
Newton Bromswold.
Douglas Destroyer 54-470 of 42 TRS 10 TRW
Engine Fire, crashed landed.
Newton Bromswold.


After serving as one of the very first Eighth Air Force bases in World War Two, Chelveston was vacated by the Flying Fortresses of the 305th Bomb Group in July 1945 and was used for a while as a temporary storage site before being placed in the hands of a Care and Maintenance party.

With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, plans were drawn up by the U.S.A.F. for the major expansion of Strategic Air Command and Chelveston was one of a substantial number of sites in Britain which was selected for development as a forward base for American heavy bombers.

In September 1952 the 7523rd Air Base Squadron arrived here to reopen the station and two months later the 817th Engineer Aviation Battalion moved in with its equipment to carry out a large scale rebuilding programme. A major feature of the work, which was not finished until February 1956, was the construction of a completely new runway, and in order to achieve the required length of 4000 yards it was aligned on a heading of 042/222 degrees and lay right across the middle of the three wartime runways. In November 1955, by which time this work and the construction of aircraft hardstandings and new camp buildings was well advanced, the 3914th Air Base Squadron took over as the unit which would actually run the station.

When everything was finally ready, on 1st May 1956, flying at last began again and B47E 53-1881 became the first of many aircraft of this type which would be based here in the course of the next three years

Records of which Wings used Chelveston during this period are scanty but for the first eighteen months it is believed to have housed a single squadron at a time consisting of about 15 aircraft. In early 1958 however "Reflex Action" was introduced and the pattern changed. Henceforth instead of a comparatively large detachment maintained by a single Wing, the airfield was used to house three or four flights of three aircraft, each sent here on nuclear standby duty for a period of only three weeks.

This phase at Chelveston also lasted for approximately eighteen months only until June 1959, and during the last six months the final SAC detachment was provided by the 3O1st Recce Wing which was equipped with RB47s rather than bomber aircraft.

The gradual reduction in SAC requirements which now took place coincided with the demands of the French government that all nuclear armed USAF units should be removed forthwith from bases in France and Chelveston was accordingly transferred to Third Air Force control to help provide for the consequential relocation of units. To make room in Germany for Wings transferred directly from France it was necessary to move out the 10th Tactical Recce Wing and in August this formation transferred its headquarters to Alconbury and took over the former SAC bases at Bruntingthorpe and Chelveston to act as satellites which would each house one of the Wing's four squadrons.

The second post war USAF aircraft type to be based at Chelveston was the twin engined Douglas Destroyer and specifically the RB66C electronic recce variant, 18 of which arrived here in the hands of the 42nd Tactical Recce Squadron.

Like the B47s before them the RB66s were in natural metal finish and at least for the first part of their stay they carried a red diagonal band on each nacelle as their squadron marking.

At this time the large scale use of space satellites had not begun and for the next three years the RB66s of the 10th TRW formed one half of the large U.S.A.F. reconnaissance force based in Europe. In July 1962 this force was reorganised with the aim of positioning more reconnaissance aircraft on the Continent and the 42 TRS was transferred away - ironically - to France, to Toul-Rosieres Air Force Base.

The departure of the RB66s marked the end of Chelveston's post war career as an active airfield and although ground units have since remained here, the bulk of the airfield itself has now been disposed of and all the runways broken up.

Denis J. Corley, May 1993

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