RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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Alton Barnes, Honey Street & Alton Priors, three lovely villages almost intertwined into one place. Sitting on the Kennet & Avon canal. Its history goes back a very long time and if you visit, you must go to St Mary the Virgin Church set in farmland behind the village and accessed by following a cobbled path. On Google Earth only All Saints Church shows up in name, but if you follow the path, you can see another little church St Mary. On the way you cross a small bridge and to your left is the source of the River Avon, the Wiltshire Avon. Also one more thing, the Alton Barnes White Horse, lets not forget that on the hills above.

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Student ready to fly.

Cockpit check.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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A good air photo of the airfield.
1935 and RAF Upavon, CFS (Central Flying School). Started to use a field in Alton Barnes as a RLG (Relief Landing Ground). No or very little infrastructure was used and only one RAF Airman seems to have been on any form of permanent staff. The planes used then by CFS were Avro504Ns & Tutors,. Then by the start of the war, Master and Oxfords were used.
CFS taught the teachers to teach, in other wards. Pilots recommended to become instructors would come to CFS RAF Upavon to learn how to teach the RAF's way. This goes back to WW1 and the Gosport method of training pilots. Major Robert Smith-Barry complained bitterly to General Trenchard in 1916 about the very bad training of pilots for the RFC (Royal Flying Corps) He made such a nuisance of himself, that Trenchard ordered him home to open a school at Gosport, on a field next to Fort Grange. The system worked so well that its still taught in every flying school today.

1940 and the retreat from Dunkirk (read TWHB Drew 1939 War starts - Via Dunkirk - Home 1940, about Dunkirk). The War Office decided that the country needed defending. One way was by building Defence Lines. Using canals, railways or natural features. Here on the Kennet and Avon canal the GHQ (General Head Quarters) Blue line would be built, from Bath to Reading. As you come along the canal, there are still many pillboxes and other defences to be seen. In December 1941, Alton Barnes was transfered to No.29 EFTS (Elementary Flying Training School) RAF Clyffe Pypard, as a daytime RLG. By September the area was closed to allow it to be upgraded with accommodation, hangarage, hutting and training facilities and was then used by 'A' & 'B' flights from No.29 EFTS. First as RAF pilot training and then later, Army pre glider training with ORTU (Operational and Refresher Training Unit) using Hotspur training gliders. Later Army & Navy pilots were trained here.

Miles Master.

Oxford.

Hotspur training gliders.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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Plan

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RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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Plan of Alton Barnes Relief Landing Ground.
Found :
Pillbox opposite Barge Inn (Blue Line).
Concrete bollard at the bridge (Blue Line).
Link trainer hut and air-raid shelter.
3 RAF pillboxes and 1 open BHQ and a road block.
Plan:
PB & (BHQ) - RAF type
PB(B) - Pill Boxes on the Blue Line and nothing to do with the airfield defence.
Blister - Blister hangars.
O Blister - Over Blister hangar.
R B - Road Block.

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Over Blister hangar with bricked up ends at Alton Barnes post war.

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Blister hangar.

Tiger Moth No.39, the mount of Instructor Flt Lt 'Jonney' Fielding, outside the Extra Over blister hangar between the dispersals on the south side of the field.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2005

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A view from the hill looking south across the airfield and onwards to Salisbury Plain. It must have been a hive of activity at it height, with two flights of Tiger Moths, landing and taking off all day.

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Plan.

 

 

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2005

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"Every mile the Romans on Hadrian's Wall, built forts, when building canals the British built pubs!".
The Barge Inn is a very well known haunt and is always worth a visit, as a teenager we came here rather too often. Just like the RAF/Army pilots that taught and trained here, plus all the ground crews.

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Plan

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RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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09 October 2020

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GHQ Blue Line pillbox.
You can just see the pill box to the right and between it and the pub is the canal.
The British Army had abandoned most of its equipment in France after the Dunkirk evacuation. It was therefore decided to build a static system of defensive lines around Britain, designed to compartmentalize the country and delay the Germans long enough for more mobile forces to counter-attack. Over 50 defensive lines were constructed across the country. (Wiki)

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On 14 May 1940, the Secretary of State for War Anthony Eden made a broadcast calling for men between the ages of 17 and 65 to enroll in a new force, the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers). By July, nearly 1.5 million men had enrolled and the name of this people's army was changed to the more inspiring Home Guard. (IWM)

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The Home Guard was set up in May 1940 as Britain's 'last line of defence' against a German invasion. (IWM)

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RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2005

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GHQ Blue Line pillbox.
FW3/24 pillbox right on the canal opposite the Barge Inn. The upside down T inside, is an internal anti-ricochet wall. Five rifle/machine gun loopholes covering 180° and two pistol ports protecting the rear door. The GHQ Blue Line. Covered from Bath to Reading. The stop lines were started around summer 1940 and pill boxes were either built by local builders or Army Engineers. The 1st Canadian Division were used extensively at the time in helping to build defences. Pill Box Study Group.

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FW3/24 The upside down T is an internal anti-ricochet wall, five rifle/machine gun loopholes and two pistol ports protecting the rear door.

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This pillbox is part of he GHQ Blue line 1940's defence along the canal from Bristol to London.

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Plan.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2005

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GHQ Blue Line pillbox.
This pillbox in Honey Street is on the north bank opposite the Barge Inn.

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inside an FW3/24 pillbox.

 

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2005

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GHQ Blue Line pillbox.
Looking closely at the construction. First an internal wall of (in this case) breeze block. Then a red brick external wall and in between concrete would be poured in the cavity, with iron rods as reinforcement. Thus using the bricks as shuttering instead of timber.

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Plan.

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Inside a pill box.

 

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2005

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GHQ Blue Line part of the bridge defence..
At the canal bridge there is a dragons tooth antitank block (pipe cylinder) . There would have been more defence around the bridge, holes in the road to take iron railway lines. More dragons teeth, old farm machinery, trenches, barbed wire entanglement, etc. All manned either by the local Home Guard or an army unit. Most of the defences were removed after the war and only items too large or not a danger to traffic were left.

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Pipe cylinder.

Road block.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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09 October 2020

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GHQ Blue Line part of the bridge defence..

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Plan.

Road block.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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From over the canal. The camp would have shown up on the left side of the road.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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DH Tiger Moth trainer

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A camouflaged De Havilland Tiger Moth trainer, the main training aircraft of the RAF at the time, that flew from here.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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The main camp.
1 - Guard Room.
2 - Officer & Sergeants Mess, Dining Hall & Quarters.
3 - Watch Office & Pump House.
4 - Flight Offices.

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Avro 504.

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Called a 'Starters Box', this was the type of control tower on some WW1 & pre war aerodromes. Was one like this here? (Air/11092/204/5/1765)

Fire pump house RAF Stanton Harcourt.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2005                                                                                                              US Army Film Unit

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The link trainer building. A TB (Temporary Brick) structure.
It was used to teach pilots how to fly on instruments. The Link Trainer - an old-school analog flight simulator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A US Army film.
Designed in 1929 by Edwin Link a Piano and Organ designer.

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Double Link Trainer building 45019/39.

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Link Trainer at RAF Netheravon No1 FTS.

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Coloured Link.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2005                                                                                                                

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The link trainer building.
No.29 EFTS sent over its two flights A & B to use the airfield. It was run by the civilians firm Messrs. Marshall's of Cambridge. So there was a mix of RAF & Civilian instructors and ground crews here.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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02 August 2005

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The link trainer building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAF Link Trainer.
As the trainee pilot “flew” the link, the trainer would provide course change instructions.  The map would record the trainee’s response.

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One of the doors.

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RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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11 May 2024 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 11 May 2024

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RAF Link Trainer.
Re visited in 2024.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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11 May 2024 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 11 May 2024

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RAF Link Trainer.
Re visited in 2024.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking around the back at the entrance and the heating plant room.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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11 May 2024 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 11 May 2024

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RAF Link Trainer.
Re visited in 2024.
Plaster board covering the walls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not a lot to see this end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In situ is the complete water header tank, with wood and pipe work still in place. Also Barn Owl nest box.


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Coat hangers in the lobby.

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Light switch still in place.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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11 May 2024 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 11 May 2024

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RAF Link Trainer.
Re visited in 2024.
Heating plant room, it would have had a coal fire and the room centrally heated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chimney still in place.

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Heating boiler.

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Heating irons..

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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25 May 2005

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Another view of the white horse, ideal for the new pilots to orientate themselves to land at Alton Barnes..

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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25 May 2005

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A Stanton Air-Raid shelter.
Magesters were also used by No.29 EFTS and Royal Navy pilots were trained here. 1942 Army pilots were included into courses to train as glider and army cooperation pilots.

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The halves of the shelter assembled by bolting together, then covered in earth.

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The escape hatch on the opposite end to the entrance.

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Miles Magister.

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Naval pilots in training..

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Glider pilots under instruction.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2005

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A Stanton Air-Raid shelter.

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Inside.

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Ribs of a shelter.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2005

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Memorial.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2005

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In the distance is a white horse carved into the hill. Before the war, pilots from RAF Upavon would have been very thankful to be able to navigate so easily when flying in. But when the war started, a German bomber did come over and drop a bomb or two, so the farmer was asked to camouflage the horse. I do know that the Westbury white horse, when the orders were given to camouflage it. Several locals tried to stop it happening.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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21 August 2023

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Literally the whole of the airfield viewed from the BHQ (Battle Head Quarters), looking south.
Due to wet weather and over use, the grass was not man enough to take all the landings and take offs. So Sommerfeld tracking was laid down on the runways.

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Plan.

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Sommerfeld tracking.

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Goose neck flairs, paraffin lamps to light the runway in uses.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Three pillboxes and a BHQ viewed looking north.

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Plan.

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Avro Tutors were another plane used here.

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RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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On several smaller airfields, I have found a grouping of pillboxes in one area, which must have been central to the defence. RAF Shrewton, has just one pillbox dominating the top of the airfield.

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There are three pillboxes at RAF New Zealand Farm right out on the airfield.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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The defence of the airfield.
No.1 & 2 pillboxes.

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Plan.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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The defence of the airfield.
No.3 pillbox.

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Plan.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Pillbox No.1 entrance.

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RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Pillbox No.1.
Left: entrance with a small ammunition niche.
Right: the inner blast wall.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Pillbox No.1.
A view of a loopholes with names of the men who built them. Joe Caves RE, Sapper Goucher 1941, Sapper Clark, Sapper Griggs, all Royal Engineers. Another point is that most loopholes are fitted with Turnbull mounts for machine-guns yet as you look around several have not received their mounts and the loophole looks almost unfinished as though they had run out of fittings? or a change of policy and they were not needed.

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A Bren gun set into a Turnbull mount to fit into a pillboxes embrasure.

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Turnbull Mount is a mounting for a machine-gun and was located as shown by the metal fittings in the embrasure..

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Pillbox No.1.
Sapper Goucher 1941, Sapper Clark.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Pillbox No.1.
Built by making a shuttering of corrugated iron sheets and filled with concrete in 1941.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Pillbox No.2.
Brick shuttering used on this one.

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Plan.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Pillbox No.2.
Entrance with a drain.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Pillbox No.2.
The corrugated iron sheeting still on the ceiling and Y shaped ricochet wall.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Pillbox No.2.
Embrasure with a fitting for a Turnbull mount.

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Turnbull Mount is a mounting for a machine-gun and was located as shown by the metal fittings in the embrasure..

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A Bren gun set into a Turnbull mount to fit into a pillboxes embrasure.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Pillbox No.3.

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Plan.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Pillbox No.3.
Note the corrugated shuttering shape still on the concrete. The grass on the top was placed on the top to camouflage the pillbox.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Pillbox No.3.
The entrance and ready made bedding supplied.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Pillbox No.3.
The Turnbull mount not fitted.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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BHQ.
A lot of BHQ (Battle Head Quarters) were built on airfields all over the country. RAF Clyffe Pypard has one, RAF Netheravon had one. I am not sure about RAF Upavon. Here there are three pillboxes in a group and this one open emplacement. This seems to be an open emplacement with a small room behind. Then there should be an escape/rear entrance. I have found two circular defences at RAF Netheravon that may be like this one.

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BHQ plan.

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Found at RAF Netheravon on the Figheldean Road.

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One of RAF New Zealand Farms pillbox defence.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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BHQ.
A large Sarsen stone placed in the emplacement.
The reason for a BHQ was that if the Germans had attacked Britain, they would have parachuted or landed gliders on the airfields. The BHQ would hold the airfields commanding officer and he would via telephone and runners, command the battle to defend the airfield. Each airman would have a rifle and ammunition and could be ordered to locations around the perimeter . Also a few Bofors anti-aircraft guns and heavy machine guns, would be laid out around the perimeter.

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Bofors gun was mounted up on the hills above.

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20mm Hispano cannon another defence gun.

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Twin Lewis gun.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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BHQ.
You can see the round part of the open emplacement.
The chamber inside may be as big (or small) as 5ft x 5ft.

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BHQ plan.

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RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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BHQ.
Under the large Sarsen stone.

 

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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BHQ.
Also under the stone is lengths of barbed wire and stakes used on the airfield defence.

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Barbed wire.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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12 October 2020

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RAF Netheravon.
Found on a bank on the Figheldean Road. We have also found another of these at RAF Netheravon between the north & south camps.

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Twin Lewis gun position.

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Lewis gun.

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RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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BHQ.
The Sarsen stone and lengths of armoured cable that would be used, either for the electrics around the airfield or communications cable.

July 1945 Alton Barnes was closed to flying and put into care and maintenance and handed back to farming in 1947.

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The cable.

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The cable.

Field telephone.

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RAF New Zealand Farm armoured cable.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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BHQ.
This is the view across the airfield and in 1941, there would have been lots of Tiger Moth aircraft doing circuits and bumps.

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Tiger Moth.

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Miles Master.

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Oxford.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Road block.
The track (also used as the perimeter track) that has a road block on it. Opposite the bolder on the left are bits of concrete and iron angle.

 

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Road block.
Hidden under this tree is what I think was the road block.

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Road block.

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Home Guard.

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Home Guard.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Road block.
At least two iron girders blocked off the track way.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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20 February 2010

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Road Block.
This Sarsen stone may also have been used to block the road.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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11 May 2024

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G-AOJK ex RAF R4896 Tiger Moth still flying over RAF Alton Barnes.

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DH.82A Tiger Moth II1939.
Privately owned and flies from Popham (EGHP). 2009info.
Latest Owner Peter Green.

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Taken on Strength/Charge with the Royal Air Force with s/n R4896.
In the Christchurch Aero Club hangar 1956 prior to restoration.

RAF Alton Barnes RLG

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21 August 2023

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