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Thread: Information about RAF Tilshead required please.

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    Default Information about RAF Tilshead required please.

    I am trying pin down some information about RAF Tilshead in Wiltshire. There is little on the net and what there is, is suspect. It is pinned on one site as the runway look-a-like field on google earth which in fact is a steep hillside. There seems to be assumptions (Wikipedia) that it was linked to the Glider Pilot Regt training camp at Tilshead which it almost certainly wasn’t. What I do know:

    I have spoken to an old boy who was around at the time and he has shown me the runway (grass strip). I know 16 Sqn had a detachment there and 225 Sqn were there about Jul 40 onwards and doing recce work along the south coast. Both flew Lysanders.

    There is no RAF Tilshead 540, I assume because it was a grass strip and not much else. I have looked at bits of the 225 Sqn 540 hence I know about the tasking’s.

    What I would like to know is what was actually there? It is a strange place for an RAF outpost. I know the Lysander was Army Co-op but they don’t seem to be doing much of that and it really is a rubbish place for a runway, even for a Lizzie.

    There was an old Manor House there, within meters of the runway which the US Army used as an officer’s mess later in the war and I have a sneaking suspicion the RAF took one look at the house, confirmed this was their mess and then looked about for a potential runway but I have no evidence. The airfield had been closed by the time the Americans turned up.

    I know 225 Sqn had 30 officers and 400 other ranks there so it was fairly substantial.

    Any info would be useful.

    Thanks

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    Hi Ian,

    'Military Airfields in the British Isles1939-45' by Willis & Hollis doesn't record an RAF Tilshead, but it does have an RAF Shrewton, which is by Rollestone Camp. I would expect a lot of AOP training around the Larkhill ranges, so Tilshead may have hosted AAC Squadrons? Shrewton is the next village to Tilshead, the airfield there is listed as a relief landing ground from 1940-46, administered by 38 Group. Lat 51 12 45N Long 01 53 30W. The entry details 4 grass strips, but the sketch map shows only 2.

    Richard

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    Thanks for the prompt reply Richard,

    The runway at RAF Shrewton is just north west of Larkhill on a flat area now used as a racehorse gallops (east of Shrewton, Tilshead is west). I believe 225 Sqn also worked from Shrewton but the Sqn 540 gives Tilshead as the location hence I assume Sqn HQs were there. I can only find reference to 225 Sqn RAF and 16 Sqn RAF who had a detachment there at some point. There is no doubt of where it was as I have eye witness accounts of the runway and ac parked there but as the witnesses were very small boys the detail is somewhat limited. Sorry if this sounds a little rude but I have had lots of conjecture of what was there, including basic training of the Glider Pilot Regt (GPR) (who were at Tilshead Camp but only for initial square bashing etc I believe as they did their initial flying training at RAF Booker). The Lat/Long you give is the field behind my house and was full of hutted accom for the GPR for most of the war. It is where the GPR memorial is. The RAF runway was to the SW of the village by the water tower 51°13'34.8"N 1°58'18.8"W

    Do the sketch maps you mention show the Tilshead runway or the Shrewton one(s)? What I am after is some actual evidence of who and what was there, when etc; partly to try and disentangle the misinformation (maybe) connecting it with the Army and the GPR. The runway was very short, I believe only RAF Lizzies flew from there (nothing that would have supported the GPR although Shrewton could have been very long looking at the geography). 225 Sqn spent the last half of 1940 flying from Tilshead doing reccies as far as Lands End looking for ‘enemy activity’, that is all in their 540 but there is nothing in the 540 about exact location, other users, accom, length or state of the runway etc etc.

    Thanks again for the very prompt reply.

    Ian

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    It might not be much help, but I came across Tilshead in 239 Sqn records in October 1940 where it was referred to as a range. I doubt if it was a range itself but was probably the base from which aircraft took off along with target towers to carry out air to air firing over one of the Salisbury Plain air to air firing ranges.

    The range was one of three air to air ranges over Salisbury plain, two for Army Co-op squadrons and one for A&AEE at Boscombe Down. The latter was sandwiched between the two ACC ranges. The target towers were generally other squadron aircraft equipped with towing gear, and this was referred to as self-towing. Target tugs were in short supply at that time.

    The other Army Co-op range was sometimes referred to as Combe Bissett range but as the ranges there had no official names that I could trace identifying which range was being referred to can be a problem. However if I see "went to Tilshead for air firing practice" I know what they are talking about.

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    I also found it was parented by 38 Gp. 38 Gp was formed in Nov 43, RAF Tilshead was apparently operational from 1924 to 1941. So how does that work? However the predecessor of 38 Group was No. 38 Wing RAF, initially formed on 15 January 1942. Even that is after RAF Tilshead was closed. Curious.

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    Ian

    There are three and a half pages on Tilshead in Rod Priddle's Wings over Wiltshire. The Landing Ground continued in use for a while by detachments on exercises after 225 Squadron left for Thruxton in early August 1941, but was released to the Army by the end of the year. The pages are a bit large, otherwise I'd scan them for you. Are you in Wiltshire?

    Brian

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    Yes I am, actually I am at.....Tilshead.

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    That sounds really exciting. It will be the first I have actually seen apart from suspect passing comments.

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    Hi Ian, I know this doesn't answer the immediate question about Tilshead, but here's a scan of the entry for Shrewton - it ties in with the hangars at Rollestone Camp, which you will know well. I always understood the Larkhill landing ground belonged to the Royal Artillery, not the RAF.

    Hope this helps,

    Richard

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    Hi

    There is a WWI historical society https://www.crossandcockade.com/. Four or five years ago they published a gazetteer of WWI landing grounds. They give the location of Tilshead as (Sheet) 167/184: SU 0205490. It seems it was opened in 1918 possibly October. 58 Balloon Section was based there and an Artillery Co-operation Squadron moved there from Old Sarum for a short period in Oct and November 1918.

    Steve

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