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Thread: Spitfire Production & Assembly in the Reading area

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    Default Spitfire Production & Assembly in the Reading area

    After the Luftwaffe raids on the main Spitfire production centres on 24 and 26 Sep 40 the production effort was dispersed to a large number of sites. One of those sites was the Reading area. Various metal bashing firms (garages, coach-builders, etc, etc) were taken over to produce 'bits'. The 'bits' were then transported to various locations where they were all screwed/rivetted together and test-flown. So far so good.
    One source claims that RAF Henley was such a place. It opened (Willis & Hollis) in 1940 as an RLG for the EFTS at Woodley. Would Cockpole Green be an alternate name for RAF Henley? - it has appeared in some local accounts. Another location for this assembly/testing purpose was at Crazies Farm/Crazies Hill just south of RAF Henley. Can anyone confirm this? Was this yet another name for the same RAF Henley site?(and they just spread themselves across the country-side a bit?). Spitfire assembly/testing from bits manufactured in the Reading area is also said to have taken place at Aldermaston. Aldermaston was a 'building site' until 1942, and thereafter in the tender care of 9th USAAF until taken over by the UK for "Instant Sunshine" work!
    Who knows what happened - and when? RAF Henley is much further away from Reading than RAF Woodley, RAF Waltham St Lawrence, or RAF White Waltham. Why take the bits all that way (over roads which, in some cases, are basically the same as they were in 1940!) when road, rail, and canal connections between Reading and the Maidenhead area were far superior.
    Not looking for the complete answer, but it's one of the "odd things" about where I now live. Any clues gratefully accepted.
    Rgds
    Peter Davies

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    Action Stations number 8 has Crazies Farm as an alternative name for Henley, but has no reference to Spitfire work. I can find no reference to Cockpole Green in this work. Jefford's RAF Squadrons has Crazies Hill Farm as an alternative name for Henley.

    I suspect that whatever work was done in the area, it will have been transported to Supermarine's airfield north of Swindon for final assembly and flight test. Relief landing grounds were generally short and ill-equipped, they would not have been suitable even for production test flying.

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    I did some research on this when I lived in the area 20 years ago. If I recall correctly (I hate that don't you!) Spitfire PR XIs were assembled there and flown out (with minimum fuel) to ... Chattis Hill? ... for testing. The components came from factories in the Reading area and possibly the underground complex adjoining Crazies Hill. 'Supermarine Aircraft Since 1914' has a map which shows Henley as the most distant dispersed site to the north-east of Southampton.

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    Hi Peter
    Look at http://www.content-delivery.co.uk/aviation/airfields/Henley-on-Thames.html and you will see where Henley airfield was although it might require something of an act of faith. The name Cockpole Green does appear on the map SE of the centre of the picture which this site usually indicates as the place of the original airfield, which is useful if the airfield is gone. It also gives Lat and Long in the heading.
    Regards
    Dick

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    Graham/Chris/Dick,
    Many thanks for all the additional info. Puts the area into context. Always has been some muttering by The Ancients of N Reading about a subterranean 'defence' installation thereabouts. The accounts vary from aero-engine assembly, aircraft assembly, to ammunition/light weapon manufacture, or an essential storage capacity, existing between Reading and Henley. Having been both a meteorologist and an archaeologist, one learns not to accept anything until the proof is positive (preferably with own eyes!!). But if anybody can give me a UK OS NGR then I'll go and have a 'shufti'!!!
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 18th August 2008 at 14:18.

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    Peter,
    Only OS NGR I have is SU 795824
    Regards,
    Bill

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    Bill, Hi
    The OS NGR of SU 795824 is precisely the same as given in Willis & Hollis for RAF Henley. This may, then, have come from some WW2 official document. It may not actually be where it all happened - but close to!!!
    Enquiries have been made in various areas as to the location of Historians, Archives, etc, etc. Moreover - as part of any putative Field Visit - you should be aware that Mrs Resmoroh is keen to visit various retail outlets in the Henley area. There may be "a meeting of minds here" - if not entirely for the same purpose!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Don't hold your breath. But INTSUMs will be transmitted on this circuit as and when appropriate.
    Yrs Aye
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 19th August 2008 at 15:44.

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    Default RAF Henley, etc, etc

    Hello All,
    Oh Dear, Oh Dear, Oh Dear.
    Cans; Worms For the use of - ea 1, seem to have been opened!!!
    RAF Henley may - it appears - have been known variously as Henley, Cockpole Green, Upper Culham Farm, Crazies Hill, or Crazies Hill Farm. This is a considerable area between OS NGR Eastings of SU 790 - 800, and South of the (now) A4130 road down to Crazies Hill. A fair area. Willis & Hollis record 6 hangars (3 x Standard Robin, 2 x Double Standard, and 1 x Standard). Enough cover from the elements for some significant metal bashing?! And rather more than may have been required as a RLG? They also note that the RAF staff was only 70 ORs - very odd! Something unusual was going on here.
    Further research has shown that this area (by whatever name) was home to 1448 Flt when it became 529 Sqn and moved in from Halton on Radar Calibration duties (Rota I autogyro, Hormet Moth, Oxford, and Hoverfly I helicopter). Could lay claim to tbe he RAF's first rotary wing base?! Does anybody know if there are ORBs for 1448 Flt and/or 529 Sqn in existence? Or a Station F 540?
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    PS WINES = Why Is Nothing Ever Simple?
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 21st August 2008 at 13:13.

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    Default RAFHenley

    For informartion on RAF Henley, I suggest a visit to the Air Museum at Woodley which has a small wall display on the airfield and a few pictures of Spitfires. I have obtained from Hendon a copy of the Air Ministry Site Plan (which is also on the wall at Woodley). The name was RAF Henley (although I think it may have been called Cockpole Green pre-war). There were 4 blister hangars (standard) type and a dozen temporary buildings for the FTS operations alongside Upper Culham Farm. In the SE corner of the airfield was another larger 'Robin' hangar which was built for the Spitfire assembly and test work. This moved to RAF Aldermaston when that airfield was completed. 529 Squadron's role was the calibration of Chain Home radars: they also did some work for the sites of AA Command. I have their Operational Record Book (from Kew) and have produced a transcript of the time when the Squadron was at Henley (The Adjutant's handwriting was dreadful!). I can send you a copy if you give me an address. Ref Spitfire dispersed production, small components were manufactured at many small locations. One of these was at Warren Row (1 mile from RAF Henley) but I cannot be sure that they made bits for Spitfires. Google 'Warren Row' and you should be able to find photographs of the old chalk mine with ladies bent over lathes. Yours, Roger.

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    Roger, Hi,
    Many thanks for the update. When I first began to look into this it was because (a) written histories of Reading in WW2 mention the making of "parts for Spitfires" which were assembled at Crazies, etc, etc, etc, and (b) if Henley (Willis & Hollis) was only a RLG for Woodley then why did it have some Pill-boxes (DOBDA) in it's environs? Now, however, its purpose(s) has(have) been revealed!
    Thankyou for the offer of a copy of the Adj's script - but no thankyou!! If it's anything like mine (and I was one!) then I can see your problems!
    Rgds
    Peter Davies
    PS If you can decode dodgy writing then how about trying to decode a Will written in 1602??!!!
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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