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Thread: RAF Tilshead, 16 and 225 Sqns

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    Default RAF Tilshead, 16 and 225 Sqns

    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 wasnít. 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 taskingís.

    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 donít 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 Yanks used as an officerís 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 Yanks 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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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Caesar View Post
    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 Yanks 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 Yanks 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
    "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"

    Yes it was. The Glider Pilot Regiment were there at the same time that 100's of future Paras were there being trained by the airborne battalions Mr Churchill wanted to create. Operation 'Biting' was partially planned at Tilshead. This raid was carried out by John Frost (later of Arnhem Bridge fame). The force Frost was leading eventually morphed into what we know today as 2Para and the Glider Pilot Regiment morphed into the modern Army Air Corps.

    "There was an old Manor House there, within meters of the runway which the Yanks used as an officer’s mess later in the war"

    This was in fact a UK WW1 airstrip that was disused after WW1, then reused in WW2 by British officers and then also US pilots and officers etc.

    After Frost returned to Tilshead after the successful raid, he was about to get into the shower at the Mess, when an orderly banged on his door telling him that a car from Churchill was outside, waiting to take him to London at full speed.

    A few days earlier the men who carried out the raid with Frost, were taken to RAF Thruxton by truck then loaded on to aircraft there. They came back to the UK by sea and were then taken back to RAF Tilshead by truck (or given leave passes as needed or required).

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    The location of the WW1 temporary Tilshead Landing Ground used by 105 Sqn RFC was at map reference 184/SU025490 - about three quarters of a mile north west of the village (or 0.5 miles west of the A360 on relatively level, unobstructed, ground about 145 m asl. It was probably first used in September 1917, and last used in October/November 1918. (As an aside the first Met Office upper air station making routine ascents was established very close to this position at Butlers Cross in July 1917, to provide upper air data for the Chapperton Down Artillery Range. This subsequently relocated at Larkhill in about 1924).

    Apologies, I digress. A second landing ground was laid out in 1925 on Horse Down at 184/SU021478 (west of Tilshead), and I think it was this that was used by 225 Sqn. There were never any permanent buildings at either Advanced Landing Grounds, although tents were erected as necessary.

    This ALG continued to be used for short detachments by various units during the 1920s and 1930s, but was not used during WW2 until June 1940 when 225 Sqn moved in from Old Sarum for anti-invasion patrols. A tented camp was established adjoining the airfield, but when the weather deteriorated Tilshead Lodge was requisitioned for accommodation. For position of Tilshead Lodge see https://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/gal...ead_map001.jpg , and for photos see http://www.tilsheadvillage.com/media...ilshead-lodge/ .

    Edit: I should add that there were no permanent runways; all the aircraft (mostly Lysanders) using the airfield were constructed to use grass landing grounds.

    The airfield was released to the Army at the end of 1941.

    The Airborne Camp was established 0.25 mile north of Tilshead in January 1941 (184/SU036487); it was a training camp, not an airfield, intended to 'harden' trainee glider pilots. Once they had passed this gruelling training the men went to EFTSs for flying training.

    Separate to all this much operational glider training after gaining their wings was conducted at Netheravon and Thruxton.

    My source for much of the above comes from pages 305 - 307 of Rod Priddle's 2003 book Wings over Wiltshire. The reference to Butler's Cross comes from my own research; one can still see the remains of the theodolite used to follow met balloons on Google Earth at 51d 14m 53.13s N, 01d 58m 05.37s W.

    Brian

    Second Edit No para training was conducted at Tilshead; as noted above glider pilots only received their physical training there. Basic para training was initially conducted, I think, at Ringway, although it might have subsequently moved locations.
    Last edited by Lyffe; 24th February 2020 at 18:58. Reason: Note about grass airfield

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