top of page
( Berkshire )
A HUGE site, with a lot of fences !
I did this solo and got stuck on top of a bit of barbed wire more than once...
Royal Air Force Greenham Common or RAF Greenham Common is a former Royal Air Force station in Berkshire, England. The airfield was southeast of Newbury, Berkshire, about 55 miles (89 km) west of London.
Opened in 1942, it was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War and the United States Air Force during the Cold War. After the Cold War ended, it was closed in 1993.
The airfield was also known for the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp held outside its gates in the 1980s.
Second World War.
Before the building of an airfield, Greenham Common was a piece of common land. It was used for troop movements during the English Civil War and in the nineteenth century.
In late 1943, Greenham Common airfield was turned over to the USAAF Ninth Air Force. An American advance party soon arrived to ready the airfield for the incoming units. Greenham Common was known as USAAF Station AAF-486 for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and it was referred to by this name instead of by location. Its USAAF Station Code was "GC".
The first arrival was the 51st Troop Carrier Wing Headquarters, arriving in September 1942. The 51st TCW controlled the three troop carrier groups at RAF Keevil (62nd TCG), RAF Aldermaston (60th TCG) and RAF Ramsbury (64th TCG) as part of Twelfth Air Force. The Wing Headquarters was located in requisitioned Bowdown House, a mansion on the northeast end of the airfield, and made use of the runways for its communication and courier flights.
The 51st TCW HQ followed its groups to North Africa as part of Operation Torch in November 1942.
After the 1948 Berlin Blockade and the 1950 invasion of South Korea by the Korean People's Army, the perceived threat from the Soviet Union rose. On 23 April 1951, RAF Greenham Common was made available to the United States Air Force by the British Ministry of Defence as a Strategic Air Command base, with joint operations with the Royal Air Force units. Formal handover to the 7th Air Division was on June 18 and massive reconstruction work began. Basically, the entire wartime airfield was demolished and replaced with a new 10,000 ft (3048m) east/west runway with parallel taxiways north and south of it leading to extensive hardstandings. A new technical and domestic site was built to the south of the runway, involving diversion of the A339 road and demolition of several homes and two pubs. Construction work was finally completed and the base declared operational in September 1953.
Strategic Air Command
In the post-Second World War years, the United States Strategic Air Command was based at three major airfields in eastern England: RAF Lakenheath, RAF Marham and RAF Sculthorpe. The increasing tension of the Cold War led to a re-evaluation of these deployments and a move further west, behind RAF fighter forces, to RAF Greenham Common, RAF Brize Norton, RAF Upper Heyford and RAF Fairford.
The airfield came under Strategic Air Command's 7th Air Division, with the 3909th Combat Support Group as its administrative unit on the base, responsible for all non-flying activities as well as maintenance and logistical support of the flying units attached to RAF Greenham Common.
The initial bomber wing deployed was the 303d Bombardment Wing with B-47 Stratojets, arriving on 17 March 1954 from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The 303d stayed just over a month, returning on 28 April 1954. This was the first of the short-term temporary duty deployments from home bases in the US that continued intermittently over the next 10 years. Other known SAC deployments were:
Greenham Common Task Force (Provisional) (1 November 1955 – UNK) (ERB-29Aa and RB-50G/Es) (Electronic Reconnaissance and Countermeasures) (TDY From 97th Bombardment Wing, Schilling AFB, Kansas)
97th Air Refueling Squadron (5 May 1956 – 13 July 1956)(KC-97)(TDY From 97th Bombardment Wing, Schilling AFB, Kansas)
310th Bombardment Wing (3 October 1956 – 9 January 1957) (B-47, KC-97)(TDY Smokey Hill AFB, later renamed Schilling AFB, Kansas)
40th Bombardment Wing (1 July 1957 – 1 October 1957) (B-47, KC-97)(TDY Schilling AFB, Kansas)
In April 1958 the 90-day detachments were replaced by a three-week Reflex Alert rotation, during which the bombers did not fly, reducing the noise considerably. The runways and dispersals were further strengthened for the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber, but none were based at Greenham.
From August 1960 the B-52 made periodic training visits, and a Convair B-58 Hustler arrived briefly in October 1963. Reflex operations by B-47 and KC-97s continued until1 April 1964.
Many SAC Squadrons had aircraft at RAF Greenham Common on a transitory basis without any recorded deployment to the base.
The Strategic Air Command (SAC) departed Greenham Common on 30 June 1964, much to the relief of the local residents; the thundering jet bombers of SAC came no more, and for several years it was used for USAF storage and as a relief base.
Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp
On 12 December 1982, 30,000 women held hands around the 6 miles (9.7 km) perimeter of the base, in protest against the decision to site American cruise missiles there
Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp was a peace camp established to protest at nuclear weapons being sited at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire, England. The camp began in September 1981 after a Welsh group, Women for Life on Earth, arrived at Greenham to protest against the decision of the British government to allow cruise missiles to be based there. The first blockade of the base occurred in May 1982 with 250 women protesting, during which 34 arrests were made. The camp was active for 19 years and disbanded in 2000.
In popular culture
An episode of BBC's Top Gear was filmed at the abandoned airbase, with Jeremy Clarkson and James May attempting to find out if communism had produced a good car.
Beyoncé used the airbase to film scenes for her 2013 self-titled visual album.
In the 1996 video game, Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars, Lady Piermont mentions Greenham Common after helping George Stobbart get the Templar manuscript.
Greenham Common airbase was used as a filming location for the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The silo area was used as the location for the above ground Resistance base on the fictional planet D'Qar.
bottom of page