Airfield History

“ TL293555. SE of Little Gransden on B1046, west of A1198 ”

Few Canadian squadrons ever operated from Cambridgeshire airfields. An exception was No 405 (Vancouver) Squadron which, for two years, operated from Gransden Lodge which straddled county boundaries and was officially addressed as being in Bedfordshire. A typical wartime station, well dispersed and unusually set away from roads and amidst fields, it had the customary three runways,'036' of 2,000yards and two of 1,400yards. There were two 'T2' hangars and a 'Bl', along with 36 hardstandings. Gransden was a smaller station than many, with accommodation for 86 officers, nearly 200 NCOs and over 800 airmen. Quarters were also available for nearly 300 WAAFS.

It opened as a satellite of Tempsford early in 1942, No 1418 Flight arriving on 8 April from the parent station to become the first unit making use of Gransden.

The Wireless Investigation Flight, detached from 109 Squadron, arrived, becoming 1474 Flight on 4 July 1942. Both units flew Wellingtons, the former conducting trials of Gee, the navigation aid. No 1474 Flight became 192 Squadron on 4 January 1943 shortly after receiving Wellington Xs and a few Mosquito IVs. No. 1418 Flight conducted various trials with bombers and on 20 July 1942 was absorbed by the Bombing Development Unit which formed with an establishment of four heavy bombers (two Stirlings and two Halifaxes), six Wellington IIIs and a Proctor.

Technical trials were conducted by BDU, including a lot of development work connected with H2S radar and radar warning devices for bomber defence against fighter attack.

This unit and 192 Squadron moved to Feltwell early in April 1943, Gransden then switching from No 3 to 8 Group to become second satellite of Oakington on 15 April. On 19 April the Pathfinder Navigational Training Unit formed at Gransden equipped with Halifax IIs and moved to Upwood and Warboys between 11 and 19 June 1943, the transfer being brought about because in April 1943 No 405(Canadian) Squadron had arrived with twenty Halifax Ils to join the Pathfinder Force.

Their first operation from Gransden, against Duisburg, was flown on 26 April. On 2 August 1943 the squadron began to operate Lancasters and from the start of September flew them exclusively. The most famous Canadian-built Lancaster, KB700 'Ruhr Express', flew fifty sorties from Gransden.

Runway work at Bourn resulted in 'B' Flight of 97 Squadron lodging at Gransden in August-September 1943, after which the station was left to the Canadians who intensively operated in the 'backer-up' role to the end of hostilities. No 1517 BAT Flight also used Gransden in 1943.

Mosquito at Gransden Lodge Mosquito at Gransden Lodge.

On 25 October 1944, 142 Squadron re-formed here with Mosquito XXVs as part of the LNSF, and operated with amazing efficiency. It flew 1,221 sorties during 169 operations - 61 of them against Berlin - and lost only two aircraft. Another three were destroyed in crashes and two written off after battle damage.

As the war was ending the squadron became first to receive longer range Mosquito bombers, B Mk 35s intended for Far East service. Their stay was short for No 142 disbanded on 28 September 1945. No 692 Squadron armed with Mosquito B.16s which moved in on 4 June 1945 replaced No 405 which left for Linton-on-Ouse on 26 May. No 692 Squadron disbanded on 20 September 1945.

Dramatic change ensued when Transport Command took over the station. In December 1945 came 13 Mk VI, 9 Mk VIII and one Mk V troop transport Liberators of 53 Squadron. Short was the squadron's stay, most personnel leaving on 10 February 1946. The last Liberator returned from trooping on 20 February 1946, and the squadron disbanded on 1 March 1946. The station's main runway, 04/22 and 2,000 yards long, was maintained into the 1950s for emergency use and also because Gransden had been earmarked for possible development into a permanent bomber station. There had also been USAF interest in establishing a transport base and hospital on the site.

Part of the site is now the base of the Cambridge Gliding Centre. Another small airfield close by, and used by light aircraft, is not on the wartime airfield area.

A wartime map of the airfield Map of Gransden Lodge Airfield during World War II
(click to enlarge)

This text

This text is part of a book - 'ACTION STATIONS REVISITED' by Michael Bowyer

This book follows the aviation best-seller, 'ACTION STATIONS' by the same author.

Michael Bowyer lives in Cambridge and has kindly given his permission to publish this extract here.

Map of Gransden Lodge Airfield during World War II

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