Troops at dusk

History

History of RAF Odiham

The Early Years

DH9 The airfield at Odiham originated in 1925 as a Summer Camp for Army Co-operation aircraft using a grass runway. The site was used for flying from April to September only, reverting to grazing land for cattle and sheep during the winter. Under the Government's Air Expansion Scheme of the early 1930s, it was decided to turn Odiham into a permanent airfield, and on 18 October 1937 the new RAF Odiham was opened by General Erhard Milch, Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe! General Milch was so impressed with what he saw that he is reputed to have told Hitler: "When we conquer England, Odiham will be my Air Headquarters", and he ordered his pilots not to bomb RAF Odiham. Whether or not this story is true, the fact remains that RAF Odiham never was bombed during the war.

World War II

SPitfire When World War II commenced, the resident Army Co-operation Wing (No 614 Squadron) moved to France, and No 225 Squadron, flying Lysanders, took possession of the Station. They were followed by Free French, Belgian and Canadian training units. In June 1943, Fighter Command took control of Odiham, flying Mustangs and later, Typhoons. On 'D' Day, the unit assumed a transit role for 'follow-up' elements, and later became a Prisoner of War (PoW) Reception Centre. During the summer of 1945, a Canadian Transport Wing was formed in the United Kingdom, and for just over a year RAF Odiham became part of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Post World War II

Javelins Following World War II, came a long period of occupation by Fighter Command, when the skies above Odiham reverberated to the sound of many different types of aircraft, including Spitfires, Hunters and Javelins. In July 1948 six Vampires of No 54 Squadron took off from Odiham to make the first jet crossing of the Atlantic. The Vampires, which were on a goodwill visit to America and Canada, flew via Iceland, Greenland and Labrador. They impressed the Americans with their aerobatic displays, and returned home in time to perform at the first SBAC Show, held at Farnborough in September 1948.

Meteors One of RAF Odiham's most memorable days was 15 July 1953, when, as part of the nationwide Coronation ceremonies, the Queen and Prince Philip reviewed the Royal Air Force at Odiham. The static display comprised 318 aircraft, and another 641 flew past in salute.

Early in 1955, Odiham became the third Station in Fighter Command to equip with Hawker Hunters. No 54 Squadron formed the RAF's first Hunter aerobatic team, known as the "Black Knights". In February 1956, No 46 Squadron at Odiham became the first Squadron in the RAF to fly the delta winged Gloster Javelin night fighter. In July 1959 the Station reverted to "Care and Maintenance".

The Helicopter Era

Belvedere In February 1960 Odiham re-opened as part of Transport Command, and began operating helicopters, starting with the Sycamore, followed by the Whirlwind and then the Belvedere. The mainstay of the helicopter force at Odiham between 1961-1981 was the Wessex. In 1971, the Pumas arrived at Odiham, and in 1972, an Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) was formed to provide conversion training of helicopter crews for the Wessex and Puma Squadrons.

In 1981, the Wessex left for RAF Benson, and their place was taken in 1982 by the Boeing Chinook helicopters. In June 1997 the operational Puma squadron moved to RAF Benson. The base, for a short time, became an all Chinook organisation when the last Pumas from the OCU departed to RAF Benson in February 1998. In July 2000, an Army Air Corps Lynx squadron joined the complement.

Chinook In 1981, No 72 Squadron (Wessex) left for RAF Benson, and their place was taken in 1982 by the Boeing Chinook helicopters of Nos 7 and 18 Squadrons. The Pumas of 230 Squadron left Odiham in November 1980 for RAF Gutersloh in West Germany, and were followed in May 1983 by the Chinooks of No 18 Squadron. For the next ten years Nos 7 and 33 Squadrons together with 240 OCU continued to operate at Odiham. During 1993/1994 the Chinook HC1 fleet was updated to the HC2 model and 240 OCU took over the nameplate of No 27(R) Squadron.

As a result of a rationalisation of the whole Support Helicopter Force (SHF) various changes took place during 1997. No 33 Squadron and their Pumas departed, No 18 Squadron and their Chinooks arrived from Germany and the last Pumas left No 27(R) Squadron which in January 1998 became a fully fledged operational squadron when it lost its Reserve (R) status. In 2000 the responsibility for operating the conversion flight transferred to No 18 Squadron, and No 657 Squadron Army Air Corps (AAC), operating Lynx AH7, arrived from Dishforth.

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