Records held at the Leicestershire County Records Office indicate that land for an aerodrome at Husbands Bosworth had been ear-marked as early as August 1941. The site obviously satisfied the Ministry of Air criteria as a fairly level, well drained plot affording relatively unrestricted flight approaches from the east (into the prevailing wind).
[Operational details taken from the official Operational Records of Husbands Bosworth Aerodrome, a précis of which was kindly donated to the Husbands Bosworth Historical Society by the Coventry Gliding Club.]
A document from this time states that the runways were: "Not ready for use; blocked with temporary obstructions." Since the commencement date for construction is later given as 15th August 1942 it is to be assumed that the temporary obstructions were fields and hedgerows! The proposed completion date was given as 15th March 1943, with Geo. Wimpey and Co. Ltd. as the main contractor at an estimated cost of £805,000.
The state of construction at July 1943 was: "...Husbands Bosworth New Station, 454 employed on site, completion date October 1943." However, it appears that on August 1st 1943 the aerodrome started to receive personnel from 14 Operational Training Unit, R.A.F. Cottesmore and R.A.F Saltby.
On 10th August day-flying started and on 17th August night-flying commenced. At this time, and until Husbands Bosworth, as part of 92 Group, became 85 OTU under its own command on 15th June 1944, the aerodrome operated as a satellite to R.A.F. Market Harborough, under their command. The station was constructed with 3 runways. Runway No.1 was built aligned east-west, and was measured as 1999yds. Runway No.2 was aligned approx. north-north-west/south-south-east and was 1408yds. in length. Runway No.3 was 1412yds. and aligned north-east/south-west. Thirty six dispersal places were strung around the perimeter track and a bomb store was constructed to the north of the site. Four main aircraft hangers were erected. A water treatment works was constructed adjacent to Sulby Reservoir to the south of the site and a sewage plant was built about a mile outside the perimeter road, east of Sulby Hall Farm.
A considerable tonnage of gravel used in the construction of the aerodrome was brought to Kilworth Wharf by canal. On occasion the line of boats waiting to unload extended back as far as the Welford Arm junction.
After the closure of the aerodrome and release of the land by the government, the truncated Sibbertoft Road was realigned along part of the line of the former No.1 runway.
The odd Dakota dropping into Husbands Bosworth these days is an imposing sight, but picture a dozen of more doing a stream take-off wearing USAAF markings. Imagine a squadron of Lancasters taking off on the main runway, and gaggles of Wellingtons doing circuits and bumps all day long. When Market Harborough and its satellite, Husbands Bosworth opened for business in 1943 their combined aircraft strength was listed as 61 Wellington Mk.Ic's, 4 Martinets employed as target tugs, and an Avro Anson probably used as the station hack. Later Market Harborough was using Tomahawks for fighter affiliation work (dummy fighter attacks) and later still, Hawker Hurricanes. Apart from the occasional mention of special operations such as Bull's Eye, early infra-red night attacks, and the odd diverted flight, little comment is made in the Flying Records of the day-to-day flying at Husbands Bosworth. Mishaps pertaining to the station however, are well documented...
As a training and type conversion unit Husbands Bosworth understandably suffered losses. Young men of 18 to 21 years of age were given control of large and heavy twin-engined aircraft and expected to fly in all weathers. The Wellington was an unforgiving aircraft at the best of times, with a marked propensity to put it's nose down and fly into the ground. Many Accident Reports cite pilot inexperience as contributory to the accident.
Two aircraft accidents occurred whilst Husbands Bosworth station was still under construction. Aircraft were often sent out from R.A.F Castle Bromwich for practice sessions over the new anti-aircraft batteries, dummy dive bombing and strafing the site. A Miles Master on such a mission struck a tree whilst engaged in a low-level turn over the aerodrome and the Polish Forces pilot and his cadet passenger were killed. In another incident an Airspeed Oxford made a forced landing on the road near Nuneaton during its return from Husbands Bosworth killing all on board.
Incidents concerning aircraft from the Unit:
- Wellington from Market Harborough suffered engine failure and crash-landed in a field to the south-east of Welford village. Aircraft caught fire but crew escaped.
- Wellington from Husbands Bosworth following a fighter affiliation and bombing exercise, attempted to make an over-shoot with wheels and flaps down. Port engine failed and the aircraft flew into the ground in a nose-down turn. Four crew killed; rear gunner escaped with severe burns.
- Wellington from Husbands Bosworth recalled from local bombing range flew into ground in the vicinity of Gumley village. All crew killed.
- Wellington landing at Husbands Bosworth overshot runway due to brake failure. No casualties; minor damage to aircraft.
- Wellington crashed on landing when starboard under-carriage collapsed.
- Wellington crashed on approach in dark, pilot having mis-interpreted approach lights.
Aircraft from the station also had difficulties away from home:
- Wellington out of Husbands Bosworth made a successful single-engine landing at R.A.F. Saltby whilst under pupil-pilot control.
- During a night exercise, a Wellington from Husbands Bosworth dived into ground from a considerable altitude near Althorp Park. All crew killed.
- Whilst on a cross-country exercise from Husbands Bosworth a Wellington running low on fuel overshot the runway at ATA Whitchurch and became bogged. Aircraft damaged further whilst being extracted.
Other accidents which occurred locally but not necessarily connected to Husbands Bosworth Aerodrome:
- Fairey Battle of 40 Squadron made forced landing on Naseby Reservoir. Crew rescued by rowing boat.
- Wellington of 305 (Polish) Squadron returning from a raid on Cologne crashed near Sibbertoft. All crew killed. [After removal from the wreckage the crew's bodies were placed in out-buildings at the Red Lion public house in Sibbertoft to await collection by the military.]
- Halifax of 4 Group crashed near Elkington due to propeller failure during a night flight. The only survivors, the air-bomber and the navigator were taken to Sick Quarters at Husbands Bosworth.
- Following a mid-air collision whilst out-bound on a bombing raid on Soest, a Lancaster and a Halifax crashed near Yelvertoft village. Much of the wreckage fell by the Grand Union Canal. Both crews died.
- Lancaster of 630 Squadron crashed near Foxton village whilst approaching Market Harborough.
- A B17 of 401st Bomb Group, Deenethorpe abandoned by crew after No.1 engine caught fire whilst out-bound on a raid on Germany on 4th March 1945. The vacated aircraft crashed near Moorbarns Farm, Bitteswell. The bomb load exploded causing damage to nearby farm buildings. [This aircraft was one of over 1000 USAAF B17 and B24 bombers from various bases across Britain bombing Germany on that night.]
- At 22.53hrs. on 22nd July 1944 92 Group informed Husbands Bosworth Flying Control that a V1 Flying Bomb was heading in their direction. At 22.57hrs. a message was received that the bomb had gone down in the village of Creaton. Severe damage was done to houses in the village but nobody was killed.
STATION RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES
The first mention of sport at Husbands Bosworth Station is recorded in August 1943 when the station football team played its first match against the 16th Royal Artillery Battery at Welford, losing 1 goal to nil.
ENSA provided shows at Market Harborough and Husbands Bosworth camps, and various functions were provided in the NAAFI. Dances were held in Welford Village Hall. A station band formed at Market Harborough played at Husbands Bosworth. However, in January 1944 a set of drums and a piano were provided and the stations own band was formed. Housey-housey (bingo) and whist drives were held in the NAAFI and one 16 mm film show was shown each week.
In March 1944 a new stage was built and the first presentation was the "Bosworth Follies" with an all camp personnel cast. The first ENSA show on the new stage was given by popular entertainer, Wilfred Pickles, no doubt accompanied by his wife, Mabel!
In May 1944 a 4000lb. bomb, a dinghy, a gun turret and other exhibits were sent to Welford in support of the "Salute a Soldier" savings campaign. In July 1944 it was reported that concert shows were given once a week, and a WAAF dance was held on the WAAF site every other Sunday evening. The WAAF contingent also held drill displays at Sibbertoft and Welford in aid of the Red Cross, and aircrew members gave physical fitness displays at fêtes in both villages. A lecture in "Mother craft" featured in the autumn!
In September 1944 the Daily Express "Brains Trust" panel quiz visited the station and proved to be a very popular feature with over 600 personnel attending. For the winter of 1944 ENSA agreed to provide a 35mm cine projector and projector-room to improve the quality of the film shows. However it was May 1945 before the station cinema was up and running, and showing six nights a week.
The first Australian rules football match in the Midlands was held at Husbands Bosworth when Australian aircrew from nearby Bruntingthorpe aerodrome challenged Husbands Bosworth to a 18-a-side match.
The station sports teams had a particularly successful autumn with honours in the swimming gala at Northampton swimming baths, a clay pigeon shooting competition at Husbands Bosworth, the station soccer team winning the Group finals and the squash team the Area Championship.
At Christmas 1944 the station performed the pantomime "Near White and the Seven Twerps" which was very well received, as well as gramophone recitals and dances.
Amongst the last records of entertainment at Husbands Bosworth was in January 1946, when Art Gregory and his band performed at the station, and on 16th January the Leicester Entertainments Council presented a play entitled "Front Line" in the station cinema.
85 Operational Training Unit disbanded on 14th June 1945, exactly one year after its formation. The airfield was decommissioned by the R.A.F. in 1946. In 1948 the station camp buildings were placed under the control of the National Assistance Board for housing dis-placed Polish families. The buildings were still used for this purpose in 1958. In 1950 the Polish camp housed over 500 people, had its own church, school, and recreation room.