Ridgewell Airfield Commemorative Association

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Completed in December 1942, Ridgewell was built to an earlier Class A airfield specification Class A was the specification set for an airfield that was to be used as a heavy bomber station with three runways, 36 hard standings, two T-2 type hangars for aircraft maintenance, a bomb dump and enough accommodation to house around 2900 personnel.

Ridgewell was initially a satellite station for nearby RAF Stradishall, so the first operational unit was No. 90 Squadron of RAF Bomber Command equipped with the Short Sterling bomber; however their stay was brief and they left Ridgewell in May 1943. The station would not remain empty for long and was handed over to the 381st Bombardment Group (Heavy) as AAF Station 167 and was the only long term USAAF heavy bomber group in Essex. The 381st BG arrived between May and June 1943 At this time the station was also expanded to now include 50 aircraft hard standings which had become the standard for other USAAF stations.

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The 381st BG began operations on June 22nd with a mission against the former Ford and General Motors plants in Antwerp Belgium.  The 381st largely flew strategic bombing missions attacking German industry such as aircraft production, oil supply, and rail marshalling yards; however like many bomb groups it switched to a more tactical role in support of the D-Day landings in Normandy, Operation Market Garden in Holland, the Battle of the Bulge and the allied crossing of the Rhine.

The 381st received two Distinguished Unit Citations, the first on the 8th October 1943 when shipyards at Bremen were bombed accurately in spite of persistent enemy fighter attacks and heavy flak. The second DUC was awarded for similar action on 11th January 1944 during a mission against aircraft factories in central Germany.

Ridgewell landing

By VE Day the 381st BG had flown 296 combat missions with the loss of 125 aircraft and returned to the USA in July 1945. Ridgewell was used for bomb storage from 15 July 1945 to 31 March 1957 when it was finally closed, however the two hangars were retained by the US Air Force as storage facilities for nearby RAF Wethersfield and RAF Alconbury until their closure in the 1990’s.

Today museum is run by a dedicated group of volunteers to tell the story of Ridgewell and the people who served here. The museum housed in the main ward of the former base hospital and has a wide selection of artefacts and displays for visitors to enjoy.

 

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Ridgewell Road, Great Yeldham
Halstead CO9 4RG
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