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RAF MILDENHALL HISTORY

Posted 3/22/2010 Printable Fact Sheet

In order to meet a perceived "continental threat", the British military developed the idea to site an RAF bomber base near Mildenhall in the late 1920s. Shortly thereafter, the government purchased the land in 1929, followed by the completion of the first buildings in 1931.

Three years later, RAF Mildenhall opened on Oct. 16, 1934, as one of the RAF's largest bomber stations. On the same day, Wing Commander F.J. Linnell, O.B.E., assumed his position as the base's first station commander. Although open, the base had yet to receive its first complement of military aircraft.

In actuality, the RAF Mildenhall premature inauguration was due in large part with its selection to host the Royal Aero Club's prestigious England-to-Australia air race Oct. 20, 1934. At the time, the air race stood as the longest race ever devised and attracted over 70,000 spectators to the base.

Even more telling of the race's significance in the world's sporting spotlight, on short notice King George V and Queen Mary visited RAF Mildenhall the day before the race. In the end, pilots C.W.A. Scott and T. Campbell Black, flying the de Havilland Comet "Grosvenor House," crossed the finish line first at Melbourne, Australia, less than 72 hours after starting the race.

Following this propitious beginning, RAF Mildenhall received its first squadron and aircraft with the arrival of 99B Squadron, equipped with Handley Page Heyford bombers. Soon afterwards, Mildenhall again welcomed King George V, who came to the base to conduct the first ever Royal Review of the RAF on July 6, 1935.

The RAF assembled over 356 of its combat aircraft, and totaled 38 squadrons, lined up in rows together with crews across the Mildenhall grass airfield for His Majesty's personal inspection. This historical event was commemorated by a memorial tablet located in front of the Building 562, the current Third Air Force-UK headquarters.

The RAF suspected another German threat to Europe in the late 1920s, and they believed it began to materialize in light of the "Munich Crisis." From 26 September to 4 October 1938, the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia.

Even though RAF Mildenhall Squadrons 99 and 149 did not mobilize, many of its officers received orders to other units. Families around the base were told to be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice. In November of 1938, tensions eased and returned to normal for some time. However, 149 Squadron rearmed with Wellington bombers in January 1939.

On 2 August, 1939, with talk of war growing in intensity, RAF Mildenhall received orders to assume a state of readiness for war. That included orders to test their alarm systems, brief their personnel, and implement the black-out system.

On 1 September, 1939, just before dawn, the Germans invaded Poland. By 3 September the governments of France and Great Britain upheld their treaty with Poland and went to war with Germany. Six hours after the declaration of war, 149 Squadron's Wellington bombers took off from RAF Mildenhall to bomb German battleships at Wilhelmshaven and in the Kiel Canal.

On 8 September 1939, 3 Group ordered unit commanders to emphasize that aircrews should only attack allotted or alternative targets. At the same time, all stations in East Anglia were advised they might need to implement a scatter scheme.

For the RAF Mildenhall 99 Squadron, that meant a move to RAF Station on the Upper Heyford, while 149 Squadron moved to Netharavon. The war began sadly for 149 Squadron when during the 18 December 1939 raid on Wilhelmshaven, 12 of their 24 aircraft were lost without bombing their targets. After this disaster, the British began tactics that included night bombing. 149 Squadron implemented night bombing on 18 January 1940.
The generally accepted start of the Battle of Britain took place on 12 August 1940. It was the air assault by the German's designed to destroy Britain's air umbrella to clear the way for an invasion.149 Squadron made its first bomb run against Berlin, Germany on 25 August 1940. By 15 September 1940, the Battle of Britain ended and the country was spared a German invasion.

The first enemy attack on RAF Station Mildenhall occurred on 27 October 1940. This was only the first of many because RAF Station Mildenhall came to the attention of the German Luftwaffe several times.

Though Stirling Bombers made their first appearance on 2 November 1941 at RAF Mildenhall (when149 Squadron began to change over from the Wellingtons), they began to actually operate from the station on 26 November 1941.

Throughout World War II, Mildenhall remained very active. In addition to its own airfield, the base held responsibility for satellite airfields at Newmarket, Tuddenham, and Lakenheath. Both 15 Squadron and 622 Squadron began to convert to the Lancaster Bomber in November of 1943.
For the duration of the war, except for a brief period to have concrete runways laid in 1943, RAF Mildenhall was involved in most of RAF Bomber Command's numerous offensives against Germany. The base withstood several attacks by the German Luftwaffe, but was never put out of commission (typically, the base's downtime after an attack lasted until personnel could fill in the damage to the runways).

On the first day of D-Day operations, 6 June 1944, 35 Lancasters from 15 and 622 Squadrons struck targets along Hitler's Atlantic Wall. The next day, 33 Lancasters attacked targets near Lisieux, France. RAF Mildenhall was also the staging point for large numbers of Horsa Gliders before D-Day. D-Day was the first daylight-bombing raid carried out by both squadrons. Bombers from RAF Mildenhall flew their last bombing mission of the war with an attack against Bremen, Germany on 22 April 1945.

By the end of the war, aircraft from RAF Mildenhall and its satellite airfields dropped over 23,000 tons of explosives, laid 2,000 mines in enemy waters, and flew over 8,000 sorties. Unfortunately, the base also saw the loss of over 200 Wellington, Stirling, and Lancaster aircraft, and more significantly, the loss of over 2,000 aircrew members.

Some of those who paid the ultimate price for peace (including Pilot Officer Rawdon Hume Middleton, an Australian) were posthumously awarded Britain's highest military honor, the Victoria Cross, and buried at St. John's Church cemetery in Beck Row.

Immediately after the war, Mildenhall participated in humanitarian missions, flying home repatriated prisoners of war, and dropping relief supplies to the Dutch people stranded by the flooding caused by the retreating German Army. By the end of 1945, Mildenhall operational activity experienced a drastic decrease, and despite a brief flurry of flying activity in the late 1940s, the RAF reduced the base to "care and maintenance" status.

The only remaining RAF unit of significance was Headquarters No. 3 Group, Bomber Command, which remained on station until 1967.

On July 12, 1950, the 93d Bomb Group arrived at RAF Mildenhall and began operations. Shortly afterwards, Feb. 7, 1951, the 509th Bomb Wing arrived at Mildenhall, replacing the 93d Bomb Group. The arrival of the 509th touched off a sequence of transitions, with the 2d Bomb Wing replacing the 509th in May 1951, followed by the 22d Bomb Wing replacement of the 2d Bomb Wing later that same year. On Oct. 1, 1951, Strategic Air Command (SAC) took control of the station and bombers rotated in and out of Mildenhall on temporary duty assignments.

Prior to Strategic Air Command's role at RAF Mildenhall, Headquarters United States Air Forces in Europe (HQ USAFE) established Third Air Force at South Ruislip Air Station. Simultaneously, SAC established the 7th Air Division Headquarters at Mildenhall.

The collocation of the two headquarters within the United Kingdom allowed HQ USAFE to discharge its responsibilities in England, while at the same time allowing SAC to continue in its deterrent role while retaining operational control over flying activities at Mildenhall. The presence of American bombers lent credence to Sir Winston Churchill's statement that their presence in England was the primary deterrent keeping the Soviets from overrunning Europe.

From 1954 through 1958, US politics influenced USAF activities within the United Kingdom, fostering a period of force reduction and modernization. Gradually, the number of Air Force personnel decreased, and SAC departed RAF Mildenhall in late 1958, as its runway no longer met the requirements for its newer aircraft.

On July 17, 1959, SAC and USAFE reached an agreement facilitating and substantially increasing Third Air Force's role in making operational decisions regarding the US Air Force units in the UK. In late 1959, RAF Mildenhall became the home for the Military Air Transports Service (later Military Airlift Command) Air Passenger Terminal for the United Kingdom, with the 7513th Air Base Group providing service to the terminal.

In late 1965, Mildenhall welcomed the arrival of the Silk Purse Control Group and the 7120th Airborne Command and Control Squadron (7120 ACCS), previously stationed at Chateauroux Air Station, France. Upon its arrival at Mildenhall, the 7120 ACCS converted from C-118s to EC-135s.

On June 8, 1966, the base received yet another unit, the 513th Troop Carrier Wing (513 TCW), which relocated from Evreaux-Fauville Air Base, France. With its activation on Mildenhall, the 513 TCW assumed operational control of two Military Airlift Command rotational C-130 squadrons and the 7120 ACCS. Two years after its arrival, the Air Force redesignated the 513 TCW the 513th Tactical Airlift Wing (513 TAW) with no change in its mission.

For the next four years RAF Mildenhall witnessed little change, with only the 10 ACCS replacing the 7120 ACCS, and assuming its mission. However, in the summer of 1972, the base added to the list of its tenants with the arrival of Headquarters Third Air Force, which relocated from South Ruislip Air Station.

The next significant event in Mildenhall history came with the arrival of Detachment 4, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, which controlled rotational SR-71 and U-2R aircraft from the base. Four years after they began rotational duty at Mildenhall, the base became a permanent station for the SR-71 in January 1983. From its arrival until the departure of the last SR-71 Jan. 18, 1990, the aircraft came to symbolize RAF Mildenhall in the local publics' eye.

On June 18, 1987, HQ USAFE redesignated the 513 TAW as the 513th Airborne Command and Control Wing (513 ACCW). Nearly five years later, during the Air Force's transition to the objective wing structure, the Air Force inactivated the 513 ACCW Jan. 31, 1992, and activated the 100th Air Refueling Wing in its place on Feb. 1, 1992. The activation of the 100 ARW at RAF Mildenhall saw the return of the unit to the country in which it built its war fighting heritage and legacy. Over three years later, RAF Mildenhall welcomed the 352d Special Operations Group, which transferred from RAF Alconbury in April 1995.

Later, the 501st Combat Support Wing activated May 1, 2005 on RAF Mildenhall, and moved to RAF Alconbury two years later. On Nov 1, 2005 the HQ Third Air Force inactivated and Sixteenth Air Force, Detachment 3, took its place, while the Naval Air Facility Mildenhall disestablished on Jan. 25, 2006, as a part of the Navy's force shaping in Europe. Less than a year later, HQ Sixteenth Air Force was redesignated HQ Third Air Force, now headquartered at Ramstein AB, Germany, with Third Air Force-UK remaining at RAF Mildenhall.

RAF Mildenhall Station Commanders

· Wing Commander F.J. Linnell Oct 1934 - Jul 1935
· Wing Commander H.V. Drew Jul 1935 - Feb 1936
· Group Captain R.S. Maxwell Feb 1936 - Apr 1937
· Group Captain H.K. Thorald Apr 1937 - Apr 1938
· Group Captain F.H. Coleman Apr 1938 - Jun 1940
· Group Captain F.G. Fogarty Jun 1940 - Sep 1941
· Group Captain A.C. Evans-Evans Sep 1941 - Mar 1942
· Group Captain D. MacFayden Mar 1942 - Aug 1942
· Group Captain J.A. Powell Aug 1942 - Mar 1943
· Air Commodore A. McKee Mar 1943 - Oct 1943
· Group Captain R.H. Young Oct 1943 - Dec 1944
· Group Captain K.S. Batchelor Dec 1944 - Sep 1945
· Group Captain C.E. Morse Sep 1945 - Mar 1946
· Group Captain W.H. Merton Mar 1946 - Jul 1946
· Group Captain J.H. McC. Reyonolds Jul 1946
· Squadron Leader E.J. Wicht Apr 1950 - Jul 1950
· Group Captain D.L. Thompson Jul 1950 - 1951
· Squadron Leader F. Wincott* - Apr 1958
· Squadron Leader L.W. Quick Apr 1958 - Sep 1963
· Squadron Leader J. Cassels Sep 1963 - Mar 1965
· Unknown Mar 1965 - Dec 1967
· Squadron Leader W. Pine Dec 1967 - Oct 1969
· Squadron Leader J. Lomas Oct 1969 - May 1972
· Squadron Leader N.J.J. Dunningham May 1972 - Aug 1974
· Squadron Leader W. Ward Aug 1974 - Feb 1976
· Squadron Leader G. Taylor Feb 1976 - May 1976
· Squadron Leader S. Spinks Jun 1976 - Dec 1978
· Squadron Leader I.E.D.B. Logan Dec 1978 - Aug 1981
· Squadron Leader K.E.H. Hollands Aug 1981 - Mar 1984
· Squadron Leader E.E. Harnett Mar 1984 - Oct 1986
· Squadron Leader P.W. Hughes Oct 1989 - Oct 1993
· Squadron Leader A.H. Galloway Oct 1993 - Aug 1996
· Squadron Leader A. Payne Aug 1996 - Jul 1997
· Squadron Leader S. Shay Jul 1997 - Apr 2000
· Squadron Leader C. Chaplin Apr 2000 - Aug 2003
· Squadron Leader J. Savage Aug 2003 - April 2006
· Squadron Leader M. A. Finneran Apr 2006 - Nov 2006
· Squadron Leader R.P. Fryer May 2007 - present

RAF Squadrons Stationed at Mildenhall

Squadron Aircraft Dates

· 15 Stirling, Lancaster, Lincoln Apr 43 - Aug 46
· 35 Lancaster, Lincoln Feb 49 - Feb 50
· 38 Heyford, Hendon Sep 35 - May 37
· 44 Lincoln Aug 45 - Aug 46
· 73 Fury, Gladiator Mar 37 - Jun 37
· 75 Wellington, Stirling Aug 40 - Nov 42
· 99 Heyford, Wellington Nov 34 - Sep 39
· 115 Wellington Sep 42 - Nov 42
· 149 Heyford, Wellington, Stirling Apr 37 - Apr 42
· 207 Lincoln Feb 49 - Mar 50
· 211 Audax Jun 37 - Aug 37
· 218 Battle, Blenheim Jun 40 - Jul 40
· 419 Wellington Jan 42 - Aug 42
· 622 Stirling, Lancaster Aug 43 - Aug 45

USAF Host Units, RAF Mildenhall

Unit Command Dates

· 7511 Air Base Squadron USAFE 11 Jul 50 - 22 Aug 50
· 7511 Air Base Group USAFE 22 Aug 50 - 26 Sep 50
· 7511 Air Support Wing USAFE 26 Sep 50 - 16 May 51
· 3910 ABG SAC 16 May 51 - 1954
· 3913 ABS SAC 1955 - 1 Jan 59
· 3913 Combat Support Group SAC 1 Jan 59 - 1 Sep 59
· 7513 ABG USAFE 1 Sep 59 - 1 Jun 65
· 7513 Tactical Group USAFE 1 Jun 65 - 1 Jul 66
· 513 Troop Carrier Wing USAFE 1 Jul 66 - 1 Jul 67
· 513 TAW USAFE 1 Jul 67 - 18 Jun 87
· 513 ACCW USAFE 18 Jun 87 - 31 Jan 92
· 100 ARW USAFE 1 Feb 92 - Present

US Flying Units at RAF Mildenhall

Unit Aircraft Dates

· 2d Bomb Wing (2 BW) B-29 May - Aug 51
· 93 BW B-50 Jul 50 - Feb 51, Dec 51 - Feb 52
· 100 ARW KC-135 Feb 92 - Present
· 306th Strategic Wing KC-135 Oct 76 - 31 Jan 92
· 452 ARW KC-135 Aug - Sep 79
· 509 BW B-50, KB-29 Feb - May 51, Jun - Aug 52
· 513 Troop Carrier/TAW/ACCW C-130, EC-135 Jul 76 - 31 Jan 92
· 7th Special Operations Sq MC-130H Jan 95 - Present
· 21st SOS MC-53M Pave Low IV Apr 95 - 2007
· 22d Air Refueling Sq KC-97 Dec 53 - Feb 54
· 43 ARS KC-97 Aug 54 - Dec 54
· 53d Weather Sq WB-50 Aug 59 - Mar 60
· 67 SOS MC-130P,N Jan 95 - Present
· 303 ARS KC-97 Mar 54 - Jun 54
· 305 ARS KC-97 Sep 53 - Dec 53
· 306 ARS KC-97 Jul 53 - Dec 53
· 351 ARS KC-135 Feb 92 - Present
· 380 ARS KC-97 Apr 57 - Jul 57
· 420 ARS KB-50 Feb 62 - Mar 64
· Det 4, 9 SRW SR-71, U-2 Apr 79 - 18 Jan 90
· Det, 44 ARS KC-97 Autumn 1957
· Det, 55 ARS RB-50, KB-29 Apr 53 - Jun 54
· RB-47 Summer 1956
· Det, 97 BW RB-50, KB-29 Summer 1954
· Det 1, 98 SW KC-135 Aug 70 - Oct 76
· Det, 1370 Photo Mapping Grp B-50 Jun 54 - Sep 54


Point of Contact
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs; Commercial: 01638-542289, DSN 238-2289; 100arw.pa@mildenhall.af.mil.





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