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THE ROYAL AIR FORCE - AIRFIELD CONSTRUCTION BRANCH. 1941 to 1966



This site is the personal site of ex 4109595 Cpl Honey, ACB Plant Operator.
I have created it because when any mention is made of the RAF Airfield Construction Branch - even amongst ex RAF people - no one has a clue as to its existence or function.
So as I have acquired many photographs it is an opportunity for me to visually show and explain the small part that I and others on the Plant side played when serving with the ACB.
The site will mostly concentrate on Plant but will contain any unusual or general pictures of interest to all who served in its ranks in other trades.
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A potted history shows that it was formed in 1941 as Works Squadrons whose functions were to construct and maintain airfields, the name being changed in 1943 to Airfield Construction Squadrons and also at that time a 4 number Squadron identification system was introduced and the General Trade Squadrons were numbered from 5001 to 5020.
5201 to 5207 were the 7 Plant Squadrons.
5029 was the Polish AC Squadron.
5151 to 5156 were the 6 Mechanical and Electrical Squadrons..

At the end of WW2 some 30,000 men were serving and 1946 saw the disbandment of the war time Squadrons and those staying on - from all Trades - were posted to RAF Mill Green, Suffolk which was until that time the No 2 School of Plant Training and now became the Airfield Construction Depot.

In 1948 the Depot was moved to RAF Church Lawford (nr Rugby) with some temporary accommodation of trainees at RAF Honily (near Henley in Arden) and the Plant Training School was moved to an old gravel/sand quarry at Ryton on Dunsmore (nr Coventry), in 1953 the Depot moved briefly to RAF Lichfield, Staffs - the Plant storage and holding unit remaining at RAF Church Lawford during this period - but in 1956 the Depot moved once again, this time to RAF Wellesbourne Mountford, Nr Stratford on Avon and the Plant Training School moved to Claverdon (near Warwick)and they remained there until 1963 when both the depot and the Plant Training School made their last home at RAF Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire.
During this period of the 50s and 60s about 80% of the throughput of men in the ranks were National servicemen and many of my acquaintance on the Plant side - including some I trained at the Plant Training School at Claverdon - went on to work on Plant for the rest of their lives, as I write John Shepherd is still working on bulldozers. So for this group of men National service was not a waste of time, as so many were taught skills that they would not otherwise have had the opportunity to acquire!
It is true to say that the combined training program of the RAF Airfield Construction Branch and the Royal Engineers in the 1950s and 60s in the use of all types of earthmoving machinery and associated equipment (Crushers, tar macadam plant, rollers batching plants for concrete mixing etc) meant this country had a nucleus of necessary skilled personnel which the main road building contractors called on to build the existing motorway network.

The Airfield Construction Branch was closed down in April 1966 after being in existence for 25 years and its function was taken over by 39 Engineer Regiment (Airfields) of the Royal Engineers and the serving RAF men were offered 4 options:
Free discharge.
Re-muster to another RAF Trade (which I did in 1961).
Enlist direct into the Royal Engineers.
Take a 3 year secondment.
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update ! The Pheonix rises and 5001 Squadron was reformed in 2003 at RAF Stafford and is currently based at RAF Wittering as part of the MLG.

1941 - 1966: RIP.
5001 Sqd: 2003 - ?
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GALLERY.
Conditions of use and general notes about each Gallery !

Crown Copyright is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office.(Web site licence ref: acquired).
PERMITTED USES: This material may be accessed and downloaded on to electronic, magnetic, optical or similar storage media, provided that such activities are for private research, study or in house use only.
RESTRICTED USES: This material must not be copied, distributed, published or sold without permission of the Controller of HMSO.
With regard to the photographs shown, all have been donated for use on the site, they are not in any sequential order - they are in the order "as they came to me" - and any additions donated will also be added in the same way, when indexed they are then re allocated to a folder designated for a specific RAF Camp to simplify access.
Basic information is on the photographs.
I am always in search of any more photographs for inclusion on the site which show plant and anything unusual or special about Wellesbourne Mountford, if you send me any then please put as much information in as you can and please put your name and address on the back of each one.
Due to implications concerning the Freedom of Information Act no names will be put to faces on this website unless I have the permission of the people concerned to do so.
Many photographs have been reduced in PIXEL size to save space, on your computer you can open them out again to get more clarity if desired.
For any enquiry about any photograph please give the INDEX No
Thank you for visiting the site. ENJOY !
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RYTON ON DUNSMORE Training School.
My time here was as a trainee excavator op (we were initially billeted at RAF Honily - (near Henley in Arden for a short period) and when I had finished that I was kept at RAF Church Lawford on the Plant holding unit based in ythe huge Abbotsinch Hangar but returned to Ryton to take the tractor ops course, until the move to Wellesbourne Mountford took place.
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CLAVERDON Training School.
My time here was as an Instructor - did most of the classroom instruction for trainees - and most of the lads coming through were National Servicemen.
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RAF Wellesbourne Mountford depot.
I spent a lot of time here in between Detachments - 2 years on the Special Plant Section - the Gallery has odds and ends of photographs taken on the depot by all trades and many of the living accommodation etc.
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RAF LYNEHAM detachment.
When on the Special Plant Section at Wellesbourne Mountford I visited this detachment and took these photographs then.
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RAF WIMPOLE PARK detachment.
This was an unusual job for the ACB as it was demolishing and removing all trace of an old USAF Hospital.
I was on this detachment as NCO i/c Plant and to supervise and run the Goodwin Goliath crusher unit, we were based at RAF Bassingbourne 4 mile away and it was an enjoyable 9 months.
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RAF HALTON.
This detachment was for 9 months and was to lay aircraft holding areas around the hangars and put down aircraft securing points, the concrete was laid in 3 inch layers to a depth of 9 inches.
I was NCO i/c Plant and we had a batching silo etc to feed the mixers and the concrete was conveyed from mixing to laying by Thwaites dumpers, the concrete was spread using the new Blaw Knox tarmacadam spreader with modified tampers.
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RAF NICOSIA AMWD.
This represents 9 months when, during the EOKA crisis, I was detached to AMWD to take charge of the Plant Section, my role was that of a civilian charge hand and mainly was to deploy and supervise a team of Turkish staff employed on camp and runway maintenance.
I lived in 5001 tent lines but the only contact with the RAF was on pay parade, as I worked for AMWD I had freedom to go anywhere I chose (if out of the camp I collected an armed RAF Regiment guard). A wonderful posting.
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RAF BRUGGEN. 5357 Wing 2TAF.
D Metson sent me these photographs (plus some not shown) and they depict rather a large job at that camp in 1954.
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RAF GUTERSLOH. 5357 Wing 2TAF.
These photographs were supplied by 2594526 Mackie E who kept on working as a plant op in civvy street.
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RAF EL ADAM. 5001 Sqd.
Some of these photographs were supplied by John Shepherd, still working as a Plant operater in civvy street. He contacted me when I wrote the main articles for Classic Plant magazine.
He reminded me that he was one of my trainees on the tractor course at Claverdon.
Others supplied by Lew Huggins who was on the Excavator course with me at Ryton on Dunsmore and was my best man as well.
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RAF GAN (Maldive Islands) 5001 Sqd.
These photographs were supplied by John Shepherd,
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RAF SELETAR. 5001.
5001 Sqd gang, pic from Glyn Roberts.
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St Kilda 1957 / 58.(outer Hebrides) 5004 Sqd.
Photographs supplied by Peter De Salis Johnston and Jeff Gibbons and are a good record of this detchment: known as Operation Hardrock. Under the direct Command of Wing Commander Cookson.
The detachment of 5004 Airfield Construction Sqn RAF comprised some 300 men of all trades in 1957/58.

'Operation Hardrock' was the building of a Rocket Tracking Station for the "Corporal" missile trials, on the remote, uninhabited, Scottish island of St. Kilda (Hirta), 40 miles beyond the Outer Hebrides.
The launching of these missiles was from Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides.
The work was carried out by the Royal Air Force (5004 Airfield Construction Squadron, home depot being RAF Wellesbourne Mountford, Warwickshire) for the British Army over the two summers of 1957 and 1958, with over-wintering there, in between, by a skeleton RAF force.
The army provided the sea transport to and from St. Kilda, using ageing LCT's (Landing Craft Tanks) which were based, a long sea voyage away at Marchwood, Southampton Water!
Some 300 personnel were on the Island for the summer period only over 2 years in very arduous conditions and when completed the site was taken over by the Army and they are still in occupation today.
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RAF Largens - Azores.

1716374 LAC Dennis Gore. Electrician 1. A C B 1941-1946 - Azores 1943-1946. 5351 Wing. was on the advance party who landed on the Island Called Terceria one of the Nine Azores group in 1943 to build a large Airfield which was Called R A F Largens and later an American Group of SEEBEES arrived.
He worked all the time in the Power Station but this Airfield became one of the most important in WW11 as it enabled Dakota, Sky Masters. Mosquitoes and other aircraft to fly from Canada and America and to stop and refuel to carry on to the UK or Europe, it was also used as a Search and Destroy for German Submarines operating in the Atlantic
It was also used as a Decoy route when the Big three had their meeting: Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin
The photographs in the Gallery: RAF Largens - Azores have been donated by Dennis Gore and he would like to hear from anyone else who served at RAF Largens in this period.
He can be contacted on UK Tel No: 01284 760514.
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ACB MT.
Mainly photographs of mine, showing the diverse heavy equipment we had.
Would like to add more if anyone has any.


For text see Times remembered.
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PGH e mail: pgh87@talktalk,net
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