Melton Mowbray is a small market town nestling on the edge of Leicestershire. Famous for its racehorses, pork pies and stilton cheese, and certain buildings being part of the divorce settlement of Anne of Cleves when she managed to pick her way out of her marriage to Henry VIII with her head intact, Melton Mowbray also has a plethora of prominent military installations in the vicinity, both in use and no longer operational.
One such place is RAF Melton Mowbray. Now the site of a small industrial centre, a lorry park and occasional Bank Holiday Market, near to and on the old airfield, RAF Melton Mowbray was opened in 1942 and served as an active air base during World War 2, with several Ferry Training Units, and a Ferry Pilot Pool, Number 4 Aircraft Preparation Unit and Mark X AI Conversion Flight operating from the unit for various periods through 1944 and into 1945. Aircraft flying from RAF Melton Mowbray included Spitfires, Mosquitos, Corsairs, Vengeance, Hellcat, Dakotas and Halifax under the umbrella of RAF Transport Command.
Following the end of the War, in 1946 the base was turned over to Polish Airmen and their families, who lived in accommodation close to the airfield. This housing no longer exists and this part of the Station’s life ended in 1958, following which the unit spent four years housing three operational Thor Strategic Missiles, until its eventual closure in 1963.
Although the runway can still be seen and is utilised in the present above named ventures, the technical area of the base has fallen into disrepair. Much of it has fallen in over the years and the Nissen huts now stand derelict, a shadow of their former selves, complete with the obligatory graffiti, car tyres and beer cans, left behind by local youths, perhaps, looking for an out of the way place to hang out. They come prepared though as the strategically positioned toilet roll perched on a small pile of bricks in a corner of a demolished outhouse testifies.
As I walked around on a chilly Easter Sunday, I couldn’t help but imagine the ghostly shadows of long-dead airmen; their cheery voices as they went about the tasks at hand. I could almost hear the distant echoes of those Supermarine engines starting up across the airfield, in the distance, as I trod across the broken slates, and gazed through the broken walls, but it was just some dude flying around in his two-seater. Now the sound of birds and bored rams in the field next door are the only other noises to be heard. And it brought a lump to my throat.
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