Bradwell Bay AirfieldBack
The strategic coastal position led to a pre-war landing ground being developed into Bradwell Bay airfield, with runway construction commencing in February 1941. The station was very busy and became famous as a night fighter base as well as seeing returning aircraft short of fuel or badly damaged use the site. The airfield was closed in 1946
- Year of construction
The strategic coastal position led to a pre-war landing ground being developed into Bradwell Bay airfield, with runway construction commencing in February 1941. The station was very busy and became famous as a night fighter base as well as seeing returning aircraft short of fuel or badly damaged use the site. The airfield was closed in 1946.
Bradwell was equipped with three runways,two of which were extended during the war. Twelve blister hangars were dispersed around the perimeter, of which four remain (TM0132 0854), (TM0117 0851), (TM0128 0819), (TM0134 0815) in good condition and one derelict (TM0110 0768). At least eighteen protected fighter pens and nine frying pan dispersals were attached to the perimeter track. A Bellman hangar stood at TM0192 0806. The control tower (type 12096/41) has been converted into a private dwelling (TM0076 0780) and behind it stands the derelict SHQ (type 14376/40) and brick hut (TM0080 0775). These two buildings are all that remains of the main technical site which was built around the SHQ and contained a large number of defence unit accommodation due to the coastal location. This site is now agricultural. Bradwell was the only Essex airfield equipped with FIDO (Fog Investigation Dispersal Operation. P91 Smith, G) and although no trace is visible it is said that some original oil burners are in use as flower pots at East Hall Farm (TM021 079) . Dispersed accommodation was located to the south, of which there is little surviving evidence.
1996: SITE ASSESSMENT
Main runway is intact as is the perimeter track but all the dispersals have gone. Some important buildings remain (control tower, SHQ) including 4 Blister hangars still in situ - rare group value.
2009: A landing ground at Bradwell-on-Sea was first established in the years before the outbreak of World War Two when aircraft using the air-firing range over the Dengie Flats needed a local refuelling point. In 1940, the potential value of an airfield on suitable land, so close to the coast, was recognised and the following year work began on the construction of the runways. The airfield, now known as Bradwell Bay, opened on 28 November 1941.
During the following years Bradwell was a very active wartime base. It was home to the Boston night-intruder aircraft of 418 (Canadian) Squadron and Mosquitoes of 23, 157, 29 and many other squadrons. In June 1943, Typhoons of 247 ‘China’ Squadron arrived. Spitfires, Tempests, Warwicks and Hudsons were all based at Bradwell or used it as a staging post. From September 1944, the focus moved to combating the almost nightly attacks by V1 flying bombs, at which Tempests were particularly successful. The end of the war saw the end of Bradwell Bay’s operational life and, in 1946, one year after the cessation of hostilities, the airfield was closed and the land reverted back to agriculture.
Bradwell had been equipped with three runways, two of which were extended. There were twelve Blister hangars dispersed around the perimeter together with at least twelve protected pens and a great many hardstandings. A Bellman hangar stood in the SE corner. The control tower and Station HQ oversaw operations. Bofors guns protected the site against air attack. In all, on the airfield alone, there were well over 300 buildings and other structures.
To the south were the Dispersed Sites, the subsidiary areas which housed the airfield personnel, the sleeping quarters, the kitchens, dining rooms, recreation areas and latrines. At Bradwell there were at least eight of these areas, totalling a further 100+ buildings. In addition, a number of the large houses in the vicinity were requisitioned for extra accommodation.
Visited in January 2009, four of the Blister hangars still survive at TM 0132 0854, TM 0117 0851, TM 0128 0819 and TM 0134 0815. They are each approximately 90 feet in span x 60 feet in length. A 1945 plan of the airfield refers to them as ‘E.O. Blister’ type. E.O. probably refers to Extra-Over, a variation of the type, although the dimensions as measured do not conform to those in a modern reference book on the subject.
Three of the hangars have a corrugated asbestos roof. The fourth, at TM 0134 0815, has a corrugated iron roof. The plan refers to them being constructed of corrugated iron. Three of the hangars have a standard twin-sliding doors entrance, the fourth at TM 0128 0819 has two doors, each with roller shutters. All four of the Blister hangars are in fine overall condition, appearing far newer than their documented 60+ years. However, at the time of compiling this report, the extent of originality is not known. Although not visited, a fifth hangar, derelict, is known to stand in trees at TM 0110 0768. This could be particularly useful in establishing the originality of the other four.
The airfield control tower (or watch office) stands extant at TM 0076 0780, although it has been converted to a private dwelling. The extent of the conversion from its original form is not known. Behind the control tower, the Station HQ is still extant, newly roofed over, at TM 0080 0775. Similarly, a Stanton shelter stands west of the airfield memorial at TM 0031 0754, as does the VHF Transmitter building, south of Maldon Road at TM 0003 0623.
Moveable anti-tank obstacles, in the form of 4’ 6” high concrete pyramids, stand each side of a gateway at TM 0152 0746. There are six in the hedge on the W side and five to the E. At TM 0020 0748 there are three more alongside a track. These were probably moved to this position from a row of c. 12 which ran E to W across the wasteland here.
Of the three runways, there is mixed survival. Much of the main runway still survives although in places reduced in width. The N/S runways have been halved in length and much of the remaining parts over-planted. Most of the perimeter track appears to have survived well, particularly to the S of the main runway.
2009: SITE ASSESSMENT
The control tower, the Station HQ and the four Blister hangars are important to the history and heritage of Bradwell Bay airfield. Although, with the Stanton shelter, they are all that remains of the 300+ buildings and structures that stood on the airfield they were, and are, of major significance in the hierarchy of airfield architecture. There are, as noted above, questions to be answered about the originality of the present structures but, notwithstanding this, these six buildings, linked by the surviving southern part of the perimeter track, form a potent reminder of Bradwell Bay’s importance during World War Two.
2011: The small concrete hexagonal containers which lie alongside part of the perimeter track and which are in use as flower pots at East Hall Farm are reported to be FIDO oil burners. FIDO (Fog Investigation Dispersal Operation) apparatus consisted of perforated steel pipelines which ran alongside the runway. Oil was pumped through the pipe to create the huge inflammable effect necessary to disperse the fog. The concrete containers are thought to be post war housings for electric runway lights emplaced at ground level. The wire entered the housing through the small hole in the circular base.