During World War Two, the Air Ministry bought agricultural land in Carnaby to build an emergency landing strip for bombers. Carnaby was to be used for battle-damaged bombers who were unable to reach their home bases and for diversions due to poor weather conditions. The airfield was built by a company called Monks and was operational by March/April of 1944.
The runway was one of the longest in the country and measured 3,000 yards long and 250 yards wide – five times the normal width. Over 1,500 bombers made an emergency landing at Carnaby, including the Allied Forces. Heavy bombers, such as Halifax, Lancasters, Stirling and US bombers, Liberators, Dakotas and Fortresses frequently landed here, with Halifax bombers far outnumbering them all.
The airfield’s busiest day came at the end of January 1945 when 65 USAAF bombers, mainly B24 Liberators, were diverted there after an aborted raid on Brunswick. 20 Halifax bombers landed on Boxing Day and it is reported than one airman counted over 100 Halifax, Lancasters and Stirling bombers parked nose to tail on the airfield. The famous Dambusters (617 Squadron) also landed at Carnaby with their Grand Slam bombs still on board when they were diverted due to bad weather over their target in Germany. They remained grounded until the next day when weather conditions improved.
Carnaby was also equipped with a special fog dispersal system called FIDO (Fog Investigation Dispersal Organisation). The FIDO system consisted of two rows of pipes through which petrol was burnt. The pipes ran down each side of the runway. When lighted, the heat from the fire raised the air temperature enough to disperse the fog above the runway. In effect it created a hole or “window” through the fog allowing pilots a clear view of the runway. Pilots were then able to land their bomber safely on the runway. To light FIDO it used a staggering amount of fuel, 120,000 gallons of fuel per hour. However, it saved the lives of many aircrew and aircraft.
The airfield remained open until well after the war, closing as an emergency runway in 1946. In 1947, Blackburn’s used the airfield for prototype trials for a short period. Then in 1949, No 203 Flying School at Driffield used the airfield as a relief landing ground for Meteors and Vampires. By 1954, the airfield changed use again. It was earmarked for use by the United States Air Force (USAF), and then in 1959 it became a base for Thor missiles and Bloodhound units before being finally closed as an airfield in 1969.
The airfield was sold in 1972 for £50,000 to East Riding of Yorkshire Council for development. It is now a thriving industrial estate and the old runway has been re-named Lancaster Road in honour of the bombers that landed there.
DRONE VIDEO OF CARNABY AIRFIELD
Please click on the link below to view the drone video taken of Carnaby airfield – filmed by Nick Moore.
One local farmer remembers the airfield being built. As a young lad he had helped to transport some of the construction equipment over the boggy marshland in his tractor. He remembers a traction engine sinking into the bog during the airfield construction because it was too heavy and could not be retrieved and remains hidden somewhere under the old runway today.
The current industrial estate is much shorter than the old runway. During the way, the runway runway went right across the road and into the field at the other side, which is now the recycling tip. The road often had to be closed when aircraft were landing. Some local school boys used to cycle home from the village school to watch the bombers returning at lunch time and as the runway stretched across the road, the road was closed and the school boys were unable to get across the other side until the road re-opened again after all the landing, often missing the rest of their lessons.
Occasionally, bombs would fall around the area and on one occasion a bomb landed in a field in Wilsthorpe, killing the livestock.
RAF Carnaby had its own (prefab) hospital which is no longer there. It was situated on the corner of Sticks Lane/Moor Lane.
Click on the link above to view who, what and why landed at Carnaby Airfield.
For more information about Carnaby Airfield please visit the Carnaby Airfield Memorial (CAM) website www.carnabyairfieldmemorial.org or contact CAM via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two books have been written by local author Gayna Wallis, which tells the story of RAF Carnaby.
Station XI, The Story of RAF Carnaby
Station XI “Call Up Carnaby”
Local outlets to purchase the books are as follows or via the website:
Georgian Tea Rooms, High Street, Bridlington
Lions Bookshop, Palace Car Park, Bridlington
Spiers Frames, High Street, Bridlington
Burton Agnes Hall, Burton Agnes
Ferns Farm Hotel, Main Street Carnaby
Manor Court, Main Street Carnaby
Park Rose Village café, Carnaby
Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington, York