During World War Two, the Air Ministry bought land in Carnaby to build an emergency landing strip for crippled bombers. The airfield was built by a company called Monks and was operational by March/April of 1944. The runway was 3,000 yards long and 250 yards wide – five times the normal width. Over 1,500 bombers made an emergency landing at Carnaby and many lives were saved.
Carnaby operated the F.I.D.O. system (Fog Investigation Dispersal Organisation). The F.I.D.O. system consisted of two rows of pipes in which petrol was set a light. The pipes ran down the length of each side of the runway. When lighted, the heat from the fire raised the air temperature above the runway enough to disperse the fog. This, in effect, made a “window” or hole in the fog in the fog, allowing the pilot to see the runway below. Pilots were then able to safely navigate and land on the runway.
F.I.D.O. used 120,000 gallons of fuel per hour and was very expensive to run. Special railway sidings were installed at Carnaby to enable fuel to be delivered to the airfield.
One local farmer, who grew up and still lives in the village, remembers F.I.D.O. being lit. He recalls the light being so bright that you could read a newspaper by it.
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 Halifaxes, Lancasters and Stirlings parked nose to tail on the airfield. The famous “Dambusters” (617 Squadron) landed at Carnaby when they were diverted from their mission in Germany due to bad weather. They returned to England with their “Grand Slam” bombs still on board. They were grounded until the next day when the weather improved enough for take-off. They continued onto Germany to bomb the Bielefeld Viaduct.
The airfield remained open until well after the war, closing as an emergency runway in 1946. In 1947 Blackburns 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.
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.
Emergency Landings at Carnaby Airfield
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