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Charmy Down

Major
Also known as: Bath / Charmey Down (misspelling) / Charmy / Charmy Down Aerodrome / Charmydown (misspelling) / RAF Charmy Down / USAAF Station 487
County: Bath and North East Somerset
Current Status: Aviation (minor use) / Farmland / Leisure activity
Date: November 1940 - 22 October 1946; subsequent minor use
Current Use: Disused
Used By: RAF / Civil (minor) / RCAF / USAAF
Landing Surface Types: Paved
Aircraft Roles: Fighter / Trainer

The history of Charmy Down to the north of Bath can be notably divided into two parts, during and after fighter units used the airfield. Closely connected with Colerne for a good deal of its life, this satellite was much needed once it opened in November 1940 to provide vital fighter defence for Bristol and the surrounding area. Colerne initially had good reason to rely upon Charmy Down too in earlier days as the parent airfield still needed much construction work to be completed, while Charmy Down more immediately offered night flying facilities. This explained why a detachment of Hawker Hurricanes belonging to No 87 Squadron quickly moved in on opening, followed by the whole unit in December 1940. Eventually the squadron moved back to Colerne during August 1941 but returned for another stay between January and November 1942.

Other fighter elements to appear at Charmy Down in the first half of World War Two included both Westland Whirlwind squadrons, with No 137 the second and last to form on 20 September 1941. No 417 Squadron also formed here that year on 27 November but did not stay long afterwards either. Turbinlite airborne searchlight night fighter squadron No 533 similarly arose in September 1942 but disbanded with all other units of this type during January 1943.

The gradual move away from purely fighter use began a month later as the Fighter Leaders School transferred to Charmy Down. This important Spitfire training establishment subsequently relocated to Aston Down in August 1943, after which Charmy Down saw a major change. Eventually after a delay it became a tactical depot for the United States Army Air Force. Although this role lasted until October 1944, activity had peaked for the airfield and later significant use was as a Relief Landing Ground for Airspeed Oxfords of No 3 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit until December 1945.

Charmy Down carried on in more minor and brief roles as a reception centre for Australian airmen waiting to return home as well as holding a gliding school before finally closing in October 1946 as the gliders switched to Colerne. Always a rather hidden and isolated place, some parts of the airfield have survived, such as the often-photographed control tower that previously served as a private dwelling. Most of the runways and associated tracks have disappeared, as have all the hangars, but a limited amount of recreational civil aviation use continues to this day on a small part of this atmospheric airfield.

The following organisations are either based at, use and/or have at least potentially significant connections with the airfield (as at 31/03/2019):
  • Bath Spa Radio Control Society - model aircraft club
  • Batheaston Parish Council
  • Batheaston Society
  • St. Catherine Parish Meeting
  • Swainswick Parish Council
  • Wessex Water - landowner

Main unit(s) present:

  • No 3 (P) AFU

  • No 3 FIS
  • 4th Tactical Air Depot
  • No 11 (RAAF) Personnel Reception Centre

  • No 52 OTU
  • No 87 Sqn

  • No 88 Sqn

  • No 92 EGS

  • No 92 GS

  • No 107 Sqn

  • No 125 Sqn

  • No 137 Sqn

  • 155th Photographic Reconnaissance Sqn
  • No 234 Sqn

  • No 245 Sqn

  • No 247 Sqn

  • No 263 Sqn

  • No 286 Sqn

  • No 417 Sqn

  • No 421 Sqn

  • 422nd Night Fighter Sqn
  • 425th Night Fighter Sqn
  • No 533 Sqn

  • No 1454 (Fighter) Flight

  • No 2719 Sqn RAF Regiment
  • No 2729 Sqn RAF Regiment
  • No 2742 Sqn RAF Regiment
  • No 2777 Sqn RAF Regiment
  • No 2794 Sqn RAF Regiment
  • No 2798 Sqn RAF Regiment
  • No 2800 Sqn RAF Regiment
  • No 2806 Sqn RAF Regiment
  • Fighter Leaders School

Photographs and video from the memorial unveiling at Charmy Down, 1 June 2019.

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001IWM (HU 93042).jpg

Aerial view of Charmy Down, seen from south south-west, c. 1941-1942. © IWM (HU 93042)

002IWM (CH 6931).jpg

Sergeant B. Bawden and a Hawker Hurricane IIC of No 87 Squadron at Charmy Down, 2 September 1942. © IWM (CH 6931)

003IWM (CH 6937).jpg

Two Hawker Hurricane Mark IIC night fighters of No 87 Squadron RAF, at Charmy Down during the Second World War. © IWM (CH 6937)

004IWM (ATP 10755E).jpg

A Westland Whirlwind at Charmy Down during the Second World War. © IWM (ATP 10755E)

005geograph-4705563-by-Dr-Duncan-Pepper.jpg

Part of the perimeter track at Charmy Down, 18 October 2015.

006geograph-5680031-by-Mike-Searle.jpg

Two pillboxes at Charmy Down, 12 February 2018.

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A pillbox at Charmy Down, 12 February 2018.

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Gun testing butts at Charmy Down, 12 February 2018.

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Gun testing butts at Charmy Down, 12 February 2018.

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Two pillboxes and the control tower at Charmy Down, 12 February 2018.

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The control tower at Charmy Down, 12 February 2018.

Various photographs of Charmy Down. Courtesy of John Grech

Footage of Charmy Down, 2018. Courtesy of Kitty Landrover

Parent(s)/HQ Airfields(s):

Aston Down / ColerneSouth Cerney

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