The Dunsfold underground structure was constructed as a result of the Royal Observer Corps (ROC) nuclear reporting role during the Cold War between 1961 and 1991. It was built to a standard design consisting of a 14” deep access shaft, monitoring room and a toilet/store. The first post had been on Cranleigh Common before the construction of this subterranean chamber known as 52 Dunsfold (TQ01823580) which reported to the headquarters at Horsham (TQ17882979). The Royal Observer Corps (ROC) was a civilian defence organisation operated by mainly civilian volunteers.
The first prototype post was built at Farnham, Surrey in 1956. The final trials were conducted on the usefulness of the underground posts by the end of September. There were to be two crews of four personnel for staffing these posts; at Farnham they trailed 2 ROC and 2 Home Office Scientific Advisory Branch. They were sealed inside with rations and sleeping arrangements. A few changes included amendments to the hatch and air ventilation louvres.
The Dunsfold ROC Post was Grade II Listed by Historic England in 2017.
Since application for a Conservation Area and Waverley Borough Council’s rejection there have been a number of assets considered for Listed Building Status. Historic England have since designated 5 Listed Structures on the Airfield site:
On 7th September 1953, the sole Hunter Mk 3 (the modified first prototype, WB188) broke the world air speed record for jet-powered aircraft, achieving 727.63 mph (1,171.01 km/h) over Littlehampton on the South Coast, flown by Neville Duke.
It is a rare feature that all three runways survive at their original lengths and are connected with a complete perimeter track with at least 75% of the aircraft hardstanding.
Two runways are much rarer than others elsewhere in the UK as they have a large number of the Mk II airfield lighting fittings intact, together with the cast-iron drains and French drains along each side of the runways.
The runways were constructed for a Class ‘A’ bomber airfield. The white concrete of the runways and perimeter track were sprayed with a mixture of tar and wood chippings. This dark textured finish was optically non-reflective and from the air closely resembled grass. The chippings also added extra surface grip without damaging the aircraft tyres.
This aircraft hangar was designed by the notable British airport architect Graham R Dawbarn (1893-1976). The Blister hangar is an arched aircraft cover and was manufactured by Miskins and Sons. Originally made of wooden ribs and clad with corrugated metal sheets.
This example has a steel frame and so may be an ‘over blister’ or ‘extra over blister’ variant.
... to make way for the new runways, perimeter roads and dispersal points
Distance over which Broadmead was moved in 1942
The land to build Dunsfold Aerodrome was requisitioned in 1942 and work started almost immediately, mostly undertaken by the Royal Canadian Engineers. It was one of the very few airfields they built in England (4). Set a target by their commanding General, the Canadian sappers completed construction of the aerodrome in 18 weeks, against a quote of 18 months by civilian contractors on behalf of the British War Office. The Canadians did, however, have the advantage of large American earth-moving equipment
The 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Engineers, 2nd Road Construction Company & the Canadian Forestry Corps used explosives and some of the heavy machinery supplied from the USA under the lease lend arrangements. Tree stumps were blasted and from May 27th concrete was being poured in two shifts 18 hours a day.
One of the obstacles encountered in the construction of the 45ft wide 3 mile perimeter road was Broadmeads Cottage. It straddled the route to be taken and a swift demolition was required to keep construction within the tight timeframe. Sergeant Fred Kreugar realised special skills were required to deal with the building so ordered Sergeant Whidden to deal with the issue.
Fred Kreugar’s words on the solution:
“We had lots of beech logs that had been removed so we undermined the structure one log at a time , the major problem proving to be a fireplace in the middle which appeared to tie the building together. While the cottage was resting on the logs, we then rigged a cable , pulley and eveners. The idea was to work with 3 large D8 Caterpillar tractors pulling side by side and in preparation for the move we graded, or flattened , the terrain for probably half a mile or more.
First of all the three tractor operators practiced responding to signals so that they would move their machines in unison. At the first attempt however, the three tractors would not move it, so we then used five, again with cables and pulleys. Shortly after we started, the weight of the fireplace on on the logs created so much friction that fires started squirting out on all sides of the logs. So, we then took up some of the floor and put men in the house with Carbon Tetrachloride and told them to watch the fire so it did not catch the floorboards. Fortunately the freshly felled beech logs were very green and wouldn’t support a flame. A BBC news crew did film some of the move and interviewed myself and Sergeant Whidden. I remember that only Whidden came out on the news later. I was told my name was too Germanic for the BBC’s liking.”
Extracted text from Paul McCue’s definitive 2014 book Dunsfold: Surrey’s Most Secret Airfield
As well as moving earth and buildings, the main Guildford-Horsham road had to be diverted. The job was complete in 20 weeks. (6)
More Aerodromes for RAF (1941) showing similar heavy equipment as used by the Canadian Engineers and contractors at Dunsfold
By the control tower, there is a plinth inscribed:
“This aerodrome was built by the Royal Canadian Engineers assisted by Canadian Forestry Corps, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps and Ordnance Corps, 1942. It was handed over for the use of the RCAF in October 1942.”
Aerial photograph 1942
Ministry drawings 1941
Aerial photograph 2013
Dunsfold 1944 (private archive) and 2013
Dunsfold was one of only two airfields in Britain to be granted to the Royal Canadian Air Force and, as such, was titled RCAF Dunsfold. This was in exchange for the many training airfields that the Royal Air Force was permitted to establish in Canada.
In December 1944, Dunsfold Aerodrome comprised:
Three runways, all 50 yards (46m) wide: one 2,000 yards (over a mile or 1,830m) and two, each 1,400 yards (1,280m), in the typical “A” shape
12 Blister hangars, 2 T-2 hangars: on the north of the site
Dispersals: 38 100 feet (30m) “frying pans”: on the south and east of the site. “Dispersals” were parking areas for aircraft and distributed to minimise damage in the event of an attack. They could accommodate 50 aircraft.
Towards May 1942the sappers’ lines began to agitate with rumours of a new job, a large job, an airport, no less. As the rumours originated with the sappers, credence was promptly given to them by the officers and sergeants, and we prepared for the move. Dunsfold!!
When we arrived there, it consisted of acres of beautiful crop and pasture land, broken at intervals by groves of staunch blue and red oak trees. It was one of the grandest pastoral scenes in the whole of England. With the Forestry Corps, R.CA.S.C, 2nd Road.Construction Cby details who were attached to us, the Battalion descended on the areas natural loveliness like a swarm of locusts. Regiments of trees disappeared in a dav at the behest of the Foresters, carry-alls moved mountains of earth, mechanical ditchers dug deep to provide drainage. Fleets of trucks hauled “hogging” from Ewhurst and gravel from Hungry Hill. Fourteen ton capacity trailers towed bulk cement from Shoreham. For eighteen hours a day there was a pandemonium of sound and movement, and during the other six hours the camp’s rest was uneasy, as, during the night, vague groups of men wandered about ensuring that the machinery would be in order to resume its labour the following day. Gradually the runways were levelled off and finegraded to the point where concrete could be poured. A huge double barrelled cement mixer was put to work, and competition between shifts which had previously been very keen, now reached fever point. For some days the mixer was allowed to work as it’s manufacturers intended it should, squatting at the side of the strip to be poured, and depositing the wet cement in any place desired by means of a boom and a bucket, which were soon found to be the weakest part of the machine’s construction and subject to frequent break- downs. Within a week the boom and bucket had been abolished, the mixer placed squarely in the centre of the strip to be poured, and the concrete allowed to fall out of it into heaps from whence it was industriously shovelled into its required position by a group of sappers whose enthusiasm was beyond praise.
Of the central mixing plant, the saw mill, the drainage crews, the work of transport and Q.M. etc., there is not room here for more than passing notice, but, when in September, the first ‘plane landed, and in October, when the Airport was officially opened and handed over to the Air Force by General McNaughton, the Battalion was rightly proud. A difficult job had been com-pleted in record time. It had thereby justified itself, and felt confident of being able to give a creditable account of itself in any work the future might hold.
Dunsfold too holds memories of a lighter type, as when a certain red-headed A.T.S., decided she was going to make her residence in the camp. The R.S.M. decided not and the whole camp held its breath whilst she defied him and passed four nights quite pleasantly in certain tents the morning after the fourth night however, she was caught and hauled off to “pokey”, much to the indignation of several individuals.
It was here too that the famous and notorious chicken incident occured.Close to the camp resided a widow with two daughters, whose livelihood, to a great extent, depended upon the well being, happiness and egg producing capacity of some half a dozen hens. One dread night all six of them disappeared. The local constabulary was hot on the trail next morning, and, noses close to earth, sniffed their way along a morbid trail of blood and feathers into the middle of our camp. Here the trail ended. The incriminating facts were reported to the Colonel, and he, in his wisdom, ruled that unless the birds were returned to their rightful owner that very night, the whole camp would be C.B’d for one month. The next morning the widow found herself to be the somewhat perplexed owner of 186 chickens.
Then there was the night of the fire in the ammunition tent, when a certain C.S.M. awakened to the sound of exploding bullets and decided that Hitler himself was leading a personal invasion of Dunsfold. He leaped from his tent clothed in underwear and a bandoleer, his rifle at the “on guard” and shouting,
“Invasion”, as only a C.S.M. could. Then there were the dances in the Auxiliary Services blister hut and what dances. Dances at which, after they were over, lovelorn sappers endeavoured to smuggle themselves aboard the trucks taking the girls back to Guildford.
The battle headquarters at Dunsfold is the most common type (Air ministry drawing 11008⁄41 ) was originally erected at bomber stations but appears to have been adopted by all RAF Commands sometime after 1942. Dunsfold’s is semi-sunken with the top half of the structure covered over with soil. It is on a high point overlooking the south side of the airfield, alongside a public footpath and outside the present perimeter fence. The structure is heavily overgrown although the observation cupola is clearly visible from the footpath. The access stairway has been backfilled with soil but some of this has been dug out again and it is possible to squeeze in to the lobby. Internally the structure is clean and dry although stripped of any original fittings.
The design consisted of a network of five underground rooms entered by steps at one end leading down into a lobby. Straight ahead was a latrine and to the left the office; passing through the office there was a door in front to the sleeping quarters and a door to the right into mess room. A door on the right hand corner of the mess room led to the emergency escape ladder and from the bottom of the ladder there were three steps up to an observation cupola which was built 3 feet higher than the other rooms. The cupola was 6’ square and projected three feet above the ground with a thick re-enforced roof and at ground level, a 2” wide observation slit running all the way around to allow the Local Defence Officer a 360 degree view. Text by Nick Catford of www.Subbrit.org.uk
Please note: The aerodrome is private land and an active airfield. Access is not permitted to some of the buildings and features and we strongly discourage access without permission.
The BAE Systems Hawk is a British single-engine, jet-powered advanced trainer aircraft. It was first flown at Dunsfold, Surrey, in 1974 as the Hawker Siddeley Hawk, and subsequently produced by its successor companies, British Aerospace and BAE Systems, respectively. It has been used in a training capacity and as a low-cost combat aircraft.
Operators of the Hawk include the Royal Air Force (notably the Red Arrows display team) and a considerable number of foreign military operators. The Hawk is still in production in the UK and under licence in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with over 900 Hawks sold to 18 operators around the world.
The Hawker P.1127 and the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel FGA.1 were the experimental and development aircraft that led to the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, the first vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) jet fighter-bomber. Kestrel development began in 1957, taking advantage of the Bristol Engine Company’s choice to invest in the creation of the Pegasus vectored-thrust engine. Testing began in July 1960 and by the end of the year the aircraft had achieved both vertical take-off and horizontal flight. The test program also explored the possibility of use upon aircraft carriers, landing on HMS Ark Royal in 1963. The first three aircraft crashed during testing, one at the 1963 Paris Air Show.
Improvements to future development aircraft, such as swept wings and more powerful Pegasus engines, led to the development of the Kestrel. The Kestrel was evaluated by the Tri-partite Evaluation Squadron, made up of military pilots from Britain, the United States, and West Germany. Later flights were conducted by the U.S. military and NASA.