Boeing 747-200

Boeing 747-200 G-BDXJ -photo by Andrewebling – Own work, Public Domain,

This aircraft arrived at Dunsfold in 2005 after being purchased by film prop company Aces High.  It displays a fictional US registration number, a unique engine configuration and outboard fuel tanks on pylons – all created for extensive scenes in the James Bond film Casino Royale.  Dunsfold was the location set for filming many of those scenes – portraying Miami International Airport.

Local “legend” of Canadian entombed at WWII airfield

The National Post newspaper in Toronto Canada has run an article about Dunsfold Aerodrome, entitled Local legend of Canadian entombed at WWII airfield.

Their story stems from local legend and anecdote – but without documented evidence.

For decades, staff at the Dunsfold Aerodrome in southern England talked of the dead Canadian beneath the runway. Clifford Davies heard the story when he started working there in the 1960s, 20 years after the Royal Canadian Engineers built the airfield during the Second World War.

The story, as Davies recalled, was about a Canadian accidentally killed by a machine during construction of one of the runways. Under war-time pressure to finish the aerodrome on schedule, the Canadian serviceman’s comrades kept working, leaving him entombed in the cement.

“It was just general knowledge, really,” Davies said, adding that he had never seen any evidence of the claim. “It was a very strong rumour.”

Now the historic aerodrome, 60 kilometres southwest of London, is facing the prospect of being replaced by an 1,800-unit residential development. And Davies — a long-time opponent of the proposal — has raised concerns that construction on the site might amount to the desecration of a grave.

But after conducting an investigation this month, an official with the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) said the story is just folklore.

So it begs the question – does anyone know more? Who lived or worked at Dunsfold in 1942 and would have direct memory of any incident?

Top Gear

The real history of the Top Gear Track

  • 1938

The BBC Top Gear track has been laid out on the main runway of the former WWII RAF and RCAF air base.   The perimeter roads used for Gambon and the finish line were laid over the route of original B-Roads that were ripped up when the airfield was constructed in 1941.  One cottage, Broadmead, was situated where the TopGear FollowThrough is now, but the cottage was lifted whole and winched half a mile on rollers to the otherside of the airfield.

Broadmead cottage original location in 1942 now at FollowThrough of Top Gear track

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RAF 400 Squadron had aircraft, serials:

Tomahawk I:  AH747, AH748, AH749, AH756, AH758, AH761, AH767, AH768, AH776, AH777, AH781, AH786, AH787, AH789, AH796, AH806, AH810, AH812, AH817, AH818, AH823, AH824, AH825, AH827, AH831, AH839, AH840, AH841, AH844, AH845, AH848, AH850, AH851, AH853, AH855, AH857, AH861, AH862, AH863, AH865, AH880,

Tomahawk IIA:  AH882, AH884, AH885, AH889, AH891, AH895, AH909, AH946, AH997

Tomahawk IIB:  AK105, AK120, AK124, AK165
400 Sqdn Tomahawks, possibly at Odiham:

Spitfire Bridge

The Spitfire Bridge carried the A31 (now B3404) Alresford Road over the A33 Winchester Bypass in Hampshire. It was constructed in the immediate prewar period, and opened in 1940 with the rest of the bypass. It was a concrete parabolic arch bridge.

19 October 1941: P/O George Rogers of 400 Squadron, in a Curtiss Tomahawk flew beneath the bridge, but had to take evasive action after meeting an oncoming HGV. The pilot clipped the bridge and lost 3ft of his plane to it, causing him to later crash at Odiham while landing. He walked away with only minor injuries.

The “Spitfire” Tomahawk in 400 Sqn. colours. Image from
Spitfire (Tomahawk) Bridge to the East of Winchester in 1940

The story soon spread through the local area, but it wasn’t clear what plane it was. It was generally assumed that only a Spitfire would attempt to do such a thing, so the name ‘Spitfire Bridge’ stuck.

In 1983 the bridge was demolished as part of the upgrading of the Winchester Bypass to M3, being replaced by a single-span concrete bridge. The cutting it crossed was widened to house the motorway and parallel A272, which was named ‘Spitfire Link’ in its honour, and the nearby A31 junction is known as ‘Spitfire Roundabout’.

Spitfire Bridge replacement in 2016



The Folland Gnat developed in the late 1950s, at Chilbolton and Hamble, Hampshire was later to see  test flying and production moved to Dunsfold  in 1961.  This followed the takeover of Folland by Hawker.  The Gnat was the Red Arrows’ choice of aircraft until it was later to be superseded by the BAe Hawk – also from Dunsfold.

Gnat possibly at Dunsfold in the T2 Hangar, possibly around 1965
Gnat prototype XM691 (Mike Oliver collection)

The specially installed Orpheus engine from this particular Gnat XM691 was used in Donald Campbell’s Bluebird K7 World water speed record runs. The No. 711 engine had replaced a previous engine No. 709 from an earlier Gnat (the hydraulics and tail fin were from that original Gnat) but that engine was damaged in November 1966. So XM691’s engine was used for the record attempt on Coniston Water that proved fatal .

Photo: Mike Oliver collection
Gnat XM692 at Dunsfold Photo: Mike Oliver collection
Photo: Mike Oliver collection
XM691 and XN326 Photo: Mike Oliver collection
Photo: Mike Oliver collection
XM691 and XN326 Photo: Mike Oliver collection

More on the Gnat.

XM691 Folland Gnat (Mike Oliver collection)

This photograph comes with a story, evocative of a great era in British aviation history, sent in by Andy Lawson:

“In my time as a photographer at Dunsfold, Mike Oliver was ‘ Operations Controller ‘ planning aircraft movements, he also flew me around in our Dove and Seminole ‘ hack ‘ aircraft for photo – sorties.

Before that, he was a Hurricane pilot in WWII involved in the relief of Malta, then a racing driver, then Senior Test Pilot for Follands on the Gnat trainer & Midge fighters – they came to Dunsfold – along with a lot of very skilled people – when Hawker Siddeley took over Follands.

In the attached photo, Mike is flying the prototype Gnat XM691 – of course the Gnat was used by the Red Arrows for years until they moved to the Hawk, another Dunsfold product.

This was taken by Russell Adams using his home made 5X4″ glass plate negative camera, Mike reports he was happy to change plates inverted at 4G !

R.A. was in a Hunter T7 flown by legendary Dunsfold Test Pilot Hugh Merewether, looping alongside the Gnat – which makes me think it was probably the same T7 mentioned at F.A.S.T.

Hugh Merewether gained a lot of medals – and rightly so – for two incredibly brave and skilled crash landings in P.1127’s ( nowadays if something goes wrong the pilot simply ejects, but in those days, and test flying, brave guys brought the aircraft back if at all possible to retain the evidence and work out what had gone wrong ) – Hugh had his engine explode at high altitude over West Sussex; he spotted a gap in the cloud over Tangmere ( a place he knew from fighter days ) and went for it; there’s a famous voice tape of him calmly saying ” I’m going in ( the gap ) now “.

He managed a very high speed ‘ dead stick ‘ landing – this is especially tricky as one is working from a hydraulic reservoir accumulator – you only get so many tweaks on the controls before everything stops responding !

Mike Oliver went from Dunsfold to collect him – no such things as shock or trauma in those days – and found discs, pools of molten metal, in a trail left along the runway by Hugh’s aircraft and the burning engine…”

Gnats at Dunsfold 2014: Photo

Press Release 5th April 2017

P R E S S   R E L E A S E :       Launch of Dunsfold Airfield History Society

Formed by a group of people with a love of local history, today marks the launch of a new community group in Waverley, Surrey.

Its name describes its focus; the Dunsfold Airfield History Society (DAHS) will be concerned with every aspect of the historic events that are associated with the former military aerodrome as well as its still-existing physical assets. This includes:

  • Its origins as a Canadian-built WW2 bomber airfield
  • Association with the Berlin Air Lift
  • Early post-war civil aviation (‘Skyways’)
  • The development of some iconic British fighter jets (the Hawk, Hunter, and perhaps most importantly the Harrier jump jet)
  • The modern-day use of the aerodrome for major events such as ‘Wings and Wheels’

Top Gear Track and Studio Continue reading “Press Release 5th April 2017”