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.
VSTOL Pad on Runway 1960
Runway light fitting of WW2 era
The main runway had an emergency catch net at each end. This would be deployed with a steel wire winch that would elevate the net and hopefully catch aircraft that were likely to overshoot the runway end. The nets have disappeared in recent years. Has anyone got photographs of these nets?
The two aerial photos from 1942 of the airfield site are curious in showing two features: the “ghost” runway parallel and to the South of the main runway (but visible in just one of the images), and the clear dark marks of the hedges that formed boundaries to the fields prior to the runway and perimeter track being laid. How do these marks persist after concrete has been laid? They are most evident on the Southernmost runway seen on the animated map here:
Additional info was posted on the ARG Forum:
414 (RCAF) Squadron ORB for 23 June 1943 it reads:
“In the afternoon the experimental runway was opened on the station before a large gathering. Spitfires, Mustangs, a Mosquito, a Wellington and a Marauder landed on the runway in turn. Engineers blew up a section of the runway to simulate a bomb hit and illustrated their speed in repairing it”
My speculation is that it may be that the experiment was the method of construction of the runway – such as Marsden or Sommerfeld track? This would explain the Eastern end of the ghost runway which looks unfinished with an narrower width section awaiting the last of the mats/tracks. A simulated bomb hit would be relatively easy to repair /patch in front of assembled watchers. A temporary surface would explain why there seems to be no sign of the remnants of the runway in subsequent decades. It seems illogical that they’d laid concrete just to blow it up as an experiment yet not keep the runway after repair.
The site of the simulated bomb hit could be 200 yards from the Eastern end, as there appears a lot of soil disruption alongside the runway in a spot.
More info on the Ghost Runways. Apparently it was 1000yds by 50yds and built by the Canadians with a process they had developed: PBS – Prefabricated Bituminous Strip – that explains the strip pattern at the Eastern end. It was hessian impregnated with bitumen. It was a success, but in view of the fact that it doesn’t seem to appear in later photographs then one could deduce it had a limited lifespan.