Updated: 26 Jan 12
On 12 January 1918 the War Office issued the authority notice for the site to be taken over under the Defence of the Realm Regulations. On the same day, formal notice was served on the former owners that the department would enter upon the land at an early date. On 14 January 1918, the Officer Commanding the Training Division was informed that the site had been taken over and could be occupied under camping conditions as soon as adequate provisions had been made for the personnel to be sent there.
On 3 May 1976, Sqn Ldr J I Gilson of Admin Wing, RAF Digby, visited the sons of the late Henry Wright, who was the tenant farmer of this land in 1917-1918. Their widowed mother — then 92 years old, and bedridden — jotted down the notes that follow of her memories of that time. -
The reference to 1917 is most likely an erroneous recollection, as the events of 1918 tie in directly. Nor was there in fact an Air Ministry as such in 1917.
We have also learned from the Air Historical Branch that the original
owner of the land was Lord Chaplin, who, we believe, was the first Minister
of Agriculture. The property then passed to Hugo William Cecil, Earl
of Londesborough, from whom the then Air Ministry purchased some 280
acres in 1923.
We do know for certain, however, that construction work was far enough
advanced to allow the airfield to operate as a separate station by March
1918 and, on 28 March 1918, a group of officers and men under the command
of Major J
DSO FRC RNAS left Portholm Meadows aerodrome in Huntingdonshire and moved
Scopwick, bringing Handley Page bombers with them, with Scopwick Aerodrome
opening officially with their arrival. The station opened as Royal Air
Force Station Scopwick. (Major d’Albiac
had been a Royal Marine officer, hence his joining the RNAS rather than
and, later still, Air Marshal Sir John D’Albiac KCVO, KBE CE DSO
and gained fame in Greece in World War II - see Digby
a summary service record.) Early accommodation for personnel was under
Three days after the arrival of Maj d'Albiac's party on 28 March 1918, the Royal Air Force came into existence.
Regrettably, we enter another grey area. Training units of the First World War are not well documented; only skeleton records exist for some, and nothing at all for others. No 59 Training Depot Station, Scopwick is one of the latter. Things are further complicated by the use of the abbreviation ‘TDS’ to mean both Training Depot Station and Squadron! What we do know is that No 59 TDS moved to Scopwick and came under 59th Wing in September 1918, having been under 26th Wing (which controlled Wyton and some other units in Huntingdonshire and Norfolk) until then. 59th Wing also looked after Cranwell. Presumably this is where the idea of Scopwick’s having been a satellite of Cranwell’s stems from. However, by the end of October 1918, Scopwick was controlled by 27th Wing in No 12 Group. An establishment of 10 Handly Page 0/100s, 18 FE2Eb or ds and 30 AVRO 504 Ks supports use as a night bomber training unit. By the end of the war, the Station covered 250 acres, had seven 170’ by 100’ hangars and a landing area of 1400 by 1000 yards. According to a contemporary works report the buildings had all been completed by November 1918.
Scopwick does not seem to have been operational in the First World War. However, it does seem to have seen some action. Apparently, a Zeppelin loosed some bombs one night which fell in a field just north of Scopwick Lodge. To this day, the field is called ‘Bomb Field’.
Whether the Station ever achieved its full establishment or simply became a squadron is not clear. Certainly, Scopwick was affected by the run down after the First World War.
Digby Oral Histories:
- A History
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