Carnaby Airfield Memorial


History of Carnaby Airfield

During World War Two, the Air Ministry bought agricultural land in Carnaby to build an emergency landing strip for bombers. Carnaby was to be used for battle-damaged bombers who were unable to reach their home bases and for diversions due to poor weather conditions. The airfield was built by a company called Monks and was operational by March/April of 1944.

The runway was one of the longest in the country and measured 3,000 yards long and 250 yards wide - five times the normal width. Over 1,500 bombers made an emergency landing at Carnaby, including the Allied Forces. Heavy bombers, such as Halifaxes, Lancasters, Stirlings and US bombers Liberators, Dakotas and Fortresses frequently landed here, with Halifax bombers far outnumbering them all.

The airfield's busiest day came at the end of January 1945 when 65 USAAF bombers, mainly B24 Liberators, were diverted there after an aborted raid on Brunswick. 20 Halifax bombers landed on Boxing Day and it is reported than one airman counted over 100 Halifaxes, Lancasters and Stirlings parked nose to tail on the airfield. The famous "Dambusters" (617 Squadron) also landed at Carnaby with their Grand Slam bombs still on board when they were diverted due to bad weather over their target in Germany. They remained grounded until the next day when weather conditions improved.

Carnaby was also equipped with a special fog dispersal system called F.I.D.O. (Fog Investigation Dispersal Organisation). The F.I.D.O. system consisted of two rows of pipes through which petrol was burnt. The pipes ran down each side of the runway. When lighted, the heat from the fire raised the air temperature enough to disperse the fog above the runway. In effect it created a hole or "window" through the fog allowing pilots a clear view of the runway. Pilots were then able to land their bomber safely on the runway. To light F.I.D.O it used a staggering amount of fuel, 120,000 gallons of fuel per hour. However, it saved the lives of many aircrew and aircraft.

The airfield remained open until well after the war, closing as an emergency runway in 1946. In 1947 Blackburns used the airfield for prototype trials for a short period. Then in 1949, No 203 Flying School at Driffield used the airfield as a relief landing ground for Meteors and Vampires. By 1954, the airfield changed use again. It was earmarked for use by the United States Air Force (USAF), and then in 1959 it became a base for Thor missiles and Bloodhound units before being finally closed as an airfield in 1969.

The airfield was sold in 1972 for £50,000 to East Riding of Yorkshire Council for development. It is now a thriving industrial estate and the old runway has been re-named Lancaster Road in honour of the bombers that landed there.

Sue Dawson

01262 606153

Registered Charity Number 1161231


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