WaGCG : Wantage and Grove Campaign Group
Wantage and Grove Campaign Group (WaGCG)

Column 19th June 2019

How heavy glider force got in training for invasion action

With the recent commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, there has no mention of the important role played by Grove Airfield.

The Airfield was constructed in 1941/ 1942 and was initially intended to be a training base for RAF Bomber Command.

In the summer of 1942 it was used for training on Wellington Bombers while Harwell Airfield’s runways were strengthened. They only stayed a few weeks because the close proximity of Shellingford and Kingston Bagpuize and the number of Tiger Moths and Gliders in the air made it far too hazardous.   

So the Airfield was used by the Heavy Glider Conversion Unit to convert more than 600 soldiers into heavy glider pilots for rapidly deploying glider borne troops and weapons.

By the end of September 1943, this training was completed and the RAF moved out.

Grove was handed over to the Ninth United States Army Air Force (USAAF) who began a huge expansion programme.

Not only were more hangars and workshops required but accommodation for more than 6,000 servicemen. Wooden huts were constructed in Grove, Nissen huts in Stockham and a tent city in Challow.

The 31st Transport Group had two main tasks; firstly to assist in the placement of the invasion air forces to their operational bases in southern England but also to fly in equipment from other bases around Britain and to deliver refurbished aircraft and spares to operational squadrons.

With the approach of D-Day, the farmland around Grove became a temporary storage area for vehicles and huge piles of supplies.

One unexpected commodity was thousands of gallons of black and white paint. During the evening of 2 June 1944 this was distributed to all of the 9th USAAF bases to enable 10,000 aircraft and gliders to be painted with 2ft wide black and white invasion stripes on each wing and rear fuselage as an aid to recognition.

Grove airfield became more important after D-Day as the need for urgent supplies in France increased and truckloads of spares for aircraft and vehicles as well as vast quantities of mail, food, fuel, weapons, clothing and ammunition were flown out of Grove to resupply the front line.

On top of this more than 800 “spotter” planes were assembled and flight tested at Grove and flown to their bases in Europe.

From then until the end of the war Grove was credited with being the busiest airbase in Europe with almost 7,000 servicemen stationed there – almost the same number of people will live there when the housing development is complete.

Copyright © 2013-2024 Wantage and Grove Campaign Group