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Thread: RAF Oakley bomb storage area, Buckinghamshire. March 2008

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    Default RAF Oakley bomb storage area, Buckinghamshire. March 2008


    This report relates to the former bomb storage area and firing range of RAF Oakley, Buckinghamshire. It's not an exciting site but it is an interesting one for followers of WW2 RAF sites. Thanks are due to BadgerLad for his accompaniment. RAF Oakley is a former WW2 operational training unit that has since reverted to farmland and is now crossed at its western edge by the M40. The most interesting events in the site's history that a Google search could turn up are that it was the reception centre for thousands of returning British POWs at the end of the war and that the surviving hangar is the one flown through by James Bond in the film Octopussy. As a whole it is a huge site like most RAF bases, while the runways are intact and there are plenty of other surviving structures in the technical and WAAF areas this report leaves them for another day and concentrates only on the bomb storage area in the woodland to the west of the M40.



    This area of the south midlands and home counties is home to a cluster of former OTU bases which survive in varying states. Since most of them have now reverted to farmland the extensive network of explosives storage sites stretching far into the surrounding countryside that supported these bases have mostly been erased, being structures which take up a lot of farming space and could easily be removed. At Oakley though, some of the bomb storage area has survived because it forms part of Bernwood Forest, a commercial woodland managed by the Forestry Commission.

    Anyway, to the site itself. Park up next to the dog walkers in the handy Forestry Commission car park, follow the main forest road towards the M40. After about a mile the surface changes from gravel to concrete. You've reached the bomb store.

    The eastern part of the woodland is home to a network of concrete roads, some of which are used by the forestry people and some of which have been abandoned to disappear from view under 60 years of leaf litter. There are a few buildings deep in the woodland of which more later, but they aren't the main event here. The most obvious surviving structures are the bomb storage bays themselves which take the form of a series of rows of concrete building bases between parallel concrete roads, surrounded by earth banks and with brick and concrete loading ramps at one end. The photograph below shows the general layout of one of the bays from the road alongside it, with an overgrown building base in the foreground surrounded by earth banks.

    At the far side of the building base above is this loading ramp, taken from the overgrown parallel road.

    The ramps themselves have suffered the ravages of time on hastily poured 1940s concrete and so their construction isn't immediately obvious from the picture above. This picture with a surviving ramp end from another part of the site gives a better idea of the angle.

    Judging by the size of the building bases and the absence of any rubble I am guessing that these were the larger type of open ended Nissen hut as can sometimes be seen on other WW2 sites used for motor vehicles, larger than domestic site Nissen huts.

    At the east end of the woodland, next to the motorway are more bomb storage bays and a couple of buildings surrounded by blast protection. Nowadays they're used by the forestry people who have removed part of the earth banking to facilitate access.

    Also hidden in the woodland here are the firing range and the roofless shell of another small building, all linked by yet more overgrown concrete roads.

    The range is overgrown on the firing side, this is a rear view.

    To illustrate how close we are to the M40 here, below is a picture taken standing on the concrete roadway of the most easterly of the loading bays. On the right you should be able to see the motorway through the trees.

    Following the roads round the site, at the northern edge is a small wartime building full of uninteresting agricultural junk. This distance shot gave it some atmosphere.

    In conclusion, this site is an unusual survival of structures which have been erased elsewhere. It's not the most exciting site you'll ever see and parts of it come closer to archaeology than exploration, but to fill a hole in your knowledge of WW2 RAF bases it's definitely worth a visit.

    As a final note, there's another structure marked on the OS map on this wood, intriguingly placed in an island of non Forestry Commission property. This turned out to be the ruin of an agricultural labourer's cottage abandoned since the 1950s and standing in a nature reserve owned by a conservation charity. A single wall fragment and a pile of rubble, worth a look once but save yourself the trek if it's not your kind of thing.

    Access to this part of the site is straightforward if you don't mind a walk, it's publicly accessible land and the Forestry Commission are kind enough to provide a car park. The range is just outside the woodland so you may encounter angry farmers if you venture that far but the bomb store structures are all freely accessable. The rest of RAF Oakley is beyond the scope of this report, however it is crossed by several public footpaths on both sides of the motorway. Hazards are no worse than those you'd expect from the British countryside, there are a few drains by the loading bays but that's about it.

    The location of the bomb stores is here:

    http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=51.79....4&r=0&src=ggl

    And the car park can be found here:

    http://www.streetmap.co.uk/streetmap...211715&A=Y&Z=3

    The woodland is home to a herd of deer. In some of the remoter parts, you can see one or two of these:
    Last edited by batroy; 13th Mar 08 at 14:04. Reason: fixed a dodgy Streetmap link.

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    Default Re: RAF Oakley bomb storage area, Buckinghamshire. March 2008


    Excellent report and photos, Batroy. Always good to read well-researched history, especially military sites. Love that pic of the rear view of the firing range. You can see how extensive it is from that angle.

    Cheers for that. :)
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    Default Re: RAF Oakley bomb storage area, Buckinghamshire. March 2008


    Interesting, thanks for posting. With a lot of WW2 airfields the bomb store and firing range are long gone, either bulldozed or deep under foliage.

    B

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    Default Re: RAF Oakley bomb storage area, Buckinghamshire. March 2008


    Looking forward to seeing the technical site :)

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    Default Re: RAF Oakley bomb storage area, Buckinghamshire. March 2008


    Thanks!

    I was a bit disappointed I couldn't get a view of the front of the range as it happens.

    A surprising number of ranges survive compared to bomb stores. This is the only bomb store I've found in this condition but I can think of quite a few ranges. It's true though, a lot of them are overgrown. The least overgrown one hereabouts that I can think of is at Grove and the most overgrown at Stanton Harcourt where it's invisible both from aerial views because of the trees and from ground level due to being in a former gravel pit. Surprisingly the only range I've seen demolished in my part of the world recently was on a live RAF base, the one at RAF Bicester is now under the Bicester bypass.

    There's plenty more to see elsewhere at Oakley, however this deserved its own report due to its physical size and its insularity from the rest of the airfield due to the M40.

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    Default Re: RAF Oakley bomb storage area, Buckinghamshire. March 2008


    Quote Originally Posted by krela View Post
    Looking forward to seeing the technical site :)
    AFAIK the tech site is a farm these days. I don't know how much survives or what access is like though because I've not been over that side for years. There's a pretty intact WAAF site though.

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    Default Re: RAF Oakley bomb storage area, Buckinghamshire. March 2008


    I guess that kinda stands to reason though as all airfields needed machine gun butts to empty out the machine guns that pretty much all planes had, whereas only airfields hosting bombers needed bomb stores.

    Gun butts were pretty substantial compared to most ww2 airfield buildings too, needing to contain a large volume of sand to stop the bullets.

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    Default Re: RAF Oakley bomb storage area, Buckinghamshire. March 2008


    Really, really like this. I love anything to do with old military things. And it looks great in all the trees and the colours of the brick blend in well with the brown leaves. love it all.

    Cheers,

    :) Sal

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    Default Re: RAF Oakley bomb storage area, Buckinghamshire. March 2008


    It does look like a nice place for a bit of a rambel and a picnic:)
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    Default Re: RAF Oakley bomb storage area, Buckinghamshire. March 2008


    Great place, just what I like. I am down that way soon, I may take a look, weather willing
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