RAF Oakley bomb storage area, Buckinghamshire. March 2008

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batroy

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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.
raf-oakley-bomb-store-earthworks.jpg

At the far side of the building base above is this loading ramp, taken from the overgrown parallel road.
raf-oakley-bomb-loading-bay.jpg

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.
raf-oakley-bomb-store-loading-platfo.jpg

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.
raf-oakley-bomb-store-blast-wall-bui.jpg

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.
raf-oakley-bomb-store-3-wall.jpg

The range is overgrown on the firing side, this is a rear view.
raf-oakley-firing-range-rear.jpg

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.
raf-oakley-bomb-store-m40.jpg

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.
raf-oakley-bomb-store-small-building.jpg

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=51.791247&lon=-1.088696&z=17.4&r=0&src=ggl

And the car park can be found here:

http://www.streetmap.co.uk/streetmap.dll?G2M?X=461160&Y=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:
raf-oakley-bomb-store-deer-skull-1.jpg
 
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Foxylady

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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. :)
 

Bishop

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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
 

batroy

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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.
 

batroy

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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.
 

krela

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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.
 

borntobemild

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Great pics. I've driven past it countless times and never knew.

Enjoyed the web site as well.

Used to live in Oxfordshire and i've had a nose around Finmere before. There used to be a big Sunday Market there.
I was also friendly with a couple of GIs and got shown round Upper Heyford once. Not sure what sort of a state it's in now.

I used to live very close to USAF Barford St. John. As far as I can remember, although it was still used, they didn't worry about people wandering about too much. There were a couple of old hangers, a control tower and barrack rooms you could still get access to.
I trained for my marathon on the runways!

Things might have changed since 9/11 mind.
 

reddwarf9

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Great pics. I've driven past it countless times and never knew.

Enjoyed the web site as well.

Used to live in Oxfordshire and i've had a nose around Finmere before. There used to be a big Sunday Market there.
I was also friendly with a couple of GIs and got shown round Upper Heyford once. Not sure what sort of a state it's in now.

I used to live very close to USAF Barford St. John. As far as I can remember, although it was still used, they didn't worry about people wandering about too much. There were a couple of old hangers, a control tower and barrack rooms you could still get access to.
I trained for my marathon on the runways!

Things might have changed since 9/11 mind.

Upper Heyford seems to be the biggest new car and van car park you ever saw, i'm guessing on that grounds security probably tighter than when the us air force were there lol :)
 

batroy

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Upper Heyford is pretty much intact, as has been pointed out most of it's still in use for civilian purposes and those bits which aren't are mostly within the security fence. That's not to say there aren't bits to see, there have been reports from explorers visiting the former base hospital for instance. I'm sure a bit of searching would find them.

The USAF were pretty good neighbours.
 

ukmayhem

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I will have to check this out as i'm only in Bicester.

As for RAF Bicester it was disapointing loosing the bomb storage when the new Skimmingdish lane was built. Loved exploring over there. There are still afew ruins at the bottom of the field. I use to be Security at DLO Caversfield and we also patroled the Airfield as it was across the road. Obviously the hanger and control tower are still in use for the gliding club but there are dozens of builds and the water tower behind that is sealed off to the public that we use to have to patrol. Some amazing sites.

RAF Upper heyford i used to work at Walon car storage. Getting access to the base itself is easy you just say your a temp and you get on, obviously you cant get into the likes of Walon or QEK but you can explore alot the massive old air base. Just a shame alot of the interesting places are in use by different companies. Like European Promotions small hanger they use as a wearhouse is an old Jet engine testing bay with all the sound proofing , viewing booth all intact. Aparntly there is a massive underground storage area where about 5 years ago unearthed alot of fire arms but the main enterance is right in the middle of Walon. Walon is heavily secure with 24/ hour security including BIG DOGS so i wouldnt advice sneaking in. The old hospital is now a training ground for the Armed Police. Seems like yesterday that place was a full operational base.

Matt
 

batroy

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Not enough for a report so I'm tagging this on to my old report.

UKMayhem and I spent a happy morning pushing through the undergrowth at Oakley the other day. Nothing new from the bomb store but we ranged further afield and found the remains of a domestic site outside the wood. Building bases, wall franments, not much else. The only structure of note was this Stanton shelter. Unlike those on other local RAF bases this one is surrounded by a low retaining wall rather than being sunk into the earth.

raf-oakley-walled-stanton-shelter.jpg
 

PETERTHEEATER

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RAF OAKLEY - Bomb Store

Hello Batroy,

RAF Oakley opened in 1942 and was allocated to Bomber Command.

The bomb store was a Type D pattern to AM Drawing 3164/42 which would have comprised between 3 and 4 HE Bomb Stores, 3 x Fuzing Points and various other support buildings and structures including a Fuzed Bomb and Spare Bomb Store, Incendiary Bomb and Pyrotechnic Store and various huts (usually Nissen type).

The wood conceals the layout which was adapted to suit each location and terrain but here is a similar site at Keevil, Wilts where the road layout is extant.


http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=51.303413&lon=-2.105555&z=16.5&r=0&src=msa

Peter H
 

batroy

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Hello Batroy,

RAF Oakley opened in 1942 and was allocated to Bomber Command.

The bomb store was a Type D pattern to AM Drawing 3164/42 which would have comprised between 3 and 4 HE Bomb Stores, 3 x Fuzing Points and various other support buildings and structures including a Fuzed Bomb and Spare Bomb Store, Incendiary Bomb and Pyrotechnic Store and various huts (usually Nissen type).

The wood conceals the layout which was adapted to suit each location and terrain but here is a similar site at Keevil, Wilts where the road layout is extant.


http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=51.303413&lon=-2.105555&z=16.5&r=0&src=msa

Peter H

Now that road layout is beautifully preserved! Do you happen to know, is it used for anything or are they just farm tracks these days?
 

Moleskin

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Hi there,
I have the map of RAF Oakley OKY/826/43 showing the various sites and the Bomb Store Area in Shabbinton Wood. I also have a Schedule of Buildings, however unfortunately my copy of this is missing descriptions of building 90 and building 91 to 93. If I send you a copy of the Bomb Store Area would you be able to identify what the building are?
Moleskin (new member - Oakley historian)
 

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