Post War (1946-1974)
In January 1946 the Station commander, Wing Commander Alan Deere received the first post war active RAF squadrons. The first arrival, on 18 January, was 165 Squadron, which flew Spitfire LF9s. In April, 91 Squadron flew in with more Spitfires, and there was a Station Flight which used Harvards. On 8 June there was a Victory flypast over London, and the two Duxford squadrons took part. On 1 August, Duxford Spitfires flew over the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square to honour United States Air Force Day. Soon afterwards, 91 Squadron went to the training area at Lubeck in Germany. Returning to Duxford on 1 September, the squadron personnel found that 165 Squadron had been disbanded and reformed as 66 Squadron, which then took off for training at Lubeck.
A new sight and sound came to Duxford on 30 October 1946, when 91 Squadron
took delivery of its first Gloster Meteor F3 jet fighter. On returning
from Lubeck, 66 Squadron also began to re-equip with Meteors, and both
squadrons gradually worked up on the type. In November, 91 Squadron left
for Debden, which which had a paved runway more suitable for the operation
of jet aircraft. On 31 January 1947, 91 Squadron was renumbered 92 Squadron
and returned to Duxford from Acklington on 15 February.
Britain's Gloster Meteor, which first took to the air in March 1943, was the only operational Allied jet fighter during the war. Successive post-war developments led to two variants. From 1950 to 1955 the F8 was the RAF's principle day fighter and was produced in greater numbers than any other version. Both 64 and 64 Squadrons at Duxford were equipped with the F8 in the early 1950s. The Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF11 first entered RAF service in 1951 and had a lengthened nose to house the radar equipment necessary for night operations and an extra seat for the radar navigator. From August 1956 to September 1958, Meteor NF12s and NF14s were flown from Duxford by 64 Squadron.
A Gloster Meteor F8 (right). This example, WK827, flew with 65 Squadron at Duxford from 1953-1957.
In June, all squadrons took part in a major exercise. This triggered
the Ministry into ordering the runway to be laid at Duxford, and in October
66 and 92 Squadrons left for Linton-on-Ouse in Yorkshire. Duxford was then
put on "Care & Maintenance" while funding was found for construction.
Extra land was purchased at the eastern end of the airfield, which meant
that the site would border directly onto Duxford village. In 1950, the
contractors W. & C. French Ltd moved in and started work. The new runway
was 6000 ft in length and a perimeter track and hardstandings were also
provided. An Operational Readiness Platform was built as a widening of
each end of the runway, and work was completed in August 1951. In addition
to the runway, a new T2 hangar was built at the eastern end to give more
|Royal Air Force Duxford, 1951
A = Double-bay Belfast hangar
King George VI died unexpectedly on 6 February 1952. On 15 February, the day of his funeral, there was no flying and a short service was held on the parade ground. He was succeeded by the present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, and the Duxford Wing was chosen to lead the ceremonial flypast over Buckingham Palace on Coronation Day, Saturday 2 June 1953. Six other Wings were also to take part. The weather was very bad and the flypast was nearly cancelled, but after a short delay Duxford's Wing Commander Wallace successfully led 144 RAF Meteors and 24 Royal Canadian Air Force Sabres at 12000 ft up the Mall in line astern, as the newly crowned Queen took the salute from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
At Duxford, two more squadrons, 3 and 67, arrived for temporary attachment, bringing Sabre aircraft (F-86 in USAF service), a type never based at Duxford. On 15 May 1954, the Wing escorted the Queen on her return in the Royal Yacht Britannia from a six-month round the world tour of the Dominions and Colonies. Spitfires had last been seen at the airfield in 1947, and it was a pleasant surprise when Station Flight received Spitfire LF16 TE357 in the summer of 1954. The aircraft was to be used for ceremonial purposes and flypasts and was entered in Station records as "The last Spitfire in Fighter Command."
In 1956 the roles of the Duxford Wing were diversified and plans were
made to re-equip 64 and 65 Squadrons. By August 1956, 64 Squadron had become
a night fighter squadron equipped with Meteor NF12s, and before long the
updated version, NF14, was added. Early in 1957, 65 Squadron received Hawker
Hunter F6s and retired its Meteors on 21 March. An accident occured on
24 January 1957 involving the Station Flight Spitfire, and it was struck
off charge, but later it was replaced by a similar aircraft, SL542. That
year the annual Battle of Britain day was held on 14 September, and on
display was one of the very latest pieces of RAF equipment, the English
Electric P1, prototype of the Lightning. At the same show, a Spitfire was
demonstrated by Jeffrey Quill to mark his retirement from test flying.
He had started with the Meteorological
Flight at Duxford in 1933 and had gone on to become a test pilot for
Supermarine on the Spitfire, flying the first
operational Spitfire into Duxford in 1938, so his display was a fitting
end to a long career.
|From August 1956, 64 Squadron operated Gloster Meteor NF14 night fighters from Duxford.|
A Hawker Hunter F6 belonging to 65 Squadron.
|Pilots, navigators and ground crews of 64 and 65 Squadrons with their Javelins and Hunters respectively, at Duxford in May 1959.|
|Hawker Hunters of 65 Squadron and a Gloster Javelin of 64 Squadron over Duxford in May 1959. Note the new T2 hangar to the east of the Belfast hangars (bottom right in picture).|