Military Wiki
RAF Elvington
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
Elvington airfield
IATA: none – ICAO: none
Airport type Military
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Air Force
Location Elvington
Built 1939
In use 1940-1992
Elevation AMSL 39 ft / 12 m
Coordinates 53°55′28″N 000°58′16″W / 53.92444°N 0.97111°W / 53.92444; -0.97111Coordinates: 53°55′28″N 000°58′16″W / 53.92444°N 0.97111°W / 53.92444; -0.97111

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Direction Length Surface
ft m
08/26 9,842 3,000 Tarmac

RAF Elvington was a Royal Air Force station which operated from the beginning of the Second World War until 1992 located at Elvington, Yorkshire, England.


Royal Air Force use

The base was originally a grass airfield within No. 4 Group. In the early 1940s the airfield was entirely reconstructed with three hardened runways replacing the grass. The base was re-opened in October 1942 as a station for 77 Squadron RAF and along with RAF Melbourne and RAF Pocklington was known as "42 Base". The squadron had a strength of approximately 20 aircraft and initially used the twin engined Armstrong Whitworth Whitley medium bomber although this was quickly replaced by the Handley Page Halifax four engined heavy bomber which was being introduced. 77 Squadron suffered heavy losses during its time at Elvington with over 500 aircrew killed, missing or taken prisoner and almost 80 Halifaxes lost as it played a major part in the Battle of the Ruhr and the bombing of Berlin.[1]

In May 1944 77 Squadron re-located to the newly opened RAF Full Sutton and was replaced at Elvington by two French squadrons, numbers 346 "Guyenne" and 347 "Tunisie" who both played a leading part in the bombing of Germany. Elvington was the only airfield in the United Kingdom used by the remainder of the Free French Forces, they also flew Handley Page Halifax heavy bombers until they moved to Bordeaux in October 1945 where they became the basis for the new air force of liberated France. In September 1957 a memorial was unveiled in Elvington village dedicated to the two French squadrons.[2] While they were at RAF Elvington nearly half of the squadrons' members were killed.[3] After the war the 400-acre (1.6 km2) airfield was transferred to 40 Group Maintenance Command until 1952 when it was greatly enlarged and extended for use by the United States Air Force.[2]

United States Air Force use

The United States Air Force built a new 3,094 m (10,151 ft) runway, which was the longest in the north of England, and a huge 19.8 hectares (49 acres) rectangular hardstanding apron as well as a new control tower to turn Elvington into a "Basic Operation Platform" which would have operated as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) dispersal airfield.[4] After spending £4 million [5] the airfield never became operational as a SAC base and was abandoned by the US Air Force in 1958.

Other uses

In the early 1960s the Blackburn Aircraft Company, now part of British Aerospace used the runway for test flights of the Blackburn Buccaneer. Elvington retained its status as an RAF relief landing ground and was used by the RAF flying training schools at RAF Church Fenton and RAF Linton-on-Ouse until the airfield was finally closed in March 1992.[6]


A race circuit was established which appears to have been used by the British Racing & Sports Car Club (BRSCC). The inaugural car race meeting took place on 8 July 1962 and was reported by Autosport, which said that the BRSCC hoped to run a further meeting September, but this appears not to have taken place. A second meeting did take place a year after on 7 July 1963, but these two appear to have been the sum total of car racing at Elvington.

However, in June 1970 Auto 66 Club held a Motorcycle Road Race meeting at Elvington, with a second meeting in September. The following season these were upgraded to National Status events. Although local critics thought the club had gone well over the top, but the National event attracted over 400 riders, including stars of the future like Mike Grant and Barry Sheene. The Auto 66 Club continued to organise meeting at this track.[7][8]

Record breaking

On 3 October 1970 Tony Densham, driving the Ford-powered "Commuter" dragster set the Official outright wheel driven record at Elvington, averaging 207.6 mph (334.1 km/h). over the Flying Kilometre course.[9] This broke Malcolm Campbell's record set 43 years previously at Pendine Sands.

In 1990 Elvington hosted an attempt to match the speed record run of the Sunbeam Tiger motor car, originally driven by Henry Segrave (on 21 March 1926, he set his first land speed record in his 4-litre Sunbeam Tiger Ladybird on the sands at Southport, England at 152.33 mph). The re-run at Elvington on the two mile (3 km) runway was recorded at 159 mph (256 km/h).

In the summer of 1998, Colin Fallows bettered Richard Noble's outright UK Record in his "Vampire" jet dragster at 269 mph (433 km/h) at Elvington.[10]

The current Non wheel driven British Land Speed Record holder is Vampire, driven by Colin Fallows, who hit a speed of 300.3 mph (483.3 km/h) on 5 July 2000 at Elvington.[11]

On 20 September 2006 Elvington Airfield was the location of a serious crash involving the Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond. The jet-powered car he was driving crashed while travelling at 280 mph (450 km/h). Hammond received serious brain injuries but made a full recovery.[12][13] The accident investigation said: "an almost instantaneous blow out of the right side front tyre caused the accident." [14]

Present day

The airfield is now owned by Elvington Park Ltd. The adjacent buildings and control tower have been restored, and serve as the Yorkshire Air Museum which has many varied and rare aircraft and exhibits, including a complete Halifax bomber. Once a year Elvington hosts a privately sponsored airshow, which incorporates modern military aircraft and classic aircraft as well as displays by the Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Over the years since the airshow began, various spectacular events have taken place here, including the only gathering of a Lancaster, Halifax, and an American B17 in recent times; also one of the last successful flights of a then flying Messerschmitt BF109G, prior to its crash at Duxford the following month.

Elvington is also a popular motorsports venue for motorcycle racing and the Auto 66 club. It is also home to the York Land Yacht Club. Land sailing takes place regularly at weekends with speeds of up to 50/60 mph achieved.



  1. Jefford 1988, p. 00.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Halpenny, Bruce Barrymore (1982). Action Stations: Military Airfields of Yorkshire v. 4. PSL. ISBN 978-0-85059-532-1. 
  3. "York remembers WWII French airmen based at Elvington". 18 October 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  4. Cocroft, Wayne; Thomas, Roger (2003). Cold War: Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989. Swindon: English Heritage. ISBN 1-873592-69-8. 
  5. The Manchester Guardian, May 8, 1958, Page 3.
  6. "Allied Air Forces Memorial, Elvington, York (Guide to an Operational WWII Bomber Command Station", Yorkshire Air Museum, Leaflet (No ISBN) Gives history of airfield.
  8. Peter Swinger, “Motor Racing Circuits in England : Then & Now" (Ian Allan Publishing, ISBN 0 7110 3104 5, 2008)
  9. The Guardian, 5 October 1970, Page 6; The Times, 5 October 1970.
  10. The Guardian, 8 June 1999, Page C4.
  11. The Times, 21 September 2006. See
  12. BBC News
  13. BBC airs Top Gear crash footage
  14. HSE Investigation into the accident of Richard Hammond:


  • Jefford, C.G, MBE,BA,RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.

Further reading

External links

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