AN AIRFIELD used as part of the D-Day operations has been demolished to make way for one of the biggest solar farms in the UK.
Workmen were on the RAF Broadwell site at Kencot Hill Farm, near Carterton, last week to dig up a 600m stretch of the last remaining runway.
It operated as an RAF station from 1943 to 1947 and had two squadrons based there – 512 and 575 – that were involved in the biggest seaborne invasion in history, launched 70 years ago today.
Air crews used it during the Second World War as a training base, learning to tow gliders and drop paratroopers. Its first role was a leaflet drop over France on the eve of the Normandy invasion.
It was then used as a base for air crews dropping parachutists in France and Arnhem, as well as evacuating casualties from France back to England.
Philip Bell, an Australian who was in a Commonwealth training programme, was a navigator based there in 575 Squadron.
Pegasus Bridge just after D-Day
His daughter Ruth said he flew one of about 20 DC-3 Dakota planes in the 13th Parachute Batallion of the 6th Airborne Division to transport paratroopers to Normandy at midnight on D-Day morning, June 6, 1944.
Their mission was to help hold the vital Pegasus Bridge and Ranville Bridge river crossings on the Orne and the Caen Canal to stop the Germans sending reinforcements to the beaches.
As part of Operation Mallard, the crew returned in the evening towing Airspeed Horsa gliders with reinforcements including anti-tank guns.
Mrs Bell, who lives in Australia but is currently in Normandy marking the D-Day anniversary, said: “I tried to find the RAF Broadwell site five years ago and it seemed to have very few indications of its former life. No one knew anything about it in the village. It would be fitting to have some sort of memorial there if the locals are happy to have the solar farm.
“Some recognition of these heroes and the other missions from Broadwell would be appreciated by family members of the airmen.”
The solar farm is the brainchild of farm owner Tad Czapski, an ex-Formula 1 technology director for Ferrari and Renault.
He said there were originally three runways on the base – later used as a stop-off for long-range transport operations to Europe, the Middle East and India – but two have been removed as well as part of the last one. A 600m stretch will be kept as a tribute to its use in the war, with a viewing box created with information about the airfield.
The solar farm will include 144,000 panels that will generate enough electricity for the National Grid to power 10,000 homes and businesses.
A control tower also used in the war is on a separate plot of land. West Oxfordshire District Council rejected plans to turn it into a home two years ago.
- For more on Pegasus Bridge, see our special supplement
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