RAF Cottesmore

We Rise to Our Obstacles

RAF Cottesmore opened on 11 March 1938. The station was used mainly for training, and the first squadrons were equipped with Vickers Wellesley aircraft, but soon converted to Fairey Battles. Later RAF Bomber Command took over the airfield, again as a training station, flying Handley Page Hampdens.

These units remained in residence until a few days before the outbreak of war in 1939 when they were sent to RAF Cranfield to serve as a pool providing replacements for combat losses. Their place at Cottesmore was taken by Nos. 106 and 185 Squadrons, moving in from RAF Thornaby with Hampdens.

However, with the outbreak of war, the aircraft and crews were sent to locations in the north and west, as enemy air attacks were expected over the southern half of England. As these never materialised, the Hampdens returned in the spring of 1940 and No. 185 Squadron became the Hampden operational training unit, No. 14 Operational Training Unit RAF.

Cottesmore was officially handed back to the RAF on 1 July 1945. As a pre-war base with permanent buildings, it was unlikely that it would remain vacant for long. Cottesmore again became a training station, hosting 7 FTS with Percival Prentice basic training aircraft and the North American Harvard trainer for advanced training – later replaced by the Boulton Paul Balliol which had a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine.

In 1954 English Electric Canberras were moved in, the first time front-line combat aircraft had been based there, but all had left by the end of 1955.

In 1957 it was announced that Cottesmore would become a base for aircraft of the V bomber force, carriers of Britain’s nuclear deterrent. The squadrons carried out Quick Reaction Alert duties using Handley Page Victor and later Avro Vulcan bombers, until 1969. When they left the base was used by 90 Signals Group. Flight Checking, Trials and Evaluation Flight (FCTEF) used 98 Squadron (Canberras) and 115 Squadron (Varsity and Argosy) to provide ILS and radar trials and checking services to RAF airfields around the world. No. 231 Operational Conversion Unit moved into Cottesmore on 19 May 1969 equipped with Canberras, staying until 12 February 1976 when it moved to RAF Marham.

Cottesmore became home to the Tri-national Tornado Training Establishment (TTTE). Established in July 1980 and officially opened on 29 January 1981, the centre undertook the training of new Panavia Tornado pilots from the RAF, Luftwaffe, German Navy and Italian Air Force.

The TTTE closed in 1999, and after a period of refurbishment was replaced by the Harriers of Nos 3 and 4 squadrons; these were later joined by 800 and 801 Naval Air Squadrons to form Joint Force Harrier.

With the introduction of the Eurofighter Typhoon into RAF service, No.3 Sqn moved to RAF Coningsby and No 1 Sqn moved from RAF Wittering.

On 15 December 2009, it was announced that the station would close in 2013 as part of defence spending cuts, along with the retirement of the Harrier GR9 and the disbandment of Joint Force Harrier. However, the formal closing ceremony took place on 31 March 2011 with the airfield becoming a satellite to RAF Wittering until March 2012.

In July 2011 Defence Secretary Liam Fox announced plans for it to be the airfield for one of five of the Army’s Multi-Role Brigades. In April 2012 it was renamed Kendrew Barracks after Major General Sir Douglas Kendrew.

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