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RAF Milfield lies a short distance from the village it takes its name from, at the foot of the Cheviot hills on an area known as the Millfield Plain. On this site, evidence has been found of Neolithic hearths, storage pits and post holes.There is also evidence of two Bronze Age circular houses and a further three rectangular houses dating back to the ‘Dark Age’; an age that probably pre-dates the Anglo-Saxon conquest of the area from around AD 547.Like many airfields though, this figure was surpassed with the actual ‘on roll’ totals varying considerably reflecting the constant movement of staff.Including the numerous support staff, it is believed that some 3,300 people were employed at Milfield at its height.Following requisition of the land in early 1941, the green-light for development was given, the process was put into place, and RAF Milfield was born.Before any bomber crew would use Milfield though, it would pass from Bomber Command control over to Fighter Command whose focus would now be fighter pilots, and in particular, those specialising in both ground attack and dive bombing techniques.Squadron dispersal huts were spread around the perimeter, with the technical area and main hangars being located to the south-eastern side.Accommodation, designed to be temporary, was dispersed over 13 sites, and would be designed to accommodate in the region of 1,650 staff, both male and female.
In both these conflicts, heavy casualties were suffered by both sides, and it is therefore, an area that is both used to war, and one that is rich in historical interest.
In this, the next trail, we visit Northumberland, and a place where ground attack pilots honed their skills, perfecting the use of rockets, canon and bombs, in the destruction of enemy troop convoys, trains and tanks.
The first stop on this trail is an airfield that is arguably one of Britain’s most significant airfields – RAF Milfield.
Adjacent to the airfield was the former Galewood Farm House, an old farm building used as an Officer’s mess during the airfield’s operational life.
Destroyed in the 1960s, it was once part of an estate that adjoined the airfield, and was previously home to Josephine Butler.
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Initial training operations were mere ‘lip-service’ and recruits often had as much chance of killing themselves as they did the enemy they were intended to down.