RAF Thornaby

RAF Thornaby

RAF Thornaby was a former RAF station located at the Teesside town of Thornaby, Cleveland (formerly North Yorkshire). The station was created in the mid 1920s and fell into the hands of 18 group RAF Coastal Command in 1939. Being used mostly for reconnaissance work, Lockheed Hudson aircraft from this base located the German prison ship "Altmark" in Norwegian waters in 1940 - an action which led to the subsequent liberation of those prisoners by the Royal Navy.

The station was engaged in air-sea rescue work from 1943. These aircrews had developed a means of dropping emergency supplies to their ditched colleagues, using a recepticle which was later to be widely known as the "Thornaby Bag".

Although the airfield was expanded in the latter part of the war in order to facilitate heavy bombers, it never actually operated such aircraft and remained as a training and coastal command base. From 1945, Supermarine Spitfires and de Havilland Mosquitos flew from Thornaby (although Spitfies had been based here in 1943). In the 1950s, these gave way to Vampires and Hunters which also operated from the nearby RAF Middleton St. George (aka Goosepool).


The base closed in 1958 and was sold for redevelopment in 1963. Most of it now lies beneath houses and light industrial units as the town of Thornaby expanded southwards in the 1960s. Traces can be picked out via Google Maps however and a ground visit will reveal a number of surviving structures within the contemporary buildings.

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