Wratting Common (formerly West Wickham) airfield
The largest local impact on Carlton of the Second World War was the
creation of the RAF airfield of Wratting Common. Although the airfield
itself was mostly in the neighbouring parish of Weston Colville (extending
into West Wratting, West Wickham and Withersfield parishes), two large
groups of buildings housing the personnel were in built in fields in
Carlton Green (see the map below).
combination of the
RAF website and the
The bomber airfield that was built to Class A standard, located on the
Cambridgeshire side of the boundary with Suffolk in the parishes of West
Wickham and Little Thurlow, three miles north-west of Haverhill, was
officially named West Wickham. Built in 1942-43, the three intersecting
concrete runways were 1331 at 2,000 yards and 02-20 and 07-25 both at 1,400
yards long. All 36 hardstandings were loop types. A T2 and a B1 hangar were
erected at the main technical site between runway heads 13 and 07, and
another three T2s for gliders on the north side of the airfield between 13
and 20. The technical site was on Western Woods Farm and the ten dispersed
domestic and mess sites, catering for 2,507 males and 486 females, were in
fields towards Weston Green. Bomb stores were to the east at Skipper's Hall
The first operational unit arriving, No. 90 Squadron, came from Ridgewell
where a US Eighth Air Force B-17 unit was expected. West Wickham was far
from complete at this time - late May 1943 - but had sufficient facilities
to enable No. 90's Stirlings to return to Bomber Command's campaign four
nights after arrival.
In June their targets were Krefeld, Mulheim
and Wuppertal, with raids on Hamburg in July and 15 planes went on the
Peenemunde raid. In August they attacked Turin twice.
In August that year notice was received that on the 2lst of the month the
official name of the station would change from West Wickham to Wratting
Common. Only one other such change for an operational bomber station is
known, and that due to the possibility of confusion with another airfield of
the same name. In West Wickham's case there was no other airfield with the
same or similar name although a possibility is confusion with High Wycombe
(Bomber Command HQ), it being common practice in vocal communication to omit
the `West' or `High'.
In October 1943, No. 90 Squadron was moved to Tuddenham when No. 3 Group
decided to concentrate Stirling conversion units in the Stradishall clutch,
No. 31 Base, of which Wratting Common was a satellite or sub-base. No. 1651
Heavy Conversion Unit was moved in from Waterbeach in November and remained
for a year. By this date few Stirling squadrons remained in No. 3 Group and
No. 1651 HCU was shifted to Woolfox Lodge where crews were trained for
No. 31 Base was destined to hold operational squadrons once more and in
October 1944 the Lancasters of No. 195 Squadron arrived from Witchford where
it had been re-formed from `C' Flight of No. 115 a few weeks earlier. No.
195 grew to three full flights with 30 Lancasters, remaining at Wratting
Common to see out the war. In 79 raids from the station its losses were 9
The No. 195 Lancasters concentrated their
attacks on oil targets. They also attacked Dresden, and finally Bad Oldesloe
in April 1945. Number 195 then did eight supply drops to the Dutch and POW
repatriation missions before disbanding on 14th August 1945.
Following its disbandment no further flying units were based at the station.
During the war bomber losses in operations flown from Wratting Common
totalled 43 of which 34 were Stirlings.
Wratting Common continued as support for
Stradishall, then as a camp for displaced persons. The surplus
of wartime-built airfields that then existed found the reduced Bomber
Command force moving back to the more comfortable, pre-war establishments
with their permanent buildings. Wratting Common was soon reclaimed for
agriculture with much of the concrete taken for hard core. The hangars
survived as did many of the larger Nissen huts, serving as cover for
commercial enterprises. Most of the site is part of Thurlow Estates owned by
the Vesty family.