Searchlight Sites in the Newcastle Area:
Site TT237 (Usworth RAF)



   Located seven (7) miles southeast of Newcastle (see the first map above, which is reproduced here with permission of Microsoft Expedia Maps), near Washington, County Durham, UK, Fighter Command's airfield designated Usworth RAF later became the Sunderland Airport, which in 1986 saw some of its land taken over by Nissan UK for the construction of a massive car park adjacent to its factory. (The reproduction of the Ordnance Survey map above shows the exact location of the airfield.) Nothing remains of the original RAF runway that the 225th set up lights on in 1944, since most of it was destroyed during the construction of the A19 motorway initially and subsequently further obliterated by the Nissan construction. Some buildings remain, however, notably an old semicircular hangar, some RAF cottages (called Usworth Cottages), and nearby, as David Anderson reports, a much altered pub, the Three Horse Shoes (also see Washington Village), which, he adds, "still serves excellent ale." On the map above, the hanger is clearly marked as is the pub (labeled "PH," or Public House); the cottages are located just north of the "ATC Centre." The site also is home to the North East Aircraft Museum, and a recent visitor to the museum turned out to be a Canadian ace (with 10 kills to his credit) who flew Hurricanes from Usworth during the war. Also operating out of the old site is the 2214 (Usworth) Squadron Air Training Corps.


A 1962 aerial view of the site of the former Usworth RAF airfield (copyright The Sunderland Echo, Northern Press, Ltd.); click the image above to view a larger version. The semicircular roofed RAF hangar is still standing today (left side of photo). The white building to the left of the hangar on the road is the Three Horse Shoes pub, and the row of white cottages further left is Usworth Cottages, which are typical RAF officer-type houses.

   In 1934, 607 Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force was based at Usworth (the squadron had been formed on 17 March 1930). Training was done by a skeleton crew of RAF men, and pilots being trained were miners, shipyard workers, and other locals. The squadron was transferred to Fighter Command in September 1937 and later flew Gloster Gladiator I's between March 1939 and May 1940. During the Battle of Britain, Usworth Sector came under the direction of No. 13 Group (Air Vice Marshal Richard Saul, headquartered in Newcastle), and was home base for No. 607 Squadron, now equipped with Hurricane I's. No. 72 and No. 79 Squadrons (Spitfires), whose duty station was Acklington, came under Usworth Sector control at this time as well. Hurricane Squadron No. 43, usually based at Tangmere in the south, was sent to Usworth on 8 September 1940 for a rest. Later, the No. 55 Operational Training Unit (OTU) was based there, flying near-obsolete Hurricane I's that had survived the Battle of Britain (OTUs were the last training stops for pilots prior to operational flying). 607 Squadron continued to operate from Usworth throughout the war, flying Hurricane IIA's from June 1941 to August 1941, Hurricane IIB's from July 1941 to March 1943 and from February 1943 to December 1943, and Spitfire Vc's from September 1943 to March 1944. The squadron was disbanded on 19 August 1945. The 416th Night Fighter Squadron (USAAF) was briefly attached to VIII RAF Fighter Command for training on Bristol Beaufighters at Usworth in the first half of 1943 (later, they were sent south to Honiley and outfitted with P-61 Black Widows for deployment in the ETO — coincidentally, the 225th was to be intimately connected to two night fighter squadrons for most of their operations on the Continent in 1944, but the 416th was not one of them).

A History of Usworth Aerodrome


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