Tholthorpe

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RAF Tholthorpe opened in August 1940 as a satellite to RAF Linton-on-Ouse, part of 4 Group, Bomber Command.  Originally, Tholthorpe had three grass-surfaced runways,  along with a Watch Office for Bomber Satellite Stations (13097/41).  This tower has a distinctive and very unusual brick and concrete « runway in use » signal board hoarding on its roof.  As the need for stations capable of handling heavy bombers became more pressing, Tholthorpe (along with many others), underwent expansion and reopened, after a lengthy refit, in June 1943 as a Class-A bomber airfield.  The three runways runways were hardened (concrete/tarmac) and extended to become 28/10 E/W (2000yds/1828 m), 05/23 NE/SW (1400 yds/1280 m) and 34/16 NNW/SSE (1400 yds/1280 m) and a second tower added, a Watch Office for all Commands (343/43).  Hangars were two T2 and a single B1 and a second bomb store was constructed.  A mixture of loop-type (thirteen) and frying-pan hardstandings (twenty-three) could also be seen.  Accommodation to the south was spread over 14 sites (including sick quarters, sewage and administration sites)  for 1734 personel, RAF and WAAF all ranks.  The Station Pundit code was ‘TH’.

Initially, the early life of Tholthorpe only saw use by one unit, 77Sqn (Whitley V, coded ‘KN’) as part of the Station’s duty of satellite to Linton-on-Ouse.  Upon reopening in June 1943, it was as a 6 Group airfield and consequently, saw the arrival of the RCAF and was still linked to Linton-on-Ouse, being part of 62 Base (of which Linton was the parent, with RAF East Moor completing the trio).  With the transfer to 6 Group, the first Canadian Squadrons to take up residence were 434 ‘Bluenose’ Sqn RCAF (Halifax V, coded ‘IP’) which formed at Tholthorpe on June 13th 1943.  They were followed by 431 ‘Iroquiose’ Sqn RCAF, who transferred from RAF Burn in mid-July, converting from Wellingtons to Halifax V’s (coded ‘SE’).

Both 431 and 434 Sqns remained fully active until their departure in December 1943.  They were replaced by another pair of Canadian Squadrons: 420 ‘Snowy Owl’ Sqn RCAF (Halifax III, coded ‘PT’,  from RAF Dishforth) and 425 ‘Alouette’ Sqn RCAF (Halifax III, coded ‘KW’, from RAF Dalton).  Both of these Squadrons remained fully operational at Tholthorpe until the end of hostilities, when they were earmarked for transfer to Tiger Force, for operations against Japan and were transferred back to Canada in preparation.  With the use of the atomic bomb this never happened.

Flying ceased at Tholthorpe with the departure of the Canadians  and the site was disposed of in the early 1950s, being returned to agriculture.  Today, the remnants of the technical site is the home to a number of small businesses.  The T2’s have gone and the B1 is in use as a grain store.  The 1943 watch tower is a private dwelling, whilst the the original tower remains derelict – very little else of the station remains.  Tholthorpe is unusual (although not unique) in having two surviving wartime watch towers.  What little  else does remain is on private property.  A memorial to all four Canadian Squadrons can be found on the village green in Tholthorpe.

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