History of Conington


bbh026Built during 1942-3 by 809th US Army Engineers, Conington was originally named Glatton, to avoid confusion with Coningsby in Lincolnshire. Housing B-17 “Flying Fortress” bombers in its two T2 hangers and with accommodation for 2900 personnel it was obviously a much larger airfield than it is today. Built in the standard heavy bomber layout with 50 hard standing, temporary buildings and an encircling perimeter track, it’s 3 runways uniquely surrounded Rose Court Farm which continued to operate right in the centre of the airfield.
Visit the website It’s http://www.457thbombgroupassoc.org. for a huge amount of information and photos. You will  find photos comparing how it was then with how it is now. This is the official website of the 457th Bomb Group association and there’s a great deal of information with many further links to sites of interest.
You’ll see that little of the original airfield infrastructure survives today except two of the runways – still in use today complete with prop strike marks from the B17s – and it’s interesting to see which are now roads and which are still in use.

In early December 1943, the base was opened up by an RAF cadre of one officer and 13 enlisted men before being officially taken over by the USAAF on 20th March 1944 (although the first US personnel actually arrived about 3 months earlier). It became the first permanent home of the 457th Bombardment Group, led by Lt. Col. James R Luper Jr and consisting of the 748th, 749th, 750th and 751st Bombardment squadrons, who arrived at the beginning of 1944.

The 457th Bomb Group Memorial in Conington Churchyard. Picture on 457th Bomb Group website

“Luper’s Super Troopers”
The 457th flew a total of 237 missions and 7086 sorties between 21st Feb 1944 and 20th April 1945. They hit German aircraft production, the city of Berlin and strategic targets; attacked airfields, roads and railways; took part in the softening raids immediately prior to the Normandy landings; and were part of “Operation Exodus” repatriating POWs from France and Austria at the end of the war in Europe. When they left to return to the US on 21st June 1945, they’d dropped almost 17,000 tons of bombs and 142 tons of leaflets, and lost a total of 94 aircraft. You’ll find a memorial to the 457th in Conington Churchyard.


The 457th Bomb Group Memorial on the old A1 road at Conington dedicated in 2004
The 457th Bomb Group Memorial on the old A1 road at Conington dedicated in 2004

On 5th July 1945, Glatton passed from the 1st Air Division Substitution Unit (which occupied vacant bases after the US Groups left) to 3 Group RAF Bomber Command. The base was to be prepared for the trooping of personnel between Glatton and the Middle East, with plans to handle 20,000 people a month both on leave and on duty. However, by the end of December 1945 only 1149 people had been flown out and 174 flown in by the Liberator and Lancaster aircraft, so on 30th April 1946 Glatton passed to “Care and Maintenance”. It was closed not long after.

With the need for hard-core during the modernisation of the A1, some of the runways and perimeter track at Glatton were demolished. However, parts of 2 runways survive and are still used.
From the mid 1970s until about 1995, the airfield buildings consisted of double-decker portacabins adjacent to the WWII-type (but not a Glatton original) hangar. The present building, Erwin House, was erected in 1995.

Flying Club Conington
In May 2000, the flying club at Conington airfield was bought from Klingair Ltd (the airfield operators) by Aerolease Ltd and renamed Flying Club Conington. Aiming to increase flying enthusiasts’ enjoyment both in the air and on the ground, Aerolease Ltd immediately increased the size of the fleet by 2 multi-engine and 1 single engine aircraft. It then, 6 months later, expanded the social facilities with the addition of a conservatory on the side of the main building.

Recording history
At Conington, we’re fortunate to receive many visitors to the airfield from the USA and elsewhere. Some of them were based here and others are relatives of men who served with the 457th. There’s a visitors book with many such names in it and you’re welcome to have a look through it.
Recently, Bruce Ayleshire, whose brother was a bombardier based at Glatton, presented us with some actual mission reports from bombing missions undertaken from the airfield. We’re in the process of putting this information into a form for you to be able to examine at the clubhouse.

John Briol has a web site devoted to his late father John J. Briol Who was a ball turret gunner on B-17s stationed at Glatton. Excerpts and several full mission entries are listed from his war diary. Click here for that site.

Cliff “CB” Digre flew with the 457th and was stationed at Glatton. He has just published a book based a diary he kept during the war – “Into Life’s School”. You can learn more about Cliff Digre’s book about his experiences with the 457th on his website. In addition to recording his own experience in the book, he has done research on his missions and includes loading lists and other official Air Force documents in his book.

We’d like to compile as much information and material as we can for display at Conington, so if you have any materials or information please do contact us.

The premier Cambridgeshire flying club

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