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HER Number:MDV35349
Name:RAF Bolt Head Airfield

Summary

The Second World War military airfield of RAF Bolt Head is visible as structures and airfields on Air photographs taken in 1942, 1944 and 1946. The airfield and RAF Hope Cove Ground Control Intercept (GCI) radar station (MDV54165) were established in different phases between 1941 and 1942. The airfield was decommissioned in 1947 and the GCI continued until 1957.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 713 374
Map Sheet:SX73NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishMalborough
Civil ParishSalcombe
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishMALBOROUGH

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 1386348
  • National Trust SMR: 100,553
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX73NW/53
  • SHINE Candidate (Yes)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • MILITARY AIRFIELD (World War II - 1939 AD to 1945 AD (Between))

Full description

Griffith, F. M., Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV8774.

1946 raf photographs clearly show a 2 runway grass airfield with concentrations of buildings at sx713379 and sx717376 approx. Apparently disused by late 1946, a short-term wwii site. Numerous hedge boundaries removed for the runways: the 1963 os 6" map shows many of them to have been reinstated (fmg).

Royal Air Force, 1942, RAF/HLA/535, RAF HLA/535 6020 07-MAY-1942 (Aerial Photograph). SDV351408.

The Airfield is visible, including a barbed wire enclosure in the centre of the airfield in 1942.

Royal Air Force, 1944, RAF CT/89/541, RAF CT/89/541 3063 08-MAR-1944 (Aerial Photograph). SDV351409.

The Airfield is visible, including a football pitch near the NE-SW runway.

1946, Untitled Source (Aerial Photograph). SDV142565.

The airfield, associated earthworks and ancilliary structures are visible. Same as EH Archive source SDV351061 (NMR RAF/CPE/UK/1890 2023-2025 10-DEC-1946).

1963, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV142566.

Des=os 6"(1963).

Thackray, C., 1990, Archaeological Survey of the Salcombe Estuary: West (Bolt Head to Bolt Tail and Snapes Point) Devon, 23-4 (Report - Survey). SDV345519.

The disused airfield, a Spitfire landing strip, is superimposed on an ancient field system, remnants of which still survive. Tarmac runways were not constructed, but Summerfield tracking was laid down for landing and take off.

Willis, S. + Holliss, B., 1990, Military airfields in the British Isles 1939-1945, Page 21 (Monograph). SDV351414.

The Willis and Holliss gazetteer records Bolt Head airfield at SX 710 373. It was opened in 1941 and closed in 1947. The landing surfaces were made using Sommerfeld Track. In 1944 there were 2 blister hangars and temporary accomodation for 474 male and 133 female personnel of 10 Group Fighter Command. The source notes that by 1985 the site was used for agricultural purposes, but see source 2 below. The source includes a location map showing the site just inland from Bolt Head, near a group of farms with the place name element "Sear-" (rendered as "Soar" on the OS map.)

Clamp, A., 1992, The Hope Cove Area During The Second World War 1939-1945 (Monograph). SDV347575.

An advanced landing ground for fighter operations which came into use on 18th December 1941. It reverted to a care and maintenance role in 1945 and closed in 1947. Information regarding the various squadrons operating from the airfield given and events that took place together with a useful sketch map showing the location of the various buildings and aircraft waiting areas. Other details: Photos and sketch map.

Francis, P., 1999, Exeter Airport. Historic Airport Survey for Devon County Council & East Devon District Council, 57 (Report - non-specific). SDV323390.

Council for British Archaeology, 2002, Defence of Britain Archive, Accessed 23-OCT-2003 (Website). SDV349686.

The Defence of Britain Database records RAF Bolt Head as a World War Two period airfield at SX 713 373, Salcombe, Devon. It is actually in the civil Parish of Malborough.

Winton, H. + Bowden, M., 2009, East Soar, Devon: Air Photo Assessment and Survey (Report - Survey). SDV351406.

RAF Bolt Head airfield and the RAF Hope Cove Ground Control Intercept (GCI) radar station (NMR Monument 1308020) were established in different phases between 1941 and 1942. The airfield was decommissioned in 1947 and the GCI continued until 1957. The northern part of the site was subsequently used as a South West Regional Seat of Government until it was sold in the early 1990s (see NMR Monument 1308030). The area of the airfield reverted to farmland after WWII, with most of the field boundaries re-instated. The south coast location provided proximity to the continent and RAF Bolt Head was established as a basic airfield in 1941 and expanded in 1942. Various squadrons flew out of RAF Bolt Head using Spitfires, Lysanders, Typhoons and Supermarine Walrus Air Sea Rescue flying boats amongst other craft. The airfield was at its peak in the build up to D-day in 1944, reverted to care and maintenance in 1945, and closed in 1947.
Air photographs taken in 1942, 1944 and 1946 record the main WWII structures associated with the airfield. Annotated Air Ministry plans from 1941/2, 1943 and 1944/5 (available from the RAF Museum at Hendon) provide information on the location and type of structures associated with RAF Bolt Head and RAF Hope Cove GCI. The air photographs supplement the 1945 plan and recorded structures outside the perimeter of the airfield. Air photographs also recorded adaptations to the airfield illustrating, for example, the lengthening of the runway after March 1944. The air photographs recorded more ephemeral features such as the barbed wire enclosure in the centre of the airfield in 1942 or the football pitch near the NE-SW runway in 1944. The aerial photographs provide a snapshot of the airfield while it was operational recording, for example, parked aircraft . The airfield has been mapped from aerial photographs as part of an English Heritage survey. Most of the buildings and structures are within the Air Ministry boundary, defined by a fence during the war. There are a number of structures and buildings which are outside this boundary but which are thought likely to relate to the airfield. A circular structure in the middle of the Warren, due south of Middle Soar, is centred at SX 7112 3682. A cable trench extends west from this to SX 7152 3681. The structure has gone but the cable trench can still be seen on the ground. A possible structure, at SX 7092 3678, with a linear feature extending to the NW, may have had a military function. Three tracks, half a dozen structures and some possible shell craters are situated just beyond the south east corner of the airfield perimeter. These are presumably related to defences for the airfield. Buildings around East Soar Farm and adjacent to boundaries to the east are also assumed to have a military function associated with the airfield. Structures and tracks on South Down also seem to relate to the airfield, or possibly to a lookout that once stood on Bolt Head cliff.

Hegarty, C. + Knight, S. + Sims, R., 2013-2014, South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey National Mapping Programme Project (Interpretation). SDV351146.

All East Soar Air Photo Assessment and Survey (SDV351406) details were accessioned to the Devon HER as part of the South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey National Mapping Programme Project. Transcriptions are from the East Soar project, identified using Historic England's MONARCH number.

Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R., 2019-2020, The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (AI&M, formerly NMP) (Interpretation). SDV362982.

The airfield has been transcribed as part of English Heritage’s 2009 aerial survey of East Soar. Few additional airfield features were noted during the current survey, these relating to the peripheral anti-aircraft batteries protecting the airfield (MDV58754 and MDV58749).

Sources / Further Reading

SDV142565Aerial Photograph: 1946.
SDV142566Migrated Record: 1963.
SDV323390Report - non-specific: Francis, P.. 1999. Exeter Airport. Historic Airport Survey for Devon County Council & East Devon District Council. Airfield Research Publishing Report. Digital + A4. 57.
SDV345519Report - Survey: Thackray, C.. 1990. Archaeological Survey of the Salcombe Estuary: West (Bolt Head to Bolt Tail and Snapes Point) Devon. National Trust Archaeological Survey Report. A4 Comb Bound + Digital. 23-4.
SDV347575Monograph: Clamp, A.. 1992. The Hope Cove Area During The Second World War 1939-1945. The Hope Cove Area During The Second World War 1939-1945. A4 Stapled.
SDV349686Website: Council for British Archaeology. 2002. Defence of Britain Archive. http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/dob/. Website. Accessed 23-OCT-2003.
SDV351146Interpretation: Hegarty, C. + Knight, S. + Sims, R.. 2013-2014. South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey National Mapping Programme Project. AC Archaeology Report. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV351406Report - Survey: Winton, H. + Bowden, M.. 2009. East Soar, Devon: Air Photo Assessment and Survey. English Heritage. 50-2009. Digital + A4. [Mapped feature: #88513 ]
SDV351408Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1942. RAF/HLA/535. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). RAF HLA/535 6020 07-MAY-1942.
SDV351409Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1944. RAF CT/89/541. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). RAF CT/89/541 3063 08-MAR-1944.
SDV351414Monograph: Willis, S. + Holliss, B.. 1990. Military airfields in the British Isles 1939-1945. Military airfields in the British Isles 1939-1945. Page 21.
SDV362982Interpretation: Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R.. 2019-2020. The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (AI&M, formerly NMP). Historic England Research Report. Digital.
SDV8774Migrated Record: Griffith, F. M..

Associated Monuments

MDV129147Parent of: Former bomb store on Bolt Head Airfield, Malborough (Building)
MDV104276Parent of: Possible Second World War Pillbox, Middle Soar (Monument)
MDV104160Parent of: Second World War Pillbox, RAF Bolt Head (Monument)
MDV106887Related to: Bolt Head World War II Memorial, All Saints' Church (Monument)
MDV58754Related to: Bolt Head, Site [C] Anti-Aircraft Battery, Malborough (Monument)
MDV58748Related to: Bolt Head, Site 1 Anti-Aircraft Battery, Malborough (Monument)
MDV58749Related to: Bolt Head, Site 2 Anti-Aircraft Battery, Malborough (Monument)
MDV58751Related to: Bolt Head, Site 4 AA Battery (Monument)
MDV54165Related to: Hope Cove, Radar Station (Monument)
MDV128139Related to: Observation tower, south-east of Malborough (Monument)
MDV7031Related to: West Soar Admiralty Signal Station, Malborough (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4774 - Historic Airport Survey, Exeter Airport
  • EDV4935 - Archaeological Survey from Bolt Head to Bolt Tail and Snapes Point
  • EDV6587 - Archaeological Assessment of Land between Bolt Heat and Bolt Tail
  • EDV6127 - Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey National Mapping Programme (NMP) for South-West England - South Coast Devon (Ref: ACD618)
  • EDV8098 - The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping (formerly NMP) Survey, Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (Ref: ACD2040)

Date Last Edited:Nov 6 2020 12:52PM