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HER Number:MDV55691
Name:Harrowbeer Airfield, Buckland Monachorum

Summary

RAF Harrowbeer opened in 1941 and closed in 1950. During the war it was part of 10 group fighter command and pilots of many nationalities flew from here. The airfield structures and earthworks are visible on aerial photographs taken from 1942 onwards, and although most superstructures were removed by 1951, many building bases, trackways and earthworks survive.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 512 679
Map Sheet:SX56NW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishBuckland Monachorum
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishBUCKLAND MONACHORUM

Protected Status

  • SHINE: Earthwork and structural remains of the World War II RAF Harrowbeer airfield, as well as medieval fields and farms, industrial tin working, sections of the Devonport and Plymouth Leats, and part of the Plymouth and Dartmoor Tramway on Roborough Down

Other References/Statuses

  • National Archaeological Record: 1396862
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX56NW/112
  • Pastscape: 1396862

Monument Type(s) and Dates

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

Full description

Walford, E., Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV102735.

Raf harrowbeer, midway between plymouth and tavistock and on the edge of dartmoor. Operational 1941-45. Pilots of many nationalities flew from here, british, canadian, czech, french, polish, rhodesian, american. Foundations of runway built of rubble from bombing of plymouth. Nearby ravenscroft house was the station hq. Officially part of 10 group fighter command (rudloe manor) but also used by air-sea rescue, a signals wing (radar calibration), fighter bombers and fleet air-arm aircraft (walford).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV119124.

The airfield is recorded on raf ap's of 1946-7 as are a number of outlying building complexes (see subsheets). Two bellman hangars, and several smaller blister hangars are clearly recorded as are clusters of airfield technical buildings. A large number of air-raid blast shelters are also recorded. The aircraft dispersal bays are grouped principally along the se and sw side of the runways. A wire perimeter fence marks the northern boundary of the airfield. Details of distribution of airfield structures is recorded on plan in smr. The extent of the site is marked on the smr overlay. Pre-war situation recorded on os 6" (1907) maps. Outline of airfield layout recorded on os 6" (1954) map. Little recorded on current dcc computerised mapbase other than the blast pens and a few areas of hut standings (dob worksheet).

Willis, S. + Holliss, B., Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV220246.

Raf harrowbeer. Opened 1941, closed 1950. Part of 10 group fighter command (rudloe manor) in raf exeter's sector. Standard raf 3 runways in "a" plan.18 hardstandings. Asphalt runway.2 bellman hangars and 8 blister hangars.1699 raf/waaf personnel. Currently disused (willis + hollis).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV220252.

Willis, s. + hollis, b. / military airfields in the british isles 1939-45 (omnibus edition)/ (1987) 98.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV220253.

Walford, e. / war over the west/ (1989) 90-92.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV220254.

Saunders, k. / devon aerodromes in old photographs/ (1994) 107-112.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV220255.

Wasley, g. / devon at war/ (1994) 88, 90.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV220256.

Teague, d. / a history of raf station harrowbeer/ (?1990).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV220257.

Des=os 6" (1907) 112 nw + sw.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV220258.

Des=os 6" (1954).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV220259.

Des=dob worksheet (horner, w. )/ (1996)/ in smr.

Untitled Source (Aerial Photograph). SDV220260.

Aph=raf/cpe/uk/1890/4342/(10/12/1946)/smr 52/5.

Untitled Source (Aerial Photograph). SDV220261.

Aph=raf/cpe/uk/1890/2349-51/(10/12/1946)/smr 47/150-52.

Untitled Source (Aerial Photograph). SDV220262.

Aph=raf/cpe/uk/2149/3447-52/(11/06/1947)/smr 47/99-104.

SAUNDERS, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV28723.

Harrowbeer was the base for shipping patrols, bomber escorts and air-sea rescue (saunders).

TEAGUE, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV30835.

Airfield sited beside road from plymouth to tavistock. Yelverton roundabout is at the end of one of the runways. A few buildings are visible beyond the roundabout beside the tavistock road. Roborough rock is at the southern end of the runways and was a hazard to aircraft (as was yelverton church tower). The initial raf occupation included a blister hangar beside the rock, the requisition of ravenscroft as airfield hq, a further hangar with dispersal bays near the rock, a control tower on the sw of the airfield (but see subsheets 11 and 2), some stores on the nw side and a hospital. Further building work continued in 1942. The normal pattern of events by this time in the raf exeter sector was to organise fighter bomber raids with aircraft from harrowbeer flying to the forward station at bolt head and with fighter cover provided by exeter and culmhead (somerset). Attacks mounted on shipping plus land targets in the channel islands and along the french coast. In late 1942 new typhoon fighter bombers were stationed at harrowbeer and dispersed in blast shelters at the far nw of the airfield in "tiffy corner" away from the public. Buildings continued to be erected on the n side in 1943. Us naval staff arrived in 1943 and also a us communications wing. Not a bomber base but occasionally raf bombers did make landings as did us navy liberators from dunkeswell. Used in 1944 for fighter cover for d-day landings. Operational life ended in july 1945. Occasionally used thereafter by army liaison aircraft. Because of fog president truman landed at harrowbeer on 2 august 1945 on his way home from the potsdam conference. He proceeded to visit the king, then on hms renown in plymouth sound. The airfield left to revert to scrubland in 1949. Roborough chosen to be the site of plymouth's airport instead of harrowbeer. Memorial stone for the pilots of raf station harrowbeer was erected in 1981 (teague).

WASLEY, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV66981.

Opened in the summer of 1941. Satellite of raf exeter but haldon airfield (target tugs) was a satellite of yelverton (raf harrowbeer). Varied usage. Pilots also included belgians, australians and new zealanders (wasley).

Royal Air Force, 1942, RAF/NLA/31, RAF/NLA/31 V 5010-5011 26-MAR-1942 (Aerial Photograph). SDV363064.

The airfield runways, structures and earthworks are visible.

Air Ministry, 1944, Harrowbeer Record Site Plan; Site No. 1 [Airfield Site] (Plan - measured). SDV363129.

Airfield features are depicted and labelled, with a key that lists the function of each building.

Royal Air Force, 1946, RAF/106G/UK/1190, RAF/106G/UK/1190 RP 3200-3201 & 3221-3222 27-FEB-1946 (Aerial Photograph). SDV363067.

The airfield runways, structures and earthworks are visible.

Royal Air Force, 1946, RAF/CPE/UK/1890, DCC RAF/CPE/UK/1890 4341-4342 10-DEC-1946; RAF/CPE/UK/1890 FS 2350 10-DEC-1946 (Aerial Photograph). SDV351061.

The airfield runways, structures and earthworks are visible.

Royal Air Force, 1947, RAF/CPE/UK/2149, DCC CPE/UK/2149 3448-3449 11-JUN-1947 (Aerial Photograph). SDV282746.

Some superstructures have been removed.

Royal Air Force, 1951, RAF/540/483, RAF/540/483 RS 4248-4249 24-APR-1951 (Aerial Photograph). SDV352103.

Most of the superstructures have been removed, though the bases are often visible as flat structures.

Royal Air Force, 1964, RAF/58/6399, RAF/58/6399 F61 0053-0054 02-JUL-1964 (Aerial Photograph). SDV363068.

Redevelopment around the periphery of the airfield has fossilised the layout of some roads and access tracks.

Bluesky International Ltd/Getmapping PLC, 1999-2017, Pan Government Agreement Aerial Photographs, Next Perspectives APGB Imagery SX5167 31-MAY-2016 (Aerial Photograph). SDV363087.

Many of the airfield features remain clearly visible as earthworks and flat low building bases and trackways.

Fryer, S., 2010, A history of R.A.F Station Harrowbeer revisited : Air Ministry no. 23/341, opened August 1941- closed July 1945 / based on the original work written and published by Dennis Teague., 16 (Pamphlet). SDV363094.

Unsucessful attempts were made to comouflage runway No. 2 with coloured rubber chippings.

Tingle, M., 2010, Roborough Down, Yelverton, Devon. Results of Archaeological Monitoring and Recording, 8 (Report - Watching Brief). SDV359828.

No archaeological features or finds pre-dating the 20th century were recovered during the trench monitoring undertaken on Roborough Down. There was however, extensive evidence of the wartime airfield Royal Air Force Harrowbeer, in the form of numerous brick structures, surfaces, pipes and cables. It is probable that the construction of the runways and the ancillary structures would have required the stripping of any surface deposits, thus removing any archaeological deposits which may have previously existed at the site.

Hayes, M., 2011, RAF Harrowbeer 1941-1945 (Leaflet). SDV363809.

A brief history and plan of the airfield, noting that the remains of 110 airfield buidings, air-raid shelters and dispersal pens survive.

NERC, 2013, LiDAR DTM data (1m resolution) Tellus: South Devon to Dartmoor, LIDAR SX5167; SX5068 Tellus DTM 01-JUL-2013 to 31-AUG-2013 (Cartographic). SDV361514.

The bases of former structures, linear runways, and curvilinear banks, pits or ditches are visible as earthworks

Google, 2019, Google Earth Pro, EARTH.GOOGLE.COM 22-JUN-2018 ACCESSED 05-JUN-2019 (Aerial Photograph). SDV363088.

The remains are very clearly visible, including some detail of the composition of individual of hut and building bases, and what seem to be the layout of the internal shelters built into the aircraft pen earthworks.

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.

Many elements of the Second World War airfield RAF Harrowbeer are clearly visible as structures and earthwork banks and ditches on aerial photographs taken from 1942 onwards.
Most obvious are the large complex of buildings in the north-west of the site, the runways, and the distinctive aircraft dispersal pens. The aircraft dispersal pens have been recorded on historic and modern maps, but additional detail could be added, for example of recesses within the embankments and two symmetrical areas of hardstanding within each, shaped like milk bottles. Runway No. 2, on the west side of the airfield, was unsuccessfully disguised during the war using coloured rubber chippings (Fryer et al, 2010). Although there is variation in the darkness of the runways between 1940s sorties, this applies to all runways, so it is not possible to identify any camouflage attempts.
As well as these well-known elements, the perimeter fence is clearly visible, including some additional ditches and banks around the periphery. Newly recorded elements include structures and features depicted on the 1944 Air Ministry plan (SDV363129) as well as those that were not depicted on this contemporary plan and may have fallen out of use, or perhaps post-dated, 1944.
Groups of features on the 1944 plan, but which do not have a separate monument record, include:
• Hangars centred at SX5088167840 and SX5124767345
• Groups of buildings resembling civilian air raid shelters but actually barracks at XK5181567941 and machine gun range at SX5133168250
• Row of structures, possibly Nissen huts, at SX5057267925
• Complex of subsidiary buildings including a large number of air raid shelters at SX5083168424
Newly recorded features that are not on the 1944 plan include:
• Numbering/lettering marked on runway ends
• Possible foxholes at SX5138268219
• Remains of an Allan Williams Turret at SX5067867958
• Earthworks of a possible anti-aircraft gun emplacement at SX5092968645
• Additional scattered air raid shelters
Although most of the superstructures were removed by 1951, many of the airfield features survive at least in part, including substantial earthwork remains of the aircraft dispersal pens, and numerous structural elements including building/hut bases and surfaced routeways. Redevelopment of some areas has fossilised the layout of some roads and access tracks, for example at the groups of hangars at SX5088167840 and SX25124767345.
The transcriptions are based mainly on the final (post-war) layout of the airfield, rather than the 1942 formation, to incorporate as many elements are possible and to make use of the best quality available imagery. It is worth noting that the north-east boundary of the airfield was extended between 1942 and 1946, when the bomb stores were added, and that the groups of hangars at SX5088167840 and SX25124767345 were later additions to the airfield, both being under construction in March 1942.
Only this record, and not any of the child records, have been amended as part of this survey, with the exception of those where additional information from the aerial imagery has significantly altered their interpretation.

Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R., 2020, South Devon Coast to Dartmoor AI&M Survey, Area 2 Site Visit, 16-AUG-2020 (Site Visit). SDV363808.

Many of the airfield elements are well preserved and are clearly readable at ground level, including the dispersal pens, Compass base, numerous hut bases including the flight office building and anti-aircraft battery, and the remains of at least two Allan Williams turrets. Additional features not recorded from the aerial imagery include a rifle pit near the Squadron Office (MDV128880), and slight double circular structure of unknown purpose, perhaps a water cistern or cells for airstrip lighting (MDV128884).

Sources / Further Reading

SDV102735Migrated Record: Walford, E..
SDV119124Migrated Record:
SDV220246Migrated Record: Willis, S. + Holliss, B..
SDV220252Migrated Record:
SDV220253Migrated Record:
SDV220254Migrated Record:
SDV220255Migrated Record:
SDV220256Migrated Record:
SDV220257Migrated Record:
SDV220258Migrated Record:
SDV220259Migrated Record:
SDV220260Aerial Photograph:
SDV220261Aerial Photograph:
SDV220262Aerial Photograph:
SDV282746Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1947. RAF/CPE/UK/2149. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). DCC CPE/UK/2149 3448-3449 11-JUN-1947.
SDV28723Migrated Record: SAUNDERS.
SDV30835Migrated Record: TEAGUE.
SDV351061Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946. RAF/CPE/UK/1890. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). DCC RAF/CPE/UK/1890 4341-4342 10-DEC-1946; RAF/CPE/UK/1890 FS 2350 10-DEC-1946. [Mapped feature: #95322 The polygon is based on a combnation of sources, of which the 1946 aerial photographs are most important., ]
SDV352103Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1951. RAF/540/483. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). RAF/540/483 RS 4248-4249 24-APR-1951.
SDV359828Report - Watching Brief: Tingle, M.. 2010. Roborough Down, Yelverton, Devon. Results of Archaeological Monitoring and Recording. Southwest Archaeology. 100422. Digital. 8.
SDV361514Cartographic: NERC. 2013. LiDAR DTM data (1m resolution) Tellus: South Devon to Dartmoor. Digital. LIDAR SX5167; SX5068 Tellus DTM 01-JUL-2013 to 31-AUG-2013.
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.
SDV363064Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1942. RAF/NLA/31. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). RAF/NLA/31 V 5010-5011 26-MAR-1942.
SDV363067Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946. RAF/106G/UK/1190. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). RAF/106G/UK/1190 RP 3200-3201 & 3221-3222 27-FEB-1946.
SDV363068Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1964. RAF/58/6399. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). RAF/58/6399 F61 0053-0054 02-JUL-1964.
SDV363087Aerial Photograph: Bluesky International Ltd/Getmapping PLC. 1999-2017. Pan Government Agreement Aerial Photographs. Aerial Photography for Great Britain Aerial Photographs. Digital. Next Perspectives APGB Imagery SX5167 31-MAY-2016.
SDV363088Aerial Photograph: Google. 2019. Google Earth Pro. Various. Digital. EARTH.GOOGLE.COM 22-JUN-2018 ACCESSED 05-JUN-2019.
SDV363094Pamphlet: Fryer, S.. 2010. A history of R.A.F Station Harrowbeer revisited : Air Ministry no. 23/341, opened August 1941- closed July 1945 / based on the original work written and published by Dennis Teague.. Paperback Volume. 16.
SDV363129Plan - measured: Air Ministry. 1944. Harrowbeer Record Site Plan; Site No. 1 [Airfield Site]. 1:2500. Photocopy.
Linked documents:1
SDV363808Site Visit: Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R.. 2020. South Devon Coast to Dartmoor AI&M Survey, Area 2 Site Visit. AC Archaeology. Photograph (Digital). 16-AUG-2020.
Linked images:14
SDV363809Leaflet: Hayes, M.. 2011. RAF Harrowbeer 1941-1945. Leaflet.
SDV66981Migrated Record: WASLEY.

Associated Monuments

MDV109988Parent of: Aircraft Dispersal Pen, Harrowbeer Airfield (Monument)
MDV109986Parent of: Aircraft Dispersal Pens, Harrowbeer Airfield (Monument)
MDV109990Parent of: Aircraft Dispersal Pens, Harrowbeer Airfield (Monument)
MDV110001Parent of: Allan Williams Turret at Harrowbeer Airfield (Monument)
MDV110015Parent of: Light Aircraft Battery, Harrowbeer Airfield (Monument)
MDV128884Parent of: Lighting cell or water cistern at RAF Harrowbeer, Buckland Monachorum (Monument)
MDV110016Parent of: Pillbox at Harrowbeer Airfield (Monument)
MDV110017Parent of: Pillbox at Harrowbeer Airfield (Monument)
MDV128880Parent of: Rifle pit at RAF Harrowbeer, Buckland Monachorum (Monument)
MDV118958Parent of: Runways at RAF Harrowbeer (Monument)
MDV110014Related to: Bunker in garden of Morrinsville to south of Harrowbeer Airfield (Monument)
MDV125989Related to: Curvilinear features, possibly foxholes, on Roborough Down, Buckland Monachorum (Monument)
MDV55697Related to: Dispersed accommodation site of RAF Harrowbeer, Pound House, Buckland Monachorum (Monument)
MDV126103Related to: Light anti-aircraft battery south-east of Axtown, Buckland Monachorum (Monument)
MDV55700Related to: Military trenches at Harrowbeer airfield, Buckland Monachorum (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7109 - Archaeological monitoring and recording on Roborough Down, Yelverton (Ref: 100422)
  • 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:Jan 19 2021 2:03PM