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HER Number:MDV56526
Name:Office Annexe, Dunkeswell Airfield


Office annexe attached to the operations block. Constructed of rendered brick with piers supporting steel trusses carrying a corrugated iron roof which replaced one of corrugated asbestos sheeting. The building was divided into a number of offices but the main roof functioned as a de-briefing room for aircrews returning from operations.


Grid Reference:ST 137 073
Map Sheet:ST10NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishDunkeswell
DistrictEast Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishDUNKESWELL

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: ST10NW/41/66
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

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

Full description

SUBSHEET 65, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV131006.

Building 166 grouped with the operations block (subsheet 67) + the crew briefing room (subsheet 65) (doe).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV131007.

Des=francis, p. /blackdown hills airfield survey/(1995)/dunkeswell: 72.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV131008.

Des=doe/(10/10/2002)/1592/0/10008/in pf.

Watts, S., 10/10/2015, Operations Block, Dunkeswell (Ground Photograph). SDV359382.

Royal Air Force, 1946 - 1949, Royal Air Force Aerial Photographs (Aerial Photograph). SDV342938.

Francis, P., 1995, Blackdown Hills Airfield Survey. Dunkeswell and Upottery. (Report - Survey). SDV312951.

Office annexe. Construction: rendered 4.5 inch walls with piers at ten feet centres supporting 28 feet span steel trusses carrying corrugated asbestos sheeting. Function: building sub-divided into a number of offices for intelligence officer, co, and their staff, but the main room functioned as a de-briefing room for aircrew returning from operations. Now in fair condition, a new corrugated iron roof has been added but a large portion is now missing. Shown on air ministry site plan as being attached to operations block (by air-lock) (francis).

Francis, P., 1995, Blackdown Hills Airfield Survey. Dunkeswell and Upottery. (Report - Survey). SDV312951.

Lake, J., 2000, Survey of Military Aviation Sites ans Structures: Summary Report: Thematic Listing Programme: English Heritage (Report - Survey). SDV352756.

Formed an integral part of the complex associated with the administration of the airfield and the direction and monitoring of operations.
Recommended for Listing at Grade II.

English Heritage, 2002, Dunkeswell Airfield, Devon (Correspondence). SDV361968.

Letter highlighting the unique historical importance of the airfield and its associated structures and the challenges in how best to protect it, particularly given the dispersed layout of the site.
It was noted that demolition or part demolition of the buildings surrounding the Operations Block has been recommended on the grounds of health and safety. While it is appreciated that buildings such as the Crew Briefing Room (Building 71) and Crew Briefing Room/Office Annex (Building 72) are in poor condition, they do appear to be capable of repair and it is hoped that the health and safety issues can be resolved.

Ordnance Survey, 2016, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV359352.

Historic England, 2016, National Heritage List for England (National Heritage List for England). SDV359353.

Building 166 (Operations Block and Office Annexe) and Building 165 (Crew Briefing Room).
1942, constructed by George Wimpey for the Air Ministry to Directorate of Works and Buildings drawing no. 9223/42. Rendered 13.5 inch brick walls support reinforced concrete roof. Office Annexe and Crew Briefing Room have rendered 4.5 inch brick walls with piers at 10 feet intervals supporting 28-feet span steel trusses carrying corrugated iron sheeting. Plan: large operations block with smaller rooms for plant, meteorological office, wireless transmission and general communications. In two parallel rectangular-plan ranges to N are the crew briefing room to the N of the office annexe, originally provided with rooms for rest, intelligence officers, interrogation of crews returning from missions, anti-aircraft operations and signals. Exterior elevations are generally plain, the office annexe and crew briefing room being lit by steel-casements in the side walls. Ventilation tower to roof. Interiors retain original plan form, with ventilation ducting in operations room.
HISTORY: Operations blocks, for the executive control of aircraft within fighter sectors or bomber groups, first appeared in the mid 1920s, at first attached to station headquarters buildings as at Bicester in Oxfordshire. They assumed especial importance in the Second World War, most famous being those in Fighter Command's 11 Group (at Uxbridge and Debden) which bore the brunt of the Luftwaffe assault in the Battle of Britain. The operations block at Dunkeswell is an unusually well-preserved example of a wartime operations block. It was the nerve centre for US Navy operations in the Bay of Biscay area, and is thus of great historical importance for its associations with the Battle of the Atlantic. The airfield at Dunkeswell, by virtue of its continued use for flying, survives as the pre-eminent example of a purpose-built site associated with this campaign. The cover provided by shore-based aircraft of all three Commands proved to be a decisive factor, aided of course by the decryption of Ultra (at Bletchley Park) and the development of radar.
Dunkeswell is the only British airfield where the US Navy Fleet Air Wing - whose primary theatre of operations was the Pacific - was based during the Second World War, and is the best-preserved of all the sites in the west of Britain associated with the strategically-vital Battle of the Atlantic. The flying field at Dunkeswell owes its origin to the need to tackle the threat created by the major build-up of German U-boat bases on the Atlantic coast of France. The airfield, begun by the contractor George Wimpey in 1941, was transferred in May 1942 to 19 Group Coastal Command, but in August of that year - further to high-level liaison between the British and United States governments following establishment of the need for reinforcements and the neutralisation of the U-boat threat as a precondition to the invasion of NW Europe - it was occupied by the US Air Force Anti-Submarine Group 479. Before moving to Dunkeswell, the US Navy had protected shipping off the eastern seaboard of North America, and then Iceland and Greenland. Their task, once based in Britain, was to patrol the sea areas which had to be crossed by U-boats en-route between their bases in France and their hunting sites in the North Atlantic. The US Navy (Fleet Air Wing 7) was based here until the end of operations in May 1945. By this time, 6,424 anti-submarine missions, principally in B24 Liberator bombers (that had the greatest range over the Atlantic of any aircraft), were flown from Dunkeswell. US Navy liaison personnel were based at Coastal Command's HQ at Mount Wise, Plymouth, where the Enigma decrypts from Bletchley Park were planned on and then forwarded for action. At the peak of operations in 1944 there were just under 5000 personnel at Dunkeswell. In August 1945 the RAF again took over, and the base was used for ferrying and maintenance; the RAF left in 1949.
The cover provided by shore-based aircraft proved to be a decisive factor in the Battle of the Atlantic, aided of course by the decryption of Ultra from Bletchley Park and the development of radar. The 'Atlantic Gap' beyond the reach of land-based air cover, was the prime killing ground, a factor which drove the establishment of bases in Iceland, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and later Greenland. Shore-based aircraft operating from bases such as Dunkeswell accounted for 41-5% of U-boat kills, and their effectiveness increased in tandem with aircraft technology. Thus the 500-mile range of the Hudson, Wellington and Whitley bombers was increased by the Sunderland flying boat to 600 miles and by the Liberator bomber (in service from 1943, and the aircraft used at Dunkeswell) to 1,100 miles. May 1943 is generally acknowledged as the turning point in the conflict, shore and ship-based aircraft then accounting for two thirds of U-boat losses. Although work had begun on the U-boat pens at St Nazaire, Lorient, Le Palice and Brest in January 1941, it was not until December 1943 that the War Cabinet ordered Bomber Command to attack these bases. From this date, the use of air power was developed in an increasingly strategic role in order to prepare the way for Operation Overlord.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV131006Migrated Record: SUBSHEET 65.
SDV131007Migrated Record:
SDV131008Migrated Record:
SDV312951Report - Survey: Francis, P.. 1995. Blackdown Hills Airfield Survey. Dunkeswell and Upottery.. Blackdown Hills AONB. Digital + A4.
SDV342938Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 - 1949. Royal Air Force Aerial Photographs. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Digital).
SDV352756Report - Survey: Lake, J.. 2000. Survey of Military Aviation Sites ans Structures: Summary Report: Thematic Listing Programme: English Heritage. English Heritage. A4 Comb Bound + Digital.
SDV359352Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2016. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #95558 ]
SDV359353National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2016. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Digital.
SDV359382Ground Photograph: Watts, S.. 10/10/2015. Operations Block, Dunkeswell. Digital.
SDV361968Correspondence: English Heritage. 2002. Dunkeswell Airfield, Devon. Letter to Defence Estates South West. Letter + Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV45090Part of: Dunkeswell Airfield, Dunkeswell (Monument)
MDV56527Related to: Operations Block, Dunkeswell Airfield (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4948 - Blackdown Hills Airfield Survey

Date Last Edited:Dec 13 2018 3:29PM