Monument record MCC8627 - Birch WWII Airfield


World War II airfield.


Grid reference Centred TL 9184 1959 (2562m by 1639m)
Map sheet TL91NW


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

1996: World War II airfield.<1>-<5> Photo ref <5>-<8> and <13>-<15>. Birch was the last airfield completed by the US Army for the 8th Air Force as a bomber base. It appears to have been unoccupied by May 1944.<9> Birch followed the typical American wartime construction pattern, being equipped with 3 runways joined by a perimeter track, around which were 50 loop dispersals. Two T-2 hangars were built on concrete aprons at TL9130 1999, and at TL 9150 1917, around which was built the main technical site. Both hangars have gone along with the control tower (type 12779/41, 343/43) at TL9126 1947. The main site shows as approx. 35 hut bases and 3 upstanding Nissen huts in 1960 AP's. By 1990 only 1 hut remains at TL9141 1902 and the area has turned to wood/scrub cultivation. The brick operations block was located at TL9113 1898 flanked by 3 Nissen huts and a brick store - this is now cultivated.

The bomb stores were located on the east side of the airfield on land which is now being encroached upon by quarrying at Birch pit. On the opposite side of the airfield were the dispersed sites.<10> Aerial photos <11> and <12>.

May 2006: Birch was one of the last airfields built during WWII; an airfield which was destined to be among the least used of any in Britain. It was constructed by the 846th US Engineer Aviation Battalion in 1943 and was considered to be ready for occupation by the Spring of 1944. It was equipped with three runways, perimeter track, 50 loop disposals, two T2 hangars, bomb stores and no fewer than 14 dispersed accommodation and domestic sites in the woods and fields nearby. However, at that late point in the war there was little need for another airfield and the site lay redundant for almost all of the remaining year. During that time it was earmarked as a Reserve Base for the Eighth Air Force, Third Bomb Division, then handed to the British 6th Airborne Division where it saw its only operational use as a base for the Dakotas and Horsa gliders used in “Operation Varsity”, the crossing of the Rhine.

Visited in May 2006, virtually nothing now remains of the airfield. The much-reduced-in-width runways can still be made out, two of them as straight concrete tracks through the fields of corn and the third as a now-public road, Blind Lane. Some parts of the perimeter track remain as does one or two loop dispersals. Only one building still stands on the airfield, the main Technical Stores, a Nissen hut at TL 9141 1902.

Five photos of site <16>. See SMR 16489-16497 (MCC4883-MCC4890 and MCC4971), Dispersed Sites.

See also <17>.

Sources/Archives (18)

  • <1> AP: RAF. 1946. 106G-UK 1367-5367-70.
  • <2> AP: RAF. 1946. 106G-UK 1492-4340-1.
  • <3> AP: unknown. unknown. 542-152-0175.
  • <4> AP: Ordnance Survey. unknown. OS-66-227-117.
  • <5> AP: Ordnance Survey. unknown. TL9119-2-48.
  • <6> AP: NMR. 1979. TL917196.
  • <7> AP: Meridian Airmaps Limited. 1981. MAL/22/81/108.
  • <8> AP: RAF. 1963. F21/543/RAF/2326/201-202.
  • <9> DESC TEXT: Freeman, RA. unknown. The Mighty 8th War Manual. pp. 261 & 305.
  • <10> DESC TEXT: Thorpe, Simon. 1996. Military Airfields in Essex during WWII.
  • <11> AP: unknown. 1960. 17 - 046, 17 - 047, 17 - 048, 18 -017.
  • <12> AP: unknown. 1990. 20 - 5305, 20 - 5306.
  • <13> AP: RAF. 1946. 106G-UK 1367-5328-30.
  • <14> AP: Hunting Surveys Limited. 1970. HSL/70/162/91/0516.
  • <15> Map: Ingle, CJ, Strachan, D, Tyler, S and Saunders, H. 1993-2012. NMP Cropmark Plot - 1:10,000. TL91NW.
  • <16> Photograph: Nash, Fred. 2006. Birch WWII Airfield. 5 frames, May 2006.
  • <17> Map: Air Ministry. 1944. Birch Airfield Record Site Plan.
  • <18> Photograph: Colchester Historic Buildings Forum. 2011. Digital photograph of 10-14 Vineyard Street, Colchester. Digital. Volume 1.

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Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

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Record last edited

Jun 15 2020 12:28PM

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