- ICAO Code: EGHM
- Location: Hampshire, England, United Kingdom
- Type: Training Airfield
- Parent: Air Service Training Ltd.
- Current Version: 1.1
- Download link: Download
- Required Libraries, Ted Andrews, Bill Womack, IJP
Although it is included here under “RAF Airfields”, the airfield at Hamble-le-Rice was never technically a military station, although it saw use throughout the war as a centre for training, modification and, most well known, the delivery of aircraft to and from manufacturers, military formations and maintenance facilities.
The first airfield built at the site wasn’t built for the RAF or Royal Navy, nor by a wealthy private owner as was the case with many pre-war airfields. In fact, it was opened during World War I by A. V. Roe, whose factory started producing aircraft in 1917, flying them out from a steeply sloped site leading down to Southampton Water, which became known as “Hamble South” airfield. Most of the production at Hamble South was of Avro 504 type aircraft and a scenery has been created for this site by Stephen “stiz” Barstow, to go with his A2A Aircraft Factory Avro 504K aircraft.
When the factory ceased production in 1919, with the majority of work being moved to Manchester, the Hamble South site became a testing ground for new designs, for which the steep “South” airfield was completely unsuitable, so more land was purchased in 1926 and aircraft towed over the railway line to a new, much larger and flatter, “North” landing ground. This was also used by Fairey, Simmonds, Vickers/Supermarine and training first started with the creation of the resident Hampshire Aero Club.
In 1931, Air Service Training Ltd – formerly the Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Reserve School – moved in, building a new hangar which became known at the outbreak of World War 2 as “B” hangar. In 1932 Hampshire Aero Club moved out (to Eastleigh, now Southampton Airport) and with the first rumblings of war, during 1937, AST were joined by No.3 Elementary and Reserve Flying Traing School and in 1939, No.11 Air Observers Navigation School and No.1 Supplementary Flying School. All training was moved out of Hamble when it was bombed in 1940, leaving only the repair facilities and a small Royal Naval aviation detachment.
Hamble was never, technically, an active military Station during WW2, yet it saw huge amounts of military aircraft operating to and from from its grass landing area every day. The reason for this was that alongside several training, repair and conversion facilities, Hamble was also home to a large part of the Air Transport Auxiliary, who ferried aircraft between factories, repair facilities, maintenance depots and active Squadrons. Specifically, in the case of Hamble as opposed to White Waltham where the ATA was headquarted and more associated with, the ATA presence was dominated by the Women’s Section, the ladies of which broke through numerous taboos and long held biases on an almost daily basis to prove that “if the chaps could do it, so could we”.
Although the female section of the ATA are often referred to as the “Spitfire Girls”, in reality, they flew everything from Moth trainers to Halifax, Stirling and Lancaster heavy bombers – often handing them over to disbelieving recipients, who asked where the pilot was!
After World War 2, the ATA left and the airfield was used to store Spitfires for the scrap man, although flying restarted in 1946 and the aerodrome remained in continuous use, first under AST and when they left in 1960, the College of Air Training, until 1984 when the Receiver was called in and the site was sold to a housing developer. The last aircraft to fly from Hamble, however, didn’t leave until 1986 and today, astonishingly for a flat site owned by a housing company, the majority of Hamble North Airfield is still open grassland, with many of the airfield buildings still standing!
- Images: The aircraft seen in the overview image is the A2A Aircraft Factory Avro Anson Mk.I – another stiz package, to go with the Avro 504K!