WW2 Treasure Hunters – Season 2 – RAF Little Staughton ‘Pathfinders’
For this episode of WW2 Treasure Hunters, we go back to our roots, leave all the aircraft and tanks behind, and do some proper relic hunting!
RAF Little Staughton was a Pathfinders base, and played a crucial role in the RAF bombing campaign of WW2.
RAF Little Staughton is a former Royal Air Force station located 1.7 miles (2.7 km) south of Great Staughton, Cambridgeshire and 4.2 miles (6.8 km) west of St Neots, Cambridgeshire, England.
Built during 1941-42 potentially as a USAAF bomber base, Little Staughton had three concrete runways, 37 hard standings, two dispersed T2 hangars and eight Robin hangars. Occupied temporarily from December 1942 by the Advanced Air Depot of the 1st Bomb Wing, it was a maintenance base for B-17 bombers from January 1943 until February 1944. It transferred to the RAF in March 1944, and operated as a bomber base until October 1945, then briefly as a transport base until closed and was placed on Care and Maintenance in December 1945. The main runway was extended during the 1950s to provide a jet emergency-landing facility for the USAF, but that was discontinued by the late 1950s. Other post-war use of the airfield included a Brooklands Aviation repair depot. Although largely returned to agriculture and also used by light industry, part of the wartime site remains a private airfield.
On 1st March 1944, the base transferred to RAF control, with Lancasters of No. 7 Sqn from Oakington and No. 156 Sqn from Upwood transferring here to form No. 582 Sqn. The first operation of this squadron was flown on 9th April 1944 and its last 25th April 1945. No. 582 took part in a total of 165 raids, during which 28 Lancasters were lost. 582 Sqn disbanded here in September 1945.
From March 1944 to September 1945, No. 109 Sqn PFF Pathfinder Force Mosquitos were based at Little Staughton, having moved here from Marham. Their first operation was flown on the 4th April 1944, and the last on 25th April 1945.
These two squadrons were to be the only occupants of the station from March 1944 until the end of the war.
Two Victoria Crosses were awarded posthumously to Little Staughton airmen. On December 23rd, 1944, Squadron Leader Robert Palmer, a No. 109 Squadron pilot flying a No. 582 Lancaster, perished after determinedly attacking the target despite crippling damage to his aircraft. Then on the night of February 23/24th 1945, Captain Edwin Swales of No. 582 Squadron lost his life in a gallant effort to save both his crew and aircraft, flying towards friendly lines with a crippled Lancaster, giving the crew time to bail out over allied held territory before the Lancaster finally smashed into the ground.
This episode is dedicated to these, and all other airmen that flew from this vital airbase.
So, what did we find during the dig? One heck of a lot of relics, many of which were directly attributable to the Pathfinders.
It was a fabulous dig and yielded one heck of a haul of relics!