For an Old Salt like myself it doesn’t come easy to say encouraging things about the junior service – the flyboys of the RAF, but no doubt the RAF did a marvellous job when they were based here in Somerset at RAF WESTONZOYLAND. (ZW) It was the last operational RAF unit in Somerset. The airfield opened in 1926 and was finally decommissioned in 1969 and I had a quick look at the old airfield on Tuesday en route for the nearby site of the Battle of Sedgemoor. In 1937 Westland Wallaces of No.1 Antiaircraft Cooperation Unit were towing targets from here. 1939 Lysanders from No.16 Squadron Army Cooperation were used for patrolling the southwest, and by 1940 Westonzoyland became a fully-fledged RAF airfield. Throughout 1940 the airfield grew substantially and all sorts of accommodation from large houses to stables were used. The village hall was the NAAFI and Townsend House was the Officers’ Mess. By 1941 it became a major practice camp for Army cooperation. July 1941 saw No.239 Squadron with Lysanders, re-equipped with Mustangs the following year. . 1943 the decision was made to upgrade the airfield to proper runways and three concrete and tarmac were laid out. ZW was used expensively through 1943 for air firing practice and tri service airfield commando units practicing living in the field getting ready for D-day and the building of new airfields in France In September 1943 No.525 Squadron arrived with Warwicks they were not very successful and soon left. 1944 and two and a half thousand beds were set up in the hangars ready for the American Airborne to arrive for the run up to D-day on 6th June 1944 and then Nos.286 and 587 RAF Squadrons came back after the Americans had left and carried on their work. Not long after the war many units started to disband at ZW, mostly fighter squadrons and by1946 the airfield was downgraded to Care & Maintenance. But war came to ZW again, this time it was Korea. More airfields and fighter squadrons were needed, and so in1952 the 209th Air Fighting School was formed here with Vampires and Meteors. 209 AFS became after two years No.12 FTS (Flying Training School) Another interesting thing happened here. An Atomic Task Force was formed here in November 1955, mostly Canberra’s and a Varsity. March 1956 and they had all left for Australia. They were the monitoring force for the testing No's 32 & 73 Squadrons were the last users of ZW and they converted to Canberra's and left for Cyprus. The airfield went back into Care & Maintenance, effectively closing in January 1958 but retained until 1969. Today it is reverting to agriculture and fields but there are strips on runway still clearly visible and the whole area is dotted with ruinous old building and huts, some used by the local farmers. It makes a rather sorry and wistful sight today and reflects nothing of past glories and the hectic, bustling life and death work that went on here through the dark days of war when the very life of our country was threatened. Actually it’s a sad reflection on our nation that such important parts of our history – RAF WESTONZOYLAND and also the site of the Battle of Sedgemoor, the last land battle fought on English soil in 1685 are virtually unknown and almost entirely unmarked and unsignposted (There’s a good word!) There are a couple of cartoon story boards and some info in The Parish Church (well done vicar!) – but its fairly cursory. Thousands drive by here and are completely unaware of the significance of these places. It’s a great shame – well, actually, it’s a national disgrace and shows an utter disregard for both our history and our heritage. More next time on the 1685 Monmouth Rebellion.

Comments on this entry:

  1. What ho salty Graeme or even
    my Jolly Jack Tar as a retired ‘flyboy’ thank you for doffing your metaphorical cap to the valuable service rendered at RAF Westonzoyland by the light blue heroes.
    Equally one was unaware that the American Airborne were routed thru’ there. Could tell you a shaggy dog story about a certain New Year’s eve spent with the ‘Screaming Eagles’ or 101st A’born in a hangar in Saudi but not in print!
    Take care my matelot mate

    — Clive Parnell-Hopkinson · Thursday 22 January, 2009 · #