Site 1: Airfield


  • 304 deg 2000yds by 50yds concrete

  • 248 deg 1425yds by 50yds concrete

  • 200 deg 1425yds by 50yds concrete

RAF Davidstow Moor's three runways are standard for an A Class bomber station. Because of the boggy nature of Davidstow Moor parts of the perimeter track were constructed before work on the runways commenced. Archaeologist C K Croft Andrew was always just ahead of the construction workers in his attempts to record the areas historic past. Runway 24 was the first to be constructed. Levelling was carried out by mechanical excavators and bulldozers. The final levelling was done by blade graders to ensure that no gradient was greater than 1 in 60. One of the drivers of the D8 scraper that was used for this purpose was Mrs Jennings. After levelling the ground a thick layer of hardcore obtained from local quarries was laid down and rolled by steam rollers. Mrs Ruth Hoskin who worked at one of these local quarries was responsible for checking out lorry loads of hardcore. She told her story to the BBC's WW2 People's War website. The hardcore was topped with concrete which was laid in sections and separated by one inch shuttering to allow for expansion of the runway surface. The shuttering was removed and the gap filled with tar before the final surface was laid. The top surface was of tarmac bulked out with wood chip rather than the fine grade stone of many earlier airfields.

The runways were drained to take away rainwater. Drains were provided on all three runways by catch pits located at intervals along the runway. Water from these pits drained away by gravity through miles of salt glazed pipes laid underground. The catch pits were covered with cast iron drain covers.

Whilst the runways were under construction steel oil drums were put out to obstruct the landing surface.

Immediately after completion of the runways they remained lined with mounds of earth and debris which had been removed during construction. Once this had been removed grass turfs were laid. Harold Lane worked for Grassfelt and helped to lay a 50ft wide strip of turf on either side of each runway to be used as an emergency landing area.

At the beginning of each runway, on the left hand side, is a small hard standing for the floodlight [Chance light] tractor and trailer.

Floodlight Tractor And Trailer Shed

[Drawing No. 12411/41] (Map Ref: 89)

A self-powered Chance light was used to supplement the runway lighting. [See Airfield Lighting section]. The Chance light consisted of a lighthouse fixed to a four wheeled trailer which was towed by a tractor. The Chance light normally operated from it's hard standing but in the case of RAF Davidstow Moor it was towed to the centre line at the end of the runway. The light was directed down the runway to enable the pilot, on take off, to have a view of the full width of the runway bearing in mind that the two secondary runways were only lit by glim lights on the left hand side. RAF Davidstow Moor's main runway had lighting on both sides.

When not in use the equipment was stored in the tractor and trailer shed which was sited behind the control tower to the north of the perimeter track. The shed was constructed of concrete block and cement rendered. It had 4.5 in thick walls to a height of 13ft 6in. There were three external piers at 10 ft centres forming four bays. It was a garage type structure with timber double doors at each end. The roof was supported by 18 ft span steel trusses and clad with corrugated asbestos cement sheeting .

The building is no longer extant. Even the concrete plinth has been dug up for hardcore. [2007]

Control Tower

[Drawing No. 12779/41CB] (Map Ref: 87)

In August 1941 a standard type of watch office was designed for all new stations under construction. The previous practice at satellite bomber stations like RAF Davidstow Moor, that were upgraded to parent status, was to adapt and extend the existing building. As local air traffic control became more regulated it became necessary to have a standard watch office building on all types of RAF airfield and so existing watch offices were modified to come up to the new standard. Watch office and control rooms of the original design [12779/41] had large windows at the front. This design was revised during 1943 with the result that smaller frames were put into the front of the building. There is evidence at RAF Davidstow Moor of the windows being reduced to take the smaller frame. The outline of the original window can be seen quite clearly. The gap between the two sizes was made good with 9in brick instead of 13 ½ in brick. It was at this time that the term watch office was replaced by control tower.

The control tower at RAF Davidstow Moor had been further modified by raising it on a 4ft plinth and building it in brick as opposed to concrete block suggested by it's drawing number.

The two storey building was almost square shaped in plan. My notebook measurements tell me it was 34ft 9in by 37ft and 23 ft high from ground to roof. The brick construction was externally cement rendered. The roof was felted and then given a thick bitumen coating. The flat roof, first floor and veranda were built of concrete reinforced with steel matting. The windows were constructed of steel and all the glass was reinforced with wire to stop it shattering, as was all glass on the airfield..The floors were covered with thick brown linoleum and the operations room had a wooden floor laid over the concrete. The wooden blocks are still on the floor today [2007].

The following rooms were all on the ground floor:

  • Meteorological office which also housed the teleprinter

  • Latrines

  • Duty pilots rest room

  • Watch office

and on the first floor:

  • Signals office

  • Controller's rest room

  • Control room which housed the telephone exchange

Outside the control room was the veranda. Although now gone the veranda had railings as did the roof. There was a metal staircase on the outside, to the left of the front, leading from the veranda to the roof. It had railings and a handrail. Beneath the staircase was the door to the switch room which was accessible from the outside only.

The control room was cement rendered internally to halfway up it's walls and the top of the walls were brick. It housed the mimic which was used to keep a check on the state of the runway lights. It was in a varnished plywood box which stood on the right hand side as you entered the room. It showed the layout of the aerodrome with a miniature representation of all the lights on and around it. It stood over the switch gear room and, at RAF Davidstow Moor, was able to show which lights on the runway, the perimeter track and the outer circle had failed to light.

On the roof was a red obstruction light on a pole. It's remains are there today. [2007]

Looking out to the south from the Control room was the signals square. This contained the wind sock which showed the direction of the wind. It's concrete base is still there. [2007]

Approximately 125yds to the west of the control tower is the airfield colours mast. Each day at 0800hrs and 1800hrs station personnel marched to the mast and stood to attention whilst the colours were raised or lowered.

Towards the end of the war the watch office was used by the fire crews as their stand-by room and on occasions it was used to play football with a particularly hard ball so I have been told.

A total of 164 buildings of the type at RAF Davidstow Moor were built. Today only 68 survive.

The building today is still standing although the window frames and glass have been removed as has the protective coating. [2007]


[Drawing No. 8271/40] (Map Ref: 58, 63 & 101)

RAF Davidstow Moor had three T2 hangars of the type developed by Teesside Bridge and Engineering Works. They were steel girder construction, clad with corrugated steel sheeting and painted with bitumen. They had a red obstruction light on top. The first two hangars were on the technical site and the third was in the south east sector of the aerodrome amongst the dispersals. Each was 115 ft by 240 ft and had an overall height of 39 ft to the ridge. In his wartime memories recorded on the BBC's WW2 website Peter Ascott says he was sent to work wiring the interior of buildings on 12 October 1942. He says he found his niche climbing about like a monkey putting 21 lights in the T2 sheds. A T2 hanger took an eight man team three weeks or more to construct. The main boom girders weighed 17 tons each. Initially only two hangars had been intended but when RAF Davidstow Moor was given parent status in readiness for D-Day the third hanger was built.

The two hangars on the technical site were removed after the war and went to Par Engineering who had the frame of the third hanger for spares. The cladding was used by a local farmer for a cattle shed.

Local man Wesley Mills left school in 1944 and found work at RAF Davidstow Moor as a civilian electrical assistant. One of his many jobs was to replace failed light bulbs. In order to reach the ridge lights in the hangars a self supporting, extending and mobile ladder was used. As the “boy” Wesley was sent up the ladder which when fully extended swayed alarmingly, a most unnerving experience which he still remembers to this day.

None of the hangars survive today. [2007]


There were 50 frying pan dispersals. Each was built 125ft in diameter in concrete and with 9 tie-down bars in the centre to tie the aircraft down in bad weather. Initially there were 36 in number. They were situated in two groups. Those to the south east of the airfield perimeter were 20 in number and both sides of the perimeter. To the west were a further 16 again on both sides of the perimeter.

In September 1943, when RAF Davidstow Moor was given parent status a further 14 dispersals were put in by 5012 Airfield Construction Service[ACS] in preparation for D-Day. These were on a loop off the south east of the perimeter.

Because the aerodrome was spread over so large a site and the dispersals were so remote the dispersal sites were equipped with Handcraft huts for use as ground crew rest rooms. Each had an associated latrine block which was constructed of cement rendered concrete blocks. A member of the ground crew of 524 squadron, Ron Sadler, once told me the rest rooms were so cold and damp that it was preferable to sleep in the aircraft that they were working on.

Most of the dispersals still survive although those within the forestry are being removed. [2007]

Compass Platform

[Drawing No. 10936/40] (Map Ref: 120)

Inside the western perimeter, between the hard standings and runway 24, stood the compass platform which was used to 'swing' or set the aircraft's compass. The compass platform was situated away from the general aerodrome traffic so that it's function was not affected. The platform was constructed like a concrete hard standing but it had a well in the centre and a circular wooden platform covering the top. A set of wheels ran in the well and enabled the platform to act as a turntable. The aircraft sat on top of the turntable and was turned to the compass points, north, south, east, and west and the aircraft's compass was checked for the correct reading and adjusted accordingly.

Additionally like ships, metal framed aircraft needed to be degaussed so the airframe's magnetic field did not affect the compass.

The concrete plinth is still extant. [2007]

Airfield Lighting

The aerodrome was fitted with the Drem Mk2 system. The Drem Mk2 system included runway lighting, approach lighting and the outer circle lights.

Runway Lighting:

In the case of RAF Davidstow Moor the main runway lighting was modified to meet the requirement of the United States Army Air Force [USAAF] who required lighting to be brighter and to be visible on both sides of the main runway rather than one side only as used by the RAF.

The runway section as a whole lit the flare path, the totem pole lights, the angle of glide [approach] indicators and the flood lights which, in Davidstow's case, were carried on a tractor towed trailer and resembled a moving lighthouse. It was known as a Chance light and was produced by the Chance Brothers who manufactured lighthouse lights. The Chance Brothers had also provided glass for the Crystal Palace and the Houses of Parliament, the four white dials for the face of Big Ben and decorative glass for the White House.

Approach Lighting:

The approach light system was divided into 4 sections;

  1. Lead in string to give the visual turn in point to the runway

  2. Outer funnel

  3. Intermediate funnel

  4. Inner funnel

Sections 2, 3, and 4 are known together as the fog funnel and visually form an arrow when lit to enable the pilot to line up with the runway. Like the outer circle lights they were upward facing and on raised poles. Each one had three heating elements like an electric fire. They helped to disperse fog at the approach to the runway.

Outer Circle Lights:

RAF Davidstow Moor's outer circle lights comprised 52 fittings set 400yds apart over a diameter of 6500yds. The lights were upward facing and placed on top of poles and as their name suggests they circled the aerodrome. They were a high intensity pink light to cut through fog.

Local man Walter [Click] Force was responsible for choosing the correct length of pole, according to the topography of the ground, for the outer circle and fog funnel lights.

Remains of the lighting is sporadic with some of the concrete bases in situe. [2007]

Aviation Bulk Petrol Installation

[Drawing No. 9846/41] [Type C Trevillians Gate] [Type E at Tylands Lane]

As a priority when the Airfield Construction Service [ACS] arrived on 26 October 1942 they set to work on the fuel storage system.

Trevillians Gate:

(Map Ref: 96)

One installation was on the eastern side of the airfield towards Trevillians Gate. It was built on a raft to keep it above the marshy ground. The tanks are no longer extant but the earth and turf protection mounds are still visible. The two pump houses are still standing [2007]. Their total length is 19ft 2 in by 8ft 6ins including an open entrance way. The interior roofed area is 8ft by 14ft. Both pump houses are built of 13 ½ in, permanent, brick with a flat reinforced concrete roof. Both were fitted with pumps, motor units, starter units, filters and stop valves.

Tylands Lane:

(Map Ref: 128 & 129)

The second fuel dump was at Tylands Lane and was built under ground. The pump house is still standing [2007]. This was of a different design to that at Trevillians Gate in that it had a pitched roof of corrugated asbestos cement sheeting. It is built of brick rendered with concrete. There was only one pump house on this site which was fitted with a pump, motor unit, starter unit, filter and stop valves.

The tanks have been removed from the site and the ground has been filled in.

The tanks were capable of holding 12,000 gallons each and were made of stainless steel 9ft in diameter and 30ft long. The site at Trevillians Gate had six tanks which held a total of 72,000 gallons. The site at Tylands Lane appears to have had four tanks which held a total of 48,000 gallons. There was enough fuel for six weeks of intensive operations. Fuel was brought in by tanker from the storage depots in Plymouth. The road going round the installations was able to handle a number of tankers both offloading and filling without congestion. On arrival the tankers would offload through a five-point steel manifold with four inch diameter pipes connecting with the tanks. The RAF tanker loaded fuel through a hose on a steel stand post located at the inner pump house blast wall. Having completed the task the tanker would carry the fuel to the waiting aircraft on dispersal.

Bomb Dumps

[Drawing No. 567/43 type D] (Map Ref: 155-158)

With the arrival of the Airfield Construction Service [ACS] on 26 October 1942, work started on the aerodrome's bomb dumps.

They are situated to the south east of the airfield. There are four concrete bomb storage sites containing a total of eleven hard standings each capable of holding 50 tons of bombs. The outer side of the hard standings had an access road for delivering the bombs to site and the inner for loading onto the low bomb trolleys ready to take to aircraft. Adjacent to the hard standings were earth and turf blast banks to protect the aerodrome from accidental explosion.

The bomb dumps are still extant. [2007]

Nearby were a number of small buildings for storing fuses, bomb components, incendiary bombs, fusing points and the grenade stores.

Fused And Spare Bomb Stores

[Drawing No. 3274/41] (Map Ref: 149)

Used for storing fuses and spare bombs returned to the store for defusing, the building was constructed of 4 ½ inch temporary brick rendered with concrete and with a pitched roof of corrugated asbestos cement sheeting.

This building is no longer extant. [2007]

Pyrotechnic Stores [5 of]

[Drawing No. 12725/41] (Map Ref: 112, 119, 134, 150 & 151)

Flame Float Stores [4 of]

[Drawing No. 12725/41] (Map Ref: 111, 118, 135 & 153)

Small Arms Ammunition Stores [2 of]

[Drawing No. 12725/41] (Map Ref: 136 & 154)

All the above were Handcraft huts, each being 18ft wide by 36ft long. Constructed of pre-shaped asbestos troughing with seven faces giving the familiar threepenny bit shape. They had no internal framing. Flat asbestos sheets internally bolted to a concrete floor.

These buildings are no longer extant. [2007]

Bomb Component Store

[Drawing No. 4733/42 Type B] (Map Ref: 159, 160 & 171)

There were three bomb component stores constructed of cement rendered concrete block with external piers at 10 ft centres and with an earth embankment as blast protection.

These buildings are no longer extant. [2007]

Incendiary Store

[Drawing No. 4734/42] (Map Ref: 161-166)

There were six incendiary stores constructed of cement rendered concrete block with external piers at 10 ft centres and with an earth embankment as blast protection.

These buildings are no longer extant. [2007]

Fusing Point Building

[Drawing No. 7900/42] (Map Ref: 167-169)

There were three fusing point buildings. Handcraft huts 18 ft wide and 36ft long. Constructed of pre shaped asbestos troughing with seven faces giving the familiar threepenny bit shape. They had no internal framing. Flat asbestos sheets internally were bolted to a concrete floor.

These buildings are no longer extant. [2007]

Grenade Store

[Drawing No. 8806/42] (Map Ref: 170)

A Nissen 16ft by 36ft. Constructed of corrugated steel sheeting with T-shaped (in section) arched steel ribs spaced at six feet centres. A concrete floor.

This building is no longer extant. [2007]

Recovery Unit Small Bomb Component Pyrotechnic Store

[Drawing No. 5488/42] (Map Ref: 152)

Constructed of cement rendered concrete block with external piers at ten feet centres. A reinforced concrete roof and a concrete floor. This building is no longer extant. [2007]

Static Water Pool

[No Drawing No.]

Static water pools were dispersed throughout the aerodrome. They were fed by the natural water table and used for fire fighting purposes and on occasions for dinghy drill.

Open constructions of permanent brick and concrete they were capable of holding 20,000 gallons of water. Almost every site had it's own static water pool.

The pool has been filled in but the remains are still visible. [2007]


[No Drawing No.]

Alongside the Handcraft huts there were 14 in number latrine buildings. Constructed of cement rendered concrete block with external piers at 10 ft centres. A single pitched roof of corrugated asbestos cement sheeting. Approximately 20 ft long.

These buildings are no longer extant. [2007]