During numerous walks across the Essex countryside we have occasionally come across interesting building and earthworks but mostly all we see is glorious countryside and magnificent woods and forests. Apart from this the landscape is rather mundane but around the county of Essex it wasn’t always like that. The Second World War was to change the sleepy countryside into a hive of activity firstly building, then running RAF airfields with the sole purpose of defeating the Nazi’s. Two airfields in the area were built then stocked with American bombers who relentlessly pummelled Adolf Hitler’s regime into submission.
RAF Matching (also known as Matching Green) is a former World War II airfield near Harlow. The airfield is located approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Harlow; about 22 miles (35 km) northeast of London. Opened in 1944, it was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces. During the war it was used primarily as a bomber airfield. After the war it was closed in 1946. Today the remains of the airfield are located on private property being used as agricultural fields.
The history in wartime is as follows:
Matching was known as USAAF Station AAF-166 for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location. Its USAAF Station Code was “MT”.
391st Bombardment Group
391st Bombardment Group was the first combat group to inhabit the airfield. The 391st Bombardment Group, arrived at Matching on 26 January 1944 from Goodman AAF, Kentucky flying Martin B-26 Marauders. The operational squadrons of the group were:
572d Bombardment Squadron (P2) 573d Bombardment Squadron (T6)
574th Bombardment Squadron (4L) 575th Bombardment Squadron (O8)
The group marking was a yellow triangle painted on the tail fin of their B-26s.
The first mission was flown on 15 February and 150 more were completed before the group moved into France in late September 1944. The group moved onto the continent, transferring to Roye/Amy, France (ALG A-73) on 19 September 1944. The group then switched to Douglas A-26 Invaders and flew its last mission on 3 May 1945 from Asche, Belgium (ALG Y-29).The 391st Bomb Group went on back to France before returned to the United States in October and was inactivated at Camp Shanks, New York on 25 October 1945.With the move of the 391st to France, this was the end of Matching airfield’s association with the Ninth Air Force as a combat airfield.
It was then used by the RAF who used it to send Douglas C-47 Skytrains of IX Troop Carrier Command later in 1944 for exercises with British paratroops. In 1946 the airfield was closed and sold to private owners. With the facility released from military control, it was rapidly returned to agricultural use and the concrete was soon removed for road hardcore but the hangar on the technical site survived for farm use. In the late 1980s the T-2 Hanagar was dismantled and re-erected at North Weald for Aces High where it was used for TV productions, including ‘The Crystal Maze’ set.
The control tower still stands well over seventy years after it was built and for some years it has been used for radar experiments by Cossor Electronics. Many remaining Nissen Huts and corregated roof buildings in the former technical site are now used for small industrial units, farming and storage along with the water tower. Part of the main runway (03/21) that remains is now used as a public road and another surviving portion was used for heavy goods vehicle instruction. Many single-width sections of the perimeter track are used for agricultural vehicles. However very little of the runways, perimeter track or dispersal hardstands of the former airfield survive. Even in aerial photography, there is very little evidence of the airfield’s existence. A memorial plaque to the men of the 391st Bomb Group is housed in Matching Church.
RAF Chipping Ongar was another World War ll airfield stationed between Chipping Ongar and Willingale. Royal Air Force Station Chipping Ongar or more simply RAF Chipping Ongar is a former Royal Air Force station in Essex, England. The airfield is located approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) northeast of Chipping Ongar; about 20 miles (32 km) northeast of London. Opened in 1943, it was used by both the Royal Air Force (RAF) and United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). During the war it was used primarily as a bomber airfield. After the war it was closed in 1959 after many years of being a reserve airfield. Today the remains of the airfield are located on private property being used as agricultural fields.
The history in wartime is as follows:
USAAF use -The airfield was opened in the early spring of 1943 and was used by the United States Army Air Forces Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. Chipping Ongar was known as USAAF Station AAF-162 for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and by which it too was referred to instead of location. It’s USAAF Station Code was “JC”.
387th Bombardment Group
Parts of the airfield were still under construction when the 387th Bombardment Group (Medium) arrived from Goodman AAF, Kentucky on 25 June 1943. The group was assigned to the 3d Bomb Wing and flew Martin B-26B/C Marauders. Operational squadrons of the 387th were:
556th Bombardment Squadron (FW) 557th Bombardment Squadron (KS)
558th Bombardment Squadron (KX) 559th Bombardment Squadron (TQ)
The 387th Bomb Group began combat on 15 August 1943 by joining with three other B-26 groups attacking coastal defences on the French Coast near Boulogne, and was mounted in thick fog. In common with other Marauder units of the 3d Bomb Wing, the 387th was transferred to Ninth Air Force on 16 October 1943. The 387th Bomb Group moved to RAF Stoney Cross in Hampshire on 21 July 1944 when Ninth Air Force moved the 98th Bomb Wing’s four Marauder groups into the New Forest area at the earliest opportunity to place them closer to the French Normandy Invasion beaches.
During September 1944, the airfield was used temporarily by IX Troop Carrier Command as advanced C-47 base during Operation Market-Garden.
61st Troop Carrier Group
Troop carrier squadrons of the 61st Troop Carrier Group used the airfield on 24 March 1945, carrying British paratroops as part of Operation Varsity, the airborne crossing of the Rhine River, who dropped near Wesel. With the departure of the Americans, the airfield was never used again for military flying. It was closed on 28 February 1959.With the end of military control, Chipping Ongar airfield was reverted to agricultural use. One of the large T-2 Hangars was also dismantled and re-erected at North Weald airfield.
It is believed to be the one nearest the M11 motorway, and now used as a freight forwarding warehouse. A section of the perimeter track and some loop dispersal hardstands are is still intact, connected to a small private landing strip converted from a straight section of the wartime perimeter, aligned 04/22, and one small section of a secondary full-width runway (09/27) on the southeast side . On the north eastern side, the Operations block, Norden Bombsight Store, and the base of the pilots’ briefing room are grouped together, and are in quite good condition.