A History of Deenethorpe Airfield
Deenethorpe Airfield is situated in North East Northamptonshire near the village of Deene. Before the Second World War, Deenethorpe Airfield was just a patch of ground mainly used for farming. From 1942-1945 it was used by the United States Army Air Forces 401st Bombardment Group (Heavy). Deenethorpe was constructed in 1943 and was allocated to the United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force and assigned USAAF designation Station 128.
With the opening of the Airfield in October 1943, the 401st Bombardment Group (H), arrived from Great Falls, Montana, in November. The 401st was assigned to the 94th Combat Bombardment Wing of the 1st Bombardment Division. Its tail code was Triangle-S.
The 401st BG operated chiefly against strategic targets, bombing industries, submarine facilities, shipyards, missile sites, marshalling yards and airfields. In addition to strategic missions, group operations included attacks on transportation, airfields and fortifications prior to the Normandy invasion and on D-Day, June 1944; support for ground operations during the breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July, the siege of Brest in August and the airborne attack on Holland in September 1944. The Group flew missions against enemy forces during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 – January 1945, by assaulting transportation targets and communications centers in the battle area; and support for the airborne attack across the Rhine in March 1945.
The worst accident occurred in December 1943, when a Fortress which failed to get off the ground careered over farmland and came to rest after crashing into a cottage on the edge of Deenethorpe village. The surviving members of the crew just had time to evacuate the wreckage and warn the villagers of the imminent explosion of the bomb load before it detonated damaging many houses in the village. The blast was felt in Kettering nine miles away.
After V-E Day, the group departed from Deenethorpe in August 1945 and returned to Sioux Falls where the unit was deactivated, personnel demobilised and B-17 aircraft sent to storage.
The 401st Bombardment Group had flown 255 combat missions from Deenethorpe Airfield.
After the war, Deenethorpe Airfield was used as a RAF Recruiting Centre. Several years later the Control Tower was used as a lookout post by the local Royal Observer Corps. The Airfield was finally sold in 1963 and largely returned to agriculture. Today it is a privately-owned Airfield with Microlights and private planes using the old Main Runway and the fields have been returned to farming use. The Old Nissen Huts are used for lambing and remain untouched.
On 17 June 2011 the widow of an American air crewman, who took part in bombing raids from the Airfield, buried a time capsule on the crew’s behalf. Joan Parker was married to Tom Parker, the last of the eight-man 401st Bombardment Squadron crew, that flew the B-17 plane Lady Luck out of Deenethorpe. In a ceremony, Mrs Parker buried eight glass-bottomed tankards along with a story of the men at the Airfield. The crew carried out raids on marshalling yards in Berlin. “It was all agreed that whoever was the last one would bring the tankards back to Deenethorpe,” she said. “It took some time trying to gather all of the information.” The tankards were a gift from the pilot of Lady Luck, Lt Bob Kamper who presented them to the crew at a reunion in 1972. Mr Parker, the last member of the crew, died in March 2011.
Deenethorpe Airfield is one of the sites that has been approved for a “garden village” in 2017. The plans include a village green, shops and community hall, as well as more than 1,000 homes.