Upottery, Honiton EX14 9RF
Royal Air Force (RAF) Upottery is a former World War II airfield in North Devon near the village of the same name, which is six miles north east of the town of Honiton in England. After closure three years after the war, the airfield was returned to private ownership and whilst the concrete runways with tarmac over the top remain, the land surrounding them has been returned to agricultural use. Smeatharpe Airfield is a few miles from the junction of the A30 and A303 roads.
The airfield which is of the common RAF design (three runways at 60 degrees) was only constructed in the early forties and opened in 1944 for use by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). It was to be one of the west country bases for the 9th Troop Carrier Command, however Smeatharpe also saw use in antisubmarine patrols by United States Navy flights.
The primary role of the squadrons which flew Douglas C47 ‘Dakotas’ from the airfield was their training for and deployment during D-Day in June of 1944. Paratroopers were dropped over the invasion area of Normandy on the occupied French coast and once a bridge head was established gliders were towed from Upottery and these contained the troop reinforcements who were to land on the liberated soil the following day, after release from the C47 towlines.
In late 1944 and in to 1945 the airfield became the Naval Air Facility Upottery, with flights made by two squadrons on antisubmarine patrols over the English Channel, Irish Sea and the Bay of Biscay supporting RAF Coastal Command. Upottery was considered to be a satellite field to that at Dunkeswell, a few miles to the south west.
Immediately following the World War II, the station was returned to the RAF who in turn passed it to the Agricultural Land Commission. The grass areas were used to grow animal feed, until in 1960 the land was sold back to the farmers or their families who had owned it before the construction of the runways. Some of the grass areas are designated as “set aside” (or uncultivated) land, which has attracted back wildlife, flora and fauna.
The National Sprint Association (NSA) started their sprint events on this airfield and the runways continue to be used for a variety of motorsport uses, including drag and drift events over seen by Straightliners.