A COMMUNITY has made a fresh appeal for a war memorial to be returned to its rightful place.

RAF Upper Heyford played a key role in both the UK's and the USA's nuclear deterrence strategy between 1952-1964.

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A bronze plaque was dedicated in 1964 to commemorate the role of the airbase as a deployment/post-strike recovery base for United States Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) nuclear-capable bombers.

3918th Air Base Group was the resident SAC unit at RAF Upper Heyford

But in 2014, the plaque was removed and believed to have been stolen.

Now, a project that has got underway to rededicate a memorial to two US airmen who were killed in a crash on the airbase in 1992, has led to a review of other commemorative plaques which were installed and Upper Heyford Heritage Centre is making a renewed appeal for the plaque to be returned.

The plaque commemorated the role of RAF Upper Heyford as a deployment/post-strike recovery base. Pictures of Ray Holton and Stuart Wormald. 23/01/2022 Picture by Ed Nix

Nick Forder, RAF Upper Heyford Heritage Centre manager, said: "As the new community of Heyford Park grows it is important that successive generations understand something of the internationally significant history that was made on their doorstep by the ordinary and extraordinary people who lived here.

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"RAF Upper Heyford has no ‘war memorial’ to the RAF and USAF airmen and women who died defending this country during two world wars and the Cold War to act as a focal point for remembrance, though the extent of their sacrifice can be seen in the graveyards of St Mary’s in Upper Heyford Village, All Saint’s in Middleton Stoney and at Botley."

Stoke Wood crash

Upper Heyford was chosen as a strategic site because it was sited behind the RAF fighter defences along the east and south coasts.

In June 1950, the first detachment of the American 801st Aviation Engineer Battalion arrived to begin upgrading the airfield to operate SAC bombers.

These were twice the size and three times as heavy as the RAF aircraft which had used the airfield since it opened in November 1927, so a more robust runway had to be laid, together with the construction of new maintenance, accommodation and specialist facilities.

SAC bombers began arriving in 1952 and initially, three bomber squadrons (45 aircraft), supported by a squadron of tankers for in-flight refuelling, came for a three-month stay.

3918th Air Base Group, RAF Upper Heyford and Boeing B-47E-110-BW Stratojet 53-2271, of the 310th Bombardment Wing in late 1964

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From January 1959 the ‘Reflex Alert’ Mission began, with a squadron of bombers staying for a month. Part of the squadron was maintained on ‘Reflex Alert’ capable of launching a nuclear strike within 15 minutes.

In 1964, the mission came to an end and a year later RAF Upper Heyford became a ‘standby base’, before a USAF Tactical Reconnaissance Wing arrived from France in 1966 and the role of RAF Upper Heyford changed until 1970.

Boeing B-47E nuclear capable bomber 15214, 97th Bombardment Wing, SAC, at RAF Upper Heyford Armed Forces Day, 19 May 1956

The Heritage Centre is open at weekends from 12pm until 4pm.

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