Sunday, 19 August 2012

RAF Harwell

RAF Harwell was a Royal Air Force airfield in former Berkshire, England, near the village of Harwell, later the site of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The site is now in Oxfordshire.  (taken from Wikipedia
I started working at Diamond which is on the Ruterford site and I always wondered how much of the old RAF site was still left, some parts I could see like the old Hangers and runways but when on Hanger was demolished I thought I should record what could be seen. The site is vast and at first you could not see much beyond security fence of Harwell but then it moved so it was time to find out what was there.

The Harwell site taken in 1944 with the A34 running from left to right at the top. Using this photo I was able to locate a lot of the old RAF site

A short Sterling towing a Horsa Glider at Harwell in 1944 from Wikipedia

This was the longest runway and most likely the one the previous photo. Diamond Light source was built across part of it.

Just recently I found out about a runway light that was visible

The outline is clear though  the metal is rusty and lens has gone
 Looking along from where it is I'm sure there are a few more still there as the outlines still show. 

This is now called Fermi Avenue which was the second of the runways  at RAF Harwell, during the 1950;s a US air force jet made an emergency landing here.

Looking Down Fermi Avenue from around where the runway started

This was the Third runway which bisected the other two again Diamond was built on part of it which prior to that was used for a car park by Rutherford.

One of the taxiways which lead off to the dispersal points which still exist. The bomb store was off to the left and was cleared away a few years ago when it was found to be full of contaminated waste near the school. the cleared are you see was part of an archaeological did where a roman villa and iron age roundhouse were discovered. This are is now being built on.

Track leading to the old bomb store

Looking toward the Bomb store from the Mound at Rutherford.

In this photo you can see two dispersal points to the right out of photo are another two of them

  This photo is to show a relic of RAF Harwells beginning were they were helping develop a catapult system for Grass airfields only instead of stem it was worked by air pressure. They used Merlin engines ad compressors which did not work too well being as that was not what they were designed for. This photo show one of the legs the lighter colored grass are mid photo. If you look in the first photo about mid picture just by the road and runway you can make the shape out.  You can read more about it in the link Harwell-Catapult-pit
In the background of this photo you can see a Hagar this was demolished not long after this photo was taken. The people in the photo are waiting for explosion that will bring down the building in the foreground, it failed to fall due to a couple of bits of one inch rebar which was later removed with pecker on an excavator
This is the remaining hangar at Harwell and at the present time the reactor inside is being decommissioned, I think after the the building will be demolished.
Once the Security fence moved I was able to get some photos of the old RAF Buildings, this is the Station HQ where the CO would have had his office.

The Airman's Mess which became the AERE Restaurant. 
The RAF Station Commander's house and then Prof Cockcroft's, the first AERE Director. It's boarded up as the area was to be demolished for a new hotel and conference centre.
This is not on the RAF site but in Harwell Cemetery and has 93 war graves most of which are RAF personnel whom I presume lost their lives during service at Harwell

The Plaque you will find at the end of the main runway, each year there is a service held by Harwell and Rutherford and wreaths laid.
Since writing this I have found a wartime account by Jim Jones who was there during that time, it is worth reading

More photos can be seen on Flickr


  1. Wonderful post. It's good to know the service men are still remembered to this day.

    Beneath Thy Feet

  2. Hi, I'm still trying to relate the aerial photograph of RAF Harwell to what one can see on Google Earth. My father flew his last mission from RAF Harwell, for SOE, and took off on 24th August 1944, exactly one month before I was borne. If you could help me identify it, it would be interesting.


  3. Try rotating the photo 90deg to the right that way the A34 will be going the right way

  4. I think I've done it, and found the line of some of the old runways. Thanks.

  5. Dear Bill, congratulations for your blog. let me introduce you to mine, I guess you might be interested in it. It's about my film on the British 6th airborne division and the assault in Normandy and much more. I invite you to check it out. Best. Jean Michel Vecchiet

  6. there is the link to it

  7. Hi Bill

    My father in law used to work at The Rutherford. On many occasion we would look down on the complex from the ridgeway, Peter, my father in law would point out a clump of trees on the NW of the site where he said a bomber had crashed on take off, fully loaded. It is difficult to see these trees from google but they are still there. A testament to those who gave thier lives so we could gaze upon these relics.

    1. I've added a link at the bottom you might find interesting to read.