RAF Gutersloh – North Rhine Westphalia, Germany.
The airfield at Gutersloh has enjoyed a rich and varied history.
It was planned by the Germans in 1933 as part of their extensive rearmament programme. There is some suggestion the site may have been used as an airfield in WW1 although that is not confirmed. The completed airfield was handed over to the Luftwaffe in April 1937.
The first aircraft to be based there were Ju 86s of III/KG154 which were mobilised during the Sudetenland Crisis in 1938 and moved to Silesia. By the outbreak of WW2 the resident unit was KG 28 flying He 111Ps. This unit was used in the German invasion of Poland.
In May 1940 Ju52 transports took over the base and used to deploy German paratroopers in support of their ground attack on Holland and He111s of KG4 used Gutersloh and other bases for bombing attacks on Holland.
Later in 1940 Gutersloh became at fighter base for the fledgling I/NJG 1 and II/NJG 1 equipped with Bf 110 night fighters. In addition III/JG 51 were based there for 8 months with their Bf 109s.
From 1941 to 1944 Gutersloh became an important base for the servicing and modification of night fighters and was an area HQ with various satellite stations.
In late 43 the airfield reverted to an operational night fighter base and was home to II/NJG 5 equipped with Ju 88s and, in June 44, Bf 110s. Fw 190s of IV/JG 3 used the airfield in Operation Bodenplatte, the attacks on Belgian and Dutch airfields in Jan 45. In the later stages of the WW2 the airfield was used by III/JG27 with Me 262 jet fighters operated from there during the last few weeks of the war.
Gutersloh airfield was captured by the Americans in April 1945 when it was used as a forward base by the 363rd Reconnaissance Group with their P38 Lightnings and also the 370th Fighter Group with their P51 Mustangs. For a short while the US XXIXth Tactical Air Command had their HQ at Gutersloh.
In June 1945 the airfield was handed over to the British who described the airfield, known as Y-99, as a shambles.
The first British operational unit at Gutersloh was 140 Wing comprising 4,21 and 107 Squadrons all flying e Havilland Mosquito FB6 aircraft and specialising in night interdiction. The RAF No 2 Group HQ was located in the town at this time and the Group Communications Flight was based at the airfield.
140 Wing was disbanded in Nov 1947 and replaced by 16, 26 and 33 Squadrons flying Hawker Tempests. They were joined in 1948 by 2 fighter squadons, 3 and 80, flying De Havilland Vampires and Supermarine Spitfire F24s respectively.
Gutersloh was used as a diversionary airfield as part of the extensive Berlin Airlift operation and the fighter Squadrons provided standing patrols in Allied airspace.
By 1949 16 and 26 Squadrons were operating Vampire FB5s and later that year 33 and 80 Squadrons were transferred to the Far East. These were replaced by 67 and 71 Squadrons both flying Vampire FB5s.
By April 1952 all these Squadrons had been disbanded and the base adopted a predominantly reconnaissance role.
79 Squadron reformed at Gutersloh in Nov 1951 with Gloster Meteor FR9s and 541 Squadron moved there in April 1952 with their Meteor PR10s. 2 Squadron followed a month later with more FR9s.
Gutersloh’s role changed again in October 1954 when the airfield became a bomber base and the home of 551 Wing comprising of 149, 102 and 103 Squadrons all flying the English Electric Canberra B2. 104 Squadron reformed there is March 1955. All these squadrons were disbanded in August 1956.
The emphasis changed once again in September 1956 with the arrival of 79 Squadron with their Supermarine Swift FR5s in the tactical reconnaissance role. Due to the deficiencies of the aircraft the Swifts were replaced by Hawker Hunter FR10s in December 1960. 2 Squadron also flying Hunter FR 10s were also based at Gutersloh from September 1961 to March 1971 when they too were disbanded.
In September 1958 an entire Wing of Hunter F6s made up of 20 Squadron, 26 Squadron and 14 Squadron was based at Gutersloh. 20 and 26 Squadrons were disbanded in December 12960 and 14 Squadron 2 years later.
In January 1961 the Station received 2 Westland Dragonfly helicopters to be used as a Communications Flight for the BR Corps Commander and his staff.
In 1961 the runway was lengthened and Gutersloh became a hub responsible for processing the airlift of troops and personnel worldwide.
In January 1963 230 Squadron were deployed from the UK with their Westland Whirlwind HC10s to provide front line support for the BAOR. 230 was replaced in 1965 by 18 Squadron equipped with the new Westland Wessex HC2s.
The Wessex was a much more robust and practical machine for army support and the various roles required by the RAF.
The airfield developed into a principal air defence base in 1965 and was home to the English Electric Lightning F2s of 19 Squadron. A purpose built Battle Flight hanger was built next to the runway for 2 Lightnings on immediate stand by and these could be scrambled within 5 mins when required. 92 Squadron with their Lightnings were also deployed to Gutersloh in January 1968. Both 19 and 92 Squadrons were disbanded in 1975 and 1977 respectively.
Situated east of the Rhine and within minutes flying distance of the East German frontier Gutersloh was chosen as the base for the Hawker Siddeley Harriers of 3 Squadron and 4 Squadron. These Squadrons were used in the ground support and reconnaissance role and could be deployed in the surrounding area if required.
In addition 230 Squadron with their Westland Puma HC1 helicopters were deployed for the UK and tasked with the movement of stores, troops and casualty evacuation. 18 Squadron were also redeployed to Gutersloh to provide heavy lift capacity in 1983. with their Boeing Chinook HC1 helicopters. The base was also home to 63 RAF Regiment Squadron with their Rapier missiles in July 1974.
In 1993 the RAF withdrew from Gutersloh which was taken over by the army and renamed Princess Royal Barracks, GŁtersloh, a base for British Army helicopters, and Royal Logistic Corps Regiments. In September 2016 the British Army left the base which is now abandoned. Its future is unknown at the time of writing.
Source – Action Stations Overseas by Tony Fairburn.
Written by David Fell