R.A.F Carnaby


RAF Carnaby was an Royal Air Force emergency landing strip that enabled crippled bombers a safe place to land near the English coast during the Second World War. It was situated 2.0 miles (3.2 km) southwest of Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire.


RAF Carnaby opened in March 1944. Unlike most RAF airfields there was a single runway, five times the width of a standard runway and 9,000 ft (2,700 m) long, lying approximately east-west to enable bombers crossing the coast an easier landing. Two other similar functioning airfields were either constructed or further developed along the east coast of England, at Manston and Woodbridge, all three providing an emergency option for wartime bomber crews. All three airfields were developed to the same pattern, Woodbridge being the first to open in November 1943. The similar runway at Manston was brought into operation in April 1944.

Along with RAF Manston and RAF Woodbridge, Carnaby was developed as an east coast emergency landing ground for bomber crews. These airfields were intended for use by returning bombers suffering from low-fuel and/or suspected damage to their pneumatic (wheel Brake) and/or hydraulic (Control surface) systems. All three airfields were equipped with a single runway, 9,000 ft (2,700 m) long and 750 ft (230 m) wide. There was a further clear area of 1,500 ft (460 m) at each end of the runway. At each of the three airfields, the runway was divided into three 250 ft (76 m) lanes. The northern and central lanes were allocated by flying control, while the southern lane was the emergency lane on which any aircraft could land without first making contact with the airfield. Over 1,400 bombers made an emergency landing at Carnaby up until the end of the war.

Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation

Carnaby was one of fifteen airfields operating the fog dispersal system known as Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation (FIDO). The system consisted of two rows of burning petrol one on each side of the runway, the heat from this fire raised the air temperature above the runways, cutting a hole in the fog and provided crews with a brightly lit strip indicating the position of the runway.



F/O Hans Hassler was flying Lancaster NF978 / HW-T of 100Sqn after a operation to Cologne on 28 Oct 1944 was damaged by flak on the bombing run. Port engines were damaged and hydraulics unserviceable. They then made a joyous landing at Carnaby and all lived to tell the tale. Thank God for Carnaby !!


A crew picture showing them at the end of their tour after a third and final operation to Cologne. They seem to have a relieved look on their faces, as you would, after cheating death in the skies over Germany.

The crew were:

Pilot- FO. Hans "Pete" Hassler

F/E- Sgt. Freddy. Dorman

Nav- FO. Hector Craig

BA- Sgt Johnny Challice

W/OP- Sgt Harry Christopher

M/UP- Sgt Abe Mills

R- Sgt Danny Nathan



Flying Officer F H Greenhalgh, a wireless operator serving with No. 158 Squadron RAF based at Lissett, Yorkshire, contemplates his lucky escape when the propeller from the damaged port inner engine of Handley Page Halifax B Mark III, MZ928 'NP-S', smashed into his position during a raid on Duisburg,  Germany, in the early morning of 14 October 1944, (Operation HURRICANE). The aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire over the target, putting the port inner engine out of commission and shooting away two of Flying Officer Greenhalgh's toes. As the aircraft completed its bombing run and turned for home, the propeller and reduction gear sheared off and smashed a large hole in the fuselage, just where Greenhalgh's legs would have been, had he not shifted position in order to bandage his wounded foot. The pilot brought the damaged aircraft back, making an landing at Carnaby Emergency Landing Ground, where this  photograph was taken




RAF Carnaby, photographed around May 1945. Clearly visible is the circular dispersal on the south side ( AirfieldInformationExchange ).

Carnaby closed in March 1946 and was left to the elements. It reopened as a relief landing ground for RAF Driffield in 1953, when the Korean War sparked a renewed need for pilots. It closed only a year later, though, although it was expanded by adding extra taxiways and dispersals to the southwest dispersal site. The setup very much resembled the NATO airbase plan that was used throughout Europe in the 1950s. The airfield reopened again in 1958, this time as a Thor Missile base. 150 Sqn was based here as the resident Thor unit.

In 1963 the base was closed for the third and final time. It was abandoned completely by 1969 and sold to the Bridlington council in 1972.


RAF Carnaby, photographed around 1960. The circular dispersal on the south side was converted with NATO-like parkings and an additional taxitrack with parkings to the center of the runway. Three Thor launch pads can be seen also 


Bridlington turned the airfield into an industrial estate. The dispersal site to the southwest was removed, although its location can still be recognised from aerial photography.

The taxitrack became part of the local road system. Parts of the taxitracks and the runway were still visible from aerial photography (Google Earth) in 2007.

Carnaby industrial site still showed remains of the airfield in 2002. Some light scarring caused by the dispersals can also still be seen (Google Earth).