Old Devon, a modern past

A couple of miles or so north east of Honiton is a little village called Smeatharpe. There’s little of anything interesting about this typical quaint Devon village, unless you look over the odd hedge.
upottery runwayIf you did, you’ll recognize the vast slabs of concrete that are beginning to melt in to the green of the fields, because this was RAF Upottery.
The life of this place was incredibly short, a year of operational use, that became the UK home and starting point for a story that became a household name.Image(183)
Today, I had a stroll around the old airfield, I walked all of the runways, and one now has a cow shed on it. I walked further, climbed fences and saw the remains of the bomb dump. And even checked out the sad state of this ancient Air Traffic Control ToweImage(184)r.
To me, airbases hold something special. These are the places where men and women came to live, fight and die. These people sometimes travelled great distances, may be they might have been orphaned by their then fallen home nation, or might have just lived around the corner.
But the gates on these places were for many, the last gates they walked upotterythrough, as so many thousands past through them never to return, to never know a world without war, or indeed – to feel freedom once again.
The pressures were high, so the social scene was often intense, but more to the point in this case, these slabs of concrete and one building was the last friendly home and embarkation point to E Company, 506th Regiment, attached to 101st Airborne Division. I’ll translate: Home and embarkation point to Easy Company – the Band of Brothers…upotrunway

airfieldupotteryWell Hanks and Spielberg certainly didn’t film the show here, but as the sun fell on Upottery today, I thought about this place and it’s other roles in that one year, its anti-submarine warfare and air logistics.
For a moment, I stood in the center of where one runway intersects another. watching the sun go down, feeling the breeze of a dying summer and listening to the field of silence around me.
Sometimes, I don’t ever want to be anywhere else than where I am at a moment like that.

To me, these places mean something, to others – they’re just another field with a slab of decaying concrete.


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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Really, there’s nothing there at all?! Are there many places like this?


  2. Hi Able643,
    I was going to be flippant and say ‘oh, one or two’. But the reality is that the UK was home to nigh on 500 airfields by the end of the war.
    Many have returned to farmland, others industrial areas, some are housing and a few remained as active bases, like ones I grew up on – RAF Waddington and RAF Brize Norton.
    There are a few still under what is termed ‘care and maintenance’. But for the most part the Govt try to get rid of them as they bring in good money when sold.
    If you wish to know more, Look up a series of books called Action Stations by Bruce Barrymore Halpenny


  3. England my England- thanks for that reminds me that when all is dark not to stop fighting :)Loraine


  4. Ah ha – not quite a turncoat yet then? lol
    I get what you mean though – I have visited many places in the past and at some point I just stop and realise that my own issues are almost meaningless. We take things so seriously, some people even live from one dilemma to another – yet when I visit these places, I simply can not imagine the fear that must have been rightly felt by these people, or like in your situation… suddenly all becomes real, and the trivial simply fades away.


  5. Yes we owe a lot to the youth of that era.my Uncle wa a Battle of Britain pilot ( dads side) and lost two legs and a kidney…and my own dad was on the destroyers and minesweepers….protecting the convoys to Russia etc. hit by a torpedo ( was the engineer) one of the chaps was scalded by the escaping steam went mad and hit out and my dad took a serious blow to the stomach with a huge spanner like thing…they transferred him to a transport ship for medical attention when another ship went down.since he was considered walking wounded he had to help with the survivors from the merchantmen.including to help them die…and when I think of it he was only 21 going through all that I wonder what my grandmother felt??? I love England!!!!Loraine


  6. Hi

    Great article. I ride my push bike around there as much as i can,
    for all the reasons you mention. Fascinating place, even more so
    on a in freezing winter day.

    USAAF-462 R.I.P

    Mark S


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