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Acaster Malbis

Major

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Close proximity of the River Ouse played a major part in Acaster Malbis failing as an airfield by generating misty conditions at this more inland site in the Vale of York. But a problem can always be turned into an advantage, and the present Waterline Industrial Estate accommodates some suitable businesses such as boat builder Acaster Marine.

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Also known as: Acaster / Brockett Industrial Estate / RAF Acaster Malbis / Waterline Industrial Estate
County: North Yorkshire
Current Status: Farmland / Industry
Date: 1 January 1942 - 1 August 1957
Current Use: Disused
Used By: RAF

N.B. - Acaster Malbis is situated across the two counties of City of York and North Yorkshire but primarily geographically resides in North Yorkshire.

Acaster Malbis has an unfortunate reputation as one of Britain’s worst Second World War airfields. Its proximity to the River Ouse frequently generated misty conditions which, when added to the already notorious fog zone of the Vale of York, often created dangerous conditions for flying. Flooding was also occasionally a problem. Nevertheless, the airfield opened on 1 January 1942 with grass runways and No 601 Squadron arrived shortly afterwards to test examples of the Bell Airacobra. This fighter, known as the P-39 in America, had a miserable time in RAF service and, after re-equipping with Supermarine Spitfires, the squadron moved to Digby in Lincolnshire on 25 March. No 15 (Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit arrived at Acaster Malbis shortly after and flew Airspeed Oxfords from the airfield but these aircraft had left by 25 January 1943 due to the poor conditions at the airfield.

Surprisingly, three concrete runways were constructed in 1943 as part of the process of converting the airfield into a heavy bomber station. However, the closest that Acaster Malbis ever came to operating heavy bomber units was when Heavy Conversion Unit Handley Page Halifaxes from Marston Moor began using the airfield as a Relief Landing Ground. No 4 Aircrew School, a non-flying unit, was based at Acaster Malbis for a short time and at a similar time No 91 Maintenance Unit began using the airfield for the storage of bombs. Maintenance Command took over from Bomber Command on 28 February 1946 as Nos 80 and especially 91 MUs used the airfield for further storage of large quantities of ammunition, bombs and possibly a few nuclear devices. No 93 MU took over in the spring of 1957 and began disposing of 2,000 high explosive bombs before the airfield finally closed on 1 August. Despite this, from the mid-1970s for the next decade Acaster was used by private light aircraft, primarily because of the proximity of York racecourse.

Acaster Malbis’ poor weather conditions proved a major factor in a large number of aircraft accidents. This included the fatal crash of an Airacobra on 13 February 1942 while undertaking aerobatics. The pilot lost control and is thought to have drowned in the River Ouse.

The airfield was equipped with four Blisters during its early days before these hangars were replaced with two T2s and a B1. The runways were mostly removed in 2006 and the majority of the surviving buildings, including one surviving T2 hangar, have been used for agriculture. The control tower stands derelict and part of the site is now Brockett Industrial Estate.

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The following organisations are either based at, use and/or have significant connections with the airfield (as at 01/09/2011):

  • Acaster Body Shop
  • Acaster Carpets
  • Acaster Malbis Parish Council
  • Acaster Marine
  • Acaster Motor Co
  • AinstyVillages.org.uk
  • Bell Auto Services Ltd
  • Bielbys Property Services
  • Bishopthorpe Local History Group
  • D M Hall Motors
  • Ebor Trucks
  • Hydrographics
  • JMARK Construction Ltd
  • Just Travel York Ltd
  • P M Flooring
  • York Sawmill

Main unit(s) present:

  • No 4 Aircrew School
  • No 4 Gp Aircrew School
  • No 15 (P) AFU
  • No 80 MU
  • No 91 MU
  • No 93 MU
  • No 601 Sqn
  • No 1341 Special Duties Flight
  • No 1652 HCU
  • No 1658 HCU
  • No 1663 HCU 

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