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A warehouse was constructed at the end of the runway at Bitteswell. It is reported that in the toilets is a permanent stain on the floor in the shape of a man and a ghostly airman in flying kit has been repeatedly seen in there.

Also known as: Magna Park / RAF Bitteswell
County: Leicestershire
Current Status: Industry
Date: June 1940 - 30 June 1982
Current Use: Disused
Used By: RAF / Civil

Best recalled for use after World War Two for aircraft maintenance and production involvement with various companies, Bitteswell has a history as an airfield longer than previously thought as it was first used as an Emergency Landing Ground for Bramcote from the early summer of 1940. The site clearly had much more to offer and was gradually upgraded during World War Two to become a satellite for No 18 Operational Training Unit (OTU) and the parent from slightly over a year later. During 1942 major reconstruction work to have hard runways installed then took place.

Far greater regularity of flying occurred from June 1943 as Bruntingthorpe took over control of Bitteswell for No 29 OTU and more bomber training but Bramcote returned on the scene in November 1944 with its latest resident No 105 (Transport) OTU, again operating Vickers Wellingtons until changing to using Douglas Dakotas, these ubiquitous aircraft becoming fully apparent as World War Two ended in Europe. Bitteswell soon closed and went down to Care and Maintenance status on 17 July 1945, keeping going for the next two years by being employed as a mixture of a RAF flying school Relief Landing Ground and Maintenance Unit sub-site for equipment storage. It was when the Ministry of Supply became its new owner on 3 June 1947 however that this airfield began to really make its mark.

Armstrong Whitworth had assembled Avro Lancasters at Bitteswell since 1943, and had found the airfield most useful as the company’s main base Baginton did not possess hard runways. The first few peacetime years inevitably brought some uncertainty as to general future prospects but aircraft final assembly/flight testing restarted in 1952, the company subsequently buying the airfield four years later instead of only leasing it. By the mid-1960s with the reorganisation of the British aircraft industry Hawker Siddeley had taken charge, followed by British Aerospace in the next decade as aircraft coming in for maintenance ranged from Hawker Hunter jet fighters to Avro Shackleton and Vulcan maritime patrol and V-bomber aircraft respectively. Bitteswell remained busy as ever but one increasingly prominent problem was that aircraft such as these were becoming older and with no obvious replacements appearing on the horizon. The announced retirement of the Vulcan in 1982 played a major part in the airfield closing to company flying on 30 June 1982.

Aviation did not immediately disappear altogether here as there were hopes for a working aircraft museum but these plans soon fell through and what is now the huge distribution centre known as Magna Park began to take shape from the late 1980s. Vast warehouses for many familiar company names have since more or less obscured all Bitteswell’s runways and mixture of A1, B1 and T2 hangars. The airfield nevertheless is still remembered through roadways such as Hunter Boulevard and Wellington Parkway, and more importantly is providing tremendous service to the British economy through the creation of many thousands of direct and indirect jobs.


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

  • Adecco UK Ltd
  • Argos Distributors Ltd
  • Armstrong Logistics
  • Asda Stores Ltd
  • Bandsound Ltd
  • Bitteswell with Bittesby Parish Council
  • British Telecommunications Plc
  • Britvic Soft Drinks Ltd
  • BSS Group
  • BT Fleet - Lutterworth (Magna Park)
  • C Butt Ltd 
  • CEVA
  • Chapco
  • CML Ltd
  • Core Management Logistics
  • Costco Wholesale UK Ltd
  • Culina Ambient Limited
  • DHL I B C
  • Eddie Stobart Ltd
  • Geodis UK Ltd
  • George Clothing Offices
  • Honda Engine Sales
  • Honda Logistics Centre (U.K.) Ltd
  • IDI Gazeley Brookfield Logistics Properties
  • James Irlam & Sons Ltd
  • Kenwood
  • Lidl UK
  • Lloyd Fraser (Distribution) Ltd 
  • Magna Park Management Co
  • Nippon Express (U.K.) Ltd 
  • Nissan Motor Parts Centre
  • Notts Sport
  • Primark Stores Limited
  • Red Arrow, Lutterworth
  • Semelab Ltd - TT Electronics
  • Siemens Plc
  • Steinhoff/Harveys Beds
  • Syncreon
  • Tech Data
  • The BSS Group Ltd
  • The Disney Store Ltd
  • The George Davies Partnership Ltd
  • Tibbett & Britten Consumer Group Ltd
  • Toyota Logistics Services GB Ltd
  • Unipart Logistics Ltd
  • VOW Europe Ltd
  • VWR International Ltd
  • Wincanton Group Plc
  • XPO Logistics

Notable Past Associated Organisations:

  • Armstong Whitworth Aircraft
  • British Aerospace
  • Hawker Siddeley

Main Unit(s) Present:

  • No 18 OTU
  • No 20 FTS
  • No 29 OTU
  • No 105 (Transport) OTU
  • No 266 MU
  • No 1381 (Transport) CU
  • No 1513 BAT Flight
  • No 2735 Sqn RAF Regiment
  • Power Jets Unit
  • Transport Command Air Crew Examining Unit

Photographs from the ABCT marker unveiling at Bitteswell on 13 November 2015:











B-17 abpic.jpg

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress owned by Warbirds of Great Britain at Bitteswell before departure to the USA, 9 May 1987. © Dave Peel/

Avro 706 Ashton abpic.jpg

The experimental Avro Ashton at Bitteswell, c. 1952. © Mike Dowsing Collection/

Avro 683 Lancaster abpic.jpg

An Avro Lancaster acting as a testbed for the Armstrong Siddley Mamba airscrew turbine at Bitteswell, c. Feb 1950. © Mike Dowsing Collection/

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