Airfield search

Great Orton


Did you know?


The foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 saw 466,312 animals – 448,308 of them sheep - being buried in 26 trenches in and around the runways at Great Orton. Several other airfields were also used for this task.

Also known as: RAF Great Orton / Watchtree Nature Reserve / Wiggonby
County: Cumbria
Current Status: Nature reserve / Public road / Wind farm
Date: 1 June 1943 - 15 August 1952
Current Use: Disused
Used By: RAF
Landing Surface Types: Paved

Opened in June 1943, the former RAF Great Orton, known locally as Wiggonby, was mainly used as a satellite airfield for nearby Silloth by Vickers Wellingtons of No 6 Operational Training Unit. A few other flying unit detachments were stationed here in WW2 for shorter periods, notably No 55 Operational Training Unit (Hawker Hurricanes) and two air-sea rescue squadrons which operated Vickers Warwicks. As the Second World War ended in Europe, the airfield became home to No 249 Maintenance Unit for bomb storage until both this unit and the airfield closed in August 1952.

Sections of all three runways remain, also the perimeter track (now partly a minor road) and the control tower, and in recent years there was some light aircraft activity; the site also became home to a wind farm in the 1990s. The foot and mouth crisis of 2001 saw Great Orton airfield become the main site in Britain for the disposal of slaughtered animals – nearly half a million of them (mostly sheep) were killed and then buried in 26 pits surrounding the runways. The Watchtree Nature Reserve was later established to restore the site.


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

  • Aikton Parish Council
  • Wigton Library

Main unit(s) present:

  • No 1 (Coastal) Engine Control Demonstration Unit
  • No 3 TEU
  • No 4 TEU
  • No 6 (Coastal) OTU
  • No 55 OTU
  • No 60 MU
  • No 219 MU
  • No 229 MU
  • No 281 Sqn
  • No 282 Sqn
  • Morris Air Sports
  • North West Gyroplane Club

Photographs from the unveiling of the ABCT memorial marker at Great Orton on 17 October 2010:




control tower 1967.jpg

Control tower at Great Orton, 1967. Courtesy of John Huggon.

2012 Wind turbines.jpg

One of the runways at Great Orton, 2012. Courtesy of Gordon Akitt.

Nature reserve.jpg

A nature reserve created at Great Orton. Photograph from 2012. Courtesy of Gordon Akitt.


Remains of the airfield at Great Orton, 2012. Courtesy of Gordon Akitt.


Hawker Hurricane on detachment to Great Orton from Longtown with No 55 OTU. Courtesy of John Huggon.

Watchtower interior 2.jpg

The interior of the control tower at Great Orton, 2012. Courtesy of Gordon Akitt.

Watchtower interior.jpg

The interior of the control tower at Great Orton, 2012. Courtesy of Gordon Akitt.

Watchtower interior 3.jpg

The interior of the control tower at Great Orton, 2012. Courtesy of Gordon Akitt.


The control tower at Great Orton, 2012. Courtesy of Gordon Akitt.


The control tower at Great Orton, 2010.


Part of the perimeter track on the north side of the airfield, 2010.

Aerial footage of Great Orton, June 2014. Courtesy of FPV Carlisle Cumbria

Parent(s)/HQ Airfields(s):


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