Upottery Airfield (Smeatharpe)

This page describes Upottery Airfield (Smeatharpe).


The control tower at Upottery Airfield

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Video clip of Upottery from 'Band of Brothers'

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Upottery MemorialThe Upottery Airfield Memorial at Churchinford

The memorial plaque at Upottery Airfield. [Click on the image to see larger image. (760 kb)]

[Click on the image to see larger image. (760 kb)]

Today a former sentry-box at the village of Churchinford has been made into a memorial to the brave servicemen who lost their lives during the hazardous crossing.

The memorial reads:

“Just after midnight on the night of June 5th 1944: 81 C-47 unarmed transport aircraft departed from this airfield carrying 1357 Paratroops who were to be dropped behind enemy lines near the coast of France on D-Day.

At dawn on the morning of the 7th June 1944: 50 C-47 aircraft towing 30 Horsa gliders and 20 Waco gliders departed for France carrying 968 Glider Infantry troops in the second airborne wave of the invasion.

Here in honoured memory are those killed in transit on those two missions".

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Post D-Day use

Upottery came under RAF control in October but did not see much use until the US Navy’s VPB-103, PB4Y Liberators from nearby RAF Dunkeswell moved in on 7 November while the main runway was being repaired at their normal base.

Following the war the airfield was used for the storage of surplus materiel until the end of 1948, after which the airfield was returned to the farming community from which it was requisitioned.

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Factoid

The name Upottery derives from the River Otter, which rises at Royston Water just out of the Upottery parish boundary, and flows through the Otter valley until it reaches the sea at Budleigh Salterton.

There is only one 'P' in the name, the addition of a second often being an Americanism.

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Restoration

Although the airfield is now privately owned, the South West Airfields Heritage Trust (SWAHT) are currently renovating some of the huts at the airfield & have created a small museum at the site.

The SWAHT hold regular events at the museum. For more details see their website. ( May 2015)

 

A base used during D-Day by the 101st Airborne, Upottery airfield lies on the outskirts of the village of Smeatharpe, 6 miles north of Honiton and 6 miles east of the USN station at Dunkeswell.

101st Airborne reenactors salute the flag at Upottery Airfield, wearing M42 jumpsuits

Upottery was one of two Devonshire bases from which the 101st Airborne Division embarked (to Normandy) on the night of June 5th 1944 as part of the D-Day invasion. (The other bases were outside of the county).

On the night of 5th June 1944 Dakotas lifted off from Upottery Airfield in Devon as part of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

Anyone familiar with the opening scenes of the TV adaptation of the 'Band of Brothers' will be familiar with this scene.

On the night of 5th June 1944 Airborne forces from the 101st Airborne Division took off from airfields around Devon ( Upottery and Exeter) as part of Operation Neptune, the airborne part of the D-Day landings.

 

Day of daysbreak

On the night of 5 th June 1944 the Dakotas lifted off from this Devonshire airbase carrying paratroopers of the 506th PIR 101st Airborne Division 'Band of Brothers', and headed east to Portland Bill, where they assembled at an altitude of 10,000 ft.

Altitude was then reduced to 650 ft as the aircraft headed south-west to a point in the middle of the English Channel code-named GALLUP, which was marked by a Royal Navy beacon-ship.

From here the fleet of 821 Dakotas flew south to a point west of Cherbourg on the French coast, code-named HOBOKEN, which was indicated by a lumious signal from a submarine.

Here the aircraft climbed to 1,650 ft to avoid the Flak guns of the Channel Islands, before heading for landfall on the Normandy coast, named MULESHOE Point.

By now the aircraft were back down to 650 ft and flying at their drop-speed of 110 mph.The first paratroopers of the 101AB jumped into Normandy at 00:50 hrs, June 6th 1944.

This was a Day of Days. The Longest Day.

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An historic landing

On 31st July 2007 a C47 landed at Upottery flown by Major Petty, C/O 93rd Troop Carrier Squadron, WWII - who took part in both of the major D-Day missions.

This was the first time that this very C-47 returned to this airfield since 1944. See the video below.

The aircraft returned again in 2008 when Earl McClung and Don Malarkey of the 101st Airborne 'Band of Brothers' visited Upottery.

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Upottery Airfield Today

The concrete runways could still be seen along with the remains of some dilapidated buildings.

A radio-controlled flying club uses part of the airfield, and there was a stock car racing circuit at the site.