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                                       Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011

 


A few miles to the East of Harlow are the remains of Matching Green Airfield. The land had been earmarked for use as an airfield from as early as 1937 during the rapid build up of resources for the RAF. Construction eventually began in 1943 as an airfield for the United States Army Air Force. As in common with most of the US airfields in the area, it was a base for B-26 Martin Marauder twin engined medium bomber Groups who were under control of the US 9th air force.

 

 

 

 

 

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Known as Station 166, it was built by the US 834th and 840th Engineer (Aviation) Battalions, to "Class A" standards. The runways were 150' wide with a 50' wide perimeter track running around the main flying field. Five dispersed sites were used for administration, living, and technical support. Two T2 type Hangars were also erected. These measured 240' long, 39' high, with a 120' span across the doors.

 

The airfield carried the pundit code of MC. This would have been marked in large white letters on the signals square next to the Control Tower. The first Americans to be posted in were the members of the 13th Replacement Control Depot.


 

 

 

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      The Hand over ceremony from the RAF to the USAAF in 1944. The blister hangar in the background still exists with the control tower just visible to the far left.

 

 

The 9th USAAF 391st Bomb Group led by Colonel Gerald E Williams and consisting of the 572nd, 573rd, 574th, and 575th Bomb squadrons flying B-26 Marauders, moved in on the 25th of January 1944. This was during the final phase of construction. The 391st commenced operations, and stayed until the 1st October, 1944, just nine months. but during this time they flew 6,000 sorties with the loss of 197 men killed, wounded, or missing in action. On D-Day, 6th June 1944 the group flew two missions against enemy gun positions on the invasion coast, with two German fighter aircraft being shot down by the groups gunners .

 

 

 

 

 Opposite: B-26 Marauders of the 391st taxy to a position for take off.



 


The same location today shows the remains of the perimeter track,

 although the runway has long since gone.

 

 

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 B-26 'Miss Behaving' 42-95844.

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575th Squadron, 391st Bomb Group (M)

 

Lt William Kloepfer (pilot) Killed in Action

 

Lt John Hultin  (2nd pilot)  Killed in Action

 

2nd Lt Edward Wolf  Killed in Action

 

S/sgt Delmar Haynes  Prisoner Of War

 

S/sgt James Stevens  Killed in Action

 

when the aircraft was lost due to a fire in the bomb bay while on the fateful mission to Ahrweiler Germany during the Ardennes offensive on the 23/12/1944.  The Group lost 17 aircraft on that one mission alone.

 

 

 

 

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  391st personnel relax in the bar back on the airfield at Matching in 1944, the decay in the building was profound in 2006

 

 

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                                                         USAAF officers await the return of aircraft on the balcony of the tower circa 1944.

 

 

 

 

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The Free Gunnery Trainer. Formerly an Over blister aircraft hangar that was once used as a dry store for bagged cement when the airfield was under construction.  It was then sited on the tech site and used as a gunnery training building.



 

 

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                                                                               Interior showing the lattice work construction  of these Blister hangars

 

 

 

 

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                                                                                                            Gas Clothing and Respirator Store

 

 

 

 

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 A few weeks after D-Day, airfields were becoming available to the RAF and USAAF,  the 2nd October 1944, the group moved to Roye-Amy, France (A-73). This was a former Luftwaffe airfield, and operations commenced from there. For a brief time plans were laid to make Matching airfield one of the proposed VHB, or Very Heavy Bomber, bases, to handle the B-29 Boeing Superfortress Bombers, should they be needed in the European theatre of operations. But many objections were apparently lodged, and so the plans were dropped.

 

 

 

  For a few weeks C - 47 Skytrain (Dakota) transport aircraft from the US 9th Troop Carrier Command, used Matching Green for training with British Paratroopers. Soon after, the RAF arrived with Short Stirling Mk 4 Bombers of 38 Group, which were used in the role of Tugs for the large Horsa Gliders in the upcoming "Operation Varsity". This was to be the largest, and most succesful, of the airborne operations, involving 12 parachute battalions, five British, one Canadian, and six from the USA, closely followed by 1300 Horsa gliders packed with troops. Fourteen aircraft and their attendant Gliders carrying British troops took off from Matching in this operation.

 

Shortly after, the squadrons in 38 Group converted to Handley Page Halifax Mk3 aircraft. Six months after conversion they left, and flying finally ceased from Matching . It has now returned to agricultural land use but much remains to be seen today. The Control Tower still stands and is home to a modern radar equipment testing facility owned by Ratheon.

 

 

 

  What is left?

 

  On the site of the officers camp, the tall water tower stands amongst various Nissen and Romney huts. Not far away and near to the former Ambulance station and Mortuary on the sick quarters site, is the memorial to the 391st Bomb Group (Medium). A plaque can also be seen in the church of St Mary The Virgin commemorating the 391st Bomb Group. All the runways have been lifted, leaving just a ten foot wide section used as a convenient road through the crops.

 

There is a very small section of full width runway remaining.

 

 

 

      

 

                           

 

This is on the Western side of the airfield, and linked by a remaining section of perimeter track. The site of the bomb dump in nearby Brickles Wood retains the earth blast walls between the bomb storage bays and brick walls, but now covered by undergrowth and small trees, evidence of former buildings in the bomb dump can also be found with only the concrete floors remaining. The service road can still be seen passing through the site. A man made lake, possibly dug as an emergency water supply, can also be found.

 

 

 

One of the main aviation fuel store remains intact. The pump house , vent pipes, and bowser filling heads still in situ is very near to Stock Hall.

 

At the Northern end of the airfield, the large shaped mound of earth that was used as a test range for the aircraft machine guns is evident . Part of this mound is missing at one end, soil was used to level the ground after the nearby aircraft hardstands were taken up a few years ago.

 

 

 

One of the "T2" type aircraft Hangers was re-erected at North Weald airfield. It has been re - clad in modern materials, and is still used for aviation puposes. It was once used as a studio for the television series "The Crystal Maze".

 

Many of the remaining Nissen and Romney huts have been re clad in modern materials and are being used for light commercial enterprises. The former Hospital unit is a few yards from the memorial, they too have been reclad and put to use again. Around 90% of the perimeter track circuit remains, albeit cut down to around a 10 foot wide strip for most of its length. Only two short sections are missing. On the eastern side of the airfield part of the peritrack is still in its original width.

 

Also in the Technical site area is the Free Gunnery trainer in the blister hangar,and part of a loop hardstand, Crew locker and Drying Room, Gas Clothing and Respirator Store.

 

 A little further on the Admin area retains the Norden bombsight store and the Ops block, both of which are hidden in dense scrub and bushes. These are also on private land and are subject to planning permission that may see the demolition of these soon.

 

 

 

From the air you can still make out the general outline of many of the airfields features. It is still possible to see where the hardstands and runways were. The shape of these still show up through the crops, and will probably do so for quite some time.

 

 

 With special thanks to:

 

Michael Scantlebury of Manwood Farm,

 

Henry Rowe of Rookwood Hall Farm,

 

Geoffrey Broad of Snows Farm,

 

David Parsons of Stock Hall, for allowing me access to the land.