Those in Essex with a keen interest in gliding will find plenty to enjoy at Ridgewell Airfield. Located between the village of Ashen, on the border between Essex and Suffolk, Ridgewell Airfield is exclusively owned and run by the Essex Gliding Club. It is easily accessible from surrounding towns on both sides of the border, including Sudbury, Halstead and Haverhill.
The airfield was opened in December 1942 and was first used by the NO. 90 Squadron of RAF Bomber Command, equipped with Short Stirling Bombers until May 1943. The station at the time was a satellite of RAF Stradishall.
During World War II, the airfield was used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces Eight Air Force and was home to the 381st Bomb Group, equipped with B-17s. It was the only long-term heavy bomber airfield and was part of the 1st Combat Wing establishment of the 1st Division.
The last wartime mission from Ridgewell occurred on April 25th 1945, against the Skoda Works at Pilsen in Czechoslovakia. The 381st left Ridgewell in early June 1945 and flew home to the USA.
After the war, RAF Ridgewell served as a base for No’s 94 and 95 Maintenance Units for the RAF who used the hangers as bomb storage from July 15th 1945, to March 31st 1957. It was then disposed of and sold. The United States Air Force retained the old aircraft hangers for storage until its closure in the early 1990s.
Recently, the Essex Gliding Club purchased part of the airfield and is their home location for gliding throughout the summer months. They also welcome flying enthusiasts to participate in their Flying Experiences where you can glide like a bird over the beautiful Essex countryside.