Secret history of Defford Airfield revealed in new book
SECRETS of a Second World War airfield in Gloucestershire have been unearthed by author Dr Robert Shaw.
Dr Shaw, 76, has recently published his book Top Secret Boeing.
The book delves into the history of Defford Airfield, just north of Tewkesbury, and more so, the Boeing 247D DZ203.
Dr Shaw, who lives in Broadway and is secretary of the Defford Airfield Heritage Group, said: "My interest which caused me to write the book is that living locally, I came to realise that the story of RAF Defford is up there with the code breakers of Bletchley Park in terms of national importance and historic significance, yet is very little known.
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Defford Airfield was one of the most secret and closely guarded places during the Second World War. It was at Defford that the latest developments in radar were worked on, tested, proven and installed in allied aircraft.
By 1945, nearly 3000 people were serving at Defford.
One of the most important pieces of research done at the base was into the automatic landing project. "This was to enable aircraft to approach, line up on the runway and touchdown – all done automatically, using radar systems," added Dr Shaw. To prove the idea, group captain John McDonald, known as Mac, selected the least warlike aircraft of the many he had to choose from at Defford – the unique Boeing 247D DZ203, an elderly American airliner. Thanks to Mac and his radar colleagues, the world's first automatic blind landing took place at RAF Defford in January 1945, in Boeing 247D DZ 203 – the Top Secret Boeing."
There are more stories like this in Dr Shaw's book, available at Waterstones in Cheltenham.