RAF Cosford

RAF Cosford
Near Cosford, Shropshire in England
Shown within Shropshire
Coordinates 52°38′42″N 002°15′20″W / 52.64500°N 2.25556°W / 52.64500; -2.25556Coordinates: 52°38′42″N 002°15′20″W / 52.64500°N 2.25556°W / 52.64500; -2.25556
Type Royal Air Force station
Site information
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Air Force
Open to
the public
Access to RAF Museum only
Website RAF Cosford
RAF Museum – Cosford
Site history
Built 1938 (1938)
In use 1938–present
Airfield information
Identifiers ICAO: EGWC
Elevation 83 metres (272 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
06/24 1,186 metres (3,891 ft) Asphalt

Royal Air Force Cosford or RAF Cosford (formerly DCAE Cosford)[1] (ICAO: EGWC) is a Royal Air Force station in Cosford, Shropshire, just to the northwest of Wolverhampton and next to Albrighton.

Use of the station


RAF Cosford opened in 1938 as a joint aircraft maintenance, storage and technical training unit.[2] It was originally intended to be opened as RAF Donington (the parish in which it is located) but to avoid confusion with the nearby army camp at Donnington it was named after Cosford Grange House which was located at the south western edge of the airfield.[3] It has remained mainly a training unit to this day. The Fulton Mess barrack block was constructed just before the Second World War as the largest single building barrack block in the UK. It is now used for technical training.

No 2 School of Technical Training was formed in 1938 and during the Second World War it trained 70,000 airmen in engine, airframe and armament trades. No 2 School of Technical Training was subsumed into the No 1 School of Technical Training when it moved to Cosford from RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire.[4]

During the Second World War, No 12 Ferry Pool of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) was formed at Cosford, which involved delivering Spitfires from the base and returning with bombers or fighters for No 9 Maintenance Unit. These ferrying flights were often crewed by women pilots and Amy Johnson came to Cosford on more than one occasion.[5]

The airfield was originally a grassed strip.[6] After a particularly bad winter in 1940/1941 when the effect of landing heavy aircraft such as Wellingtons and Ansons turned the strip into a mudbath, a paved runway was constructed that was 1,146 yards (1,048 m) long and 46 yards (42 m) wide.[7]

A substantial Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service hospital was established at RAF Cosford, the most westerly such RAF hospital in the UK. Constructed of wooden spurred hutting the hospital was the main centre for repatriated Prisoners of War with over 13,000 processed by 1948. Many of those from the Far East had to remain for long term treatment.[8] The hospital was also open to the general public as well as servicemen and women, but it was closed on 31 December 1977 and demolished in 1980.[9] For the three summers between 1978 and 1980 the empty hospital formed the venue for annual training camps for the Royal Observer Corps, with wards and theatres converted into barrack accommodation and training rooms.

The extensive sports facilities at Cosford, located around a banked indoor running track, became well known nationally through televised annual indoor championships that featured top athletes from all over the world.[10]

Cosford today

Runway 24 at RAF Cosford, as seen during final approach.

Schools currently stationed there include: No. 1 School of Technical Training, No. 1 Radio School RAF, the Defence School of Photography and the RAF School of Physical Training. Flying units include the University of Birmingham Air Squadron, No 8 Air Experience Flight and No 633 Volunteer Gliding Squadron.[11] The Wales and West regional headquarters and West Mercian Wing headquarters of the Air Training Corps are situated there, along with No 2497 (Cosford) Squadron of the ATC.

Cosford became part of the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering (DCAE), which was formed on 1 April 2004. Other units located at Cosford include elements of the Defence College of Communications and Information Systems (DCCIS), the Defence School of Photography (DSOP) and the RAF School of Physical Training.

In early 2009 there was a strong chance that the DCAE would relocate to RAF St Athan and therefore a decision was given to rename the station RAF Cosford.[12]

The Defence College at RAF Cosford came under the Defence Technical Training Change Programme (DCTTP) and as such, with effect from 1 October 2012, was renamed the Defence School of Aeronautical Engineering (DSAE).[13]

Operational units

A Grob G 109B Vigilant Motor Glider operated by 633 VGS at RAF Cosford.
A Grob G 115E Tutor operated by No. 8 Air Experience Flight RAF posted to RAF Cosford.

Aerospace museum

There is also the Aerospace Museum at the site, which is a branch of the Royal Air Force Museum. Amongst the large collection of military aircraft is a unique collection of research and development aircraft, including one of two existing examples of the TSR2, a multi-role combat aircraft, controversially scrapped by the Wilson Government and still a point of discussion within the RAF. There are also collections of missiles and airliners.

The Cold War Exhibition opened on 7 February 2007 by former prime minister Baroness Thatcher and HRH Princess Anne.[15] Exhibits include the only collection of three V bombers (Valiant, Victor and Vulcan) in the same place in the world.


Following the UK Government's 2001 Defence Training Review (DTR), the Ministry of Defence proposed handing over armed forces skills training to a private sector bidder for a 25-year term, and it was announced on 17 January 2007 that the Metrix consortium had been awarded Preferred Bidder status for Package 1 of this programme. As a consequence, it was anticipated that all technical training would move from Cosford to Metrix's main campus to be built on the RAF St Athan site over a 5-year period from 2008.[16] This in turn was deferred with no anticipated move from Cosford to St Athan for DCAE and No1 RS staff and trainees before 2014–15 at the earliest. For those other training schools, headquarters and units at present at Cosford, decisions were yet to be made about their future location.[17]

On 31 January 2008, the Government announced that when 1 Signal Brigade and 102 Logistics Brigade withdraw from Germany they will move to Cosford. It was also noted that Metrix proposed to establish a Learning Centre and Design facility at the Cosford site.

In December 2012 the Government announced training facilities from RAF Cosford would be moved by end of 2015 to the site of the former RAF Station at Lyneham as part of the projected tri-service Defence College of Technical Training, in common with Army and Royal Navy training facilities that would also be consolidated on the site. However, on 15 September 2015, the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon announced in Parliament by written statement that the Lyneham site would only be used by the army and that Cosford would not be closed and remain as a separate RAF training establishment which would be given extra work, with a fourth training school (No 4 School of Technical Training) moving to Cosford from MoD St Athan in south Wales. The announcement was described in local media as "a Government U-turn".[18]

RAF Cosford was the location for James May's Toy Stories, where the BBC's Top Gear presenter constructed a 1:1 scale Supermarine Spitfire in the style of an Airfix kit with the help of students from the Thomas Telford school and Air Cadets from the ATC.

RAF Cosford Air Show

RAF Cosford also holds a popular airshow every year in June, which is held traditionally on the second Sunday of the month. The show usually has attendance figures over 55,000[19] and is the RAF's only remaining official air show. The flying displays usually consists of various UK military display aircraft, civilian display teams and historic aircraft. Alongside the airshow, there is a fun fair, craft fair, military vehicles and displays showcasing the work of RAF Cosford.

Station Commanders

The following are the Station Commanders for RAF Cosford, DCAE and DSAE Cosford.

Date Name Date Name
July 1938 Group Captain W J Guilfoyle August 1978 Group Captain D G Campbell
November 1939 Group Captain W Budgen October 1980 Group Captain W F Mullen
November 1940 Group Captain J McCrae October 1982 Group Captain T J Morgan
February 1942 Group Captain W D Clappen September 1984 Group Captain M W Windle
February 1943 Air Commodore C E H Allen September 1986 Group Captain R M Best
September 1946 Air Commodore P S Blockley October 1988 Group Captain M Van Der Veen
June 1948 Air Commodore R J Rodwell October 1990 Group Captain M G Yeates
January 1952 Air Commodore W L Freebody November 1992 Group Captain M J Gilding
October 1953 Air Commodore R J Pilgrim-Morris April 1995 Group Captain S B Schofield
April 1956 Air Commodore J R Mutch February 1997 Group Captain A J Smith
May 1956 Air Commodore R Harston September 1998 Group Captain D N Williams
March 1959 Group Captain A W Haswell July 2000 Group Captain A J Burrell
November 1961 Group Captain L H Moulton July 2002 Group Captain A J Young
May 1963 Group Captain C S Thomas April 2004 Air Commodore S R Sims
November 1965 Group Captain H Durkin October 2006 Air Commodore N W Gammon
July 1967 Group Captain H A J Mills March 2009 Air Commodore C H Green
April 1970 Group Captain W M Smedley May 2011 Group Captain J B Johnston
August 1972 Group Captain C L Parkinson April 2013 Group Captain A M Sansom
January 1975 Group Captain A Thirkettle July 2015 Group Captain M Hunt
August 1976 Group Captain R L Smith


The Cosford Badge is adorned with an oak tree and the motto on the crest is Seul Le Premier Pas Coute, which translates as Only the Beginning is Difficult.[20] The oak tree is symbolic of the nearby oak at Boscobel which King Charles II took refuge in after the Battle of Worcester.[21] The idea of this association is that of being from little acorns, great oak trees grow ( from trainees the airmen of the future grow).[22] This badge was also shared with the No 2 School of Technical Training until 1986, when the School adopted a new badge with the iron bridge of Ironbridge on it and the motto of Scientia Pons Perpetuus Est which translates as Knowledge is a Lasting Bridge.[23]

Accidents and incidents

On 4 March 2000, Julian Paszki of Wrekin Gliding Club was killed when his Ex-RAF Chipmunk aircraft crashed. The aircraft was seen to veer left and dive into the ground despite being only 30 feet (9.1 m) in the air at the time. Mr Paszki was pulled alive from the wreckage but died at Selly Oak Hospital later that same day.[24][25]

Air Ambulance

RAF Cosford's airfield site is home to one of the Midlands Air Ambulance helicopters. The first aircraft arrived on site in October 1991 with two other platforms based elsewhere in the region. Cosford remains the operations hub for the service.[26]


  1. RAF Cosford
  2. Philpott, Ian (2008). "RAF stations, airfields and other establishments". The Royal Air Force - an encyclopedia of the inter-war years - volume 2, Re-armament 1930 - 1939. Barnsley: Pen & Sword. p. 293. ISBN 978-1-84415-391-6.
  3. Brooks 2008, p. 49.
  4. Delve, Ken (2007). The Military Airfields of Britain - Wales and West Midlands. Marlborough: Crowood Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-1861269-17-1.
  5. Brooks 2008, p. 54.
  6. Brew 2009, p. 5.
  7. Brooks 2008, pp. 52-53.
  8. Brooks 2008, p. 57.
  9. Brew 2009, p. 6.
  10. Brew 2009, p. 95.
  11. Brooks 2008, p. 58.
  12. "RAF No 22 Training Group - DCAE". RAF.MOD.UK. Royal Air Force. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  13. "RAF Cosford Present". RAF Cosford. Royal Air Force. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  14. http://www.army.mod.uk/music/23945.aspx
  15. "High life for painters at museum". Shropshire Star. 27 April 2016. p. 5.
  16. Government News Network – Wednesday 17 January 2007 13:22
  17. http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafcosford/aboutus/dcaecosfordpresent.cfm
  18. "RAF Cosford future is safe after U-turn". Shropshire Star. 15 September 2015. p. 1.
  19. "University to sponsor air show". Bridgnorth Journal. 14 April 2016. p. 5.
  20. Reyburn, Ross (2 December 2000). "Down Your Way: A sound base for training; Cosford offers more to the community and the RAF itself than just the famous air show". Birmingham Post & Mail. pp. 8–9.
  21. "Story of England - Charles The II and The Royal Oak". English Heritage. English Heritage. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  22. Howells, F (2000). "100 Years in Albrighton". Chat Histories: 58.
  23. Joyner, Andrew (1994). "Royal Air Force Cosford The War Years". Cosford, Shropshire: Royal Air Force Cosford: 9. OCLC 810764883.
  24. Hudson, Jenny (4 March 2000). "Mystery over flight launch pilot's death". Sunday Mercury.
  25. "Inquiry after pilot dies in mystery plane crash.". The Birmingham Post. 6 March 2000.
  26. "Midlands Air Ambulance History". Midlands Air Ambulance. Retrieved 29 April 2016.


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