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Station facilities

Entries are listed alphabetically. The first line (in bold) is the term used to describe the subject, which is also a hyperlink to every item in the IBCC Digital Archive described with that tag. The second line (in italics) contains alternative forms, such as spelling variants, abbreviations or colloquialisms. Each entry is supplemented with a definition, background information, applicability, and links to related concepts.

Indentations are used to denote a parent/child structure, in which the main entry is a broad category followed by sub-categories. This allows for users to either narrow or expand the focus of their searches.

bomb dump
Used for: munitions storage

The bomb dump for a Bomber Command station was located where possible outside the station boundary in order to avoid damage from accidental detonations. Wooded areas were used where possible to provide extra shelter. A typical bomb dump layout comprised a series of bays separated by earth blast mounds. The armament store was often located adjacent to the bomb dump.

control tower
Used for: watch tower, watch office

Control towers became a feature of Royal Air Force stations during the 1930s in order to control aircraft movement. They were also known as watch offices. By 1943 all Class A Bomber Command station control towers were of a standard design as a two-storey rectangular brick and concrete building with a flat roof and a balcony. Control towers also contained the Meteorological and Signals offices and served as the focus for personnel waiting for aircraft to return from operations.

decoy site
Used for: concealed site, dummy sites

Decoy sites or dummy airfields were used to divert German aircraft away from nearby RAF stations. Different types of decoy sites were constructed. K-sites were decoy daylight airfields. Dummy aircraft, buildings and roads were constructed but they had real machine gun posts. Q-sites were decoy night airfields set up with lighting systems to look like a real airfield. Starfish sites were larger decoy sites to simulate towns or industrial complexes. Approximately 850 German attacks on decoy sites were recorded.

Used for: hard standing

On Bomber Command stations aircraft were dispersed away from each other to minimise losses if the station came under attack or a bombing up explosion occurred. They were originally built as a single circle with a 50 yd (46 m) radius and known as ‘frying pan’ dispersals. Later double-loop, ‘spectacle dispersals’, were used. Each station had 36 dispersals connected to the perimeter track. All routine maintenance, fuelling and bombing up were done by ground crew outdoors at dispersals in all weathers.

Used for: Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation, Fog Intense Dispersal Operation, Fog, Intense Dispersal Of

The Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operation (FIDO) was a system to overcome the hazard of fog which prevented returning crews from landing safely resulting in losses of aircrew and aircraft. FIDO comprised petrol being fed into pipes either side of the runway. Flame jets at regular intervals burned the fuel and the heat generated lifted the fog. FIDO consumed 90,000 gallons (409,150 litres) per hour and was installed at nine Bomber Command stations and three other emergency landing grounds.

guard room

Royal Air Force stations have a guard room located at the main entrance and used to control personnel and vehicular traffic in and out of the station. The guard room is usually a single story brick building.


A hangar is an enclosed building used to house aircraft. Pre-war expansion phase Bomber Command stations usually had four C-type hangars arranged in a crescent. Each hangar was 300 ft. (92 m) long, 150 ft. (46 m) wide and 30-35 ft. (9 - 10.5 m) high. They were constructed from steel, brick and reinforced concrete. Bomber stations constructed from 1943 typically had two T2 and one B1 hangers. Smaller than C-type hangers these hangar types were prefabricated and covered with corrugated steel sheets. Other hangars used on some stations were J-type and Bellmans.


The Mess is a building used by military personnel for living, socialising and eating. Different ranks have their own mess e.g. officer’s mess and sergeant’s mess. On pre-war expansion phase Bomber Command stations the Officer’s Mess was of a standardised Georgian-style architecture. On some stations constructed during the war the officer’s mess was a suitable nearby building requisitioned for the purpose e.g. a hotel.

Nissen hut

A Nissen hut is a prefabricated steel structure for military use made from a curved skin of corrugated steel. End walls are made from a wooden frame as to have doors and windows. Nissen huts were used as living quarters or to house station facilities such as mess, workshop, admin offices and warehouse. Cold, damp and universally regarded as uncomfortable to live in, many were later converted for agricultural or industrial purposes.

operations room

The Operations room of a Bomber Command station or Group headquarters was the focus for planning and controlling an operation. It usually contained maps and radio and telephone communications. Information boards were used for squadron and aircraft readiness and were updated as the operation progressed with, for example, times of take-off and landing for individual aircraft. The operations room was often integral with, or adjacent to, the station headquarters.

perimeter track
Used for: peri track

The Class A Standard Bomber Command Airfield requirements of November 1941 included the construction of a perimeter track to connect the three runways laid out in an ‘A’ pattern. The perimeter track encircling the runway layout was 50 ft (15 m) wide and approximately 3 miles (5 kms) long. The maximum gradient allowed was 1 in 40 and no obstructions were permitted within 50 yards (46 m) of the perimeter track. 36 dispersal sites were adjacent to and connected to the perimeter track.

service vehicle

The term service vehicle is generic and includes all wheeled vehicles used by the military. On Bomber Command stations vehicles were used for a wide variety of tasks and ranged from bicycles to the 40 ft (12 m) ‘Queen Mary’ trailers for transporting individual aircraft. Service vehicles included petrol bowsers, bomb trolleys, control caravan, tractors, staff cars, jeeps, lorries, motor-bikes, fire-engines and ambulances.

petrol bowser
Used for: bowser, gas bowser

A petrol bowser was a vehicle used for fuelling aircraft, most commonly at their dispersals around the station. In the Second World War the most common petrol bowser on Bomber Command stations was the AEC Matador Type A. This was a 6-wheeled version of a standard army truck converted for refuelling purposes. It had fuelling pumps and a capacity of 2,500 imperial gallons (11,365 litres).

bomb trolley
Used for: trolley

Bomb trolleys were specialised wheeled trailers that could be towed by tractors either individually or in trains. They were used to transport bombs from the bomb dump to individual aircraft at their dispersals. There were a number of standard designs depending on maximum weight limits: type A up to 500 lb (227 kgs), type B up to 2000 lb (907 kgs), type C up to 6,000 lb (2721 kgs) and type F up to 8,000 lb (3628 kgs). Type D carried a single 4,000 lb (1814 kgs) bomb.

control caravan
Used for: control van, control trailer

Control caravans on Royal Air Force stations are mobile units located at the end of the runway within which controllers act as the final check for departing or landing aircraft. On Bomber Command stations control was by Aldis lamp or Very flares to avoid breaking radio silence. Control caravans could be located on the back of a truck or as a towed trailer. Station personnel would often gather at the control caravan to wave off crews departing on operations.

Used for: tug

Tractors, also known as tugs, were used for a number of tasks on Bomber Command stations, notably for towing aircraft and trains of bomb trolleys from the bomb dump to the dispersals. One of the most common tractors used was the David Brown VIG 1 tractor which weighed nearly 4 tons (3630 kgs). Other types used included Fordson tractors.

Used for: landing strip, RWY

Pre-war Bomber Command stations had grass runways but with the advent of larger and heavier aircraft most were converted to have concrete runways as required by the post-November 1941 Class A standard for all new bomber stations. Bomber Command stations had a main runway 2,000 yards (1829 m) in length and two subsidiary runways each 1,400 yards (1280 m) in length. Each runway was 50 yards (46 m) wide. The three runways were laid out in an ‘A’ pattern. The runways were connected by the perimeter track.

station headquarters
Used for: SH

The station headquarters on a pre-war expansion period Bomber Command station was often located in a prominent position with clear access to the main station entrance. It was the administration centre of the station as well as containing the offices of senior officers and the briefing room. Also within the station headquarters complex, or close by, was the Operations Room.

Used for: taxiway, taxy way

Taxiways were concrete or tarmac tracks that connected the runways, perimeter track, dispersals and hangar areas of a standard Class A Bomber Command station. Taxiway and perimeter track are sometimes used synonymously.

technical building

On a Bomber Command station the technical buildings were located immediately behind the hangars in an area known as the technical site. Technical buildings housed specialist trades, workshops and stores needed to support aircraft operations and repairs, station vehicles, station services and instruction of personnel.