View Full Version : Friston

P Bellamy
03-06-2010, 20:14
1940s aerial view:


All the best,

Peter Kirk
03-06-2010, 22:30
Odd shaped airfield. Oven mit to my mind.

The NE-SW runway I have seen labelled as the emergency runway whilst the N-S was called the fighter one. Not sure if that is accurate though. Must try to find the source.

04-06-2010, 14:25
It is an odd shape but it's driven by the local topography. The bottom left of the photo is the top of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs. The landing strips were on the only sensibly level bits of ground in these parts. I guess it's a classic case of operational necessity above ideal location.


avion ancien
17-06-2010, 22:06
Odd shaped airfield. Oven mit to my mind.

Nooooooooooooo. Definitely whale shaped -or, at least, infant school drawing whale shaped. But on a serious note, can someone give the runway dimensions? Action Stations simply says that it was "a dog leg shaped piece of fairly level grassland with a maximum NE/SW landing run of 5,020 ft (1,532 m)". It seems that every inch (or centimetre) of that was required for some of its unplanned visitors - "lame duck" heavy bombers making for the first place, on your side of the channel, into which they could scrape on a wing and a prayer. I've heard tales of many a crippled bomber ringing the perimeter at Friston, having made it in but having no chance of leaving under its own steam, presumably awaiting a spot of TLC or, more likely, a visit from the nearest MU and a non-aerial future. I'd love to see photos of these at Friston - but I never have and, in all likelihood, never will.

19-06-2010, 07:28
Willis/Hollis say...
NE/SW was 1675 yds
N/S was 950 yds

19-06-2010, 07:44
There is a thumbnail photo here and you can definitely see the old airfield layout,being still in use at that time by Southdowns gliding club

http://www.lakesgc.co.uk/news0002/news0002.html#Reminiscences%20of%20an%20Ancient%20 Glider%20Pilot

Graham Holder
24-05-2011, 15:16
Tried to find your photo but the link appears broken.
Here are some of my images of Friston.
Hard standing with large mound around the sides. The farm building looks like a hangar at the base? Any ideas.

Half way up the mound with the Gayles sign. I believe Gayles was used as the Officers Mess.

Me next to one of several pillboxes with firing holes onto the airfield.

Track facing almost due west across the strip.

Airfield from the entrance to Gayles.

23-09-2012, 11:56
Nice pics, Graham. I wish I had seen them before we visited this former airfield this summer.

Here are some of mine.

Shows some kind of big hole. Could this be a bomb crater? There are several of those in this area.
https://picasaweb.google.com/102095246291222007093/UKAirfields?authkey=Gv1sRgCNW_gv6Ls7nhNw#579131988 2475125362

This just a bit south of where the two strips would have met. Photo taken to the east. Gayles can be seen here.
https://picasaweb.google.com/102095246291222007093/UKAirfields?authkey=Gv1sRgCNW_gv6Ls7nhNw#579131989 8182377394

Photo is just a bit further north where the two strips joined. Taken about south.
https://picasaweb.google.com/102095246291222007093/UKAirfields?authkey=Gv1sRgCNW_gv6Ls7nhNw#579131991 7710861698

We spoke to an elderly gentleman. He said that there were Polish pilots here in the war.

26-09-2012, 09:00
Shows some kind of big hole. Could this be a bomb crater? There are several of those in this area.

Probably dew ponds.

28-09-2012, 09:58
The NE-SW runway I have seen labelled as the emergency runway whilst the N-S was called the fighter one. Not sure if that is accurate though. Must try to find the source.
I note that SD161 (1942) has the shorter emergency runway as 200' wide. The longer 'fighter' strip was was 150' wide.

Night Landing Facilities are described as:
'Standard Flarepath Equipment - (Per Letter 11G/S. 1/11/Night Ops. 12.9.41)' I have no idea what that's all about.

26-08-2013, 08:17
Walking along on the s downs yesterday near Alfriston and saw the aerials on Beddingham Hill near Firle !
Were they used as W/T for Friston ?

26-08-2013, 08:32
Whilst gently googling about Friston...

From the excellent sussex history forum,one of the members posted all the ORB entries available,here is just one of the entries,another entry described landing 22 Dakotas...presumably also weather diversions,sometimes this small airfield must have been fairly full !

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=8&cad=rja&ved=0CGQQFjAH&url=http%3A%2F%2Fsussexhistoryforum.co.uk%2Findex. php%3Ftopic%3D686.0&ei=OQEbUq-FLMzY0QWo14DIBQ&usg=AFQjCNExB1c1K4FVCDtPlU8FcMv0o9IVMA&sig2=Waouq7KSygIYX6Ax6_dkCA

22nd September 1944.
Between the hours of 18.13 and 19.07, when practically every other drome was closed and our own cloud base was no more than 400 feet at the best, we homed and successfully landed twenty-one Mustangs, three Bostons, two Thunderbolts, ten Mitchells, in addition to our own Squadron in the middle of them.

Peter Kirk
07-10-2013, 09:32
Friston's Battle HQ, along with some MG pits were demolished by explosives in March 1949, according to 5134 Sqn ORB (Air 29/2424)

09-10-2013, 09:05
Hi all

Does anybody have a site plan for Friston thats shows the former location of the battle hq.
I know from above post that it`s been demolished but i need to add this one to my data base.

cheers mike

David Harvey
07-01-2015, 11:59
The National Trust are looking for volunteers to help with their Seven Sisters Archaeology Project (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wra-1356299407262/), part of which involves the Friston site:

"We will be undertaking field survey, geophysical surveys and systematic field walking to find out more about this area. As well as possible Iron Age and Roman field systems and settlement, Gayles Farm became the site of RAF Friston airfield during the Second World War, with a landing strip defensive positions and a radar station, as well as accommodating over 1,000 personnel."

Lynn Dollar Jr
31-08-2015, 16:08
Hello, in researching my Dad's service during WW II, I have come across this very interesting site.

I just discovered this morning, that my Dad bailed out of a B-17 near this airfield . He served as a ball turret gunner with the 447th BG, 711 SQ stationed at Rattlesden.

Dad told me about a mission , where they barely made it back across the Channel. He said to lighten the plane to get home, they unbolted the ball turret and dropped into the Channel. The crew bailed out, but the pilot made a crash landing and walked away.

Since Dad passed on in 1996 and I can no longer ask him, I began researching the mission on the net. I found the mission was 4 March, 1944 to Berlin and I found a little more detail at this site


I easily found Friston, Sussex, UK on Google Maps. But I've not found a thing on " Snap Hill Barn " and I did not understand why they were so far away from Rattlesden . And today, I discover, that there was an RAF Field at Friston that served as an emergency landing field for bombers.

And it all came together.

Now here , I can see pics of the airfield :) .

But what is " Snap Hill Barn " :)

P Bellamy
31-08-2015, 16:25
Snap Hill Barn was a farm on Snap Hill, now demolished and in the middle of a timber plantation.

It stood here, next to the surviving pond: https://goo.gl/maps/zZjJL

Peter Kirk
31-08-2015, 19:17
The farm is shown on this pre war map and if you zoom out the shape of the airfield site can clearly be seen.


Hopefully the link will work.

Lynn Dollar Jr
31-08-2015, 20:11
Yes, I can see the shape of the airfield.

I vaguely recall, Dad saying he landed in what we would call here in the States, a National Forest.

That would be north of Snap Hill Barn ?

Peter Kirk
31-08-2015, 20:51
I am not sure if it was a National Park during the war but I suspect the Friston Forest was run by the Forestry Commission. As I understand it the Forestry Commission set about planting woodland across the British Isles to replace areas deforested over the centuries and particularly after the First World War.

One oddity not that far from Friston is the Ashdown Forest (Winnie the Pooh country) which has hardly any trees. Most removed during the 16th century for shipbuilding and charcoal for the local (then) iron industry. I don't know why the forestry commission din't plant there.