RAF Bovingdon – The Hour that Never Was!

During the 1960s, a cult TV series hit the British Screens – ‘The Avengers’ starring  Patrick Macnee (as John Steed), and Diana Rigg (as Emma Peel).

In episode 9 of the fourth series, “The Hour That Never Was” the two characters go to an old airbase, the fictitious RAF Hamelin home to (also fictitious) 472 Squadron, where Steed had been invited to a party before the base was officially closed.

But following an accident in their car, Steed and Mrs. Peel, find things are not what they seem and so begins the investigation into what has happened.

The episode was filmed on location at the former RAF Bovingdon between the 5th July and 20th July 1965 before the site was officially closed in 1972.

The film designer used Bovingdon to cleverly achieve the illusion of abandonment, an aim successfully done through filming in the old original wartime buildings. They even manage to include a shot where Steed climbs inside a D.H. Mosquito!

Bovingdon was initially designed as a bomber airfield for the RAF, but was quickly passed over to the USAAF. Sadly it never became a true operational airbase primarily due to the three short runways. However, the 92nd BG, the only operational unit to be stationed here, are reported to have taken part in a small number of raids in both September and October 1942, before departing to Alconbury in January 1943. Bovingdon then became a training centre for bomber crews as the 11th Combat Crew Replacement Centre, training the majority of US crewmen after their arrival in the UK. It also trained and hosted a number of film stars (including Clarke Gable and James Stewart) along with reporters who were to fly over occupied Europe for reporting and making propaganda films.

As a support station for the Eighth Air Force Headquarters and the Air Technical Section, it would also see a range of aircraft types based here, the most noteworthy being General Eisenhower’s own personal B-17 stored in one of the four T2 hangars that stood on the base.

Bovingdon, now a prison, is also noted for being the location for “633 Squadron” as the fictional base RAF Sutton Craddock also with its D. H. Mosquitoes, and with “The War Lover” with Steve McQueen. Other films include: “Mosquito Squadron“, “The Battle of Britain“, and the James Bond film “The Man With the Golden Gun“.

Bovingdon has a remarkable and highly significant history and like so many others has earned its place in history.

A ‘You Tube’ version of “The Hour That Never Was” is not the best quality film, but it does give you good views of the airfield and the hangars before the airfield was closed for good.

My thanks go to fellow blogger and reader John Knifton  for the links!

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15 thoughts on “RAF Bovingdon – The Hour that Never Was!

  1. Alternatively, ‘The Airbase That Was And Was And Was…’ Interestingly, most of Bovingdon’s movie appearances are available on YouTube – including ‘633 Squadron’, ‘Mosquito Squadron’, ‘The War Lover’, and ‘The Battle of Britain’ – so no one’s getting any work done this week.

    And, eat your hearts out, ‘The Avengers’ still appears on Saturday morning TV in Australia, so we can continue to admire Diana Rigg’s thespian charms.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a pity that the fuzzy Youtube isn’t the same quality as this really interesting post. I bought quite a few ancient TV boxsets about a year ago and the Avengers is excellent, along with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Man from Uncle. And the Adam West Batman…well, Holy Superbness!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What I find interesting about your trails Andy, is that a lot of RAF sites become USAAF sites. I’m trying to work out how the RAF and USAAF decided who had what airfield. Probably a stupid question, but I have noticed that in the trails that I have followed, the USAAF have taken over RAF airfields. How did the interaction with the USAAF and Bomber Command work?

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s an interesting question Rich. I think at the outbreak of war the British government needed to expand to accommodate the needed increase in fighter and bomber numbers they were going to need. When the US got involved they would also need places to put their aircraft. Bombers obviously needed much larger sites and whilst some were just handed over many were built by US engineering units. How the actual decision was made as to which places ‘went over’ I don’t actually know! I think bomber bases were first and many of these were already built for the RAF. E.G. Attlebridge, It’ll be an ongoing investigation I suspect!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I clearly remember that series! Every woman wanted her man to behave like John Steed and every man wanted Emma Peel!! I enjoyed it when they blended the history with the current (at the time) events.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. RAF Bovingdon may only have had a brief operational career, but wow! What a film and TV career it had! The Avengers, A Bond movie, the Battle of Britain – some scenes I assume? Were some shot at Duxford? and some great stars too; Patrick Macnee, Diana Rigg, Clarke Gable and James Stewart and Steve McQueen. What a list! Thanks for such an interesting post Andy!

    Liked by 2 people

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