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!