The History of Flying at Old Sarum
The landscape around the airfield has been occupied since the Neolithic age with the site of Old Sarum, which rests on the Hill Top, being constructed in the Iron Age. The original town of Salisbury was founded by the Normans.
First World War Origins
Old Sarum was first identified as an airfield site in 1917 to fit with the Sir Hugh Tenchard, the Chief of Defense Staff, and his strategy of offensive deterrence which required fleets of bomber formation s stationed in key locations to provide the main instrument of conflict resolution in any future war.
However, initially it was to provide a training facility for the Royal Flying Corps, a tradition which continues today. It first opened in August 1917 and was known as Ford Farm, providing a station for 11 Training Squadron.
The hangars at Old Sarum were built in 1917, and have recently become Grade II listed.
Inter War Period
After the First World War, when many airfields were being disbanded, Old Sarum remained active and became the School of Army Cooperation, running courses for Army and Air Force staff, a role it continued to fulfill until the late 1930’s when it became a permanent station as part of the RAF’s expansion scheme.
Second World War Use
Despite the outbreak of World War II, Old Sarum remained relatively unchanged and continued to provide training facilities as well as a home to both 110 and 112 Royal Canadian Air Force Squadron. The first operational unit to be based at the airfield during the 2nd World War period was 225 RAF Squadron who arrived in June 1940 to patrol the South Coast to try and thwart any Enemy landings.
The facilities at Old Sarum were requisitioned in 1944 as part of the plans for the D-Day Landings and flying training was stopped as a consequence. However, the airfield played a key part in the D-Day preparations and landing itself, as nearly all RAF transport destined for France passed through and many were fitted out at the airfield to make them water proof.
Post World War II
In the after war period, Old Sarum returned to its previous function as a training facility and also became home to the Army Air Transport Training and Development Centre. As well as this, Old Sarum also became the base for several Helicopter Prototypes under use by the RAF.
Old Sarum ceased being an RAF base in 1971, although it was retained in use by the army until 1979.
Civilian Use to the Present Day
After the Army and RAF left Old Sarum, the airfield was acquired by a private company to design and build new aircraft. However, the airfield wasn’t issued with a CAA license until 1986 and the first civilian flying training was provided by the Wiltshire Aerospace Club. Training at Old Sarum in one guise or another, across a variety of aircraft, has continued ever since.