Little Rissington - A History

RAF Little Rissington has stood in the English county of Gloucestershire since the 1930s and throughout this time it has served as home to the world famous Red Arrows and Red Pelicans as well as the Central Flying School.

While RAF Little Rissington was closed in 1994, the airfield continues to be used by the MoD and various other associated sites are currently used by the HQAC and RAFC Cranwell. It is also home to the 637 Volunteer Gliding Squadron who provide basic training for the Combined Cadet Force and Air Training Corps cadets and continues being used as an emergency landing strip, training area and is used for parachute training.

As World War 2 nears

All over the UK airfields were constructed as World War 2 loomed and Little Rissington was amongst their number. Little Rissi, as it was affectionately known, began operating in 1938 just on the eve of the war, and thereafter the site underwent various stages of expansion during the war years with asphalt runways being laid which went through further developments later.

During the war RAF Little Rissington was home to No.6 Service Flying School and No.8 Maintenance Unit.

Post WW2 - Red Arrows and Red Pelicans

After the war in 1946 the Central Flying School moved to Little Rissington and it was during these post war years that the Red Pelicans and Red Arrows began using the expanding aerodrome.

Further changes

Between 1977 and 1979 Little Rissington became home to the army and was renamed Imjim Barracks when the Royal Irish Rangers arrived. Then with the arrival of the United States Air Force in Europe, the site became Europe's largest military contingency hospital that was on standby in the case of a major conflict, which was at its highest state of readiness during the first Gulf War. The Americans left in 1993 and was finally given back to the RAF and became RAF Little Rissington once more.

Close to closure

It looked as if Little Rissingon's account were closed in recent times when the Conservative Government put the whole site up for sale resulting in architects converting much of this historical aerodrome and associated buildings being transformed into a business park.

A change of heart

Thankfully a recent MoD review resulted in the preservation of the remaining parts of RAF Little Rissington much of which underwent refurbishment. Sadly, though, it was too late for the control tower and several hangars which were demolished.

Upon agreement with the MoD a civilian aircraft maintenance firm moved in in 2006 and so Little Rissington's distinguished association with aircraft continues, and so it seems it will continue to do so, at least until 2030. The site has been granted a Core RAF Site status up to this time and it may well serve as a satellite base for other RAF bases scattered around the district.

Whatever the future of RAF Little Rissington, it will continue to be remembered as having played a distinguished role in the history of British aviation.