Site of RAF Llandow airfield

theme page link buttonSite of RAF Llandow airfield

Llandow Circuit and caravan park occupy the southern part of the former RAF Llandow airfield, opened in 1937 with grass runways. In 1940 a storage unit was set up here, used for Lancaster bombers, Supermarine Spitfires and many other types. Hard runways and new hangars were installed.

The RAF’s 53 Operational Training Unit arrived at Llandow in 1941. Many of its trainee pilots were from other countries. They included Ivan Raymond Trafford of the Royal Canadian Airforce. He died, aged 20, in November 1941 when his Spitfire crashed on Caerphilly Mountain.

RAF Llandow was bombed in 1940 A second attack, in 1941, caused much damage to buildings and injured 17 people.

To ease pressure on RAF Llandow’s runways, RAF Rhoose opened in 1942. After the war, hundreds of surplus aircraft were sent to Llandow. Many were scrapped. See the Footnotes below for more about RAF Llandow.

In March 1945 (before the war had ended) Glamorgan County Council received proposals for an international airport at Llandow which were not taken up at the time. However, the airfield was later used for civilian flights. In March 1950 an Avro plane approached Llandow too low as it carried passengers home from an Ireland v Wales rugby match in Dublin. The plane crashed, killing 75 passengers and five crew. Only three passengers survived.

In 1952 civil aviation moved to the former RAF Rhoose, now Cardiff Airport. The last RAF squadrons left in 1957 and the site was subsequently redeveloped. Airfield buildings, including the control tower, were adapted for new uses.

Enterprising farmer Jack Evans bought some of the land. Helped by the South Wales Automobile Club, he created a racing circuit, 1.5km (one mile) long, partly using sections of the old runways. Crowds of up to 4,000 people flocked to car and motorbike races here. Roger Clark and Andy Rouse were among the talented new drivers who raced here in the early years.

As the ageing surfaces deteriorated, stock car racing became more common at the circuit, along with races on grass tracks. The circuit was reconfigured in the 1980s and subsequently further improved. In 2001 it was again licensed as a sprint facility by the Motor Sport Association. The current circuit is 1.45km long and can be hired by clubs or individuals. Anyone from 12 years upwards can book a driver experience session with instructors in various vehicles, including articulated lorries!

With thanks to aviation historian Phillip Jones

Postcode: CF71 7PB    View Location Map

Website of Llandow Circuit

Footnotes: More about the RAF at Llandow

The first flying unit to use Llandow was No 53 OTU. It arrived in June and July 1941 from RAF Heston, and moved to Kirton in Lindsey in May 1943.

The next unit at Llandow was formed here in July 1942. This was No 3 Overseas Aircraft Preparation Unit, which prepared aircraft for onward travel and foreign service. It was redesignated as No 3 Aircraft Preparation Unit in July 1944. In August 1945 it moved to Devon but its work was continued by No 38 Maintenance Unit until the closure of Llandow.

Transport Command’s central night vision training school was formed at Llandow in April 1944. At the war’s end, it trained civilian crews in collaboration with BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) to compete with the USA. It moved on in July 1945.

By 1946 some 800 or 900 surplus aircraft were laid up at Llandow awaiting scrapping.

In August 1947 the Auxiliary Air Force’s No 614 Squadron re-formed at Llandow as a fighter squadron. The AuxAF now had the Royal prefix. It exchanged Spitfires for Vampire jet aircraft in 1950.

From July 1949 to March 1957, a flight of RAF No 663 Squadron used Llandow, flying Auster AOP6 aircraft. Its work was to provide air observation in cooperation with the Army.

A new unit formed at Llandow in August 1951: the Civilian Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit. Such units were formed to replace the military units that had towed targets for the Anti-Aircraft Gunnery Schools. Many of the pilots were ex-RAF.

RAF Llandow closed with the departure of 614 and 663 Squadrons.

In 1988 a memorial was unveiled on the B4270 road that runs north-south through the airfield (formerly the eastern perimeter track) in honour of those who flew from Llandow airfield between 1941 and 1957.