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CRANFIELD AND BOW BRICKHILL : The Author acknowledges the use of factual and written material in this site which has been obtained from a number of sources including the official websites of Bow Brickhill and Cranfield.

CRANFIELD is located about 6 miles east of Milton Keynes in west Bedfordshire. The village is built on a hill which offers good views of the surrounding farmland and local brickworks which have been a feature of this area for many decades.

The recorded history of Cranfield dates back to 918. It was then referred to as Cranfeldinga, and the name under-went many changes of spelling until the present day Cranfield. The name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon 'crane feld' - open country frequented by cranes.

In common with other places in the district, Cranfield was originally a Saxon settlement. In 918 Ailwin Niger (surnamed Swart) granted a manor to the monks of Ramsey Abbey, Huntingdonshire. It is almost certain that a church was built by the monks, and the manor continued in their care until 1539.

When the monasteries were dissolved during the reign of Henry VIII it reverted to the Crown. It is recorded in the Chartulary of Ramsey Abbey that Alwyn the Black, who died in 998, gave the manor to the Abbot and Convent of Ramsey. This grant of Cranfield and all its appurtenances was confirmed by Edward the Confessor in 1060 and by William I in 1078. At that time Cranfield had the second largest woodland in the county. The village was mentioned in the Domesday Book.

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In 1936, construction of an airfield at Cranfield commenced, as part of a general response to developments in Europe. This was one of a number in the Midlands and the Cotswolds. Every attempt was made to ensure these constructions did as little damage to the countryside as possible, although it was impossible to hide the giant steel and brick 'C' type hangers which are a feature of Cranfield to this day.

Cranfield RAF Station Headquarters opened on 1 June 1937, and the aerodrome on 1 July, under the control of No 1 (Bomber) Group. The following month it became the base of 62 and 68 squadrons and their Hawker Hind bi-planes. These were replaced by Blenheim 1's early the following year.

Major work took place during the winter of 1939-40 to replace its grass airstrip with three properly surfaced hard runways. These became the targets of enemy attacks in the late summer of 1940 during the Battle of Britain, which damaged the airfield and local villages.

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In August 1941, No 51 Operational Training Unit opened at the airfield, offering night fighter crews courses, mainly with Blenheims. By the summer of 1944, Cranfield provided a material for author Michael Bowyer. "As our Oxford R6350 circled," he wrote, "it was clear that Cranfield was an air enthusiast's paradise. Grouped on the south side were 100 Spitfires in varied hues and many forms. Scattered among them were 15 Typhoons and about 50 Mustang 111s, many conspicuously wearing 'invasion stripes'."

Several airmen stationed at Cranfield lost their lives in the war and some of these lie in Cranfield Churchyard. The first airman to be buried was P/O David Shine age 19 of No 62 Squadron. His Blenheim bomber crashed on 22 March 1939 near Kettering, Northamptonshire, Another grave at Cranfield is that of Sgt. Stanley John Newcombe of No 14 SFTS.He was the pilot of Master N7717 which crashed during night flying in August 1940.

At the end of the war in Europe, No 51 OTU was disbanded and by the end of June 1945, there were no aircraft left at the base. Later that year, however, the Empire Test Pilot's School transferred to Cranfield from Boscombe Down. The first ETPS course began there in January 1946, and the school served the post-war needs for test pilots in Britain and around the world in Cranfield until 1947 when it moved to Farnborough in Hampshire.

However, during 1945 'the decision had been taken to create a central postgraduate aeronautical school, which eventually was established at Cranfield in 1946 as the College of Aeronautics. Low and high speed wind tunnels were erected and facilities were provided for in-flight demonstration.

'Courses ranged widely over project definition, structures, aircraft propulsion and other associated aviation fields. In the late 1950s the College decided it must expand its work into other fields of advanced technology, paving the way for the UK’s only wholly postgraduate, research-intensive technological specialist institution of today.'

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