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Royal Marines Base Chivenor
Cap Badge of the Royal Marines
Airport type Military
Operator Royal Marines


Location Braunton
Commander Lt Colonel Bob Baxendale RM


Elevation AMSL 27 ft / 8 m
Coordinates 51°05′14″N 004°09′01″W / 51.08722°N 4.15028°W / 51.08722; -4.15028Coordinates: 51°05′14″N 004°09′01″W / 51.08722°N 4.15028°W / 51.08722; -4.15028
Devon UK location map<div style="position: absolute; top: Expression error: Missing operand for *.%; left: 253.8%; height: 0; width: 0; margin: 0; padding: 0;">
Airplane silhouette.svg
Location in Devon
Direction Length Surface
m ft
10/28 1,833 6,014 Asphalt
Source: World Aero Data[1]

Royal Marines Base Chivenor (ICAO: EGDC) is a British military base used primarily by 3 Commando Brigade. It is situated on the northern shore of the River Taw estuary, adjacent to the South West Coast Path, on the north coast of Devon, England. The nearest towns are Barnstaple and Braunton.

Originally a civil airfield opened in the 1930s, the site was taken over by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in May 1940 for use as a Coastal Command Station, and was known as RAF Chivenor. After World War II, the station was largely used for training, particularly weapons training. During the 1950s and 1960s, No. 229 Operational Conversion Unit (229 OCU) used Hawker Hunter aircraft for training. In 1974 the station was left on "care and maintenance", though No. 624 Volunteer Gliding Squadron (624 VGS) continued to fly from there. The RAF returned, forming 2 Tactical Weapons Unit (2 TWU), flying BAE Hawks, from 1979. In 1994, 2 TWU left Chivenor, merging with No. 4 Flying Training School RAF (4 FTS) at RAF Valley, and the airfield was handed over to the RM. The Marines have an existing equipment testing base at Arromanches Camp, in Instow, located across the Taw Estuary and approximately two miles from Chivenor.

No. 22 Squadron RAF (22 Sqn) operated a Search and Rescue flight at Chivenor from 1956, flying Westland Whirlwind, Westland Wessex and Westland Sea King Helicopters. In a spending review that was announced over the summer of 2004, the presence of 22 Squadron at Chivenor was under review. After the flooding at Boscastle, this threat was rescinded. "A" flight of 22 Squadron was disbanded in October 2015, with the Search and Rescue role being assumed by HM Coastguard.


The beginning of RAF ChivenorEdit

In February 1940 the Air Ministry constructed an aerodrome on the site of Chivenor farm near a civilian airfield. RAF Chivenor opened on 25 October 1940 within No. 17 Group, Coastal Command.[2] There were two units based there initially, No. 3 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit RAF[3] and No. 252 Squadron RAF, both operating Bristol Beaufighters, Bristol Blenheims and Bristol Beauforts.[4]


From 1942 onward the role of Chivenor was changed from training to anti-submarine patrolling. From 1942 to 1943 the squadron flew the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, then in 1943 the Chivenor squadron converted the Vickers Wellington equipped with the ASV radar and Leigh lights.

November 1941 to September 1943
No. 51 Squadron RAF: (51 Sqn) Whitleys[5]
No. 77 Squadron RAF: (77 Sqn) Whitleys / Wellingtons[6]
No. 502 Squadron RAF: (502 Sqn) Whitleys / Wellingtons[7]
No. 1417 (Leigh Light Trials) Flight: (1417 Flt) Wellington Leigh light training and development unit[8]
July 1942 to September 1943
No. 235 Squadron RAF: (235 Sqn) Beaufighters[9]
No. 236 Squadron RAF: (236 Sqn) Beaufighters[10]
No. 248 Squadron RAF: (248 Sqn) Beaufighters[11]
September 1943 to the end of the war
No. 172 Squadron RAF: (172 Sqn) Wellingtons[8]
No. 407 (Demon) Squadron RAF: (407 Sqn) Wellingtons[12]
No. 612 (County of Aberdeen) Squadron RAF: (612 Sqn) Wellingtons[13]
No. 304 Polish Bomber Squadron: (304 Sqn) Wellingtons[14]
Plan for post war 1945
No. 14 Squadron RAF (14 Sqn)[15]
No. 36 Squadron RAF (36 Sqn)[16]

In November 1941 the structure of the base changed with three new squadrons 51, 77 and 502 flying a mixture of Whitleys and Wellingtons, and one new flight, 1417, that was used to training crews on the Leigh light and radar Wellingtons. In July 1942 three squadrons of Beaufighter were located at Chivenor to offer long range protection in the Bay of Biscay. By September 1943 all of the Whitleys had been taken out of active service at Chivenor, and four squadrons of Wellingtons, 172, 407, 612 and 304, were located at the base. No 172 was the Wellington Training Squadron, taking over from 1417 Flight. The base had personnel from Canada, Poland and the UK. The Plan for the post war, was for Chivenor to become a full-time anti-submarine wing with two squadron's 14 and 36 Squadron.[15][16]


After the Second World War ended, the future of the station was not certain. In 1946 a group of miscellaneous meteorological and anti-aircraft units moved to Chivenor, including Halifaxes of Nos 517 and 521 Squadrons which flew 10-hour sorties to collect weather information. At the same time the station played host to No 248 Squadron (Mosquitos), No 254 Squadron (Beaufighters), and the Spitfires and Martinets of No 691 Squadron, Army Air Corps. In October 1946, No. 11 Group RAF Fighter Command took command of the station with No.203 Advanced Flying School.[17] This lasted until July 1949 when the station was transferred to 5 and 7 Squadrons, Army Air Corps and No 1 Overseas Ferry Unit. This latter unit had the duties to ferry Meteors, Vampires and Mosquitoes to the Middle East and the Far East.[18]


In February 1950 the Chivenor station flight was formed with Tiger Moths. It was at this time that post-war civilian flying restarted, with Wrafton flying club later changing its name to the Puffin flying club. At this time the RAF was operating as No. 229 Operational Conversion Unit which flew Vampires and Meteors. Then in mid 1955 the first of the Hunter operational conversion courses was started: flying was still mainly on the Vampire FB5 with approximately 20 hrs on the Hunter F1 before pilots were sent to their operational squadrons. During the next 2 years the Vampires were phased out and the course became all Hunter once the Hunter T7, a two-seater trainer version, became available. There were 2 squadrons called simply 1 and 2, each capable of training a student from conversion to operational and weaponry training. Operational Units were 229 OCU, consisting of 2 squadrons and Chivenor Station Flight.[19]


Hawker Hunter FR.10 XE626 9 229 OCU CHIV 07.08.71 edited-2

Hawker Hunter FR.10 of 79 Squadron, 229 OCU, based at RAF Chivenor, in 1971

In May 1957 the RAF exercise 'Vigilant' changed Chivenor's Squadrons' status. They assumed a wartime reserve role and were renumbered as Nos 145 and 234 Squadrons. The squadrons were now flying the Hunter F4 and T7 until the F4 was replaced by the F6. The two squadrons were numbered and then renumbered until they became 63 (Reserve) and 79 (Reserve) Squadrons, tasked with training RAF fighter pilots. Hunter FR.10 fighter reconnaissance aircraft were also flown by 229 OCU in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In March 1967 the oil tanker Torrey Canyon ran aground on Seven Stones Reef near Lands End, spilling oil. For three days, Hunters from Chivenor and other bases fired training rockets at the ship to hole it below the waterline, before bombing it with high explosive and napalm in an unsuccessful effort to burn off the oil. [20] The final Hunter unit based at Chivenor was the Singapore Operational Training Flight. In 1974, 229 OCU was transferred to RAF Brawdy and the station was put into a rebuilding programme. It was in June 1957 that a new chapter in Chivenor's story started with the arrival of 'E' Flight 275 Squadron with their Sycamore HR14s on search and rescue duties. In 1958 'E' Flight changed to 'A' Flight 22 Squadron, which has over 50 years of twenty-four-hour search and rescue experience operating from Chivenor.[21]

Hawks at RAF ChivenorEdit

In 1979 the RAF rebuilding programme ended and the station was reactivated, hosting 2 TWU, flying BAe Hawk with No. 63 Squadron RAF (63(R))[22] and No. 151 Squadron RAF (151(R)) squadrons, training fast jet pilots and navigators.[23] In 1992, the government's options for change defence review resulted in the structure of the station changing with 2 TWU being re-designated as No. 7 Flying Training School RAF (7 FTS), the squadrons changing identities from 63(R) and 151(R) to No. 19 Squadron RAF (19(R))[24] and No. 92 Squadron RAF (92(R)).[25] 7 FTS operated in conjunction with No. 4 Flying Training School RAF (4 FTS) at RAF Valley, as the so-called Mirror Image Training Course which lasted for three years until 1995 when the Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced that RAF Chivenor would close, which it did on 1 October 1995.[26]


A Better Defence Estate, published in November 2016, indicates that the Ministry of Defence will dispose of the RMB Chivenor by 2027.[27] However in March 2017, the then Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon stated that no final decision had been taken.[28]

Operational UnitsEdit


No. 63(R) Squadron RAF[22]
No. 151(R) Squadron RAF[23]


No. 19(R) Squadron RAF[24]
No. 92(R) Squadron RAF[25]

A new beginning as RMB ChivenorEdit

From 1 October 1995 onwards, the Royal Marines took control of the base, it being renamed Royal Marines Base Chivenor (RMB Chivenor) and is home to the Commando Logistics Regiment, Royal Marines[29] and 24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers.[30]

The airfield is still an operational airfield used by the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and RAF as well as No. 624 Volunteer Gliding Squadron RAF (624 VGS) operating Grob Vigilant T1 motor gliders, providing flights for the Air Training Corps and Combined Cadet Force.[31]

Operational unitsEdit

Commando Logistic Regiment[29]
HQ Squadron
Equipment Support Squadron
Logistic Support Squadron
Medical Squadron
Landing Force Support Squadron
Logistic Task Group RM

Sea King helicopter of 22 Squadron

24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers[30]
54 HQ Squadron
59 Field Squadron
56 Field Squadron
24 REME Workshop

Lodger UnitsEdit

Defence Support Group[32]
No. 624 Volunteer Gliding Squadron[33]

Operational Units RoleEdit

Commando Logistic RegimentEdit

The Commando Logistic Regiment's role is to ensure the re-supply of ammunition, water, fuel and food, known as "combat supplies" to the ground forces, Also to provide first line medical care to any service person or civilian, It also provided specialist services to sustain the brigade's operation.[29]

24 Commando Regiment Royal EngineersEdit

Formed in April 2008, 24 Commando Engineer Regiment is a unit of the British Army's Royal Engineers which supports 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines. Expeditionary in nature, this elite fighting force is optimised as an Amphibious formation, with the unique ability to rapidly deploy around the World and project force without reliance on ports or airfields.[30]

Supacat Jackal

A Jackal

RMB Chivenor in the mediaEdit

On 21 November 2008 the BBC Top Gear series filmed segments near to Chivenor. In the segments the presenter Jeremy Clarkson takes part in a mock battle on the beach at Instow with around 30 marines from Chivenor and elsewhere.[34]

The Sea Kings from 22 squadron A-Flight at Chivenor took a starring role in Episode 6 of the National Geographic Channel documentary television series Sea Patrol UK, with B-Flight of 22 Squadron at AAC Wattisham alongside Royal Navy and Coastguard units.[35]

The 2011 BBC television series The Choir: Military Wives featured Chivenor. The programme documented choirmaster Gareth Malone forming a choir of wives and partners of Chivenor personnel deployed on active service in the Afghanistan War. In forming a choir, Malone aimed to raise the women's morale and raise their profile in the public perception.[36] The song Wherever You Are was recorded by the Military Wives Choir and was released as a single in December 2011, with proceeds going to the Royal British Legion and SSAFA Forces Help.[37]


  1. Airport information for EGDC at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.
  2. "RMB Chivenor". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  3. "No 3 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  4. C.G.Jefford (1988). RAF Squadrons. UK Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-85310-053-6. 
  5. "No. 51 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  6. "No. 77 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  7. "No. 502 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "No. 172 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  9. "No. 235 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  10. "No. 236 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  11. "No. 248 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  12. "No. 407 (Demon) Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force". Wartime Memories Project. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  13. "No. 612 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  14. "No. 304 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 "No. 14 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 "No. 36 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  17. "Supermarine Spitfire". RAF Museum. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  18. "Better Than Working - A Life Of Service". Scottish Saltire. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  19. "No. 229 OCU, Chivenor". National Archives. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  20. BBC Radio 4 - Saturday Live - Tim Farrow, 8 May 2010
  21. "No. 22 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 "No. 63 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 "No. 151 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 "No. 19 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 "No. 92 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  26. "RAF Chivenor's fascinating past unearthed in new book". Plymouth Herald. 5 September 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  27. "A Better Defence Estate". Ministry of Defence. 7 November 2016. p. 15. 
  28. Smart, Matt (17 March 2017). "Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon: ‘No final decisions’ on RMB Chivenor closure" (in en). North Devon Gazette. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 "Commando Logistic Regiment". Royal Navy. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 "24 Commando Engineer Regiment". British Army. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  31. "624 Volunteer Gliding Squadron". 
  32. "Defence Support Group". They work for you. 8 April 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  33. "722 Squadron ATC". 
  34. "Top Gear takes on Marines - in a Fiesta". Western Morning News. 24 November 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  35. "Sea Patrol UK". TV Buzer. Retrieved 20 November 2016. 
  36. "The Choir III: Military Wives". Gareth Malone official website. Retrieved 7 December 2011. 
  37. "Military Wives: Wherever You Are". Gareth Malone official website. Archived from the original on 27 April 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2011. 

External linksEdit

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