RAF Little Rissington is a RAF Station in Gloucestershire, England. It was once home to the Central Flying School, the Red Pelicans and the Red Arrows.
Built during the 1930s, RAF Little Rissington was opened in 1938 and was finally closed in 1994. The married-quarters (now known as Upper Rissington) and main technical site were both sold in 1996 but the airfield has been retained by the Ministry of Defence and remains active along with some of the southern technical sites, under the operational control of HQAC at RAFC Cranwell.
RAF Little Rissington is now home to 637 Volunteer Gliding Squadron who provide basic flying training for the Combined Cadet Force and Air Training Corps cadets. The airfield is also used by the forces as an emergency landing strip, a training area and a parachute training area.
From the beginning and into War:
During the build-up to WWII, the then Air Ministry constructed many major airfields across the UK and RAF Little Rissington was one of these airfields. RAF Station Little Rissington (known to all as Little Rissi) opened mid 1938, comprising the domestic site and a grass airstrip. During 1942, three asphalt runways were laid. Extra land was added to accommodate Sites A to E. In 1944 the main runway extended, and runways 09/27 and 14/32 were extended easterly and south-easterly respectively.
Throughout the war RAF Little Rissington accommodated No.6 Service Flying Training School and No.8 Maintenance Unit. Hundreds of aircraft were parked in its dispersal areas.
In spring 1946 the RAF Central Flying School moved to Little Rissington. The airfield also became the home to the RAF’s aerobatics teams which included the Red Pelicans and later the Red Arrows. The airfield was expanded during this period, and a new fire station and control tower were built.
The Army moved in in 1977 until 1979 renaming the place Imjin Barracks (click here for Wikipedia Link for brief notes about Imjin Barracks’ history at Rissi)
After RAF Central Flying School’s departure to RAF Valley, the airfield was used by the Army, and with the arrival of the Royal Irish Rangers Little Rissington became “Imjin Barracks”. New “owners” move in in 1981 through 1993 With the arrival of the United States Air Force in Europe, Little Rissington became the largest military contingency hospital in Europe. The aerodrome was cleared for C-130 Hercules and the huge C5 Galaxies aircraft. During the first Gulf War, Little Rissington was on its highest readiness state as it made ready for casualties. The USAF left Little Rissington in 1993 and it was finally handed back to the Royal Air Force.Raf Little Rissington
Sadly and inevitably Little Rissi was identified as surplus to requirements by the then Conservative Government and the entire site was put up for sale. The bulk of the station were eventually sold to a property developer which saw the development to what is there today: a business park.
Life in the Old Dog Yet . .
Following a recent MoD Review, the planned disposal of the remaining parts of RAF Little Rissington was halted, so the future of the base was miraculously secured. Some of the remaining original buildings received minor upgrades (slightly more than a jankers lick of paint). By the end of 2006, an civilian aircraft maintenance firm called ‘Devonair’ moved in under an agreement with the MoD.
So today, RAF Little Rissington is on the map again and is again an active base for flying training, and aircraft maintenance. With cuts here there and everywhere happening our beloved RAF Little Rissington is steadily becoming more active for military flying and ground training. Remarkably quite a lot of the original station infrastructure remains still almost untouched, though sadly the control tower and several hangars have been knocked down.
RAF Little Rissington has now been guaranteed a Core RAF Site up to 2030. While nothing has yet been confirmed, RAF Little Rissington may well act as a Satellite base to RAF Brize Norton (12 miles away) supporting Hercules training and maintenance. It may also fit the role as satellite base to RAF Benson, as a diversion landing for helicopter training, and may also provide relief storage facilities for RAF Lyneham.
If after reading through the website you would like to add your name to our members list then please fill in a ‘feedback’ form stating when and where you were at Rissi
This website is not only about the history of RAF Little Rissington but is also about the men and women who were stationed there.
RAF Little Rissington was situation just outside Bourton-on-the-Water perched at the top of the hill it was 730ft above sea level. It was the home of various aerobatic teams, for example, The Meteorites, Sparrows, Pelicans, Skylarks, Red Arrows and The vintage Pair.
Our aim is to bring together anyone who was stationed at Little Rissington whether it be forces personnel or civilian so that they can renew ‘old friendships’.
If you have any photographs of Little Rissington then please feel free to get in touch and we will put them on the website, why not put words to the photographs. Why not get your ‘little grey cells’ working and put your memories down on paper and pass them on to us.
Why the Website?
It all started on January 2002 when with the help of Friends Reunited 8 ex WRAF’s decided to meet up again after 30 odd years. We arranged to meet at the Union Jack Club in London. The friendship that we struck up at Little Rissington was still there, non-stop talking reliving old memories. It was such a great occasion that we decided to meet up again the following year and try to trace more of our colleagues so that they to could experience what we had.
I set about the task of searching various ‘forces’ related websites and managed to locate all of the girls that were on our floor in the WRAF Block, and found many more from other floors. As a number of the girls had married airmen from Little Rissington we opened the invite to all. From then the reunions have gone from strength to strength. At one of the reunions I met up with Eddie (Matt) Dillon, he worked in MT, he told me that after leaving the RAF he went into Web Design**, so me being me had the cheek to ask him to help set up ours and that is how all this started.
Sunday breakfast, morning coffee in the lounge and our departures. Friday and Saturday evenings I could not help but notice the old friendliness, the chatter, and the laughter rang out; it gave me an enormous amount of pleasure to see everyone so happy and pleasing to receive the thanks for the occasion. The overwhelming feedback was ‘lets do it again next year’ so the date was set.
September 2004: This time we hired a function room at the UJ club, found more ex Rissi personnel and once again had a very enjoyable evening.
RAF Little Rissington September 2005: Just returned back after yet another fantastic weekend. Hired a larger function room this time as found even more who wanted to attend, and once again the feedback was ‘when is the next one’. So we have decided that the reunion for 2006 will be Saturday 23 September.
If after looking through our website you know some of the names listed or were stationed at Rissington whether it be on detachment with the Red Arrows or Red Pelicans then please free to get in touch, if you would like to attend the next reunion then e-mail, you do not have to spend the whole weekend in London, just come for the Saturday night and stop over in the UJ Club.
A few words about the Skylarks by Pete Newbury
I was at Little Rissington from 1967 to 1971, I worked most of the time asGround Crew at the far end of the hangers at 2HP.
We looked after the chipmunks and the varsities and I think we had fun whilst doing so. In the summer months volunteers were asked for to join the Skylarks, an aerobatic formation team of four chipmunks, to Ground Crew for them at displays, usually in the UK.
Raf Little Rissington
On one occasion we went to a display in Germany,it was a long six hours or so flying time, with two stops for refuelling, sitting in the back on a parachute was certainly a bum numbing experience. The colour photo of the two shows the skylarks flying over the hover terminal at Dover, we had just left RAF Manston before heading over the Channel. The other photo is more local to Rissi, taken on the way to a display at the Grand Prix at Silverstone. If anyone remembers anything about these displays, or others, or indeed any other moments at 2HP please write in about them to the forum, I’m sure there are a lot of memories out there that I have forgotten about, so let us know.
** note from Matt:
Yes, I ended up in the web business, but after a ton of jobs from car sales to lease brokerage 🙂