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USAAF Station AAF-149
|RAF Birch during World War II, September 1944. The fully completed airfield was essentially never used by the Allies.|
|IATA: none – ICAO: none|
|Operator||United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
|Elevation AMSL||138 ft / 42 m|
Royal Air Force Station Birch or more simply RAF Birch is a former Royal Air Force station in Essex, England. The airfield is located 2 mi (3.2 km) northeast of Tiptree; about 43 mi (69 km) northeast of London
Opened in 1942 it was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces. During the war, it was used primarily as a reserve transport airfield. It was closed after the war, in late 1945.
Today, the remains of the airfield are located on private property and used as agricultural fields.
Birch Airfield was allocated in August 1942 to the United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force for development into a heavy bomber airfield but construction work did not get under way until well into 1943. In October 1943 the station was transferred to the Ninth Air Force.
Birch was constructed by the 846th Engineer Battalion, U.S. Army, and it was the last of the UK airfields to be completed by a unit of the U.S. Army. The airfield was built to the Class A airfield standard, the main feature of which was a set of three converging runways each containing a concrete runway for takeoffs and landings, optimally placed at 60° angles to each other in a triangular pattern. The main runway (08/26) being 6,000 ft (1,800 m), and two secondaries (02/20, 14/32) of 4,200 ft (1,300 m) each. There were 50 hard standings of the loop type connecting to an enclosing perimeter track, of a width of 50 ft (15 m).
The ground support station was constructed largely of Nissen huts of various sizes. The support station was where the group and ground station commanders and squadron headquarters and orderly rooms were located. Also on the ground station were mess facilities; chapel; hospital; mission briefing and debriefing; armory and bombsite storage; life support; parachute rigging; supply warehouses; station and airfield security; motor pool and the other ground support functions necessary to support the air operations of the group. These facilities were connected by a network of single path support roads.
The technical site, connected to the ground station and airfield consisted of at least two T-2 type hangars and organisational, component and field maintenance shops along with the crew chiefs and other personnel necessary to keep the aircraft airworthy and to quickly repair light and moderate battle damage. Aircraft severely damaged in combat were sent to repair depots for major structural repair. The ammunition dump was located on the east side of the airfield, outside of the perimeter track surrounded by large dirt mounds and concrete storage pens for storing the aerial bombs and the other munitions required by the combat aircraft.
Domestic accommodation sites were constructed dispersed away from the airfield, but within a mile or so of the technical support site, also using clusters of Maycrete or Nissen huts. The huts were either connected, set up end-to-end or built singly and made of prefabricated corrugated iron with a door and two small windows at the front and back. They provided accommodation for 2,894 personnel, including communal and a sick quarters.
United States Army Air Forces use 
Birch was known as USAAF Station AAF-149 for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location. Its USAAF Station Code was "BR".
During the first week of April 1944 the personnel of the 410th Bombardment Group arrived from Lakeland AAF, Florida to an airfield that was still unfinished. The group's Douglas A-20 Havoc light bombers were still in transit by ship. After about two weeks, the personnel of the 410th were transferred to RAF Gosfield and Birch was returned to the construction crews.
By the end of May, Ninth Air Force had no requirement for Birch, and the airfield was transferred back to the Eighth Air Force for use by its 3d Bombardment Division as a reserve airfield. When construction was completed in June, no operational units were assigned to the facility, and throughout the balance of 1944 Birch only hosted a small USAAF station complement to handle the occasional exercise or provided an emergency haven for battle-damaged aircraft needing a place to land.
Royal Air Force use 
In March 1945, a large number of British Horsa gliders were moved to the airfield and the RAF 46 Group's 48, 233, and 437 squadrons of Dakotas arrived from RAF Blakehill Farm. At about 06:00 on 24 March, the Dakotas began taking off each towing a glider, a total of 60 aircraft and 60 gliders to take part in Operation Varsity, the airborne crossing of the Rhine.
Most of the aircraft returned to other airfields and No. 46 Group withdrew from the station after a few days.
Thereafter, RAF Birch was largely abandoned, with only a few RAF personnel assigned to the facility for the balance of the war. Birch was almost immediately placed on "care and maintenance" status by the RAF and was disposed of by the Air Ministry within a year after the end of the war.
Current use 
With the facility released from military control, the airfield was returned to agricultural use.
Today, most of the concreted areas have been removed for hardcore, leaving single tracked farm roads along the main runway, one secondary, and parts of the perimeter track. Blind Lane (a public road) now runs along the other secondary (02/20) its' original course having been taken when building the airfield. Some hardstanding is also used by Essex Council for garden waste composting, the main site being accessed via the main runway. A few loop hardstands remain intact off the remains of the single-tracked perimeter track along the north side of the airfield. However, other than these farm roads, there is little remaining of the wartime airfield that was never used, other than some ghostly disturbed areas in aerial photography of loop dispersal hardstands and the long since removed perimeter track.
See also 
- Freeman, Roger A. (1978) Airfields of the Eighth: Then and Now. After the Battle ISBN 0-900913-09-6
- Freeman, Roger A. (1991) The Mighty Eighth The Colour Record. Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-35708-1
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
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