Duxford: Field Force motor transport storage shed


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Building 104, Imperial War Museum, Duxford Airfield, Duxford, Cambridge, CB22 4QR


© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2020. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1460626.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 23-Oct-2020 at 04:46:37.


Statutory Address:
Building 104, Imperial War Museum, Duxford Airfield, Duxford, Cambridge, CB22 4QR

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

South Cambridgeshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Field Force motor transport storage shed (Building 104), built in 1939 to designs by J H Binge of the Air Ministry's Directorate of Works and Buildings (drawing no. 3681/38).

Reasons for Designation

The Field Force motor transport storage shed (Building 104), built in 1939, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * for the high degree of survival of the exterior, and internal configuration of the former garage, which illustrate its crucial and historic war time function.

Historic interest: * as an integral component of Duxford Airfield one of the finest and best-preserved examples of a fighter base representative of the period up to 1945 in Britain; * for Duxford’s important association with the Battle of Britain and the American fighter support for the Eighth Air Force.

Group value: * for its strong group value with the uniquely complete group of First World War technical and domestic buildings typical of both inter-war Expansion Periods of the RAF; * for the surviving spatial and functional relationship between the building and the flying field which it served.


Duxford’s suitability as a landing field led to its use for military flying during the Military Manoeuvres of 1912. Construction of the Training Depot Station (TDS) started in October 1917, and the first units including Americans arriving in March 1918. It was one of 63 Training Depot Stations in existence in November 1918, and the group of hangars and other buildings on the technical site now constitute the best-preserved group of buildings surviving from a First World War airfield in Britain. Training Depot Stations, which comprised the main instructional flying unit for the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Air Force (RAF), were built in pairs, Duxford and its sister station at nearby Fowlmere making one wing. Each TDS comprised three flying units, each having a coupled general service shed and one repair hangar (the Duxford example was demolished in 1968, leaving Old Sarum in Wiltshire and Leuchars in Scotland as the only examples which survive as part of hangar groups). Other specialist buildings, such as carpenters’ shops, dope and engine repair shops, and technical and plane stores, characterised these sites.

Duxford was one of a core number of stations retained for the RAF after 1918, first as a flying training school and then (from 1 April 1923) as a fighter station with 19 Squadron. This was designated as a mobile (expeditionary) squadron, and they remained on the base until replacement by the Eagle Squadron of American volunteers in August 1941. 19 Squadron’s expertise resulted in the station introducing a number of aircraft into RAF service, such as the Gloster Gauntlet which it received in January 1935 and was displayed along with the prototype of the Gloster Gladiator at George V’s Silver Jubilee in July of that year. The first Spitfire to an RAF squadron was delivered to Duxford by Supermarine’s test pilot in August 1938, and 12,000 visitors caught their first sight of the Spitfire during Empire Day on 20 May 1939. With one exception, the wooden-framed barrack buildings were replaced in a rebuilding campaign that commenced in 1928. A major phase of modernisation was approved in 1931, resulting in the construction of the station headquarters and guardroom on the south camp, and the construction of domestic buildings in the north camp - the sergeants' mess being the first building ready for occupation. In an attempt to achieve parity with Germany’s increasing air strength, the British Government introduced a number of schemes for the expansion of the RAF, which followed in quick succession between 1934 and 1939. The Cabinet (National Government) passed five schemes: ‘A’, ‘C’, ‘F’, ‘L’ and ‘M’, which led to a large-scale re-building programme at existing RAF stations (including Duxford) and to the development of numerous new aerodromes.

During the Battle of Britain (10 Jul – 31 Oct 1940), Duxford was the most southerly airfield in 12 Group, responsible for the defence of the Midlands and East of England but also making it well-placed to reinforce and support 11 Group to the south, which bore the brunt of the Luftwaffe assault. Czech and Polish squadrons operated from Duxford during the battle, and on 15 September - the critical point in the battle - five Duxford squadrons led by Squadron Leader Douglas Bader claimed their highest score of 52 aircraft destroyed (plus 16 probably destroyed and 3 damaged). Bader - Commander of 242 Squadron initially based at Coltishall - was the instigator of what became known as the Duxford Wing, a strategy whereby he led 3 and later 5 squadrons of Spitfires and Hurricanes into battle, which formed the focus of disagreement concerning fighter defence strategy. This continued into the winter of 1940 and finally resulted in the removal of Sir Hugh Dowding from his position as Commander in Chief, Fighter Command, and the replacement of Air Vice Marshal Keith Park as Air Officer Commanding 11 Group by his rival Air Vice Marshall Trafford Leigh-Mallory of 12 Group. Some of the pillboxes, air raid shelters and fighter pens installed by 1940 for the purposes of airfield defence and protection against attack have survived.

The arrival of the RAF’s Air Fighting Development Unit, in December 1940, saw a wide variety of new aircraft for evaluation and testing, including the replacement of the Hurricane, Hawker Typhoon, Mosquito and Mustang (the most powerful fighter of the Second World War). The airfield was officially handed over to become base 357 of the United States Eighth Air Force on 1 April 1943, the first of 75 P47 Thunderbolts arriving on the same day. After their visit in January 1941 to inspect the base and present medals, the King and Queen returned to Duxford to welcome the Americans in May. The first of the new Merlin-powered P51 Mustangs, which were to play a critically important role in the European air war, arrived to replace the Thunderbolts after the completion of the steel matting runway in December 1944. The base in its fighter support role was responsible for the destruction of 338 aircraft in the air and a further 358 on the ground, with the loss of 167 aircraft and 113 pilots. Duxford’s post-war service as a jet fighter station, with Meteors, Hunters and then Javelins, was marked by the completion of a replacement runway in concrete (6000 feet long with Operational Readiness Platforms at both ends) in August 1951.

RAF Duxford was closed in 1961, and subsequently chosen as one of the locations for filming of the Battle of Britain in 1968, (when the 1918 repair section hangar was destroyed). In 1969, the Ministry of Defence declared its intention to dispose of Duxford, and the Imperial War Museum duly requested permission to use part of one of the airfield’s hangars as temporary storage. The Imperial War Museum was founded in 1917, and opened to the public at Crystal Palace in Sydenham Hill in 1920, before moving to the Imperial Institute in South Kensington in 1924, and finally the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Southwark in 1936. The museum was originally intended to record the civil and military war effort and sacrifice of Britain and its empire during the First World War. The museum's remit has since expanded to include all conflicts in which British or Commonwealth forces have been involved since 1914. As of 2012, the museum aims to provide for, and to encourage, the study and understanding of the history of modern war and wartime experience. Duxford became the first outstation of the Imperial War Museum in 1976, and Cambridgeshire County Council joined with the Imperial War Museum and the Duxford Aviation Society to purchase the runway in 1977. The construction of the M11 along the east boundary of the site in 1977 shortened the runway by about 1,200ft (366m). The final aircraft to land at Duxford before the runway was shortened was Concorde test aircraft G-AXDN, now on display in the Airspace hangar. In October 2008, an agreement was reached between Cambridgeshire County Council and the Imperial War Museum, under which the runways and 146 acres of surrounding grassland were acquired by the museum.

The Field Force motor transport storage shed was constructed in 1939, as part of the ‘M’ scheme of reconstruction to the north end of the north camp, and was designed by J H Binge (drawing 3681/38). In the 1920s, 19 Squadron based at RAF Duxford retained its status as a mobile squadron and could therefore in the event of war, become part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). The Field Force motor transport storage shed was constructed to house the squadron’s vehicles and equipment which made up the road party. 19 Squadron did not become part of the BEF and remained at Duxford. A partition wall and partition frame were added to the interior in the late C20, when the building was adapted for museum storage.


Field Force motor transport storage shed (Building 104), built in 1939 to designs by J H Binge of the Air Ministry's Directorate of Works and Buildings (drawing no. 3681/38).

MATERIALS: brick walls, steel-framed windows, steel trusses, and pantile roof covering.

PLAN: rectangular in plan, laid out on a north-east – south-west axis.

EXTERIOR: the storage shed is a single-storey double-height structure, with an M-profile hipped roof and a pantile roof covering. The walls are constructed of red brick laid in Flemish bond, with a brick parapet partially concealing the roof, and a projecting cast-concrete eaves course acting as a top rail for the sliding doors on the long (south-east and north-west) elevations. Steel gutters are concealed behind the parapet, and exposed hoppers and downpipes appear on the end (north-east and south-west) elevations. There are four bays of clerestory windows on the end elevations, containing 6-pane steel-framed windows. The long elevations have 11 continuous leaves of steel-framed and clad sliding doors along the full length of the building. The end elevations each have a single-leaf steel door. The building measures approximately 18m in width and 48m in length.

INTERIOR: The interior of the shed measures approximately 4.5m in height, with 12 bays approximately 4m in length. The roof is constructed of steel fan trusses, steel purlins carrying timber boarding, and rolled steel joists, supported by central continuous beams on reinforced-concrete piers. The end walls are clad in cavity brick. A breeze-block partition wall was introduced between bay 6 and 7 (of 12) in the late C20, splitting the length of the building in half. The north-east end was further subdivided with a timber partition frame and wire gauze mesh.


Books and journals
Dobinson, C S, Twentieth Century Fortifications in England Volume IX.1 and IX.2: Airfield Themes, (1997)
Francis, P, British Military Airfield Architecture From Airships To The Jet Age, (1996)
Freeman, Roger A, Airfields of the Eighth: Then and Now (After the Battle), (1978), 72-6
Ramsey, W G (ed), The Battle of Britain Then and Now, (1989), 198-211
Imperial War Museum, ‘History’, accessed 2 October 2018 from http://www.imperialwarmuseumduxford.colindaylinks.com/history1.html
Airfield Research Group Ltd, ‘ARG Research Note No.35: Duxford Historic Appraisal, Part 1’, March 2010
Airfield Research Group Ltd, ‘ARG Research Note No.36: Duxford Historic Appraisal, Part 2’, March 2010
Raby, A, Duxford Airfield: the Story of a Famous Fighter Station (unpublished)
WYG and Bidwells on behalf of Imperial War Museums, ‘Significance Assessment: IWM Duxford, Cambridge – Volume 2: North Side’, (July 2016)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].