Brick buildings at RAF Bicester with grass, trees and brick structure in foreground.
Scheduled monuments at RAF Bicester, formerly a WW2 RAF Bomber Training Station © Historic England
Scheduled monuments at RAF Bicester, formerly a WW2 RAF Bomber Training Station © Historic England

RAF Bicester Mystery Solved After Public Plea For Help

A curious discovery

Back in 2016 we reported on an exciting new discovery at the former RAF Bicester site now looked after by Bicester Heritage. During a series of works on site, a mysterious shelter like structure had been discovered hidden under ivy and trees.

Despite historic research using old photographs and RAF records, the use of the building remained a mystery. After a plea for help from the public a series of tantalising clues and suggestions helped investigators to explore further.

This particular defensive structure had us scratching our heads for some time and we were delighted by the response from the public who helped us conclude a modern-day mystery. The involvement of Historic England is yet another example of a very fruitful partnership here at Bicester Heritage and we look forward to restoring this and the remaining Scheduled Ancient Monuments with their support.

Daniel Geoghegan, Managing Director of Bicester Heritage

Solving the mystery

In March this year investigations, overseen by Historic England, revealed what appears to have been a gun mounting point centrally within the structure with beautifully crafted rounded engineering bricks. This would have been used to fire on enemy parachutists should they have landed and tried to take over the airstrip. The unusual weather proof tanking found of the outside of the brickwork (unique among all the defendable shelters found on the site) is likely to have protected the munitions held inside.

Historic England Investigation team have even suggested which kind of gun may have been used - likely to have been a fairly light machine gun, probably mounted on a stork - with the most possible contender being a Stork A.A. twin gun mounting.

What's next?

Since January 2016 Historic England has given Bicester Heritage a grant of over £47,000 to restore a number of buildings and structures on the site. In April of this year Historic England has provided a further grant of almost £10,000 to help Bicester Heritage continue the amazing work they are doing in clearing, inspecting and repairing four further brick and concrete built structures on the Heritage at Risk list including mushroom pill boxes and the former mystery structure.

Although the future of the many stunning buildings at this site of national historic importance is secure, several of the scheduled monuments including several defensive structures, are still at risk. The successful partnership between Bicester Heritage and Historic England is helping to improve the condition of these so that in the future they can be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.

We are really grateful for all the great comments and suggestions sent in from the public, it is really exciting that we have discovered more about what this structure might have been which in turn will help us to restore it. The RAF Bicester site has an amazing array of historic buildings and structures so we are sure there will be lots more puzzles and secrets still to be revealed

Clare Charlesworth, Heritage at Risk lead, South East