A fighter station of World War II. The control tower survives as a private house.
Period of construction:
1900 - 1949
Transport Trust plaque:
The Bell and Crown, New Road, Zeals. BA12 6NJ
To the north of Zeals village, next to the village of Stourton and the Stourhead estate is the site of the former RAF Zeals, also known as HMS Hummingbird and RNAS Zeals. The site operated between May 1942 and June 1946, and during this short time was occupied by the Royal Air Force, the United States Air Force and the Royal Navy.
Until August 1943 the site was used by the RAF as a base for Hurricanes and Spitfires. The site was taken over in August 1943 by the United States Army Air Force whose initial plan was to use the airfield for maintenance of C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft. However, the damp conditions prevented heavy loads so P-47 Thunderbolt fighter aircraft were flown from Zeals instead.
From March 1944 the airfield returned to the RAF who used it as a base to launch Mosquito fighter planes against incoming German bombers. Following D-Day, the RAF used the airfield for glider training in preparation for action against Japan, and in April 1945 the airfield was taken over by the Royal Navy base at HMS Heron who used the airfield for aircraft carrier training. The site was closed down from January 1946 and in June it was returned to farmland.
As of 2006, the control tower, now a private house, remains on Bells Lane in Zeals.
A memorial stands at nearby Beech Knoll in Stourton to mark the site where a Dakota transport plane crashed in February 1945, killing more than twenty people. The plane had taken off from Zeals airfield to return to Lincolnshire after two weeks of glider training and flew into some cloud-covered beech trees on the knoll.
Ashworth, Chris. Action Stations- Military Airfields of the South West. 1982. ISBN 85059-510-X
Bowyer, Chaz, History of the RAF, Dolphin, ASIN B000O52SBU (1984)
Visible at all times but the control tower is a private house and the airfield itself is farm land.
How To Find:
Bells Lane is a turning off New Road in Zeals, near the A303 west of Mere.
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