Four thousand years after the Beaker people grazed their cattle on this land, and two thousand years after the Romans arrived, the Royal Air Force built an airbase about four miles south east of Andover. The airfield was designed to act as a satellite base for Middle Wallop which is just a few miles away, the other side of the Iron Age hill fort known as Danebury Ring. RAF Chilbolton opened in 1940 and its runway was used by Hurricanes of 238 Squadron during the Battle of Britain.
During World War II squadrons of Spitfires and Hurricanes found a home here and after the United States of America entered the war the base became the home for P-47 Thunderbolts and C-47 Skytrains. Later on, the airfield returned to RAF use and it became the home for squadrons of Hurricanes, Spitfires, and Tempests. Most of these squadrons spent only a few months there during 1945 and were disbanded with the end of hostilities.
In 1946 RAF Chilbolton the tarmac and concrete of the runways and taxiways felt the heat of the Vampire FB1s of 247 Squadron as the jet age began and Vickers Supermarine chose it as the location for testing prototypes of the jet powered Swift, Scimitar, and Attacker. Folland Aircraft also made use of an area on the airbase but by 1961 Chilbolton’s days as a military aircraft base were drawing to a close.
The steerable antenna of the Chilbolton Observatory is a local landmark and an unmistakeable navigational reference for passing aircraft. It is under the edge of Middle Wallop’s MATZ (Military Air Traffic Zone) and is a VRP (Visual Reporting Point) for light aircraft making their way east or west. Construction began in 1963 and the facility for atmospheric and radio research was opened in 1967. Its full name is the Chilbolton Facility for Atmospheric and Radio Research (CFARR) and it is managed by Science and Technology Facilities Council. This example of 1960s engineering is still in constant use and collects data that is shared with a variety of research bodies.
Anyone standing in the surrounding fields or walking the footpath that crosses the old airfield can expect to see several aircraft passing overhead in the course of an hour or perhaps a microlight from a nearby Chilbolton Flying Club grass strip. After they’ve passed the quiet is punctuated by the typical sounds of the English countryside with skylarks giving full voice.
Today, the path of the main runway is clearly visible in this aerial photograph and it’s not difficult to imagine the activity and sounds of seven decades ago. More evidence is apparent in the autumn and winter when crop marks reveal the outline of dispersal points, taxiways, and other airfield structures.
Messages in the Crop Circles
Chilbolton came to prominence ufologists and crop circle investigators in the 1990s when a pictograph of what appeared to be an alien visitor appeared in the ripening crop in nearby fields. The face resembled one of the grey aliens (so called because of the colour of their skin) that have been described in books, films, and in the accounts of those claiming to have been in contact with such extraterrestrials.
This was followed by the appearance of a circle with an irregular pattern inside it. The pattern was deciphered and a message was decoded, “There is good out there, we oppose deception”.
Details of this and the whole subject of crop circles can be found in this documentary on YouTube.