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Pembrey, Wales

Former RAF Pembrey Airfield

This former military airfield's claim to fame came from a lucky accident during the Second World War. 

The Pembrey airfield operated between 1937 and 1957 as a base for RAF Flying Training Command as well as Polish Hurricanes and Spitfires during World War II. But its greatest claim to fame came in 1942 when the airfield played an important role in maintaining the RAF’s air superiority over the German Luftwaffe, when a enemy Focke-Wulfe 190 aircraft landed there in error after action over the Bristol Channel.  

The pilot, Oberleutnant Armin Faber had been forced north beyond Exeter, and mistook the Bristol Channel for the English Channel. Short on fuel, he landed at Pembrey believing it to be a Luftwaffe airfield in France. The Pembrey Duty Pilot grabbed the only available weapon, a flare pistol, and ran from the control tower and jumped onto the wing of the aircraft as it taxied in, capturing the aircraft and pilot.  

Faber was flying the latest enemy fighter, the Focke-Wulf 190A-3, a type the RAF had only ever seen flying over France and were finding it superior to the Mk V Spitfire in use at the time. Fighter Command dispatched pilots to photograph and return the aircraft to the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, where they were able to compare with it against the Hawker Typhoon which had been under development for some time and, importantly, against the Spitfire Mk IX.

The Mk IX aircraft had been hurriedly developed by Rolls Royce from the Mk V in response to the F-W 190 appearing in France and was rushed into service four months before the the Mk VIII (which actually outperformed the Mk IX ) which required extensive airframe development. So good was the Mk IX that it remained in service until the end of the war. 

Today part of RAF Pembrey has been converted to a so-called “International Airport,” but remarkably it can only be used at weekends except with permission from the RAF who use parts of the old air station to control aircraft using the Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range in the estuary. Another part of the airfield has been converted in a motor racing circuit. The airfield is also the site of one of only five Dome Training Facilities (for training gunners) left in the UK.