|Thurleigh (pronounced "THIR-lye") was built for RAF Bomber Command in 1941 by W & C French Ltd. one mile north of the village of Thurleigh on farmland between the farms of Buryfields, Bletsoe Park, Manor, and Whitwickgreen. It was eventually modified to Air Ministry Class A airfield specifications, with three converging runways, extended in 1942 to lengths of 6,000 feet (runway 06-24) and 4,200 feet (runways 36-18 and 12-30). Thurleigh was unique among bomber bases in having four T2 type metal hangars where most bases had only two. |
Its first use was by No.160 Squadron RAF, forming on 15 January 1942, equipped with U.S. manufactured B-24 "Liberator" bombers, known by the RAF as the "Liberator II". 160 Squadron trained and flew operational missions from Thurleigh until 5 July, then deployed to the China-Burma-India Theater at Ratmalana Air Base, Ceylon.
Thurleigh was one of 28 fields listed for use by the U.S. Eighth Air Force on June 4, 1942, tentatively designated station B-4, and was allocated on August 10, 1942. The RAF had found that the initial construction of Thurleigh was inadequate for the combat weight of B-24 bombers. After the departure of the RAF, Thurleigh's runways were lengthened, increased in thickness, and additional hardstands constructed to Class A standards so it could accommodate a USAAF heavy bomber group.
From 16 September 1943 though 25 June 1945, Thurleigh served as headquarters for the 40th Combat Bombardment Wing of the 1st Bomb Division.