The origins of the Airborne Forces Development Centre can be traced back to the creation of British Airborne Forces at RAF Ringway in 1940 and the subsequent formation of the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment (AFEE) in 1942.
The AFEE’s early functions included undertaking loading trials to determine safe and efficient methods of stowing military stores and equipment within different aircraft types. However, capacity issues within AFEE required the formation of a separate unit to undertake the ground work, leaving AFEE free to conduct the air work.
As a result, the Airborne Forces Development Centre (AFDC) was formed at Amesbury Abbey in May 1943. It was commanded by a General Staff Officer (Grade 1) under whom served staff officers of all arms and services and an experimental section REME workshop. Later the commanding appointment was changed to Commandant, and subsequently upgraded again to full Colonel.
The AFDC’s task was to develop and test equipment peculiar to parachute and glider techniques and to develop tactical glider loads for airborne operations. Loading techniques were investigated for the Horsa, Hamilcar and Hadrian gliders and were later extended to include the Dakota aircraft. A large amount of work was also done on supplies packing and dropping of Army stores.
During the latter half of 1944 the growing need for Air Transport of the Army as a whole (as distinct from Airborne Forces) was appreciated and, in order to embrace and co-ordinate all Army Air Transport requirements, the Centre was reorganised and redesignated as the Army Airborne Transport Development Centre (AATDC).
In May 1946 the Centre moved to RAF Brize Norton, to enable closer co-operation between the Centre and the RAF Transport Command Development Unit, which provided the air frames for the Centre’s trial drops and exercises and which assisted in the clearance of Army loads for carriage in powered aircraft and gliders. During this period an American Airborne Detachment joined the HQ, not only for liaison purposes, but to take an active part in tests and training.
In June 1949 the Centre was renamed the Army Air Transport Training and Development Centre (AATDC) and together with the Transport Command Development Unit moved to RAF Abingdon. The Centre remained here for two years until a move to RAF Old Sarum in March 1951.
In January 1968 AATDC became part of the Joint Air Transport Establishment (JATE).
AFDC Commanding Officers/ Commandants
|Lt Col JT Bannatyne||1943-44|
|Col RH Deakin OBE||1944-46*|
*Centre redesignated as the Army Airborne Transport Development Centre (AATDC) during Col Deakin's tenure.
Compiled with assistance from Bob Hilton.Read More
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