Historic wartime gunnery site to be demolished
Planners insist details be preserved for posterity
A BUILDING used to train US gunnery operators at Membury Airfield during the Second World War is to be demolished.
However, first, developers must ensure historic details are preserved for future generations.
An application has been put before West Berkshire Council planners for permission to demolish the two-storey building east of Membury Business Park to provide storage and distribution facilities for Berkshire Pallets Ltd.
The building on the site is in a poor state of repair and is deemed unsuitable for conversion.
Lambourn Parish Council supported the application on the grounds of “employment for local people, subject to the completion of appropriate landscaping”.
A council archaeological officer’s report described the building as “a heritage asset of local interest”.
The structure in question is associated with the wartime Membury Airfield.
The United States Air Force was stationed at the airfield in 1944 and troop planes based there – including those of the legendary Screaming Eagles of 101st Airborne Division – played a significant role in Operations Overlord, Dragoon and Market Garden.
Research suggests it may have been a turret instructional building used to train gunnery operators, and would have contained a hydraulic or electrically-operated mock turret with films of attacking aircraft projected on to a curved wall.
The archaeological officer’s report added that it was “essential that the works do not contribute to a significant loss... of historic information.”
Planners granted the application but attached a condition that no development, including demolition, should begin until adequate historical records had been made, in consultation with West Berkshire Council and English Heritage.