Rediscovering Oakley Ammunition Airfield

HAT, 08 January 2024 - About Archaeology in Buckinghamshire , Recent archaeological finds

In July 2023, the Buckinghamshire Council Archaeology Service (BCAS) were contacted by Krysia Truscoe, Historic Environment Advisor for Forestry England (FE), in regards some archaeology in the north west of the county at Shabbington Wood, part of Bernwood Forest. Tucked away at the far end of the forest, next to the boundary with the M40 are a number of earthworks and old buildings, which relate to the earlier use of the site as part of the Oakley Airfield. Prior to the construction of the M40, the area in question had been attached to the airfield, which can be clearly seen on aerial photographs

Oakley airfield was opened on 27th May 1942 as a full size bomber airfield. It was in operation throughout the rest of WWII but closed to flying in August 1945 and became a site for repatriation of Prisoners of War. After the closure of the site, technical drawings were produced by the RAF which show the full layout of the site. The bomb storage area can be seen in the NW of the site, a safe distance away from the main airfield. The bomb storage area comprised a number of bomb storage platforms and buildings, a reconstruction of which can be found online at

The construction of the M40 to the north of Oxford in the 1980s resulted in the separation of the main airfield from the bomb storage area. Shabbington Wood had already been designated a SSSI by this time (in 1981) and was under the care of Forestry England. The earthworks and buildings have been left alone since this time, and whilst still visible, have become overgrown and part of the forest.

A collage of a map and of buildings relating to Oakley Airfield

Whilst the airfield and bomb storage area was already recorded on the Buckinghamshire HER, it was not until BCAS were contacted by FE back in July that the site was thoroughly explored by the BCAS team. The brilliant preservation and legibility of the site meant that it was considered an important archaeological site, and it has now been nominated for inclusion on the Local Heritage List Home - Buckinghamshire's Local Heritage List ( BCAS also plan to work alongside FE to ensure the long term protection and interpretation of the site.