The area at the extreme western edge of the base was used in the 1930s by local flying enthusiasts. It took the name of Londonderry Aerodrome as it was closest to the hamlet of Londonderry in North Yorkshire. In the late 1930s, the Royal Air Force bought up the aerodrome and most of the surrounding land to convert it into an RAF airfield, which became known as Royal Air Force Leeming. Part of the buildup of the base included building a decoy airfield at Burneston, some 4 miles (6.4 km) to the south.
This Stirling, N3641/MG-D, seen being prepared for a flight, was the second Stirling to be delivered to No. 7 Squadron at Leeming and took part in their first raid over Rotterdam on the night of 10-11 February 1941.
No. 427 Squadron RCAF between 5 May 1943 and 31 May 1946 when the squadron disbanded. The squadron initially used the Halifax V and III before switching to the Avro Lancaster Mk.I and III in March 1945.
No. 429 Squadron RCAF between 13 August 1943 and 31 May 1946 when the squadron disbanded. The squadron initially used the Halifax V and III before switching to the Avro Lancaster Mk.I and III in March 1945.
Following the war, the station became a night-fighter base, equipped initially with Mosquito and then Meteor and Javelin aircraft before becoming a Training Command airfield in 1961. The station was then home to No. 3 Flying Training School, equipped with the Jet Provost aircraft.
There were also several other units using the airfield during the same period, these were:
In January 1987, the airfield closed for one year to allow installation of Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS). RAF Leeming became the home base for three Tornado squadrons over the next twenty years.
Leeming functioned as a training base until 1988 when it became a front line base in the air defence role equipped with TornadoF3s. Initially it hosted Nos 11(F), 23, and 25(F) Squadrons, all flying the F3. 23 Squadron was disbanded on 1 March 1994 and its air and ground crews dispersed across the Station's remaining two squadrons. This left two Tornado squadrons, which were half of the air defence fighter squadrons of the RAF. 11 Squadron was disbanded in October 2005. The last Tornado squadron at Leeming, No 25(F) Squadron, disbanded on 4 April 2008.
The station's air traffic control unit was named the best in the Royal Air Force in February 2012, winning the Raytheon Falconer Trophy.
No. 135 Expeditionary Air Wing (No. 135 EAW) was formed at Leeming on 1 April 2006 to create a deployable air force structure.
607 (County of Durham) Squadron reformed at RAF Leeming on 5 January 2015. The Squadron formerly flew fighter aircraft and was disbanded in 1957. The squadron is a General Service Support (GSS) unit with many diverse roles such as chef, driver, intelligence analyst and suppliers.
Flying and notable non-flying units based at RAF Leeming.
RAF Leeming has been host to a reverse assembly line process (Reduce to Produce (RTP)) whereby redundant Tornado aircraft are brought into one of the hangars at RAF Leeming and stripped of all usable components. The process started with the F3 variant of the aircraft as it was the first to be withdrawn completely from service, and moved onto the GR4 variant later. In October 2017, it was announced that the full retirement of the Tornado aircraft from RAF service in 2019 meant that this process will end with the loss of 245 British Aerospace jobs between RAF Leeming and RAF Marham. BAE Systems are undertaking the RTP process.
21 February 1944 - a RCAF Halifax, LV836, of No. 427 Sqn crashed into farmland at Romanby, creating a fireball and killing all seven crew on impact. The aircraft had left RAF Leeming nine minutes earlier, at 00:15, on a bombing mission to Stuttgart. On 10 March 2010 a memorial to the crew was unveiled at the crash site, which is now part of Romanby Golf & Country Club.
22 October 1999 - a 100 Sqn Hawk struck a bridge and crashed into an unoccupied building near the village of Shap, killing the pilot and navigator. The RAF Board of Inquiry suggested that aircrew fatigue may have contributed to the accident. A jury returned a verdict of accidental death.
28 January 2016 - during a training sortie, the pilot of a 100 Sqn Hawk experienced partial loss of vision. The base commander considered instructing the pilot to eject over the North Sea, but instead scrambled another Hawk, flown by an instructor. The two aircraft flew in formation to Leeming, and conducted a successful talk down landing.
A Tornado F3 aircraft now stands as a gate guardian outside the main gate of RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire
Leeming's gate guardian is now a Tornado F3, commemorating its history as an air defence base, and the fact that many Tornados were scrapped/Reduced To Produce here. The previous gate guardian XA634 is the world's only surviving Gloster Javelin FAW4, which spent most of its life as a testbed at the Gloster Aircraft Company and was offered for sale by tender in September 2014 by the Ministry of Defence. In December 2014 it was announced that Gloucestershire Jet Age Museum had won the tender and purchased the aircraft.
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Delve, Ken (1994). The Sourcebook of the RAF. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN1-85310-451-5.
Delve, Ken (2006). Northern England : Co. Durham, Cumbria, Isle of Man, Lancashire, Merseyside, Manchester, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Yorkshire. Ramsbury: Crowood. ISBN1-86126-809-2.
Halley, James J. (1988). The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians). ISBN0-85130-164-9.
Jefford, C.G. (1988). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912 (First edition). Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN978-1853100536.
Jefford, C.G. (2001). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912 (Second edition). Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing. ISBN978-1840371413.
Sturtivant, Ray, ISO; Hamlin, John (2007). RAF Flying Training and Support Units since 1912. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians). ISBN978-0-85130-365-9.