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Latitude: 51.9152 / 51°54'54"N
Longitude: -1.1453 / 1°8'43"W
OS Eastings: 458884
OS Northings: 224424
OS Grid: SP588244
Mapcode National: GBR 8X4.Z4H
Mapcode Global: VHCX4.34D3
Entry Name: Building Nos 43 and 46 (Station Sick Quarters and Decontamination Centre)
Listing Date: 1 December 2005
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1393032
English Heritage Legacy ID: 497520
Location: Caversfield, Cherwell, Oxfordshire, OX27
Civil Parish: Caversfield
Built-Up Area: Bicester
Traditional County: Oxfordshire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire
Church of England Parish: Bicester with Caversfield
Church of England Diocese: Oxford
SP5824 SKIMMINGDISH LANE (SOUTH-WEST)
1714/0/10042 RAF Bicester: Domestic Site
01-DEC-05 Building Nos 43 and 46 (Station Sick Q
uarters and Decontamination Centre)
Station sick quarters attached to gas decontamination centre. Station Sick Quarters (SSQ) built in 1927; Decontamination Centre (DC) built in 1939. By the Air Ministry's Directorate of Works and Buildings, to drawing number 106/23 and 1360/25 (Building 43) and 6224/37 (46). The sick quarters in dark red brickwork in Flemish or English bond, slate roof, and Decontamination Centre with reinforced concrete walls and roof, faced with Flemish bond brickwork above earth levels, roof finish in asphalt.
PLAN: The sick quarters building began as a simple L-plan with hipped roofs extended at the N end with a later gabled cross wing, and to the S with a slightly lower gabled range. This contained an officers' ward and 3 small wards for other ranks, plus waiting and inspection rooms for dental surgery. It connects by a high-wall passageway to the DC, built to a pattern evolved in 1937 and fully described in Francis (1996, 59-61), principally comprising undressing, showering and clean clothes sections. This unit has its own water tanks above the flat roof, was protected by earth abutments, and, at the N end by protected brick walls and stores.
EXTERIOR: Windows are wooden sash, some with over-lights. The entrance (E) front is in 2 sections, with the added lower unit to the left, with deep recessed doorway o/c left, and 3 small stacks; the return, left has been modified. The inner face includes a large blocked light with blind arch and herring-bone brickwork to the gable, and a deep recessed doorway, with hipped return connecting to the passageway to DC. There are 2 further stacks on this side, and all of these with stepped brick cappings. The decontamination centre is partly concealed by earth blast protection, with plain walls above to flat parapet; tank housing a hipped metal-clad addition. At the N end is a substantial blast wall and 2 external stores, protecting the exit doorway.
INTERIOR: Station Sick Quarters has retained original doors and joinery. Decontamination Centre retains all plain spaces to original plan form and retains steel-shuttered openings for discarding contaminated clothes outside.
HISTORY: The Station Sick Quarters lies at the S end of the main group of buildings, opposite the contemporary Dining Room (qv), that date from the first phase of development of this important group of airfield buildings - representative of the first permanent designs for Britain's independent air force - on this uniquely well-preserved and historically important site. It is an unusually complete example of this type of building, attached to the Decontamination Centre of 1939. This comprises another complete example of a highly specialised type of structure developed by the Air Ministry in response to the then widespread fear of gas attack. This example, unlike Building 50 (qv), was intended for the use of personnel injured as a result of aerial attack.
Bicester is the best-preserved of the bomber bases constructed as the principal arm of Sir Hugh Trenchard's expansion of the RAF from 1923, which was based on the philosophy of offensive deterrence. It retains better than any other military airbase in Britain, the layout and fabric relating to both pre-1930s military aviation and the development of Britain's strategic bomber force - and the manner in which its expansion reflected domestic political pressures as well as events on the world stage - in the period up to 1939. It was this policy of offensive deterrence that essentially dominated British air power and the RAF's existence as an independent arm of the military in the inter-war period, and continued to determine its shape and direction in the Second World War and afterwards during the Cold War. The grass flying field still survives with its 1939 boundaries largely intact, bounded by a group of bomb stores built in 1938/9 and airfield defences built in the early stages of the Second World War. For much of the Second World War RAF Bicester functioned as an Operational Training Unit, training Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders as well as British air crews for service in Bomber Command. These OTUs, of which Bicester now forms the premier surviving example, fulfilled the critical requirement of enabling bomber crews - once individual members had trained in flying, bombing, gunnery and navigation - to form and train as units.
For further historical details see Building 50 (for Decontamination Centre) and Building 16 (Officers' Quarters and Mess).
(Dobinson,C: Airfield Themes (Report for English Heritage), 1997; Francis, P: British Military Airfield Architecture, 1996; Francis,P: RAF Bicester (Site Report for Cherwell District Council), 1996)
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