News

Declassified: The Old RAF Base Bringing Hollywood To Upper Heyford

Prior to its use as a set for blockbuster films, the base was home to US troops who arrived in the 1950s.

In the latest in our series of special reports to mark RAF 100, we've been investigating a network of former bases which have now closed, uncovering their pasts and discovering what they’re being used for today.

RAF Upper Heyford was particularly active during the Cold War when NATO aircraft of different types and nationalities were a familiar sight.

At the time, Upper Heyford was one of the largest US Air Force bases in Europe, housing bombers that carried NATO's intermediate-range nuclear weapons.

It was home to American troops who arrived in Bicester in the 1950s.

Ultimately, there was a US presence there for more than four decades.

Today, parts of the site are protected as scheduled monuments of national importance, as this is one of the oldest bases in the world with more than 100 years of history.

RAF UPPER HEYFORD
Despite some secrecy surrounding the base, movie producers have been granted access to use it as a filming set on numerous occasions.

It was used as a location for the Bond film 'Octopussy' in the 1980s and now, in true 007 style, the site is often used for driving experiences.

Among the sights around the base's 1,000 acres is an aircraft shelter where F-111 warplanes were permanently armed and located.

RAF Upper Heyford
At the back is the sign of 55th Fighter Squadron, who were based at RAF Upper Heyford.

The base has continued to attract Hollywood A-listers, with one of the latest movies being ‘Wonder Woman' by Warner Bros.

Placi Espejo, from Dorchester Group, explains how the site was incorporated into the film:

"It's a big fighting scene in which they use most of the quick reponse area and they use some of the hangars.

"She [Wonder Woman] had a massive fight defending and saving the world at the very end of the movie - so it was the save the world scene [that was filmed here]."

RAF Upper Heyford
Hangars were used in the Wonder Woman movie.

While Upper Heyford was once completely off limits and only for those with only the highest security clearance, nowadays the old command centre is completely abandoned.

During the Cold War, NATO began to improve the strength of its aircraft shelters and battle command centres to ensure survival in the event of a Soviet strike, so that they would be able to mount a counter attack.

One area of the site that is rarely opened up is the war readiness complex, complete with special decontamination areas in case there was a nuclear attack.

Rumour has it the phones that can still be seen there once had a direct line to the Pentagon and even the White House.

Now there are plans for a heritage centre on the site, so more can learn of its top-secret past.

RAF Upper Heyford control room
The war readiness room acted as the nerve centre of the base during the Cold War and would have been buzzing with activity with personnel constantly on high alert.
RAF Upper Heyford alert