Monument record MYO3588 - Dispersal Pen at Military Airfield Rawcliffe


The earthworks of a war-time fighter dispersal pen is recorded by oblique photographs of the eastern end of the disused airfield at Clifton Moor, adjacent to Whitehall Grange. This is the last remaining example of a pen from the airfield.


Grid reference Centred SE 5975 5542 (46m by 67m) (2 map features)
Map sheet SE55NE
Civil Parish Rawcliffe, City of York, North Yorkshire
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire
Civil Parish Clifton Without, City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (2)

Full Description

The structure is situated in a private field to the west of the B1363 at 53°59'29.01"N & 1° 5'23.72"W. It has been identified variously in the past as a Bunker, Storage Bunker, Taxiway Structure or Blast Bunker but is in fact a Type B Fighter Dispersal Pen (small) FSW4513. It is located off a surviving stub of Perry Track (perimeter track) that leads to the east end of the former east –west runway of RAF Clifton Moor.

These pens were constructed to allow for the safe dispersal around the airfield of the resident North American P51 Mustangs or Curtis Tomahawk Mk11s of 169 Army Co-operation Sqn and 613 Sqn RAF. These units moved into RAF Clifton Moor in December 1942. Originally these structures would have been arranged around the perimeter circuit of the airfield to protect parked aircraft from air attack, as took place at Clifton Moor during the Luftwaffe’s Baedeker raids on York. Today however, this is the sole example to have survived the development of the site. The structure consists of three traversed arms of earthen banks and dwarf brick wall arranged in the standard Type ‘B’ pattern. To the rear of the central arm a pre-cast concrete shelter provides protection for 25 personnel.

Additional defences were sometimes added to these pens to protect them from ground attack. These could take the form of permanent loop-holed brick walls at the end of the outer arms and slit trenches to the rear as seen at RAF Culmhead in Churchstanton in the Blackdown Hills of Somerset. The type of defensive asset deployed varied from station to station and from pen to pen. Whilst no permanent brick defensive positions were present at this site a number of hollows visible in the grassland surrounding the pen were observed, and these could be indicative of the presence of backfilled slit trenches.

The distance between the tip of the central pier and the end of an outer arm was approximately 23m (or 76ft), from the tip of the central pier to the rear of the pan was 23m (76ft), and from tip of the central pier to the rear of the earthen bank was approximately 34m (110ft). These proportions meant that each bay of the dispersal could accommodate one single engine fighter such as a Mustang or one small twin engine aircraft such as a Bristol Blenheim. Larger Type B dispersals were capable of supporting a pair of aircraft per bay.

As was the norm on the Type B an emergency exit was positioned to the rear of the dispersal. This could be positioned to the rear of either the left or right hand bays, and in this instance it was placed to the left.
The structure is in an excellent state of preservation. The dwarf revetment walls are intact as is the vaulted roof of the 25 person shelter. The interior is free from damage and graffiti. The earthen banks are complete and the concrete floor of the bays is intact as is approximately 330m of Perry Track running from the field boundary to the south, past the dispersal and onwards to the eastern end of the east – west aligned runway, upon which now sits a farmhouse and associated agricultural sheds. The only noticeable damage was the absence of a course of soldier bricks above the left hand entrance to the emergency shelter.

NMR Information:
The earthworks of a war-time fighter dispersal pen is recorded by oblique photographs of the eastern end of the disused airfield at Clifton Moor, adjacent to Whitehall
1 Oblique aerial photograph reference number NMR SE 5955/2 (4411/05) 16-FEB-1990

Assessed and visited February 2023 by York University student Joseph Keeley as part of Raids Over York Project:

The dispersal pen is in very good condition, the interior of the shelter complex is complete and accessible from the front left entrance, the front right and rear accesses have been blocked by vegetation growth but access could be restored. The interior of the shelter is dry and in good condition, there is some minor wear to the internals of the stanton shelter where the reinforcement of the concrete arches pertrudes. The entrances to the stanton shelter have a pair of heavy metal hinges each which would suggest there were once blast doors, these have since been removed. The brickwork of the internal corridors is in good condition and again shows very minimal wear. The concrete pad roofs of the corridors are in equally good codition and show little to no wear. Externally there is some more significant wear, the brick retaining walls around the bays show signs of erosion and in some places have collapsed. The front left access is most complete, the front right and rear accesses are missing the external brick caps atop the concrete slabs.

Images attached to record taken February 2023 by student Joseph Keeley (York University).

On Site Archaeology, 2015, Whitehall Grange, Wigginton Road, p25 (Unpublished document). SYO1852.

York Archaeological Trust, 2020, Whitehall Grange, Wigginton Road EVA (Unpublished document). SYO2531.

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Unpublished document: On Site Archaeology. 2015. Whitehall Grange, Wigginton Road. p25.
  • --- Unpublished document: York Archaeological Trust. 2020. Whitehall Grange, Wigginton Road EVA.

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

May 15 2023 10:02AM


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