Remembered - Soesterberg AB (Netherlands)

Photos © Ruud Leeuw

During the 1970s (my schooldays and often in schooltime..), I became interested in military aircraft. I lived on cycling-distance of Soesterberg AB and often went there.

On wednesday 12Nov08 defense cutbacks closed Soesterberg AB, after 95 years of service.
On that day Base Commander Colonel Frank Gerards of the Dutch Air Force handed over control to Supreme Commander Air Forces Lt.-gen. Jac Jansen. He, in turn, handed over control of the domains to Commander Gout of the 'Commando Diensten Centra'. It is expected that the airbase will be turned to real-estate development area.
That wednesday in november the diginitaries and invitees witnessed a line up of 2 USAF F-15 Eagles and a F-4 Phantom II of the Greece Air Force. A Luftwaffe F-4 Phantom II gave an air display and a fly-by of aircraft operational with the Koninklijke Luchtmacht (KLu - Dutch Air Force) concluded the aerial festivities.
This ended 95 years of aviation activities at the birthplace of the Dutch Air Force...

During the 1970s I frequently stood at a spot near the taxiway (also near a landfill area, you had to take care cockroaches did not enter your camera bag or even get inside your camera..!). From this spot I took photos of resident F-4 Phantom IIs (later F-15 Eagles) of the 32 TFS 'Wolfhounds'. In the early years I also saw endless take offs and overshoots by Lockheed T-33s, saw them at it so often it bored me and I hardly took any photos...
Fokker F.27 Friendships and Troopships were operated by the 334 transport squadron based here.
Here are some photos witnessing my first steps in aviation photography...



Hawker Hunter gate guard Soesterberg AB
Hawker Hunter N-129, the gate guard I passed so many times during 1977-79, when I was based here.
The squadron insignia (a black scorpion in yellow circle) is of 325 Squadron.


Fokker F.27 Troopship
Fokker F.27 Friendship C-2 (c/n 10149) of 334 squadron, on take off in Oct.1974
The squadron insignia shows a white Pegasus on a blue and black field, in a vertical divided circle.


Fokker F.27
Fokker F.27 Troopship C-10 (c/n 10160) touching down at Soesterberg AB [Oct.74]

History 334 sqdn, Radio callsign "Whitehorse"
334 Squadron was officially founded on 07July1944. Actually, on this date the forerunner of 334 Sqdn was founded: 1316 Dutch Communication Flight. This unit was part of the Britse Royal Air Force (RAF) during the aftermath of WW2.
After conclusion of World War II, the squadron moved to the Netherlands and was based at Naval base Valkenburg, Ypenburg AB, Soesterberg AB and moved in 1992 to Eindhoven Air Base (current anno 2009, but the Fokker F.27s long gone).


F.27 Troopship 334 Sqdn
The dignified white/silver paintscheme gave way to a camouflage paintjob, as seen on F.27 C-7 of 334 Sqdn. [12Jun75]

Twelve aircraft were purchased by the Koninklijke Luchtmacht, the first three being F.27-100 friendships, the remainder were 37seater F.27M troopships. They were delivered between July 1960 (C-7 was delivered in Dec. 1960) and April 1961..
C-5, C-6 and C-7 were converted to navigation trainers, replacing Beech TC-45J aircraft, commencing in November 1973.
C-9 and C-11 were at some point leased to NLM (later KLM Cityhopper,a.k.a. KLC), registered PH-KFA and PH-KFB in May 1966. They were returned in May 1972.

The fuselage -minus wings, nosecone & tailsection- of C-7 Troopship ended up in 2009 with the fire brigade of De Kooy airfield, near Den Helder (Netherlands). Previously it had been stored at Eindhoven. During 1996 (the year the KLu F.27s were decommissioned) and 2009 saw a great reduction of this PH-FBV/C-7 F.27-300M (c/n 10157), but it refuses to fade away....

Lockheed T-33
Lockheed T-33 M-11 (no date). Not sure what the unit was during the 1970s.

Lockheed T-33 M-21 (no date)

Serials M-1 to M-36 were delivered ex/ Prestwick or Copenhagen between 22Aug52 and 19Oct55.
M-37 to M-40 were deliverd ex/ Prestwick Jan-Mar 1957 and M-41 was delivered by sea in July 1957.
Serials M-42 to M47 came from the Belgian Air Force in April 1962; one crashed and the remainder were returned to Belgium in May 1972.

Lockheed T-33 KLU at Soesterberg AB
M-48 to M-58 were surplus USAFE aircraft, purchased and delivered ex/ Mildenhall Jan-Aug 1964.
M-59 and M-60 were delivered in Dec65 & Sep66 by Belgium and returned in May72.
M-101 to M-103 were RT-33A aircraft, delivered in 1956 to 306 Sqdn, originally coded TP-19 to TP-21).

Lockheed T-33 Danish AirForce at Soesterberg AB
Lockheed T-33, DT-490 Royal Danish Air Force (ca. 1971-1973).

The Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star is an American-built jet trainer aircraft. It was produced by Lockheed and made its first flight in 1948, piloted by Tony LeVier. The T-33 was developed from the Lockheed P-80/F-80 starting as TP-80C/TF-80C in development, then designated T-33A. [WIKIPEDIA]


F-4E Phantom II
McDonnell-Douglas F-4E Phantom II 69-254/CR landing with both the brake chute as well as the arrester hook deployed..

An overshoot of F-4E 68-408/CR 32TFS (USAFE), Oct.1974.
The Phantoms certainly provided a nice, loud roar when performing an overshoot!
Phantom II 68-408/CR on overshoot at Soesterberg AB


In 1913 the ' Luchtvaartafdeling' (LVA, Aviationdepartment) of the army, made its first flights here...
ICAO airport identification of Soesterberg was: EHSB

The car salesmen Verwey and Lugard of Den Haag (The Hague) created in 1910 in a field nearby Soesterberg an airfield. The terrain was bought in march 1913 by the State of The Netherlands to act as a base for an as yet to be founded (juli 1913) Luchtvaartafdeeling (LVA) , the forerunner of the present Koninklijke Luchtmacht (Dutch Royal Airforce).

In WW2 Soesterberg did not play a significant role. It was bombarded in 1940 by the Luftwaffe and the runway was not repaired by the during occupation. Nevertheless, English bombardments completed its destruction. In 1951 Soesterberg Air Base was restored and operational again.
During 1954 until circa 1994 the base saw much use by the American the 32 Tactical Fighter Sqn (TFS).

Contrary to common USAFE structure, the 32 TFS under local (Dutch) operational command.
This squadron arrived in 1954; at that time their aircraft were the silver-coloured North American F-86 Sabre, still wearing markings of 512th Fighter Day Sqn. A year later, meanwhile redesignated 32 TFS, the squadron converted to the F-100 Super Sabre. From 1960 the F-102 Delta Dagger was put in use and the squadron was renamed 32nd Fighter Interceptor Sqdn.
In 1968 it became the 32nd Tactical Fighter Sqdn again and flew the McDonnel-Douglas F-4 Phantom II. In 1978 the squadron upgraded to the F-15 Eagle, which was still in use in 1994 when the squadron was disbanded One F-15 was donated to the 'Militair Luchtvaart Museum'.

The Dutch used this airfield esspecially by the 298-squadron, operating between 1969 en 1995 Alouette III helicopters. For a number of years, 334 transport squadron operated from Soesterberg AB too.


Spitfire PS853, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, visiting Soesterberg during the summer of 1976.

Battle of Britain Spitfire visiting Soesterberg AB The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries through the Second World War and on into the 1950s as a frontline fighter and in secondary roles. It was produced in greater numbers than any other Allied design. The Spitfire was the only Allied fighter in production throughout the Second World War.
The Spitfire was designed by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works, since 1928 a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrongs. He continued to refine the design until his death from cancer in 1937, whereupon his colleague Joseph Smith became chief designer.[4] Its elliptical wing had a thin cross-section, allowing a higher top speed than the Hawker Hurricane and many other contemporary designs.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight operates various aircraft (as in 2009): Avro Lancaster, Supermarine Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane, deHavilland DHC-1 Chipmunk and a Douglas Dakota. Their website.
Battle of Britain Flight crew
The crew posing before departure.
Spitfire "battle of Britain Flight"


Handley Page Hastings T.5 TG517 of 266 Sqdn RAF.
It supplied a spare propellor for BoB Spitfire PS853. 22Jun76

It was preserved at Newark Air Museum (Winthorpe, Newark, Nottinghamshire, UK. (Website)

Frederick (later Sir Frederick) Handley Page first experimented with and built several biplanes and monoplanes at premises in Woolwich, Fambridge and Barking Creek, before settling on works at Cricklewood in North London and Radlett Aerodrome, Hertfordshire. His company, Handley Page Ltd, became the first public company to build aircraft when it was founded on 17th June 1909. Few of his early projects were memorable, in spite of unusual names like Bluebird, Antiseptic and Yellow Peril, until he embarked on the O/100 in 1911, then the largest aircraft built in Britain. Used primarily as a heavy night bomber, the O/100 featured folding wings, an enclosed cabin with bullet-proof glass and armour protection, and engines mounted in armoured nacelles.
Imperial Airways' requirement for a larger aircraft for specific sections of the Empire Route was met with the HP42, an all-metal biplane with the first enclosed cockpit and accommodation for up to 24 passengers. First flown in November 1930, the HP42 served until the advent of war, when the company's production reverted entirely to military bombers.
The Handley Page Halifax bomber was one of the best known types of all the company's designs.
Long before the war ended, several transport designs were on the drawing board, including the Hastings, first flown on 25th April 1947 with four 1,675hp Bristol Hercules engines and capable of carrying 50 fully-equipped troops, and the four-engined Hermes, the first modern British airliner after the war, which made its first flight on 3rd December 1945. Twenty-five of the improved Hermes IV entered service with BOAC in August 1950.
A total of 50 high-wing, short-haul HPR7 Dart Herald airliners were built between 1959 and 1968, and the smaller 18-seat HP137 Jetstream was also put into large-scale production at Radlett. But the high cost of developing this aircraft forced Handley Page into voluntary liquidation on 8th August 1969, and, on 1st June 1970, one of Britain's best known aircraft manufacturers ceased to exist.


deHavilland Dove
Hawker Siddeley Dove VP965 RAF, flew support for the Battle of Britain Flight, summer 1976

The twin-engine deHavilland (later Hawker Siddeley) Dove arrived in 1945 on the scene, as a low wing design with retractable gear and a capacity for 11 passengers. It remained in production through the 1960s, with 554 Doves built, including 200 for military operators.


Four North American Harvards were 'made over to look like 'Thunderbolts', for filming of 'A Bridge Too Far' (1977).
Harvards made over into WW2 fighters for A Bridge Too Far film
Their markings were: HF-J 42-14392, HF-S 43-12885, HF-N 43-13168 & HF-B 43-42721.
July 1976.
Converted to Thunderbolt for the film

Shackleton AEW.2 WL745/J RAF, 1975
The Avro Shackleton was a British long-range maritime patrol aircraft for use by the Royal Air Force.
It was developed by Avro from the Avro Lincoln bomber with a new fuselage. It was originally used primarily in the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) roles, and was later adapted for airborne early warning (AEW), search and rescue (SAR) and other roles from 1951 until 1990.
It also served in the South African Air Force from 1957 to 1984.
The type is named after the polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. [WIKIPEDIA]

One should not get the impression that visiting aircraft dropped in any day any time of the week... Air bases in Holland operating fighter aircraft, such as Leeuwarden and Volkel, got a bigger share of visitors than Soesterberg. A visit of a Shackleton was something we talked about for weeks...

Avro was a British aircraft manufacturer, with numerous landmark designs such as the Avro 504 trainer in the First World War, the Avro Lancaster which was one of the pre-eminent bombers during the Second World War and the delta wing Avro Vulcan, a stalwart of the Cold War.
I like this design best...

RAF Shackleton at Soesterberg AB


One of the world's first aircraft builders, A.V. Roe and Company was established at Brownsfield Mills, Manchester, by Alliott Verdon Roe and his brother H.V. Roe on 1 January 1910.

RAF Shackleton visiting Soesterberg AB
Maintaining their skills in designing trainer aircraft, the company built a more robust biplane called the Avro Tutor in the 1930s that the Royal Air Force (RAF) also bought in quantity. A twin piston-engined airliner called the Anson followed but as tensions rose again in Europe the firm's emphasis returned to combat aircraft. The Avro Manchester, Lancaster, and Lincoln were particularly famous Avro designs. Over 7,000 Lancasters were built and their bombing capabilities led to their use in the famous Dam Busters raid. Of the total, nearly half were built at Avro's Woodford and Chadderton (Manchester) sites, with some 700 Lancasters built at the Avro "shadow" factory next to Leeds Bradford Airport (formerly Yeadon Aerodrome), north-west Leeds. This factory employed 17,500 workers at a time when the population of Yeadon was just 10,000. The old taxiway from the factory to the runway can still be seen.
The civilian Lancastrian and maritime reconnaissance Shackleton were derived from the successful Lancaster design. The Tudor was a pressurised but problematic post-war Avro airliner that faced strong competition from designs by Bristol, Canadair, Douglas, Handley Page, and Lockheed.
The postwar Vulcan bombers, originally designed as a nuclear strike aircraft, was used to maintain the British nuclear deterrent armed with the Avro Blue Steel stand-off nuclear bomb.
A twin turboprop airliner, the Avro 748, was developed during the 1950s and sold widely across the globe, powered by two Rolls-Royce Dart engines.
When the company was absorbed into Hawker Siddeley Aviation in July 1963, the Avro name ceased to be used.


Shackleton 54 J (Lossiemouth) 22Oct74

Looking at the weather here, I am now looking back thinking what on earth possessed me to hang around here..!? But on this day I got my money's worth, seeing and enjoying a rare Avro Shackleton visiting EHSB !!


Percival Pembroke Pembroke WV729 RAF Wildenrath, 09Apr76
The Pembroke was a development of the Percival Prince civil transport. It had a longer wing to permit a higher fully laden weight. The prototype flew on 21 November 1952. Production was complete in early 1958.
It entered service with the Royal Air Force as the Percival Pembroke C.1 in 1953 to replace the Avro Anson for light transport duties. As with other RAF transports passenger seats are rearward facing for improved safety.


AW.660 Argosy XR138 (no date)
The Armstrong Whitworth Argosy was a British post-war military transport/cargo aircraft and was the last aircraft produced by Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft. Although given different type numbers, the AW.650 civil and AW.660 military models were both called 'Argosy' and for practical purposes are basically the same design.
The Argosy was used by the Royal Air Force for its capability to accommodate 69 troops, or 48 stretcher cases or 29,000 lb (13 tonnes) of freight. This meant it could carry military equipment such as the Saracen or Ferret armoured cars, or artillery such as the 105 mm howitzer or Wombat.
The earliest deployments were in 1962 to No. 105 Squadron in the Middle East and No. 114 and No. 267 Squadrons at RAF Benson. The following year 215 Squadron received its Argosies when based at RAF Changi, Singapore. The squadron was disbanded on New Years Eve 1967 and the aircraft went to No. 70 Squadron at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. This was the last squadron to operate the aircraft in the transport role when it disposed of them in February 1975 in favour of Lockheed Hercules.
The E.1 version of the Argosy was with No. 115 Squadron from 1968 to 1978, most of the time based at RAF Cottesmore. [MORE on WIKIPEDIA...]

This was not the first aircraft named the Argosy... WIKIPEDIA


Canberra visiting EHSB
Canberra WH718, Flight Refuelling Ltd, Oct.1974
This was most certainly a rare visitor... Cannot think what the purpose of its visit was, since the Dutch Air Force had no inflight refuelling aircraft at that time. Perhaps a trip for navigational exercise or a exiting night in Amsterdam!


Visitors to Soesterberg air base
Beech Navajo Chieftain G-BBVR
Thurston Aviation Ltd 06Apr75


Visitors to Soesterberg air base
U-21A 18014 US Army


Convair T-29

Convair T-29 15116 touching down, you can almost here the screech of the tyres... This was in 1970.
My equipment at that time was an Exakta VX500. My telephoto lens was an Albinar (f4/300mm), producing rather soft images.

Lockheed C-130 Hercules
C-130E 40498 317TAW, 26Jul75
RF-4C Phantom II
During my enlistment here at Soesterberg AB, I often visited the Cross-Servicing where 'visitors' were parked. One would think the USAFE aircraft would go to the part of the air base where the Yanks were based, Camp New Amsterdam, but it seems this rather rare 'JO'-coded Phantom preferred the Dutch side of the air base.
This is a recce- aircraft by the way, RF-4C of 363 TRW (15Mar76).


Skywarrior, nicknamed 'the whale', a rare visitor to Soesterberg AB
EKA-3B 147648/AF-653 VAQ-208 / CVWR-20 (US Navy).
Visiting Soesterberg AB while involved in Excercise 'Ocean Safari", part of NATO's excercise 'Autumn Force' (16Dec75)


North American T-39 Sabreliner 24477, in 1976.
Sabreliner, at Soesterberg airbase
It must have brought some top ranking dignitaries for a visit..


Soesterberg navigation plates in Acrobat Reader format


Duth Military Aviation by Paul A.Jackson
Paul A. Jackson / Midland Counties Publications produced a series of monographs on various air forces.
They were of enormous use to me in those days. I always hung onto them, even though my interest in military aviation ceased some 25 years ago. It was nice to browse it again, while compiling this webpage.

The photos on this webpage have been scanned, using a Epson V500 Photo (flatbed) scanner


Soesterberg AB, a changing scene
I visited Soesterberg on 17Sep2014 and noticed the scenery had undergone a dramatic change: the hangars were gone and made way for a new building that will soon be opened: the National Military Museum. The former air base is being converted to a conservational environmental area, complete with heather and sheep, landscaped to preserve flora and fauna.
The taxitrack has been removed too. A small area, where the fire brigade was housed, is being targeted for real estate, though building has not started yet. The Americans still have a military presence, with helicopters, it seems.
I hope to explore the area in detail in due course. Meanwhile here are some screen dumps as it no longer is..
Soesterberg AB as is once was, but anno Sep. 2014 no longer


Roel Wijngaards-de Meij (rec audiovisuele producties) made an excellent production, in 3 parts, detailing the history of former Soesterberg AB and its rebirth as a park, which also houses the brand new National Military Museum.
Title: 'Basis Soesterberg, Landen in een nieuw Tijdperk' (which translates as 'Soesterberg air base, landing in a new era').
This documentary was made omn behalf of: RTV Utrecht, Utrechts Landschap, Provincie Utrecht, Nationaal Militair Museum, Gemeente Soest, Gemeente Zeist.!portfolio-item/basis-soesterberg-landen-een-nieuw-tijdperk-1/!portfolio-item/basis-soesterberg-landen-een-nieuw-tijdperk-2/!portfolio-item/basis-soesterberg-landen-een-nieuw-tijdperk-deel-3/

In part 1 I make a modest appearance. I am proud to have been able to contribute my bit for this fine document!
Now also on YouTube, my entry on stage commences at 07min19.

See also my report on MY VISIT TO NMM 21DEC2014


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