Blog - News

January 30, 2024

By Joely Ellis

Having fought in France, in 2001’s Band of Brothers, and on the seas and oceans in 2010’s  The Pacific, this story now moves from land and water to the sky.  Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks bring us the trilogy of Second World War sagas, nine-part series for Apple TV+, Masters of the Air.

The series is based on Donald L Miller’s book, Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany.  The drama will follow the real-life story of the 100th Bomb Group, a B-17 Flying Fortress unit, in the US Eighth Air Force who were sent to the UK in 1943. They were nicknamed the “Bloody Hundredth” due to their heavy losses in combat.

Starring Austin Butler (Maj. Gale ‘Buck’ Cleven), Ncuti Gatwa (2nd Lt. Robert H. Daniels), Callum Turner (Maj. John ‘Bucky’ Egan), Barry Keoghan (Lt. Curtis Biddick), Rafferty Law (Sgt. Ken Lemmons) to name a few famous faces.

Masters of the Air S1 © Apple TV+

Hayley Armstrong, Head of Production Services in the Filming in England team said, “Stepping back to the year 2000, creative powerhouses Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg brought Band of Brothers to Hertfordshire, with the majority of the critically acclaimed series filming on location at former Hatfield Aerodrome. At the time, it was the most expensive television drama ever made with vast sets constructed of the English, Dutch and French sites with somewhere in the region of 2,000 extras who needed 2,000 German and American uniforms, not to mention replica weapons.

Masters of the Air is the epic and long-awaited follow up, and we are delighted that the Locations team, led by Emma Pill, were able to bring filming back to Hertfordshire and indeed Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. I cannot wait to see this one!”

We take a look at some of the iconic locations this series shot at across the East and South East of England.  A lot of the series is set in Norfolk but the production actually shot across Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire.

The production filmed at Dalton Barracks in Abingdon, Oxfordshire where they built two full-sized Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress aeroplane replicas. They shot some take off and landing scenes plus a flight control centre was built on site. While in Oxfordshire, the production also shot in Oxford City Centre in Radcliffe Square and Catte Street which is surrounded by Oxford University.  Oxford City Centre is extremely popular for filming mainly due to its stunning architecture and historic buildings which makes it an ideal backdrop for many period dramas.

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesperson said, “We realise what an amazing county Oxfordshire is, and we are delighted to be able to accommodate filming requests for both the big and small screen. I know residents will enjoy trying to identify the Oxford and Abingdon locations in this star-studded new series.”

Masters of the Air S1 © Apple TV+

Masters of the Air shot at Bovingdon Airfield in Hertfordshire plus they also transformed the historic Hertfordshire location, Old Town Hemel Hempstead’s High Street, to look like bombed-out streets and bomb shelters.  As you can see in the images below, the Production designers added sandbags and old signage to create a mock air raid shelter.  On the day of filming, vintage and military vehicles lined the streets.

Pippa Cawdron, Hertfordshire Film Office Manager said, “The filming sector is thriving in Hertfordshire.  Having a Hertfordshire wide film office to offer a one stop shop service, film friendly districts like Dacorum and a variety of studio spaces like Bovingdon Airfield Studios, means that productions and film makers know they will get the support they need when filming in the county.”

Old Town Hemel Hempstead High Street, Hertfordshire © Filming in England

Amy Greenland, Filming Lead Officer / Dacorum Film Office Manager at Dacorum Borough Council said, “Dacorum Borough Council were delighted to welcome ‘Masters of the Air’ for scenes filmed in Hemel Hempstead’s Old Town High Street. The filming went smoothly from start to finish, taking a few weeks and completely transforming the high street’s quaint shopfronts into bombed-out streets and bomb shelters. The production and film crew were really good with our residents, businesses and local suppliers; making it a very positive filming experience for all.

The Old Town High Street is no stranger to filming. It is often described as the ‘prettiest high street in Hertfordshire’, and we can see why it’s a popular choice for location and production managers looking to transport audiences back to a past era, with its Victorian, Georgian and Tudor architecture, brimming with period pubs and retro cafes.”

Carole Weston, Portfolio Holder for People & Transformation at Dacorum Borough Council said, “We are pleased to be a very film-friendly council. The creative industries using local businesses and services brings economic benefits to the area, and filming is also a fantastic talking point for people visiting the borough and within our communities”.

Old Town Hemel Hempstead High Street, Hertfordshire © Filming in England

Masters of the Air constructed a £5 million US Army Airforce base set in Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire, on the site of a disused university and hotel, Newland Park.  Numerous Nissen huts, other WW2 buildings and many US Army vehicles were constructed and imported for filming.  This US Army Airforce base was actually located in Thorpe Abbotts in Norfolk during the war.

Newland Park is also home to the Chiltern Open Air Museum.

The production also shot in the picturesque village, Bledlow, in Buckinghamshire where they transformed it back in time to the 1940’s, transforming the Lions of Bledlow pub into the ‘Kings Head’ complete with a Bullards Ales sign. On the village green was a 1940’s signpost with directions to the Norfolk villages, Dickleburgh, Thorpe Abbotts and Burston.

Buckinghamshire was also used to double for Belgium where they found a farm through Filming in England Partnership members, Farm Locations.

Jo Thompson, Director of Farm Locations said, “We are thrilled that one of our Buckinghamshire locations, Panorama Farm made the cut after a very long trawl across many farms to find the perfect double for a Belgian farmstead in the film. The single story stone outbuildings looking out to the courtyard and beyond to panoramic vast views and sunsets, set the scene for the art department to dress and create a wonderful rustic Belgian setting. Emma Pill and her team took great care of our landowner and his farm, a first-timer to filming, and what a start for him!”

Another area that was transported back to the 1940’s was Bray in Berkshire.  A small local pub, the Shooting Star, was transformed into the ‘Hinds Head pub.’

Masters of the Air S1 © Apple TV+

Our Filming in England team helped with numerous location requests from searching for an area for a set build, a red brick factory, farms, estates and more. We were on hand to help with a traffic management request to helping them find crew.

Samantha Rifkin, Crew & Facilities Manager in the Filming in England team said, “Back in 2021, the industry was in the midst of a major production boom after its unprecedented bounce back from the pandemic. During this time, supporting HETV dramas like Masters of the Air in their quest for crew was challenging – the demand for skilled and experienced crew had never been so high, and it was here we started to see the real implications of the skills shortage. We supported the production with sourcing Accounts and Locations personnel – two departments that even now require more skilled workers! It was a great example of a big-budget production shooting against a very busy, very competitive landscape with fantastic results.”

Masters of the Air is out now on Apple TV+. Sign up with a 7 day free trial here.

For more information on our Film Office and Local Authority Partners featured in this blog follow these links: Hertfordshire Film Office, Dacorum Borough Council and Oxfordshire County Council.

Please follow this link for location agency, Farm Locations.

To search Filming in England’s National Directories for England’s film-friendly, diverse locations, skilled crew and professional suppliers follow the links here – Locations, Crew and Suppliers.