If you have memories of
being stationed at any of these locations and/or have your own photographs you
would like to share with readers,
RAF Burtonwood Some information from Wikipedia
RAF Burtonwood was a Royal Air Force base in England, 2 miles (3.2 km) northwest of Warrington in Lancashire. During World War II and the Cold War it was used by the United States Air Force and United States Army.
Altogether, there were three control towers on the base over the years. Burtonwood Road, which takes you over the modern junction 8 on the M62 motorway, is the modern name - it was originally called Cow Lane. There used to be a pub called the Limerick on that road, owned by the local Burtonwood Brewery, but it was eventually demolished to make way for an extension to the runways. Despite reconnaissance flights over the base by the Germans, the site was only bombed on two occasions, with little damage. Most of the bomb damage was aimed at the larger cities of Liverpool and Manchester. Also, Burtonwood was laid out in such a way that if one section was bombed, work could continue in another area.
The facility was transferred to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 11 June 1942 to become a servicing centre for the United States Eighth, Ninth, Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Forces aircraft. Burtonwood was also known as Base Air Depot 1 (BAD 1), although an RAF presence continued until 21 October 1943, when the base was officially handed over to the Americans.
Burtonwood was the largest airfield in Europe during the war with the most USAAF personnel and aircraft maintenance facilities. The roar of the engines in the test beds could be heard for miles around, especially at night. By the end of the war 18,000 servicemen were stationed at Burtonwood. Some of the serviceman were based at Canada Hall, an accommodation block on the site of the current University of Chester campus at Fearnhead, and at Bruche Hall, both in east Warrington. They were sent over there because their accommodation blocks at Burtonwood were not ready in time, and were transported to and from Burtonwood in trucks.
Famous visitors to the site include Generals Eisenhower and Patton. Of course it wasn't all work at the base. Many famous entertainers flew in to entertain the troops. These include Glenn Miller and his band, Bing Crosby in 1944 and Bob Hope in 1948. Jimmy Cagney entertained, as did the British film star Jean Simmons, who visited on 15 December 1948. Nat 'King' Cole performed in about 1953. Spanish-born model and actress Jinx Falkenberg (21 January 1919 - 27 August 2003) also visited the base on 29 December 1948. Baseball was played often - did they give us the game of rounders or did they pinch it from us and call it baseball? I believe it is the latter (dating to 1744 - see here), but I do remember at junior school getting somebody out with a direct throw to one of the posts from about 20 feet away. The teacher was amazed too! Other visitors to RAF Burtonwood included Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery "Monty" in October 1950, the Duke of Edinburgh in March 1953, who appeared in front of 10,000 servicemen, and evangelist Billy Graham catered for the spiritual needs on 11 May 1954.
The Germans surrendered on 8 May 1945 and the country celebrated. But the work of Burtonwood was not over.
Postwar USAF use
Burtonwood played an important part in the airlift and the base was handed back to the Americans in September 1948. The Berlin Blockade, also known as the "German hold-up" (24 June 1948 – 11 May 1949) was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War, which started between America and Russia in 1948 and lasted until 1980. During the multinational occupation of post-World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western force's railway and road access to the western sectors of Berlin, which they had been controlling. Their aim was to force the western powers to allow the Soviet controlled regions to start supplying Berlin with food and fuel, thereby giving them nominal control over the entire city.
The following four photos are Copyright © Peter Spilsbury and were taken by him on his visit to the base in 1956. See more in Peter's Gallery
Back at Burtonwood, on 7 November 1953 the USAF 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron began operating from the base, flying initially the WB-29 then WB-50D Superfortress (examples pictured above), having been transferred from Kindley Field, Bermuda. The squadron was assigned to collecting weather data that was transmitted to weather stations for use in preparing forecasts required for the Air Force Military Air Transport Service (MATS) and the U.S. Weather Bureau. The squadron was transferred to RAF Alconbury in Cambridgeshire on 26 April 1959. MATS also used Burtonwood as a cargo and passenger transport facility until 1958, when its operations were moved to RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk. During the 1950s, European-based USAF aircraft were overhauled or modified at Burtonwood, including Republic F-84 Thunderjets, Thunderstreaks and North American F-86 Sabres.
A small village was built, with its own school and shop, to house the many US servicemen. The buildings were known as "Tobacco Houses", because the lease for the land was paid with American tobacco.
Major USAF use of Burtonwood ended in April 1959 when the flightline was closed, although some use of the runway was made by gliders of the RAF Air Training Corps. The USAF returned the station to the Ministry of Defence in 1965.
United States Army
US forces returned to Burtonwood in 1967 when France withdrew its military support for NATO. Burtonwood was used as a receiving depot for USAF and US Army equipment and supplies being withdrawn from their former French NATO facilities. Afterwards, the US Army took over the base and renamed it Burtonwood Army Depot.
Army developed Burtonwood into a storage and forward supply depot operated by
the 47th Support Group. The main warehouse was described as the largest
building under a single roof in Europe. The idea was that in the event of an
emergency, US troops in the USA that were earmarked for NATO service in Europe
would fly over and pick up their kit from Burtonwood before going on to the
battle front. It was never tested for this eventuality, although the base
provided service functions for the 1991 Gulf War.
With the end of the Cold War, Burtonwood Army Depot was declared excess to NATO requirements and was officially closed in June 1994. One questioned that was always asked of Burtonwood was whether or not nuclear weapons were ever stored there. Civilians, of course, would never be given the answer to that one, but now that the Cold war is a thing of the past, I don't suppose it really matter anymore.
Most of the buildings on the base were torn down by the year 2000, leaving it free for alternative uses.
The area south of the M62 has been cleared of all structures and almost all concreted areas, to make way for the Omega commercial development and the building of a new urban village called Chapelford, which is now partly occupied.
My dad tells me that when he lived in Longford he could hear the engines being tested at the base from his home. The Dallam estate did not exist when my dad was a youngster, so there was nothing to cushion the noise, which was deafening, he recalls. Having said that, the noise could, in fact, be heard all over the town.
And here's another little snippet for you: when the Americans went home they didn't take all the vehicles and equipment back with them. So where might they be? Well, when I was visiting the Old Hall area in 2007, I was told there are Jeeps and other vehicles buried 30 feet down under what is now Chapelford Urban Village, the new housing estate built on the former Air Base land. So some nice memorabilia if you fancy digging it up - but please don't disturb the residents... Make a good subject for Channel 4's Time Team, wouldn't it? Other equipment was simply burned, scrapped or dumped in the sea!
They were taken by him around 1962 from the top of the Lamont high pressure hot water boiler house building used to supply the Header House site.
Volunteer Gliding School
(later designated as Squadron) was formed in November 1959 and
remained at Burtonwood until 1984 when the runways were removed.
stationed at RAF Burtonwood upon deactivation of the airfield by the United
States Air Force. The Commanding Officer at Burtonwood was Flt Lt Bryan H
Trunkfield, with deputy Flt Lt Peter McLachlan later to become Officer
Commanding with the rank of Squadron Leader. The squadron carried out more
sorties than all the RAF and United States Air Force put together, although they
gained very little recognition for this record.
The young people of Warrington have much to thank the 635 squadron for - taking command of one of Her Majesty’s aircraft at the age of sixteen (two years before the legal age of driving) was a responsibility that many would envy. The Nurses at Warrington General hospital, Warrington Infirmary and St Helens hospital attended many parties at the Gliding School, with happy memories all round.
In February 2010, former
Commanding Officer Bryan Trunkfield gave an illustrated talk about his
time at Burtonwood. He was also deputy director of Liverpool (Speke) Airport and
was accompanied on the night by two former gliding instructors, one of whom was
Civil Chief Engineer at RAF Burtonwood. Bryan
was joined by Peter McLachlan who was Commanding Officer after Bryan, and also
the Senior Engineer at RAF Burtonwood from the 1960s to the 1980s.
One of the gliders used at Burtonwood (from start to finish), Sedbergh XN185, is still in RAF hands. The proposal is to have it refurbished and placed in the RAF Museum at Hendon (a fund has been set up to achieve this). Maybe Warrington Borough Council could get involved and sponsor the refurbishment. It could be named the "Spirit of Warrington" or something similar, along the lines of people/towns buying Spitfires during the war. What do you say at the council?Based on information supplied by Deputy Flt Lt Peter McLachlan (6 Sep 2010).
Following on from this, I was sent the following photos from Kevin Hughes who was part of the 2301 (Heywood) Squadron East Lancs Wing, has supplied the following photographs of his gliding course training at RAF Burtonwood on 21 June 1983.
The Air Training Corps (ATC) is voluntary youth group which is part of the Air Cadet Organisation of the Royal Air Force. The ATC is divided into six regions, 36 wings and more than 900 squadrons within communities around the UK.
For more information on the Air Cadets, see the official website www.raf.mod.uk/aircadets.
Many thanks, Kevin, for your contribution.
There is another website (unconnected to RAF Burtonwood Association) which keeps the memory of RAF Burtonwood alive. Link to it at www.rafburtonwood.org. It includes photos and stories about RAF Burtonwood, RAF Croft and RNAS Stretton (Blackcap).
Towards the end of 2008 I was sent a series of photos by T Eyres. The descriptions here are his. All photos in this section Copyright © T Eyres. Many thanks for your work.
On 30 May 2012 Barratt Homes presented a Jubilee Photographic Exhibition at their show house at The Boulevard development in Chapelford Village to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and to remember the legacy of RAF Burtonwood, on which Chapelford village and The Boulevard is built. I was invited to the launch of the exhibition where I had a chance to meet other guests. I would like to thank them for that invite and to pay tribute to all the forces staff and colleagues who gave their service to RAF Burtonwood from 1940-1993. I would also like to thank ww2events.co.uk for permission to use two of their photos taken on the day, which have been added to my own.
RAF Burtonwood - The Legacy
Burtonwood Air base was massive - there were about 18 miles of surface roadway, over 4½ miles of railway track, 13 hangars, 16 miles of fencing covering 1,471 acres, and nearly 4 million square feet of aircraft parking facilities. Around 6,000 United States personnel were stationed at RAF Burtonwood in its lifetime. Towards the end of its life there was discussion as to what to do with the land. Some said it should be used as a peace-time airport, but Manchester Ringway and eventually Liverpool airports were given higher precedence. Mind you, when you see the planes flying low over the town on their way to Liverpool John Lennon Airport, one wonders if they are the guys from the 1940s returning from their missions and landing once again at Burtonwood! So what about the land for the future? Well, already the site is occupied with new industrial and residential developments, with more to come. Chapelford Urban Village has already been mentioned and now partially occupied. Many of the road names in Chapelford are named in memory of the base - California Drive and Dakota Park, for instance. And Mary Ann Meadows near Westbrook is a wooded area named in memory of the main repair depot, Mary Ann Site.
The photos below show the proposed Omega site on 26 August 2003 (photos Copyright © GI Gandy, mywarrington).
But the biggest talking point and the most controversial was the announcement by the government about the possibility of building a Titan prison on part of the site. A Titan prison is a supersize prison which is designed to tackle overcrowding in jails. Warrington was being considered as one site for the three proposed prisons. Local residents and MPs were opposed to it. I suppose the Government would argue that, in the financial climate of 2009 where there is no guarantee that Omega would go ahead, building a prison would create employment. That was only one viewpoint. An opposing view was the local community showing concern about the value of their properties going down or the risk of jail-breaks, etc. A campaigning group called WRAPP (the Warrington Residents Against the Prison Plan) had collected petitions from locals in a bid to persuade the government to scrap the idea. They said that apart from the value of properties going down, and the risk of losing out on thousands of new jobs which Omega business park is expecting to create, most importantly it won't cut crime. Lib Dem councillor for Bewsey and Whitecross, Jo Crotty, lead the campaign. Thankfully, the Titan prison idea was officially scrapped by the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw MP, on Monday 27 April 2009.
And finally, my dad tells this story about when he was a conductor on the bus which went to Bewsey and stopped by the base road. Every night an American would get on in town after a night out in Warrington, but never had any change to pay his fare, always offering a banknote. So dad and his driver decided to get their own back - they sorted out the change in pennies and half-pennies and put it in a bag for him when he got off saying here's your change. The bus drives away and dad heard a might thud as the bag of change hit the back of the bus with a shout of "You *@!<?+" coming back from the Yank. Dad never saw him again.
For more about Burtonwood Base, try these links. mywarrington is not responsible for third party websites.
RAF Padgate Some information from Wikipedia
During World War II, Padgate had a small RAF base which provided basic training for air force recruits. It opened in April 1939. This type of base was described as a recruitment training camp (read accounts here regarding RAF Reception Units). This RAF station will be well-remembered by thousands of young men who were selected for RAF National Service, and on this site received their first taste of military discipline, ill-fitting uniforms and a severe haircut.
The site of the RAF base is now a housing estate, bordering Cinnamon Brow. In the centre of Padgate, next to the train line, is a large area of land and playing fields known as Bennett's Recreation Ground or simply Bennett's Rec. A rifle range and part of the running track are still visible on the site. It is the home of the Woolston Rovers rugby league side. Vulcan Close, Valiant Close, Anson Close, Harrier Road, Viscount Road, Blenheim Close, Lancaster Close and Wellington Close are just some of the street names in the Blackbrook area of the town which are named after aeroplanes used in the war. Padgate Community High School is on this land.
The university campus in nearby Fearnhead, affiliated to the University of Chester, was used as a camp for Canadian servicemen (called Canada Hall) during the Second World War, before becoming a teacher training college in 1946. This was used to house some of the servicemen stationed at Burtonwood. Around 4,000 personnel were stationed at RAF Padgate during its lifetime.
Famous Boxer Freddie Mills was stationed at RAF Padgate. He was world light heavyweight boxing champion between 1948 and 1950.
David Cherry from Australia writes of his childhood memories of RAF Padgate.
Also from Australia, Cyril writes:
From web browsing, it would seem that not everybody favoured the conditions at RAF Padgate - one described it as like a prison camp (click here). See also here. Many recruits were sent there for basic training before being posted around the world. (Click here)
For photos of RAF Padgate, click here.
The reader's forum on Warrington-Worldwide includes a sketch of what the site looked like. In that forum there is also a link to a website featuring a Spitfire AR614 MkVc, which was put on display at RAF Padgate in the 1940s and 1950s. Click here for that website.
Another link gives information about the units based at RAF Padgate.
This link shows a photo of a music band.
And finally for now, check out this tale about The Haunted Iron Bridge of Padgate, which mentions RAF Padgate.
RNAS Stretton (HMS Blackcap) Some information from Wikipedia
Royal Naval Air Station Stretton (HMS Blackcap), was an airfield in the village of Appleton Thorn, close to the village of Stretton in south Warrington. The airfield's site was located to the south west of junction 9 of the later M56 motorway. All Naval Air Stations are named after birds.
World War II
RNAS Stretton was originally planned as a Royal Air Force night fighter station to protect Liverpool and Manchester from Luftwaffe air raids during World War II. However, changes in German tactics meant that the airfield was not required so it was transferred to the Admiralty on completion. The site was acquired on 2 August 1941, commissioned as HMS Blackcap on 1 June 1942, and was passed over to the full control of the Admiralty on 1 November 1942, having been on loan from the RAF until then.
Three runways and numerous hangars had been built. Forty-one Fleet Air Arm Squadrons were based here for varying periods with some aircraft being flown directly to and from aircraft carriers operating in the Irish Sea and other nearby waters.
Fairey Aviation used a hangar on the northeast edge of the airfield for the modification, repair and flight-testing of Barracudas, Fireflies and Fulmars before they were despatched to their operational squadrons. Fairey also had a repair site at Wilderspool Causeway from 1943 next to Bennett's shirt factory. This is now used as the depot for Warrington Borough Transport (see photo in On The Buses). From 1944, HMS Blackcap was also used as an Aircraft Maintenance Yard; a large hangar complex being constructed to the northwest of the airfield for this activity.
Entertainment was an important activity during wartime and Blackcap had its share of visiting celebrities, including George Formby. Dances and theatre shows were also staged for the troops and their partners.
Post War Operations
At the end of the war American Naval Aircraft were flown into Blackcap to be broken up for disposal. The Aircraft Maintenance Yard at Blackcap meant that the airfield continued to operate and, at its peak, handled one third of all Fleet Air Arm Aircraft and all its spare engines.
Current site of RNAS Stretton
In 1947 the Fleet Air Arm decided to form Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Squadrons. The first to be based at Stretton was 1831 Naval Air Squadron, a fighter squadron, which was reformed here on 1 June 1947.
The M56 motorway was constructed over the runway in 1975 and some of the warehouses have been used as commercial storage facilities.
Thorn Cross Prison Some information from Wikipedia
The main living area of Blackcap, Eagle site, which was also the main administration site, became Appleton Thorn Prison in 1960. This was later closed, demolished and replaced by Thorn Cross Prison, which opened in 1985 - a Category D Young Offenders Institution for males aged 18 to 21. Thorn Cross was initially used as an open prison for adult males. In 1996, the prison was re-rolled as a Young Offenders Institution. At the time, Thorn Cross was the first such institution in the United Kingdom to enforce military-style disciplinary regime for its inmates, which led to the prison being labelled as a boot camp.
In January 1999, an inspection report from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons labelled Thorn Cross Prison as an inspirational example of good practice. In particular the report praised the prisons High Intensity Training (HIT) project, and recommended it be rolled out to other prisons.
In October 2005, a further inspection report highly praised Thorn Cross Prison, again highlighting the prisons HIT program. The report also noted that Thorn Cross managed to reduce re-offending amongst its ex-inmates to just over 20%, which was one of the best rates in the country. However the report did say the prison did have to do more to improve relations with the local community.
Education and training courses offered at the prison include Construction Crafts, Motor Vehicles, Horticulture, Hospitality and Catering, and Rail Construction (NVQ Level 2). Thorn Cross has a number of partnerships with national and local employers which offer opportunities for work placements prior to, and on release.
In November 2011 a planning application was lodged with Warrington Borough Council to demolish the remaining buildings on the site and to build new houses. I visited the site on 7 March 2012 and spoke to a local resident who confirmed that the plan had been withdrawn by the developer, which was confirmed in the press the following day. I noticed there was a health and safety notice regarding asbestos on the gate. To read the planning application at the Warrington Borough Council website, click here.
Royal Ordnance Factory Risley From Wikipedia
ROF Risley was known as Filling Factory No.6, and used in World War II for filling munitions, including the Grand Slam bomb.
A number of bunkers were also built to house the munitions, to protect them from potential bombing, and also to segregate the site and reduce the consequences of any accidental explosions during manufacture or storage. Although these bunkers are on the surface, they are covered with soil and turf and so give the impression of being underground. You can still see some of them in Birchwood Forest Park. Area 6 was where the detonators were filled with explosive powder. Gorse Covert housing estate is now built on this land.
Link to the Warrington Borough Council website to read more and see photos of the Royal Ordnance Factory at Risley.
South Lancashire Regiment From Wikipedia
The South Lancashire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's Volunteers) was a regiment of the British Army.
Its regimental badge included the Roman numerals XL indicating 40 from which the regiment got the nickname "The Excellers".
The home town of this regiment is Warrington, Cheshire, England. The regiment's history was originally accommodated in the Territorial Army Centre in Orford. The South Lancashire/East Lancashire/The Loyal North Lancashire and the Lancashire Regimental museum's have moved from Warrington to Fulwood Barracks in Preston. Warrington town museum still retains some exhibitions.
Lancashire Regiment From Wikipedia
The Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Volunteers) was an infantry regiment of the British Army.
It was formed, as a consequence of defence cuts implemented in the late 1950s, by the amalgamation of the 1st Battalion, The East Lancashire Regiment and 1st Battalion and The South Lancashire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's Volunteers) on 1 July 1958; forming the 1st Battalion, The Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Volunteers).
The Regiment was first based in Hong Kong, where both of its predecessor regiments had been based when they amalgamated. In 1961 the Regiment arrived in Hilden, West Germany as part of the British Army of the Rhine. The Regiment arrived in Swaziland in late 1964, shortly after Swaziland's first-ever elections. The Regiment remained in that country until early the following year when it returned to Britain, being based in Catterick.
In 1967, the Lancashires arrived in Aden in the Middle East a number of months before Aden gained independence from the British Empire. The Regiment saw active involvement in the efforts to quell the numerous guerrillas, some of which were Egyptian-backed, and sustained a number of casualties in the process. During their tour of Aden the Regiment accumulated the largest amount of operational awards given to units that participated in the Aden Crisis. The Regiment left Aden two months before it gained its independence on 30 November. In 1968 the Regiment was posted to the garrison in Malta. The following year the Lancashires again returned home to the UK.
On 25 March 1970, after a relatively brief existence, the Regiment was amalgamated with the 1st Battalion, The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire), to form the 1st Battalion, The Queen's Lancashire Regiment.
The images below show the names of those servicemen, servicewomen and civilians listed on the Bridge Foot cenotaph who lost their lives in the two World Wars.
The next series of photos list those servicemen and servicewomen who are named on other war memorials in the town.
If you know of any service personnel who I have not listed then please get in touch and I will be pleased to add their names.
The 2012 Poppy Appeal in Warrington was launched with a specially painted bus by Network Warrington and supported by The Royal British Legion Riders Branch. In July 2004 a meeting took place at The Royal British Legion Village to discuss the possibility of an ex-services motorcycle club becoming an official branch of the RBL. The Riders Branch is very diverse in it's membership. Members are young and old, male and female. They take part in all types of biking and biking events, from track days to rallies, on customs to sports bikes, and everything in between! And not forgetting formal Legion organised events and fund raising. See their website www.rblr.co.uk. See also The Royal British Legion website www.britishlegion.org.uk and The Poppy Appeal website www.poppy.org. My thanks to Peter Spilsbury for the photos.
If you have any stories about any of the subjects covered in this section I would love to publish them on this page. Click my pen image below to send email