Lancashire At War.co.uk

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

 

 

 

 

Blackpool At War

Blackpool played an important part in World War Two. Its two airports were used by the RAF,

the Tower was an experimental radar site, thousands of troops trained there and several government departments moved there. Its stories deserve to be told.

Then there is the myth about Hitler not wanting it bombed.......!

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One of the most unusual pillboxes ever! A defended railway bridge over the B5124 Devonshire Road

 

Above: views of the bridge from both sides - the pillbox only faces one way (above left).

 

Right: A Google Earth image where you can see the concrete roof of the pillbox.

Above: Near the airport off B5261 Edge Road in the grounds of South Shore Cricket Ground there a pillbox now being used as an advertisment board. It sits on the junction with a back road to the airport.

 

Right: Follow the lane past the Cricket Ground up towards the sports club all the way up to the airport gates and you will find this strange pillbox. At some point it has been painted white for some reason. Its design is unusual, but not unique, there is another of a similar design elsewhere on the airport grounds.

At the top of Leach Lane near to another entrance to the airport there are two pillboxes within a few metres of each other - one made of concrete (Above Left And Above Right) one made of brick (Right) (the same design as the one painted white on the other side of the airport).

 

It seems strange having two so close together, so I wonder if they had different functions? One to protect the airport from the outside, the other to fire against the enemy landing in the airport.

During WW2 RAF Squire Gate was used as a fighter squadron base as part of the protection of Liverpool in particular and to patrol the Irish Sea. It was also used as a RAF training base for many different types of training. Hurricanes and Defiants were flown by British and Polish squadrons.

 

The control tower still stands and on the outskirts there seem to be some other WW2 looking buildings scattered about - but too far away for my camera!

RAF Squire Gate - now Blackpool International Airport

According to Aldon P. Ferguson in 'Lancashire Airfields In The Second World War', "Squires Gate was bombed on a number of occasions"...he goes on to describe three occasions when the  airport was attacked. While John Ellis in 'Blackpool At War' claims "Nearly a hundred bombs were dropped at the site" and then goes on to say that the number may even be higher. The site would have been made an even greater target by the location of the Vickers Armstrong factory which was next door. This built twin engined Wellington bombers. According to Ferguson, between 1940 an 1945 some 3,406 Wellingtons were built.

The airport was commandeered in 1939 by the Royal Air Force as a Technical Training School. Wellington Bombers were also assembled there. Hexagonal in shape the Pillbox is built with re-enforced concrete and stone aggregate and was designed for use by the Military or Home Guard riflemen.

Used extensively during the First World War Pillboxes were circular in design, similar to a pillbox containing tablets prescribed by a chemist – hence the name.

It is estimated that less than 6000 of a total of 28000 pillboxes still survive".

Stanley Park - former WW2 airfield - now Blackpool Zoo

On the road up to Blackpool Zoo you will find this pillbox and recent sculpture on top and a Blue Plaque which says the following: "Salisbury Woodland Pill Box type 22

This Pillbox (military bunker) was constructed during the early years of WWII in 1940 and was designated as a lookout to defend the former Stanley Park Municipal Airport which had opened in 1931.

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Blackpool Zoo is now on the site of RAF Stanley Park, but some traces of its former use still survive. Below Left: Just inside the entrance is the former Control Tower - you can just see its round glass observation room. Below Right is the original hanger, and I believe the other hangers adjacent were WW2 constructions.

On the outskirts of Blackpool, near Plumpton there is a well hidden pillbox (Can you see it? Below Right). It is on the A583, opposite the entrance to the Caravan Park. It is in the grounds of World Horse Welfare and if you stand at the entrance to their farm you can just about make it out between the hedge and their fence (Below Left).

In Thornton Cleveleys there is a pillbox opposite the entrance to Cala Gran Caravan park. This is on the B5268. This and the above site at Plumpton have something in common - they both face caravan parks! I wonder if both sites were used as military accomodation during the war? This may partly account for their positioning.

Since visiting Blackpool and taking these photos I have bought the book 'Blackpool At War' by John Ellis which is an excellent read. My favourite chapter is the one on 'Fortified Wartime Defence Positions' which is followed by a gazetteer of sites. As I did not know about some of these additional sites, I will have to return and photograph them at some point.

 

Chapter 6, 'The People's Playground' discusses the recent claim that Hitler wanted Blackpool untouched by Luftwaffe bombing so that it could be a "people's playground"  after the war. To be fair the author questions the validity of the material uncovered. But we would go as far to say that the whole story sounds like an urban myth to us. I have read similar things about "Hitler wanting the Midland Hotel in Manchester saved from bombing" ! - Look it up and it is even mentioned on Wikipedia. Then try looking up maps of Manchester's WW2 bomb sites and you will see that bombing was indiscriminate and not as accurate as many think. The Midland Hotel was fortunate to survive, but it survived due to good fortune, not because Hitler wanted it saving!

 

There are similar urban myths throughout England perpetuated by Local Councils who will tell you that "Hitler wanted their Town Hall saved". Rochdale, Norwich, Walthamstow,...all claim it and there are others too.

 

We believe the Blackpool story is just the same myth in a slightly different format.

Above: Blackpool Tower fitted during World War Two with an early version of radar.

Most of the information on this page came from Pastscape.org.uk or from Aldon P. Ferguson's 'Lancashire Airfields In The Second World War', and John Ellis's 'Blackpool At War'