Lancashire At War.co.uk

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

HMS Ringtail - World War Two airfield at Burscough, near Ormskirk

'HMS Ringtail' sounds like a code name doesn't it? But that is what the World War Two airfield near Burscough was called. Named after a bird, it was a Navy airfield rather than an RAF one - hence the name. The last airfield to be built in Lancashire during WW2 it followed the Navy blueprint for airfields - which differed significantly from RAF airfields.

 

According to Aldon P. Ferguson's book 'Lancashire Airfields in the Second World War': "it was constructed to the normal Navy plan with four runways instead of three, all of which were only 30 yards wide instead of the RAF standard 50 yards. The extra runway allowed the aircraft to land and take off as close as possible into the wind, with eight directions to choose from. The narrower landing strips also simulated take off and landing on aircraft carriers."

Prime Development Site?

Searching through historical images on Google Earth, you will see how much of the site has been lost just in the last 15 years as the abandoned airfield has been put to new uses. Housing, an industrial estate and now a large shopping development (in 2014) has slowly eaten away at the site.

 

It can only be a matter of time before more houses are built and more of the site's history is lost.

 

But to the keen eye there are still things to see. And we thought we should photograph what was still there before it is lost forever.

According to Mr Ferguson's book: "it had 32 Mainhill type hangars, 18 for squadron use and 14 for storage, with two Callender type for major servicing". Some of these still survive today. The future of some of them seems secure in the short term due to their use in the industrial estate. But others at the south of the site (with original taxiing areas still intact) are unused and one would worry are therefore under threat.

In the main, squadrons using this site were put there to increase their operational size - train new pilots and test new planes before setting off again back into battle. Though some new squadrons were formed at HMS Ringtail. The types of planes that would have been seen around the airfield included Seafires, Corsairs, Fireflies, Hellcats, Ansons, Barracudas, Wildcats, Helldivers, and Swordfish. The pilots were mainly British and American. Destinations for these squadrons included Normandy, the Mediterranean and very often the Far East.

There was also radar school on site.

 

Even when the last original remnant of the airfield has been removed, its memory will live on in the road names: Ringtail Road and Swordfish Close (Below Left). And the new Booths supermarket being built (Below Right) has been designed to look like a hangar!

Links to other websites associated with the site:

This is probably the ultimate site to look at for a better understanding of the history of HMS Ringtail

It contains a very detailed history and lots of photos:

Lathom & Burscough Military Heritage Society 

or type in: http://lbmhs.co.uk/

 

HistoricAviationMilitary.com has an excellent HMS Ringtail page with lots of photos and interesting detail

 

Right: Buy the excellent book which much of this page's research is based on. Lancashire Airfields in the Second World War by Aldon P. Ferguson

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The site is being slowly cleared of its WW2 past.

Above: some of the unused Mainhill hangars on the southern end of the site - surely under threat?

Below: more Mainhill hangers now used as part of the industrial estate.

We did find one of the Callender hangars still intact (left and below left). It dwarves the other hangars and it was really nice to see it still in use today.

 

We also found nearby a Nissen hut (below). Most of the living and administration buildings, according to Ferguson, were Nissen huts.

Must have been cold in a Lancashire winter!

There were some interesting buildings obviously of WW2 vintage dotted around the industrial estate. This one (right and below) has blast walls which make it reminiscent of an ammunition dump. However, according to NorthWest Exploration Forum, it is a Standby Set House. Which, thanks to English Heritage, I now know is: "A building housing the stand-by generator set and associated equipment which could supply electricity to all essential services in the event of a power cut". It is next to a flattened area of buildings, adjacent to a row of houses. How long before it is gone?

The NorthWest Exploration Forum have excellent photos inside the building

Next to the Standby Set House, were these unknown buildings (below) - much obscured by the summer growth. Any ideas? We need to see them in the winter - if they are still there.

Stop line 14 ran from Liverpool to Wigan, using the Leeds - Liverpool canal as the focus of its defense activities. Its aim was to delay or repel the invasion. Pillboxes, block houses and tank traps can be seen all along the canal and as it passes to the north of HMS Ringtail it formed the northern defences for the airfield. SEE MORE ABOUT STOP LINE 14 - CLICK HERE

We found these tank traps (left and right) along with lots of modern quarried stone on the side of (I think) Langley Road in the Industrial Estate. I wonder if they were part of the Stop Line or part of the defence of the airfield?