Lancashire At War.co.uk
Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire
RAF Burtonwood, near Warrington is now sadly completely demolished. Until fairly recently some of its huge hangars could be seen from the M62 motorway.
However, if you look carefully there are a few things still visible and there is an excellent museum that documents its history.
RAF Burtonwood was built specifically for the Second World War, opening in time for the Battle of Britain before being handed over to the United States when they entered the war. It was: "open the longest and was the last to close. It had the most US personnel, the highest production, the most aircraft, the longest runway and even the most marriages." (Lancashire Airfields in the Second World War by Aldon P.Ferguson).
During World War Two, thousands of aircraft were repaired or built at Burtonwood. Anything from an entire plane (11,575 built in just 32 months) to its engine to individual parts were stripped and re-built, completely overhauled, modified or built from scratch. It was the biggest airbase in Europe during WW2 and therefore played a crucial role in how the war progressed. Surprisingly, it largely escaped German bombing raids, despite nearby Liverpool and Manchester both being Blitzed.
So with the hangers gone, huge distribution centres being built, whole housing estates springing up and a major motorway over the main runway - what still exists?
So far we have found three remaining blast shelters, a very rare Pickett Hamilton Fort, a possible pillbox or bunker (no photos on this page yet), some lumps and bumps and a fantastic Museum.
Above and Below: Courtesy of Wikipedia two photos of RAF Burtonwood
The history of RAF Burtonwood is well documented elsewhere. In terms of books we would recommend Lancashire Airfields in the Second World War by Aldon P.Ferguson as it is incredibly detailed and has all the Lancashire airfields included.
Plenty of websites have information, photographs and stories about the place and so as not to repeat their excellent work, instead, in no particular order, we post the following links that we would recommend:
Below: A blast shelter in Bog Wood, between Gullivers' World Hotel and the Maze. Note the underground feature in the foreground of Photo 2. What is the large grassy mound nearby (photo 6)? CLICK THE PHOTO TO ENLARGE IT.
Below: Two more blast shelters associated with RAF Burtonwood - these have less internal walls than the other one and no obvious steps to an underground part.
CLICK ON A PHOTO TO ENLARGE IT
Above: the blast shelter near Wendsleydale close. Below: another nearby, the one next to Whittle Avenue.
A RARE find - a Pickett Hamilton Fort (no, me either) - sort of like a pop up pillbox!
On the waste land that is currently becoming a huge distribution centre for the likes of Asda and the Post Office, a very rare WW2 relic was discovered. Fortunately, English Heritage have insisted it is protected - so once the site has been developed, maybe we can all go and have a look.
Above: the area near the find complete with earthmover - I hope they look after the find!
Above: An example of a Pickett Hamilton Fort, courtesy of Wikipedia.
RAF Burtonwood Heritage Centre
RAF Burtonwood is remembered at this fantastic little museum - RAF Burtonwood Heritage Centre. It is in the car park of Gulliver's World, next to the Nerf Zone. It is free to those visiting Gulliver's World - but is also open to the public (and free) after 3pm.
It is well worth a visit - crammed full of memorabilia, maps, photographs, models, stories, things from the camp and all things World War Two. Staff are friendly and knowledgeable and will help you research a relative that may have served on the base.
In recent times the heritage centre has expanded substantially with a whole new outside area which mixes "new" re-creations of camp life with old items salvaged - like the main gates from the RAF Croft site.
It's free but relies on donations and purchases - so why not buy a brick and leave a message on it for a lot less than a family ticket for other museums.
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