It was appropriate that the Warrington Rotary Club meeting was on the 4th July. Members were given a presentation on the history of RAF Burtonwood the home to thousands of American servicemen over the years.
The presentation by members of the Burtonwood Asssociation outlined the history of the site from its early operations with the RAF in 1940 supplying Spitfires for the Battle of Britain to its closure in 1993.
When the US entered the Second World War the base, the largest in Europe, supported 18,500 Americans and 10,000 civilian workers building, testing and maintaining some of the iconic aircraft of the time. The runway was extended to a length similar to the one now at Manchester Airport.
In 1942 the US Army Air Corps arrived at Liverpool by sea and were then transferred to the base. Thirteen hangers were taken over by the US for 'maintenance' which was used to described the armouring of planes to testing engines before being fitted and anything in between that required to be done. One third of all the B17 Superfortresses ever flown were serviced there as was just about every conceivable US plane in operation at that time.
When the war ended the numbers decreased but in the early fifties when Berlin was blockaded by the Russians supplies to the city were flown in for Burtonwood once again showing its strategic importance. By this time the B36 one of the largest planes ever flown was also flying in to the base and being serviced.
When the blockade finished the base continued with small detachments of both US and RAF personnel. The delta winged Vulcan bomber was often seen landing on the runway. In these latter years the base was used as a storage facility by the US and was eventually closed in 1993.
Many friendships were formed and marriages between locals and US personnel took place over the years and Warrington still has a strong connection with the US through the Burtonwood Association.
The base covered an area from the present Chapelford and the Gemini area to Gulliver's World Theme Park and held the largest single roofed building in Europe. The Burtonwood Association's Heritage Centre is located next to Gulliver's World and has limited opening times.
For further information contact: Heritage Centre Manager, Mobile: 07585609781 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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