PDA

View Full Version : Walsall / Aldridge



Sparky67
16-02-2010, 20:29
Decided to go for a stroll in the unexpected sunshine today across the former Walsall Airport. Here are some photos from the site - taken on a bright day in February 2010. It struck me that what passed as a Municipal Airport in the 1930's is very different to what you see today...!

Although Walsall and Aldridge are now in the West Midlands, when the airfield was active they were both part of Staffordshire.

The airfield is HERE (http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm?lat=52.5911473012651&lon=-1.9342577458822964&gz=16&oz=9&gt=1)

This airfield was opened for public use on 6th July 1935, with gliding, flying training, taxi/charter work, aerial photograpy and air shows taking place at the site. The Midland Gliding Club operated from the field, and several flying clubs ran businesses there. In 1938 Helliwells Ltd operated from a factory at the west side of the field building aircraft components - including cockpit frames and fuel tanks. During WW2 Helliwells used the facility for the repair of numerous aircraft including Harvards, Ansons, Bostons and Seafires. There is a report of Handley Page Harrow K6982 carrying out a forced landing on the field, over-running the runway and stopping in the bottom hedge, and another aircraft which was unable to stop, left the airfield and hit a passing lorry on the main Walsall Road, fatally injuring its driver. A report has also been seen of a Mosquito on the scrap heap behind a hangar (no, it's not still there...).

Post-WW2 the Swallow Coachbuilding Company operated from the factory, building, amongst other things, the Swallow Doretti sports car between 1954 and 1955.

The airfield had serious competition as a viable passenger-carrying air port (sic) from the larger Elmdon (Birmingham) and Wolverhampton aerodromes nearby, flying from the field tailed off and and it was closed to flying in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

Not too clear in the photos is the height difference between the east and west end of the field. The run from the west is uphill to a boundary enclosed by trees, which must have been interesting on a hot summer's day if the grass hadn't been cut recently. The trees caught several aircraft which failed to gain sufficient height, including Fox Moth G-ACEY, in 1938. The downhill run to the west was into open countryside on the far side of Walsall Road and Longwood Lane.

Not much remains of what must have been a busy airfield before and during WW2 - the original hangars, Helliwells factory and the 'bottom hangar' plus the clubhouse have gone. The 'top hangar' - about 200m beyond and slightly to the right of the gap in the trees in the first photo below - is now in use by the counytryside rangers, and the compass-swinging platform can still be made out in the grass.

The airfield is now a public open space owned by Walsall MBC, flying still takes place in the form of Greenacres Model Aero Club. Considering the recent rainfall the grass at the bottom of the slope was surprisingly dry. The area around the trees at the top of the slope is a clay soil, and was very, very wet.

I would be interested to see both ground and aerial photos from the 1930s or WW2 era.


View uphill looking ~east.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4029/4362481117_4a58bbd779_o.jpg


View looking ~west from close to the top hangar

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4061/4362481737_1e09302836_o.jpg


The 'Top Hangar' (Experimental Hangar)

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4033/4362482141_c38a3266df_o.jpg


The compass-swinging platform (compass base). The Helliwells factory and hangars were where the large steel-clad building now stands. The private flying club hangar and clubhouse were adjacent to where the brick building (in the distance, just right of centre) now stands.

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4008/4363224598_a6310b76c2_o.jpg


Possibly the remains of a lookout / defensive position ?

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2688/4362481561_964878c8aa_o.jpg

Sparky67
16-02-2010, 20:35
View from in front of the Top Hanger - some idea of the slope can be obtained between the trees...

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4013/4363224454_0c44813323_o.jpg


Sign City !!

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2752/4362482325_ed5a8001cb_o.jpg

Peter Kirk
16-02-2010, 21:24
Early post war. Poor quality but it gives an idea

AiXAdmin
16-02-2010, 23:25
Sparky - You mentioned Helliwells' association with Walsall Airport.

Helliwells were an interesting company on many counts but their racy patriotic 'ads of the late thirties were quite famous.

Here's a link to the Helliwells section on my Website .... one in particular has a good view of Walsall Airport.

I'll locate the hi res version and post the airfield view when I get a chance....

http://www.aviationancestry.com/Engineering/Helliwells/

Cheers
Dave

Sparky67
17-02-2010, 00:31
Thanks guys. The runway on ~330 is a surprise - the current layout gives no hint that it ran across the track. And the 090 run avoids the trees which caught at least one aircraft.

I had seen one Helliwells advert featuring the girl. Not sure they would get away with that these days... :shock:

The Helliwells factory has completely gone, replaced with a steel-clad building and a Peugeot/Fiat dealership.

I have taken the liberty of editing the photo taken from the 1939 Helliwells' advert to give an impression of the pre-war hangars. Was trying to identify the aircraft parked outside...

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4058/4365377394_593950c4cf_o.jpg

These were located where the large white steel-clad building now is in the photos above.


And here is the 1931 Helliwell's plan for the airfield...

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4420065744_8193acab51_b.jpg


Sparky67

avion ancien
09-03-2010, 19:06
Out of curiosity, who was the lady in the Helliwells advertisements?

Paul Francis
09-03-2010, 19:48
I trust the clubhouse has gone too? I rember the hangar on the right of the two in the old pic but not the one on the left.

Sparky67
10-03-2010, 01:31
'fraid so. Apart from the 'Top Hangar' (marked Experimental Hangar on the plan) and the compass base all evidence of the original airfield buildings has gone. Looking on GE the civil hangar was demolished sometime between 2003 and 2005 - that area is now a car park. Where the club house/flying control and signals square were situated there is now a new, busy outdoor activities centre.

Richard Flagg
14-04-2010, 00:14
I have received this email via the forum and thought it should be posted here.


Hi,
i saw a thread on Aldridge airport, and i grew up around it as a child. When i was a child there used to be a company called ' TI' that occupied factory buildings by walsall road during the 1980's. If my memory serves me well they were the original Buildings as shown in one of the photos on the thread. They were knocked down and replaced with all the current factorys.
Also the road layout was changed. Originally Longwood road ended right by the canal bridge, but they changed the road layout to come a roundabout. Some of the original road still exists behind bushes and trees.

On the field there used to be a building from the war. I think it was a gunning post. you used to be able to step down into it, but it was bulldosered in sometime in the late 1980's. If you were near the top hanger, you walked along the tree line at the top of the field heading down towards walsall rounghly about 40 paces or more from the driveway.
In the wooded aread near the top hanger there is foundations for what appears to be barracks.
For years as a child there used to be an abandoned black Austin A30? ( two door thing) chassis rotting away in the middle of a swappy bit.
In the wooded area further down towards the car park is a rusty fenced off section, which i never quite understood why - maybe endangered plant, or unsafe grounds?
I always wandered about myths about underground depo's and what was oringally built in the wood ' Cuckoo's Nook' Which has a Concrete Cross ( maybe some sort of mast foundation?).
Judging from the thread it appears the airport didnt have such a predominant roll in the war, as there is no mention of Huricanes. But in saying that If there was aircraft components being built at the airport,i was told amunition was being made and stored in under ground bunker near or in linley woods just on Redhouse industrial est.

Carnaby
14-04-2010, 09:44
Re:
I always wandered about myths about underground depo's and what was oringally built in the wood ' Cuckoo's Nook' Which has a Concrete Cross ( maybe some sort of mast foundation?).
Judging from the thread it appears the airport didnt have such a predominant roll in the war, as there is no mention of Huricanes. But in saying that If there was aircraft components being built at the airport,i was told ammunition was being made and stored in under ground bunker near or in linley woods just on Redhouse industrial est.
68MU Linley (Caverns) was proposed in early 1941 as a main underground depot for 20 kilotons of High Explosives, plus 5 kilotons of incendiary, with a turnover of 500 ‑ 600 tons per day, staffed by 500 ‑ 700 men. After 1M had been spent it was still in a very unsafe condition and was mothballed. It then became 21MSU under Fauld. A derisory offer to the US 8th AF failed (they chose Wortley), and it was finally used for storing small obsolete weapons. The medical site at least was located on Helliwells Aerodrome.

Graham

Richard Flagg
15-04-2010, 13:04
Thanks for that Graham.

I have since had this email from Robyn;


Hi Richard,
I forgot to mention that further down the road over the canal bridge almost oposite ' The dilke' pub/resturant is the remains of two Barracks on farming land next to a barn. Apparantly according to my Mum they were used at one time by the cadets.
I e-mailed as im actuatly interest to find out more about this airfield, as i havnt found much information about it, and most people i have spoke to had sketchy memories of what flew from there and its role, if any, during the war.


http://www.aldridge-web.com/listings/131.html
http://www.aldridge-web.com/listings/53.html
http://www.joe.shakespeare.btinternet.co.uk/airfield.htm

I would be interested in more factual information lol.

regards
Robyn

Cheers

R

Paul Francis
15-04-2010, 17:48
I wish we had more of these personal accounts of 'the local airfield' they are very interesting.

Sparky67
24-06-2010, 16:26
Just noticed that, on the 1931 Helliwells plan of the airfield, the reciprocal of the QDM 10 runway is shown as QDM 20...

canberra
24-06-2010, 18:11
Until some time during wwii runway designation was 1 2 3 etc they didnt use the system that we have today. So the reciprocal of 1 (what we would call the main instrument runway) was 2, I think!

Carnaby
24-06-2010, 19:35
Just noticed that, on the 1931 Helliwells plan of the airfield, the reciprocal of the QDM 10 runway is shown as QDM 20...
Yes - it shoud be 28. Well spotted. The runway numbering appears to be one of the many 'standards' discussed on this forum a while ago. Runway 1 is the first one clockwise from the Tech Site. Numbers continue clockwise.

Remember - A standard is something put into place so that it can be changed in the near future.

Graham

Sparky67
26-06-2010, 21:38
(From Robyn) the remains of two Barracks on farming land next to a barn.

These are the remains of the barracks with the newer steel-clad barn to the LHS. Would be interested to know whether the site had any connection with the airfield. Location is here. (http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm?lat=52.591703961730836&lon=-1.9547403962285072&gz=19&oz=7&gt=1)

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4135/4736698962_66148ae801_b.jpg

thurs night gang
28-07-2010, 23:07
While looking for information on Linley Woods i found this site so decided to post some of my own photos of Aldridge Airport.
this gun implacment is hidden in trees and difficult to get into due to the entrance being blocked with rubbish.

papabravo
29-07-2010, 16:18
The nissen hut remains and the shed had no connection with Walsall "airport". They were part of a WW2 anti-aircraft gun site. I think the site was used later in the war by US troops stationed locally and, postwar, by the TA - I can remember seeing bren gun carriers there.

Bart
18-11-2010, 01:17
Hi Guys. I only joined, as I was looking for info about the "gun emplacement" described, and pictured in the post, above, by "thurs night gang", to show to my kids.

As a child, in about 1975, my dad (ex RAF) took me to see the emplacement. Access at the time was easily gained through two hatches, one within the concrete floor of the circular "donut" like structure and one set slightly away, to the North West. The underground structure was in good order, with clean brickwork and no vandalism or graffiti evident, and consisted of a large square room with two short "corridors" leading off to the west and access, via a short tunnel, to the circular "gun emplacement" above ground. There was no flooding or infill and there were two sets of iron bunk beds and some benches still in place.

I have tried to locate the "bunker" a couple of times in recent years, with no success, only finding a huge patch of nettles, where I remember it being. I'm really pleased to have found pictures, on here, of the interior that I haven't seen for nearly 35 years. Thank you.

The lower (three storey) of the twin "TI" (Tube investments) buildings that stood where the new "Rotometrics" factory stands was latterly used by West Midland Police, for the purpose of Firearms training, for several years prior to their demolition.

With regard to the Nissen huts, in the field opposite the Dilke pub, I was always told, by my Grandparents, that they were part of a prisoner of war camp. The prisoners used to work on the adjacent farm, although looking at the photo, i would be more inclined to agree that its "anti Aircraft" judging by the concrete base, in the foreground. Grandparents, eh? You just cant trust em :roll:

Just wanted to share the info that i have, about this interesting site.

Thanks
Bart

Lowe
26-04-2012, 16:11
I was brought up in Aldridge and am old enough to remember Walsall Airport as a child when in use. Going past on the bus was a great fascination to me as a boy, I just, remember aeroplanes with folding wings lined up on the grass, in later years I learned they were Seafires assembled by Helliwells in the late 1940's. I clearly remember Harvards being there and I now know that Helliwells Aircraft had a maintenance contract to service them for the RAF. As far as I know there were never any commercial passenger flights from Walsall Airport. As far as I know the airfield was never an RAF base.
I do remember once our bus being stopped once to wait for a twin rngined aircraft to take off. It had RAF roundels and was probably an Anson although at five I didn't know that. I have a very clear childhood memory; I remember the control tower was a small wooden pyramid roofed tower on top of the main roof of a bugalow type sort of club house structure next to a primitive barn like non standard hangar. There was a more standard hangar alongside the main road and Helliwells two pre war built civilian hangar workshops and offices. At the top of the field was a more RAF style hangar a'T' but shorter. I remember the windsock and the tractor mowing the runway. Living in Aldridge low flying Harvards were regular sights, I remember one buzzing the Green Junior school at tree top height at playtime which we loved.
As far as I remember I do not remember aircraft active at the airfield after 1953, two partly dismantled Harvards stood by the Aldridge side hangar on the field for several years untill possibly 1956. I remember one or two emergency landings, going to see a Tiger Moth that landed in the mid fifties.
As I got older I explored the field and remember the 'Pill Box' defence at the top of the field inside which was underground accomodation with bunks, although then flooded. There were still bits of aircraft at the top of the field in 1958 near the 'Pill Box' but not in a state to know type, I dragged a large piece home to Quicksand Lane and was not popular with my parents for bringing junk. In the trees were remains of two Nissen Huts adjacent to a derelict victorian mansion which I was told had been used to house Spanish child refugees in the 30's. In the abamdoned Longwood Lane Canal we found a lot of live ammunition that must have been dumped there after the war from the airfield, we told the police but they were not interested, it may still be there!
My dad had been to the opening air show and been up in a joy ride that gave him an unofficial loop the loop and made him sick. He told me the original air show before the airfield opened with Sir Allen Cobham was held near where the Dilke Arms was built. He also remembered the bomber that over shot the field and that the turret was covered up and it was guarded.
Just to add a few more bits to what I have seen posted on this series of comments, the huts opposite the Dilke were a military cap for the TA and for a time I was told was used as a German POW camp, there were defensive gun pits in the field next to the Dilke Opposite the camp, the large barn structure was I remember used for drill and MT. For years this camp had a WW1 piece of German artillery a 105 mm Howitzer? I also remember playing round Linley Wood bomb store, there were hut remains and air raid shelters to play in. At the back of the wood was a concrete standing with a small Robin Hangar.
I rarely visit Aldridge but finding this site has brought back adventures and memories from 50 - 60 years ago.

PETERTHEEATER
29-04-2012, 07:46
Thanks for the personal story Lowe. The Linley Caverns RAF bomb store was abandoned before it came into full use due to continuous rockfalls and flooding. I think the surface above was used more than below for a while hence the hut remains and small hangar.

Dave Smith
29-04-2012, 09:38
That's a superb piece of reminiscence about an airfield whose history has always been rather obscure. Thanks for posting!

Sparky67
02-05-2012, 00:02
That's really brought the written details and photos of the airfield to life Lowe. Thanks - and welcome to the group :-D

Linley Wood (http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=Linley+Wood+Road,+Walsall&hl=en&ll=52.602116,-1.944693&spn=0.001906,0.005262&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=15.111406,43.110352&oq=linley+wood&t=h&hnear=Linley+Wood+Rd,+Walsall,+United+Kingdom&z=18)appears to be up for sale (http://brownhillsbob.com/2012/02/15/anyone-want-to-buy-an-old-ammunition-dump/)...

PETERTHEEATER
02-05-2012, 08:34
'Subject to Planning Permission':)

Your link to Google Earth/Map shows the site to the north (formerly part of the surface storage) to have a 'U Can Store It Self Storage so perhaps it will go underground!

Snoopy
03-02-2014, 21:47
I've never visited this site, but I'm amazed that it has largely survived intact without being built all-over. A friends father used to manage both this and Wolverhampton Airport at different times and worked at Castle Brom' before and during the war. I think the Aero Club at Walsall was the South Staffordshire Aero Club, which I presume folded when Walsall closed. There were however close links with Elmdon, as when Walsall, Castle Brom' and Wolverhampton closed, quite a bit of their activity inevitable migrated to Elmdon. Certainly, the MAC (Midland Aero Club.) moved from Castle Brom' to Elmdon.

ianbache
10-02-2014, 21:35
Here is a nice image of Walsall airfield, c/o Britain from above, and EH



http://i550.photobucket.com/albums/ii425/LLanbedr/EAW000895walsall_zps60a9ae84.jpg (http://s550.photobucket.com/user/LLanbedr/media/EAW000895walsall_zps60a9ae84.jpg.html)

Snoopy
15-02-2014, 14:24
What a great photo... There are even some Gypsies parked-up on the verge....!

papajuliet
15-02-2014, 14:53
In the mid 1940's the area to the side of the hangar in the left of the photo.was full of Bostons,Spitfires and Seafires.I used to take long lingering looks at them from the bus [ which went far too quickly for me!]

Snoopy
17-02-2014, 13:37
In the mid 1940's the area to the side of the hangar in the left of the photo.was full of Bostons,Spitfires and Seafires.I used to take long lingering looks at them from the bus [ which went far too quickly for me!]

Did you take any photos though...?!?! :)

motorrobin
03-07-2014, 23:45
Hi,
i would like to add to the thread, that actuatly TWO remaining buildings exist on the Aldridge site, and the Second is hidden, partly destroyed by Walsall council/farmer's attempt the demolish it.The concrete roof is missing because of this 'work'.
The strange thing is that nowhere seems to make any mention of this building, which i have known about since my teens. No photo's of it- nothing about its history or what it was used for.
What is this building?? it is a Pillbox with a lower level, and possibly other burred sections which i think would be interesting to discover.
I believe the pillbox room had small windows in it, and was accessed from a room directly beneath it.But oddly the rooms i found do not have any signs of access to the pillbox, so i guess there was another room, perhaps accessed from one of the blocked exits i found, or maybe a separate entry shaft?. As i found another blocked manhole which didnt link to the rooms.

I would like to see the building preserved, clleared out of all the .... and some sort of plaque which mentions about the history of the airfield etc.

Im reluctant to disclose the exact location as i dont want the site damaged or put under threat.

I have personally entered part of the lower level and the structure is very intact, although full of rubble,dirt,rubbish and about 1 foot of water.
Maybe someone has more knowledge on this find, or even photos, as ive only got photos of how it looks now

PETERTHEEATER
04-07-2014, 05:21
Welcome to AiX motorrobin.

Your description fits that of a Battle Headquarters used as a command post to coordinate airfield defence.

Try the forum Search box using Battle Headquarters for details.