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Thread: White Waltham

  1. #1
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    Default White Waltham

    As I mentioned elsewhere, I worked here for a year when I was 19/20. Callow youth that I was, I failed to appreciate what an opportunity I had to learn about the history of the place beyond the basic stuff. If anyone has anything else to contribute, I'd love to read it.

    Thankfully, I have since grown up a bit since and learnt the error of my ways!

    Here are a couple of snippets as a starter for ten.

    The airfield is privately owned and is the home of the West London Aero Club, the largest flying club in the UK. About 150 or so light aircraft are based at the airport, which with three runways is reportedly the largest grass airfield in civilian use in Europe. The airfield has a CAA Public Use Aerodrome Licence (Number P773) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction.

    The airfield was set up in 1928 when the de Havilland family bought 196 acres (0.79 km2) of grassland to house the de Havilland Flying School. In 1938 the airfield was taken over by the government, and during the second world war was the home base of the Air Transport Auxiliary. The airfield was also home to Fairey Aviation. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was taught to fly at White Waltham in 1952, flying a de Havilland Chipmunk belonging to HQ Home Command Communications Squadron of the Royal Air Force. The airfield stayed in RAF hands until 1982, when it was purchased by the current owners.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: White Waltham

    Like many other ex RAF White Waltham types, I look back at my time there as one the happiest periods of my life. It was such a good posting that many ex members (male and female) keep in touch and attend an annual reunion. It was a privilege to be stationed there.

    To add to your database, I can provide a bit more information:

    Following its earlier history as the home of the ATA and HQ Home Command, WW became the Headquarters of No 25 Group RAF Flying Training Command (my place of work 1964 - 1967), and the Headquarters of the Air Training Corps. Both organisations were based in a large country house (since demolished) in the south west corner of the airfield and both were commanded by Air Officers - Air Vice Marshal and Air Commodore respectively.

    RAF flying units during this period consisted of the Flying Training Command Comms Flight, using Pembroke and Anson aircraft, and the University of London Air Squadron and No 6 Air Experience Flight, both with Chipmunk trainers.

    On the civilian side, Fairey Aviation were based on the north side of the airfield with Fairey Air Surveys also resident with their DC3 aircraft. As they continue to do, The West London Aero Club occupied a large area at the east end of the field.

    Group Captain J B (Willie) 'Tirpitz' Tait was an Air Cadets staff officer and Group Captain Douglas Bader flew a White Waltham based Shell Aviation aircraft from the airfield.

    The two Headquarters moved away in 1968 and the ULAS and AEF left in the early 1970's. Such a shame!

    It certainly was a good place to be. Hope this fills a few gaps.

  3. #3

    Default Re: White Waltham

    Can anybody let me have any info on the following

    ATA/Fairey B1 hangar construction and demolition dates(1942??-1985???)

    The two RAF hangars and the camp on the southern side(guess c1945-46? around the time Fairey took over the B1? )

    The WLAC clubhouse and hangars construction date, also what were they used as during WW2???

    thanks
    Rob

  4. #4
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    Default Re: White Waltham

    Although I cannot answer your above questions, I would advise that there was also a large Bessonneau hangar at WW during my time there from 1964 to 1967. On the few occasions I ventured inside it, I recall seeing just one or two light (non RAF) aircraft. I may be wrong, but I seem to remember that one of them was owned by an RAF Air Commodore, possibly named Wheeler. If this was so, it could have been Air Cdre Alan Wheeler who was associated with several 1960's aviation films including "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines". I obviously cannot verify this fact as it was after all, a very long time ago!

    If you want the location of the hangar, call up the latest Google Earth picture of WW and look for the two long parallel red roofed building at the south side. The left building was the airmen's accommodation block and the right one was the Headquarters of the University of London Air Squadron. The Bessonneau hangar was due north of these two buildings on the grassed area immediately south of the perimeter track. We used to play football alongside it - we found it useful insomuch as it prevented the ball from straying too far!

    Hope that this may be of interest. Regards.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: White Waltham

    There is due to be a big party at White Waltham this year to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the opening of the de Havilland school of Flying. Although the land was bought in 1928 the flying school did not start until 1935.

    Further details will be available on the West London Aero Club website. West London Aero Club

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    Default Re: White Waltham

    I went to White Waltham a time or two prior to 1964 to go flying with the AEF. The former CO of 120 ATC was the late Sqn Ldr (VR-T) L.C. Hill DFC, who reverted to Flt Lt on becoming a staff pilot on 6AEF. Les Hill had been a Hurricane pilot in the desert air force during WW2, & jumped at the chance of getting back into the air. Another 120 Officer was Flt Lt Gerry Page, who flew a company aircraft, & I'm sure was the pilot of the Anson some of us cadets flew in. Gerry's claim to fame was being involved with 'Popski's Private Army' - another specialist group running about the western desert in WW2. My lady wife's father was a Chief Tech (airframes) at WW in the '60s, whose job it was to travel around gliding units repairing Kirby Cadet Mk 111s & Sedberghs. They occupied - firstly No4 AMQs, then a bigger house at No 14. They left WW in about 1964. She remembers the Fairey Rotodyne being tested on the airfield, & it being extremely noisy! Funny to think my future wife was a little girl at WW when I was visiting, yet we first met at Kinloss in 1976. My brother, an engineer, has had dealings over the years with ML Aviation at WW, - are they still there? Last time I went to WW it was to deliver some stuff to a firm there - there's no way you can disguise a barrack-block, no matter what you do to it!

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    Default Re: White Waltham

    White Waltham - 6AEF where still flying Kirby Cadet MK3's and Sedberghs gliders out of WW in 1976 - 1977 as I spent every Wednesday evening down there with 1116 (Woodley) ATC Squadron during April/May my old 3822 is brimming with details. I recall one episode of the 'Professionals' TV Series being shot in one of the Hangers, visiting Chipmunks from RAF Abingdon shortly before the gliders move to the station. Going around the old RAF site, prior to it being knocked down, still had posters, furniture etc., within. Also in 1977 meeting Prince Charles at White Waltham air show.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: White Waltham

    Mention of the old RAF WW barrack block in post 9 reminded me of the three very happy years I lived in it during the 1960's. The block consisted of a mix of four man rooms for airmen, and single bunks for corporals. A great improvement on the accommodation at my previous RAF station where I shared a rather large room with about twenty others.

    In the 1990's, some three decades after leaving WW, I was pleased to learn that the block still existed and even more pleased to accept an invitation to visit it again by a very helpful security guard. From the outside it looked just the same as I remembered it from my youth. However, on entering and making my way to my once very familiar bedspace I was quite surprised by the sight of a young lady operating a computer in what was at one time my own very personal and private territory! I was told she was dealing with ticket reservations for British Airways. It was a somewhat surreal experience being transported back in time but totally surrounded by modern gagetry - no blankets or pillows in sight! Putting nostalgic feelings aside, I was at least happy that the old bedspace was still in use and obviously a lot more productive than the days' I laid my head there!

    Very happy days!

    Regards.........Paul

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    Default Re: White Waltham

    I was an ATC cadet in 1960's and used to come to WW for short flights in DH Chipmunks. I really had a most wonderful time and often recall flying over Reading and enjoying aerobatic thrills. I do recall entering the Fairy Aviation block and seeing the Rotodyne which had already been mothballed and also seeing Fairy Gannets in Dutch markings ready to be shipped out to the Dutch East Indies which is today part of Indonesia.
    I have visited the old place a few years ago and somehow I thought it all a bit sad

  10. #10
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    Default Re: White Waltham


    The closest that I could get to these [WW2?] buildings. This is White Waltham. Womens Quarters ??

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