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Thread: Barton-in-the-Clay

  1. #1
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    Default Barton-In-The-Clay

    Hello everyone.

    I was told about this site after posting a thread on the Key Publishing Aviation forum recently, and from reading through the many threads its already given a few ideas before I even post...

    So the point of my post, I am trying to establish an archive in relation to the now largely vanished Barton-In-The-Clay Aerodrome, the site is now an industrial estate and what little evidence there was is rapidly becoming lost under concrete. I hope to put together an archive that will be lodged with the County Councils BLARS project (Bedfordshire and Luton Archive and Records Service) and held here in the village library... I also plan to publish the information to a small website.

    What I know so far:
    The airfield was established in 1935 from farmland.
    The first occupants were Luton Aircraft Ltd after relocation from Hockliffe in 1935 (then called the Dunstable Sailplane Company).
    The site was home to the Bedford School of Flying from 1937-1940.
    CH Latimer-Needham wrote several books from the site on aviation.
    The ATA took over the site as an RLG as part of no'5 ferrypool (Luton, formerly Hatfield and later Thame) during 1943-1944.
    More detail on the above here

    Sadly the ATA period records are proving a little hard to pin down so any help, advice or information especially about this period would be greatly welcome.

    I am also keen to find out if the airfield was ever granted an airfield code, the Air Ministry granted a license to Marandaz(BSoF) for CAG training from the 1st Jan 1938 so I assume they must have been one at this point at least?

    The Marendaz Trainer G-AFZX was never impressed in 1940 but 'given' to RAF Halton ATC, after several attempts to get information from the RAF at both Hendon and Halton nothing... not even a reply!.. Anyone have any other ideas to find the fait of the A/C?

    thanks
    Jenna

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Barton(Beds) Aerodrome

    Hi Jenna - welcome aboard AiX. I have been watching your thread about Barton (in-the-Clay) over on Key and you have certainly mined a thriving thread there. I think you might get some interesting extra stuff come up over here.

    Out of interest, C H Latimer-Needham was, I believe, a civilian educational officer at Halton before getting fully involved in his other aviation activites, including pioneering flight refuelling; I think he went to Canada. I believe that he also had something to do with design of the Halton Aeroplane Club's 'Mayfly' aircraft. Check out Richard Riding's book 'Ultralights', published by Patrick Sephens Ltd in 1987 (don't have the ISBN to hand).

    I don't think you will get much help from the current RAF Halton because they will have little if anything going back that far, especially for the local ATC Squadron. Don't lose heart though, this is all part of the rich tapestry of research. You might find it helpful to join Air Britan, which will give you access to ABIX - Air Britain Information Exchange. They are real number nerds over there and you may well find that someone will be able to give you some help.

    What will be the object of your research - a book?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Barton(Beds) Aerodrome

    Adding to its wartime service, the following is known (Ref RAF Training & Support Units since 1912)

    22/7/40 to 7/2/42, Relief Landing Ground for No.24 Elementary Flying Training School, Luton
    26/6/42 to 1/4/43, 'A' Flight of ATA Elementary Flying Training School, Luton
    1/4/43 to 0/4/45, 'A' Flight of ATA Initial Flying Training School, Thame

    Generally Miles Magisters were flown by these units.

    Records for 24 EFTS can be found in The National Archive (TNA) at Kew. In particular the unit Operational Record Book (ORB) can be found under reference AIR 29/621. Hopefully this should record activities at Barton in the early war years, along with the parent station of Luton. TNA also hold many ATA records, particularly in the AVIA series, but these are mainly top level Ministry of Aviation documents.

    A source on the pre-war activities is 'Peaceful Fields' by John Hamlin. This quotes that Luton Aircraft moved away after a fire in 1936 and Barton was taken over by International Aircraft & Engineering Ltd. It was then sold to the Bedford School of Flying on 1st January 1938.

    Hope this helps,

    Peter

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Barton(Beds) Aerodrome

    Hi guys thanks for the replies/support.

    I'm still hot on the trail of the sites history, in fact probably a lot deeper that I ever intended to get!...

    Over the last few weeks I have tracked down most if not all of the aircraft that were registered to the Flying School, sadly most never survived the onset of WWII however I have found a few that are still alive... if not exactly kicking!

    I spent some time last week looking through maps from various sources of the site between 1920 and 1960 and few new bits and pieces have come to light... like I can now locate the engine testing sheds that were built during the ATA years and used by Luton Aircraft and Engineering. I also managed to lay my hands on documentation with the exact size of the Luton Aircraft hangers and after getting soaked in the rain measuring buildings I am sure that the 3 units that still stand are the original hangers from 1936/7.

    The grassland to the west of the current industrial estate is for sure the original airfield, over the last 70+ years its seen little change with just the addition of an overhead power cable run on the eastern side. The field also fits well with what I am told is typical of air strips of this time. Thanks to google maps we can measure it at 650mts which is exactly what we would expect.

    Other research is off down the line of the Dunstable Sailplane Company and the Dunstable Kestrel that led to the forming of the Luton Aircraft company, I have found sources that they were based at Hockcliffe which is just 8 miles away but there is no record of any factory as they only managed to build just 1 glider before the company folded... I also have the address of their HQ (39 High St, Dunstable) so a little field trip is being planned to se what’s left of this building if any.

    Peter, thank you for the information about the National Archive, I did fleetingly look at their website but it become a bit complex so made the decision to have another go when I was feeling a bit braver!... I have made notes of the references you give and will follow it up.

    As for plans in the future, well we did think of publishing the archive in a book but TBH this has all been an effort to get the community here aware of the history on its own door step, and I doubt many would part with money to buy a book or even go to the library to read one so I have opted to put the whole lot on the internet. I did have some time spare and started a webpage (http://www.bartonleclay.org) however I have not had chance yet to start compiling the specific archives...

    Other news is that I have had a great deal of interest in trying to re-establish the airstrip as part of the sites 75th anniversary in 2010 for just one day, its coincidence but the village 's parish council has murmured that they may hold village centenary celebrations’ in 2010... More to follow on this.

    Sooo what’s next, well I am over to Old Warden soon as they have a Desouter that has some links to the site, I am off down to Denham also and then White Waltham to look at airfields and lastly a trip down to Hungerford to chat with the owner of the only 'complete' aircraft used by the flying school to discuss its possible use in 2010.... busy busy busy..

    If anybody wishes to contact me direct: archive@bartonleclay.org

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    Default Re: Barton(Beds) Aerodrome

    Jenna

    Regarding publication, try Graham Simons at GMS Enterprises, Peterborough. For years now Graham has been publishing his series called "Airfield Focus" and it now runs to 80 or more booklets. These are printed at approx A5 size and they sell at £4.50 to £4.95. The series covers many small civil airfields as well as some airports and the big military bases. I am sure that Graham would be interested in a title on Barton. The locals could hardly begrudge a fiver for an illustrated booklet.

    I've not got Graham's contact details immediately to hand, but he has responded to you on the Key thread. Alternatively, try Googleing "GMS Enterprises".

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Barton(Beds) Aerodrome

    Hi Guys,

    back on the trail of the Barton Aerodrome and have a bit more information, sorry if this a repeat for those that are following on tuther forum.

    Graham Simons gave me a reference he had that the Luton Aircraft hangers were quoted as having 14,400sq/ft foot print, the hangers that were shown on the 1938 aerial pic (kings cup air race) show three buildings that make sense, however they only total 12,500sq/ft and thats always bugged me....

    I recently found a copy of a photo of the first Luton Buzzard under construction in its hanger in 1935, after looking at the steelwork in the 1938 pic hangers its definatly NOT the same!

    so I banged on doors and went round the estate..

    I eventually found a dead match, whats more the building is probably the exact size (rough measurement came to 15,000sq/ft).. bingo but this building is not on the 1948 map? and its not in that 1938 aerial pic? which makes no sense to me.

    so I took the pics below in hope that someone may have seen similar on another site which can be used to date the design.

    http://www.bartonleclay.org/buildings6.jpg full size


    http://www.bartonleclay.org/buildings7.jpg full size


    http://www.bartonleclay.org/buildings8.jpg full size


    http://www.bartonleclay.org/map1.jpg full size

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    Default Re: Barton(Beds) Aerodrome

    Quote Originally Posted by Jenna

    I am also keen to find out if the airfield was ever granted an airfield code, the Air Ministry granted a license to Marandaz(BSoF) for CAG training from the 1st Jan 1938 so I assume they must have been one at this point at least?

    The Marendaz Trainer G-AFZX was never impressed in 1940 but 'given' to RAF Halton ATC, after several attempts to get information from the RAF at both Hendon and Halton nothing... not even a reply!.. Anyone have any other ideas to find the fait of the A/C?

    thanks
    Jenna
    If you're still struggling to find out information from the RAF, it might be possible that the stations you've contacted simply don't hold the information you require.

    Try the Air Historical Branch, now based at RAF Northolt. I beleive that information of this age is no longer restricted and the public have a right to access it.

  8. #8
    Senior Member mawganmad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barton(Beds) Aerodrome

    Jenna has provided some excellent updates on Barton, clearly based on some very deep research on Key (here http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/showthread.php?t=86219).

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Barton-In-The-Clay

    I was told by a bloke in this building, that this was the watch office I have no idea if is the case or not.

    Last edited by Paul Francis; 21-07-2009 at 22:36.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Barton-In-The-Clay

    Firstly I must apologise for not up dating this thread, I can not believe its been nearly 2 years.

    Research in to Barton airfield has been on going (now for nearly 5 years) and I'm so happy to say local interest is growing every day, a recent presentation in the village library attracted a bigger than expected audience.. so much so we had to move the book shelves to fit everyone in.

    The village has now a Community Website at www.bartonleclay.org and we have secured a dedicated section to publicise, archive and promote the lost airfield, we are planning a second presentation in the summer in a bigger location which will be backed up with an airfield walk... if your local please come along, details on the website.

    I'm doing an update thread in the next day or two which i will post across to here to keep you archive info up to date.

    Jenna

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