WALNEY ISLAND AIRFIELD

(BAE SYSTEMS) Walney-Island, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, LA14 3YL, Tel: (01229) 471407

Typhoon over Walney Airfield

 

During 1935 Barrow Borough Council after raising a provision with the Air Ministry, completed ‘proposal’ plans for a 'civic aerodrome' in the Barrow-in-Furness area, although Walney-Island was not to be the only site considered at the time. The plans themselves contained three runways with an outer ring road, which was to contain a number of small satellite ‘single plane’ hangers.

Walney was chosen over the other proposals on the grounds that it was nearer Barrow town centre than the others. It wasn’t until 1937 that the present six-hundred acre site was acquired for a cost of £8050, by compulsory purchase and the subsequent demolition of North End Farm. Actual building work on the site did not get underway until 1940, and wasn’t finally completed until some time during late 1941.  

With expansion of the Air Force, links between bases at Lancashire and Scotland were established, and upon completion of Walney's airfield construction ‘No.25 Group - Flying Training Command’ became the first group to take up post, followed a number of weeks later by a small group who were to form into ‘No.3 Air Gunnery School’. 

A number of small improvements to the airfield before Christmas of 1941 were greeted with the arrival of ‘No.10 Air Gunnery School’ with over 100 personnel, including students. In 1942 an Air Force base was created  for personnel and camps were erected at sites on Cows Tarn Lane, North Scale and a WAAF hostel on the Promenade at the foot of North Scale village. Many remnants of the auxiliary buildings remain today as can be seen in the pictures below.

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Over the next 60 months well in excess of 5000 RAF personnel received their training at Walney-Island, even after the end of WWII air-gunners were retained for the post-war Bomber Command. Following the closure of Cark airfield early 1946 the Mountain Rescue Unit moved to Walney alongside the AGS until the airfield closed During the summer 1946, bringing with it the end of ‘No.10 Air Gunnery School’ inhabitancy at the Island. 

Walney airfield upon closing was retained by the Government for a number of years until in 1959 an offer to purchase the site came from the local shipbuilding company of Vickers, who remain the owners to this day, albeit under their most recent name of BAE SYSTEMS. During 1964 The Lakes Gliding Club also took up residence on the airfield. Although a number of commercial ventures have been attempted over the last 20 years or so, each has proved unsuccessful.

The pictures below show the remains of the islands Rifle Range and are placed between the North end sand-dunes. One of my own favourite haunts as a child, bullets can still be dug out of the bank opposite to this day, albeit at a far worse state of corrosion, as they can from the rifle range (red walls above).

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Aerodrome c1945

 

The following poem was kindly donated by Mr. B. Edge and was written at North Scale in c1940 at the time of the construction of Walney Airfield and it features some of the men who helped to build it. In Mr Edges own words: "Whilst it wouldn’t win any prizes it does name some of the people who helped to build the airfield in those dark years and for this alone it is a valuable record.  My late Father is mentioned in the first verse".

 

 

 

DAWN

 

When dawn breaks out on Walney Fred Edge he starts the day

He blows his whistle so loudly it is heard in Morecambe Bay.

 

Taylor’s the first arrival, his number is a thousand and one,

But this is a rare occasion -  a thing that is seldom done.

 

Soon the clang of the shovels can be heard all over the site

For the navvies have left their hovels to work with all their might.

 

Then up comes a little black Austin and out steps Mr Gass

Who says its very exhausting to follow behind an ass!

 

We all know who the ass is, its that stout old checker Cook

For he utters “Nay be B*ggared” when confronted by a spook.

 

The spook is the one-eyed Watchman,   yes the Fire–Bucket sort,

He tell you tales of Chivalry and of the battle he thought that he’d fought.

 

Do you want the bucket? Is his working cry,

Whats this all about the fire watchers shout

But it isn’t for the Fire-bombs -  its to save you going out!

 

Then there’s old Perce the Janitor,  an attendant fit for a King

he shuffles along like a matador, hoping that cracked cups will ring.

 

He is also a cricketer, a sportsman, have no doubt,

But  you should hear the laughter when the first ball bowls him out.

 

There is also three young ladies to brighten the office here,

We often call them other names when they aren’t here to hear!

 

Also there’s Mr Adcock, Cashier upon this job

He’s got to fill the packets for the hard working mob.

 

Then there is young Clifford his smile you’ll all agree

seems to brighten the office with that morning cup of tea.

 

Then we have a Sandy, a Manager on the site

Not the BBC organist that we listen to at night. (Sandy Mac Pherson)

 

He’s a Scot that swears a lot when levels don’t agree

He’ll try a peg in another spot and have to uproot a tree!

 

The out goes the Surveyors lightly with rods and Dumpy all

To smite the Scot so mighty as David did for Saul.

 

Then we’ve Brother Riding, who plays the organ sweet

With strains of joyous tidings to keep us off the streets.

 

You have often heard of Shackley he’s the fitter on this site

A mender up of Dumper trucks, a fireman by right.

 

A cap pulled down upon his crown and hairs upon his chest,

And oil and grease all up and down he is a B***** Mess!

 

Ah! but we have a costing office and its often said

If it wasn’t for our prattle the office would seem dead.

 

But who is the lad with the curly mop reminds one of a turnip top (Ian Howell)

He wanted to be a flying ace but found he couldn’t keep the pace.

 

 Now that the poem is ended and to those who have taken part

We hope that you’re not offended at this magnificent piece of art.

 

 

Can you name those in the pictures below, and the event?

Vickers Wellington Mk10 of No/10 Air Gunnery School at RAF Walney, with the A.T.C Cadet band circa 1946.

 

The VSEL crash support truck. 1992

 

The VSEL crash support truck. 1994

 

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See also: North End Farm and North Walney Nature Reserve

 

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