Burtonwood M62

Burtonwood Fact File

Our old home...

RAF Station Burtonwood

A Royal Air Force station in England, 2 miles (3.2 km) NW of Warrington in Cheshire.

During World War II and the Cold War, the United States Air Force and United States Army used it. Historically within Lancashire, it was also known as USAAF station 590.

Overview

Burtonwood airfield was opened on 1 January 1940 as a servicing and storage centre for the modification of British aircraft. The RAF No 37 Maintenance Unit operated it until June 1942.

USAAF use

The facility was transferred to the United States Army Air Forces in June 1942 to become a servicing centre for the United States Eighth, Ninth, Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Forces aircraft. Burtonwood was also known as Base Air Depot 1 (BAD 1), although an RAF presence continued until October 1943.

Burtonwood was the largest airfield in Europe during the war with the most USAAF personnel and aircraft maintenance facilities. The roar of the engines in the test beds could be heard for miles around, especially at night. The end of the war stationed 18,000 servicemen at Burtonwood. According to some sources Burtonwood was placed strategically so that it was out of range of Luftwaffe bombers, but this is not true as several Nazi raids were made on the facility.

Post-war USAF use

With the end of hostilities, control of Burtonwood was returned to the RAF in June 1946 and became an equipment depot operated by No 276 Maintenance Unit.

On 7 November 1953, the USAF 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron began operating from the base. The squadron was assigned to collecting weather data that was transmitted to weather stations for use in preparing forecasts required for the Air Force Military Air Transport Service (MATS) and the U.S. Weather Bureau. The squadron was subsequently transferred to RAF Alconbury in Cambridgeshire on 26 April 1959.

MATS also used Burtonwood as a cargo and passenger transport facility until 1958, when its operations were moved to RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk.

A small village was built, with its own school and shop, to house the many US servicemen. The buildings were known as "Tobacco Houses", because the lease for the land was paid with American tobacco.

Major USAF use of Burtonwood ended in April 1959 when the flight line was closed although some use of the runway was made by gliders of the RAF Air Training Corps. For several years the facility fell into disuse and the USAF returned the station to the Ministry of Defence in 1965.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Territorial Army and Cadet units used the area extensively for training purposes. The site was also used by the MOD for civil contingency and emergency planning exercises, as well as EOD exercises for Police; Fire and Rescue training.

In 2009, the final bunkers were demolished. However the scars of the bunkers and runways can still be seen from the M62 motorway

United States Army

US forces returned to Burtonwood in 1966 when France withdrew its military support for NATO. Burtonwood was used as a receiving depot for USAF and US Army equipment and supplies being withdrawn from their former French NATO facilities. Afterwards, the US Army took over the base and renamed it Burtonwood Army Depot.

The Army developed Burtonwood into a storage and forward supply depot operated by the 47th Support Group. The main warehouse was described as the largest building under a single roof in Europe. The idea was that in the event of an emergency, US troops in the USA that were earmarked for NATO service in Europe would fly over and pick up their kit from Burtonwood before going on to the battle front. It was never tested for this eventuality, although the base provided service functions for the 1991 Gulf War.

With the end of the Cold War, Burtonwood Army Depot was declared excess to NATO requirements and was closed in June 1994.

Civil uses

In the late 1950s, it was suggested that Burtonwood would be a better site for a regional airport than either of the sites now occupied by Liverpool John Lennon Airport or Manchester Airport. However, subsidence caused by coal mining, plus civic pride, prevented action being taken on the proposal.

The M62 motorway bisects the airfield in an east-west direction over the former main runway. Prior to the construction of junction 8, the last part of this runway was still visible, but is now covered by the new junction. Part of the airfield is also occupied by the motorway Welcome Break Burtonwood service station.

In late 2008 and early 2009 the remaining buildings were demolished over a four month period (the storage bunkers pictured in this article). Some of the World War II aircraft hard standing, part of the old airfield perimeter track, and the northwest end of a secondary runway still exist.

The area south of the M62 has been cleared of all structures and almost all concreted areas, to make way for the Omega North & South commercial developments and the building of a new urban village called Chapelford. See image to right for the most recent progress.

The Property Services Agency

The Property Services Agency (PSA) was an agency of the United Kingdom government, in existence from 1972 to 1993. Its role was to "provide, manage, maintain, and furnish the property used by the government, including defence establishments, offices, courts, research laboratories, training centres and land".[1]

Several of the current Burtonwood Generator & Switchgear Services employees served their time or worked for the PSA at the Burtonwood site and worldwide. This work included the installation, maintenance and upgrade of both generators and switchgear throughout the MOD estate and in other public buildings. The final commercialisation of the PSA in 1992 and subsequent closure of the department in 1993 led to the opportunity to create the Burtonwood Group in 1995.

Burtonwood Generator & Switchgear Services Limited

Having worked for the PSA and served his time as a mechanical engineer at the Burtonwood site, Keith Littler, Managing Director of Burtonwood Generator and Switchgear Services (BGSS) saw the potential of developing a new private business based around the same products and services as offered by the PSA.

From humble beginnings in Warrington, Cheshire, the new company moved to its current Head Office site in St. Helens in 1998 where it has continued to grow. Today BGSS has established regional offices around the UK and overseas to serve its list of blue chip customers and clients.

Burtonwood Products & Services

Burtonwood Generator & Switchgear Services Ltd provide critical power services based on diesel generators and electrical switchgear

Reference: [1] Property Services Agency (1988), Annual report 1987-88, HMSO

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