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Warton

Military site : airfield

Built as a satellite airfield for Squires Gate, it was earmarked for US use even before America entered the Second World War. Its location made it ideal for use as a depot station, where incoming US aircraft could be processed and moved on to active stations further south. After much building work and improvements, the base became known as Base Air Depot No. 2, responsible for modification and overhaul of aircraft and engines. In August 1944 a B-24 Liberator crashed in nearby Freckleton, killing over 50 people including children at the village school. After the Second World War the base was handed over to the RAF. Home first to a maintenance unit, it was acquired by the aircraft manufacturer English Electric in the 1950s, and is currently owned by BAE Systems.

Detailed history

In the Beginning…
During 1940 Blackpool Squires Gate Airfield, an RAF Coastal Command station, handled detachments of fighters and bombers. It was during this time that the requirement for a satellite airfield to serve Squires Gate was identified. Three concrete runways were constructed at Warton for this purpose. The USAAF arrived in London in May 1941 for discussions towards their presence in Britain. It was later in August that the USAAF requested locations for bases. In October 1941 the British Ministry of Aircraft Production sent a site engineer, Frank Thomas, with RAF and United States Army Air Force representatives to select suitable sites where the USAAF could receive new aircraft from the States and prepare them for squadron service, also to service, repair (or salvage) aircraft from the squadrons and incorporate modifications at all stages.

Base Air Depots
The requirement for a maintenance and repair facility for aircraft being supplied by the United States was identified in October 1939 by, the Minister of Aircraft Production, Lord Beaverbrook. Prior to the creation of Base Air Depots, aircraft were being handled by the RAF who were unfamiliar with the US types. Representatives from the United States were sent over to the Britain to assist with aircraft processing. After the tour of facilities in October 1941 four locations were recommended: Little Staughton, Bedford; Burtonwood, Warrington; Langford Lodge, Neagh in Northern Ireland and Warton in Lancashire. The United States entered the war in December 1941 and by January 1942 the recommendations towards Base Air Depots were actioned.

Warton’s Construction
The go-ahead for design and construction of BAD 2 (Station 582 of the 8th Air Force), was given to Frank Thomas in January 1942, for completion by years end. Construction began in March 1942. Hangars, workshops, engine test cells, MT shops, armouries and stores were amongst the buildings to be designed and constructed. The runways were to be strengthened, and, the main runway was to be extended to 5,631 feet in order to accommodate the larger bombers. As well as the airbase’s facilities, 10 accommodation sites were to be constructed to house 15,902 persons. A chapel, hospital and cinema were to be provided along with other facilities for personnel. The construction of Warton’s airbase was carried out by Alfred McAlpine, later joined by Wimpey. Half way through construction, the US asked for Warton to be ready by October, which led to virtual completion in nine months. A new store (the biggest building in Europe at the time at 1080 x 250 feet) and 31 and 32 hangars on the south side of the airfield were added in 1944.

B.A.D.2.
The first contingent of USAAF personnel arrived on the 18th of August 1942. To meet the need for trained personnel, the 8th Air Force Service Command had suggested that Lockheed Overseas Corporation run the facility with civilians, but USAAF HQ rejected this. On 17th July 1943 Warton was formally handed over to the USAAF, with 5,000 US personnel working there. Aircraft started arriving not long after the USAAF personnel did. Bombers were flown across the Atlantic, and fighters came by sea, mainly to Liverpool, from where they were towed along the road to Speke and flown to Warton or Burtonwood. Alternatively they sailed to Glasgow and were towed to Renfrew for the onward flight. From January 1944, Warton specialised in B-24 Liberators, P-51 Mustangs and in-line engines; and Burtonwood the B-17 Flying Fortresses, P-38 Lightnings and radial engines. Warton processed 10,068 aircraft including every type of US aircraft used in Europe in WWII, and quite a few British types as well. This number excludes almost 4,000 that were cleared by inspection only and ferried on to their respective Squadrons and Groups. Processed at BAD2 Warton were: 4,372 North American P-51 Mustangs; 2,894 Consolidated Liberators;

711 Douglas A-26 Invaders; 387 Waco Gliders; 360 Boeing B-17 Fortresses and 338 Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. They overhauled 6,290 aero engines, almost half of which were Packard-built Merlins. In late 1943, BAD2 adopted the motto: "It can be done". At one time in 1944, after D-Day, there were over 800 aircraft on the field, parked along both sides of all perimeter tracks and two runways as well as on the 50 dispersal pads. Fighters were parked under the wings of bombers. The US had 7,000 aircraft in the UK, supported by 500,000 personnel. At its peak, in the summer of 1944, Warton’s 10,000 plus personnel, would be working shifts, to cover 24 hours of every day. In November 1943, 1,216 aircraft were delivered, of which many were new ones, just inspected and cleared, and in March 1945 853 aircraft passed through the workshops, with 45,000 aircraft movements handled by air traffic control in 1945. The 310th Ferry Squadron and others were on hand to deal with the flow of deliveries. Warton had a Link trainer to rate pilots on instrument flight, required in the UK. Starting in December 1943, Christmas parties were held for up to 700 local children, spread over seven days, where they were entertained, fed and given sweets, gum and substantial presents.

The Rundown
By the end of June 1945, only aircraft maintenance work was being done. Manufacturing, engine overhaul and other work had ended. Warton closed as an active USAAF base with the end of hostilities with Japan, a couple of months later. The last aircraft was delivered on the 2nd of August 1945 and BAD 2 was de-activated on the 3rd of September, at midnight, under the command of Colonel T.W. Scott. From January 1945, many men had begun to be transferred to Infantry units. The few remaining staff moved to site 8 and in September the airfield was handed on to the 'Warton Army Technical School.' The school was set up to provide comprehensive technical and industrial training for American servicemen prior to return to civilian life. The first 2,151 students started their course on the 16th of September 1945 and up to 4,000 students started on one of 18 courses each 8-week term. At the end of that year the number of Americans was down to 5,000. The airfield was handed back to the RAF in February 1946, after the Technical School moved to Germany. The RAF's 90 MU established a large storage unit which was still there in a small way in February 1951.

The BAD 2 Association
On the 7th of October 1977 in St Louis Missouri the BAD2 Association was formed, founded by David G. Mayor. Their statement of purpose was: “The BAD 2 Association was formed to perpetuate the history of The World’s Greatest Air Depot, to encourage the gathering of all sections of BAD 2 in annual reunion, and to assure that the memory of your comrades who gave their lives in service to our country, shall not die.” The association formed a quarterly newsletter, first issue in December 1977, as a forum to share memories of BAD2 and a method in which to reach out to veterans who served at Warton. The association had over 800 members and held numerous reunions both in the United States, in various States, and in the United Kingdom. Membership was open to all former members of BAD2 organisations, civilian or military. Other members, outside of BAD2 organisations, were permitted to join as associates.

Adapted by "Bomble Bee" from “The Story of B.A.D.2. at Warton” Supplied by the BAE SYSTEMS North West Heritage Group, a volunteer organisation supported by BAE SYSTEMS

English Heritage's record description

Not yet known

Service

Units

People

  • Ishmael Abernathy

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Fighter pilot | 78th Fighter Group
    Trained with 312FS, 338FG. Assigned to 82FS, 78FG, 8AF USAAF.

  • Milton Anderson

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Fighter Pilot | 27th Air Transport Group
    Assigned to 61FS, 56FG, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to 310FRS, 27ATG, 9AF USAAF. Awards: WWII Victory, EAME. Post War: Remained in USAF till retirement Oct 68.

  • Jimmie Andrews

    Military | Flight Officer | Fighter Pilot | 27th Air Transport Group
    Assigned to 487FS, 352FG, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to 310th Ferry Squadron, 27th Air Transport Group, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to Base Air Depot 2, 8AF USAAF.

  • Harold Bonser

    Military | Sergeant | Flight engineer | 27th Air Transport Group
    Assigned to 310FRS, 27ATG, 9AF USAAF. Shot down on casualty evacuation mission to St Trond, Belgium in C-47B 43-48395. Crash landed 2.5 miles from Aachen, Germany. 27-Sep-44. Prisoner of War (POW). Awards: POW, WWII Victory, EAME.

  • Gerald Brasher

    Military | First Lieutenant | Fighter pilot | 27th Air Transport Group
    Gerald E 'Jerry' Brasher served as a pilot with the 78th Fighter Group. He was a ace with 6 kills to his credit. 1 x confirmed [Air], 5 x confirmed [Ground]. Transferred to 310FRS, 27ATG, 8AF USAAF. Awards: WWII Victory, EAME.

  • Earle Briggs

    Military | Major | Fighter pilot | 27th Air Transport Group
    Assigned to 328FS, 352FG, 8AF USAAF. Transferred to 310FRS, 27ATG, 8AF USAAF. Returned to 328FS, 352FG, 8AF USAAF. ...

  • Chester Bright

    Military | Corporal | Radio Operator | 27th Air Transport Group
    Assigned to 310FRS, 27ATG, 9AF USAAF. Failed to return a casualty evacuation mission to St Trond, Belgium in C-47B 43-48395. Killed when flak hit A/C, which went on to crash land 2.5 miles from Aachen, Germany. 27-Sep-44. Killed in Action (KIA). MACR...

  • Lilian Brown Overall

    Civilian
    Lilian was living in Lytham and met American Frederick D Overall while he was based at nearby Warton. They married and moved to America after the war.

  • Charles Craig

    Military | Sergeant | Jeep driver | Base Air Depot 2
    Sergeant Charles Wallace Craig was a member of the US 45th Infantry Division. During the war he served in Italy, France and Germany. His feet were frozen in the Vosges Mountains and he was evacuated to Base Air Depot #2 near Warton in January 1945. ...

  • John Keller

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Hanger Chief | Base Air Depot 2
    During the period 1944, my hangar modified and repaired 1000 B24's. The modifications included over 100 changes and updates. Almost every aircraft had at least two engine changes among other things. Since our hangars were capable of housing six planes...

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Aircraft

  • 42-107034 Rampant Pansy

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Tulsa 3/2/44; Dow Fd 18/4/44; Assigned 398BG Nuthampstead 1/5/44; no ops, transferred 749BS/457BG [K] Glatton 3/5/44; battle damaged Stuttgart 9/12/44 with ?; crash landed continent, Salvaged 2 SAD. RAMPANT PANSY.

  • 42-30167 Destiny's Tot, Angel Pumpkin

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 21/4/43; Tinker 27/4/43; Smoky Hill 5/5/43; Tinker 12/5/43; Lincoln 20/5/43; Bangor 23/5/43; Assigned 336BS/95BG [ET-H] Framlingham; Horham 15/6/43; ...

  • 42-3090 'T'aint A Bird'

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 6/2/43; en route to UK aircraft force landed Clonakilty, N. Ireland 7/4/43 with Bill Thomas, Co-pilot: Jim Stapleton, Navigator: Bill Prochaska, Bombardier: Collis Hayes, Ball turret gunner: Floyd Thompson frost-bitten feet, Radio...

  • 42-3095 'Peggy Ann'

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 26-Jan-43; Pueblo 1-Feb-43; Dow Field, Bangor, Maine 10-Jun-43; Assigned 412BS/95BG [QW-Z] Horham 2-Jul-43; 14m, (force landed Eye AF 22/2/44), transferred SAD 1-Mar-44; 94BG Rougham 25-Jul-43; 25BG Watton 1-Apr-44; 2 BAD 19-Jun-44;...

  • MM310

    Mosquito
    Crashed, RAF Warton, Belly Landing. 17th June 1944. Charles W Himes (pilot) USAAF. Written Off, Damaged Beyond Repair.

  • MM340

    Mosquito
    Minor damage ground looped, RAF Warton / USAAF Station 582, 18th March 1944. Charles W. Himes (pilot) USAAF. Struck Off Charge 17th June 1946.

  • 43-12433

    P-51 Mustang
    Initially to RAF on 24 August 1943 as FX905. Returned to AAF service on 30 December 1943 and received at Warton 31 December. Issued to 354th FG 356th FS on 27 January where it became "Mackie 3rd/Miss Pea Ridge" AJ-M Pilot Lt Mack Tyner. Acquired codes...

  • 43-6623 'Spare Parts'

    P-51 Mustang

  • P3757

    Hurricane
    18th Aug 1940 F/O Hartland de Montarville Molson [Montreal, Quebec], slightly injured in landing accident at RAF Station Hornchurch, Essex in Hurricane Mk I P3757 coded YO*G. ...

  • 41-6406

    P-47 Thunderbolt
    Republic P-47C Thunderbolt 41-6406 QP-H 334th FS, 4th FG, 8th AF USAAF, assigned pilot Lt G H Whitlow. ...

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Revisions

Date Contributor Update
17 March 2015 11:58:39 Bomble Bee Changes to history
Sources

Details from research carried out by BAE Systems Warton Aerodrome Heritage Centre and "Bomble Bee"

Date Contributor Update
17 March 2015 11:56:44 Bomble Bee Changes to known as, latitude, longitude, usaaf from date, usaaf to date, construction date and history
Sources

Information from research by BAE Systems Warton Aerodrome Heritage Centre and "Bomble Bee".

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:02:18 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Barry Anderson, Army Air Forces Stations (Alabama, 1985) / David J. Smith, Action Stations: Military Airfields of Wales and the North West, (Cambridge, 1981)

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