RAF Wilmslow - Recollections - Guy Jefferson

Guy Jefferson served at RAF Wilmslow & has researched and written a history of RAF Wilmslow.

                                    BRIEF HISTORY OF R.A.F STATION WILMSLOW.

                                                      Compiled by Guy Jefferson. MBE.

As war clouds gathered in late1938 the R.A.F entered into an expansion programme that entailed the building of numerous new airfields and supporting flying training stations. To cater for the envisaged influx of airman being called up into the service several recruit training centres had to be established.

In early 1939 a suitable site for one of the latter mentioned centres was found on the North Eastern side of Wilmslow, Stockport, Cheshire. Because time was of the essence the majority of the camp constituted of only wooden huts of various sizes. Outstanding visual features of the camp was the overhead hot water pipes that carried hot water to the ablution blocks and dinning halls, huge hangar like sheds for indoor training, and multiple parade squares.

The station opened on the 11th of April 1940 when it became the home of ‘No.6 Reserve Centre’ that dealt with reservists being called up into the R.A.F proper. Having dealt with the initial surge of thousands of entrants the Centre departed for Blackpool in September 1941.

By then another requirement emerged, that of kitting out and despatching thousands of airmen overseas. Wilmslow therefore became the home of ‘Personnel Dispatch Units’ (PDU) which processed airmen destined for Canada, Africa and North Africa, a task that lasted from September 1941 to the 25th February 1943.

By the above date the flow of airmen going overseas had decreased but the number of W.A.A.F’s entering the R.A.F was rapidly increasing, thus the above mentioned PDU transferred to Morecambe, changing places with No.31 W.A.A.F Recruits Centre, which as its title portrays put countless females through their basic training (minus rifle drill of course) over the following 17 years.

It was not until June 1945 that the male aspect moved in alongside, this being No.4 Recruit Centre that formed at Wilmslow. This latter remained until disbanding at the end of March 1957, but the WRAF aspect lingered on until 27th July 1960, after which future WRAF volunteers would be trained at Spitalgate near Grantham.

Throughout most of the war Wilmslow also played host to other R.A.F establishments, the main one being No.75 M.U that was present from 1st of December 1940 to 31st of August 1945. Civilians initially manned it, before being run by servicemen in March 1942. It was chiefly engaged in the recovery and salvage of aircraft that had crashed in the West Pennines region. A large pile of wrecked aircraft was usually to be seen here.

Another unit to be present from 19th December 1940 to the time it transferred to St. Athan on 9th February 1942 was the RAF Czech Depot that dealt with Czech airmen arriving in Britain and then integrating them into the R.A.F.

The final lodger, present from September 1956 to the 31st October 1961, was No.4 Joint Servicing Trials Unit. Its role was the training of technicians on the sophisticated Blue Steel bomb, although the practical side of this was carried out at the Avro aircraft works at Woodford.

There was also an R.A.F Hospital present on the station in the early post war years that increased in importance in September 1950. It remained until 1958 but records are very sketchy hence the lack of precise dates.

R.A.F Station Wilmslow closed on the 30th of November 1959 although it still remained M.o.D property under the care and maintenance scheme until 22nd February 1963.  It thereafter soon became developed as a huge housing estate, known as Wilmslow Park.

The author did his obligatory 10 weeks 'square bashing' at Wilmslow in 1945/46. He did rifle firing, and tossing of live hand-grenades on a range about 5 miles from the camp. It was located in a very picturesque setting that had a semicircle of high ground on the facing side. If anyone reading these notes knows the location I would like to hear from them. E mail guy@jeff53.fsnet.co.uk

Sincere thanks go to Ray Sturtivant. ISO for providing many of the above details.

Click here to return to the main RAF Wilmslow page.

Article and picture on this page are copyright of Guy Jefferson.