Memories of RAF Burtonwood 80 years ago on D-Day


ONE word described RAF Burtonwood on D-Day in June 1944 – BUSY!

Reflecting on D-Day 80-years ago today, Burtonwood Airbase historian Aldon Ferguson looks back at how events unfolded here in Warrington.

Base Air Depot No 1, Burtonwood, had been inundated with visits from senior officers, including General Eisenhower, to see the work in hand and encourage increased productivity with D-Day looming but no-one at Burtonwood knowing the exact date.

The base was divided into three main divisions, Maintenance Supply and Administration.

A six day a week, 8-hour shift, three shifts per day pattern was established to keep the work flowing 24 hours a day. Figures indicate the amount of equipment flowing through the base and its ‘Intransit’ depots which were close to ports, such as Kirkby for Liverpool docks. Large amount so material were unloaded from the ships, transported to these depots and on to the ultimate user without having to pass through Burtonwood. However, in June 3,442 rail wagons were unloaded at Burtonwood, an increase of 63% over previous months, whilst 9,834 tons of supplies were shipped out by air, road and rail to US units across the country.
Haydock Park race course was taken over in June and became AAF Station 530 with 444 men operating it as a stores receipt and supply sub base.

In week ending June 7, Maintenance Division had seen the arrival of 152 aircraft including 60 new B-17s, nine P-61 Black Widows and 64 P-47s. The hangars had completed work on 195 aircraft , made 181 ready for delivery and actually delivered 136, in one week. Ten AT-6 trainers had arrived for re-assembly and completed. The P-47s were being modified to carry underwing rockets and bombs for ground attack and were replacing those in action. Four hundred sets of modification kits for P-47 rockets were produced and delivered direct to squadrons to be modified there.
The Carpet Bagger project was ending with 31 B-24 Liberators modified by having their front and mid gun turrets removed and adapted for dropping agents and supplies to the underground (Marquis) in occupied Europe. They were painted black as they operated at night and the project was completed in June, a week ahead of schedule.
Aircraft engine overhaul involved the complete stripping down of each engine, testing every part for wear or damage and reassembling and then test running them before packing them into boxes to be dispatched to bases all over England. In the first week of June 452 engines were available for overhaul, 389 passed through final assembly and 429 were successfully test run and dispatched.

On D-Day there were 10,927 enlisted men working in Maintenance Division alone and an additional 200 WAC women were drafted in to work with them.
The base history notes that the runways were suffering from such intensive use that emergency repairs were required to keep them serviceable, Marbury Hall living site in Cheshire was handed over to another base as the 1,590 officers and men living there could now be accommodated at Burtonwood. It eventually became a prisoner of war camp.
Numbers grew as the war progressed with the work on base involving such things as reworking crystals for radio sets, overhauling and cleaning spark plugs, maintaining safety equipment such as parachutes and dinghies, magnetos, superchargers, instruments, propellors – in fact anything that kept an aircraft airworthy and all the necessary ancillary equipment.

Burtonwood continued to grow until VE-Day, in May 1945 but was then moving into Europe to maintain the occupying US forces and also started returning equipment and aircraft to the US for operations against Japan. With the surrender of Japan, US forces rapidly withdrew home but huge amounts of their stock ended up at Burtonwood for disposal and Burtonwood was the last US base in Britain to close in June 1946.

For more information about the history of the base visit


About Author

Experienced journalist for more than 40 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with three in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Chair of Warrington Healthwatch Director Warrington Chamber of Commerce Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.

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