Silloth War Years

The Beginning

As the possibility of war approached, there was an urgent need  for Aircraft Storage Units further north in Britain.  During this ‘expansion period’ the possession by agreement of 460 acres of land in Silloth was obtained in April 1938 for a new airfield.

Silloth aerodrome opened in June 1939 for immediate use by No 22 Maintenance Unit.  The station as was soon transferred to Coastal Command with the 22 Maintenance Unit remaining as a station within the aerodrome.

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Long-term benefits resulted when a new wharf was built at the town’s docks in order to handle the huge amounts of construction materials required for this airfield.

Ansons, Beauforts, Bothas and Hudsons were assigned as aircraft. In April 1940, the unit was given the designation No.1 Operational Training Unit (OTU) (Lockheed Hudsons and Ansons).

Silloth Airfield was also used in the film ‘Yanks in the RAF.’

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As the ‘Forgotten Airfields’ site indicates, when the Royal Aircraft Eastablishment (RAE) used the airfield to experiment with flares dropped by a HP Hampden in 1940, the airfield was promptly bombed by the Luftwaffe.

The area suffered several air raids. When the Royal Aircraft Eastablishment (RAE) used the airfield to experiment with flares dropped by a HP Hampden in 1940, the airfield was promptly bombed by the Luftwaffe.  An amazing aerial reconnaissance photograph of Silloth aerodrome, taken by the Luftwaffe in 1941 indicated that they appeared to know everything, including where the guns were, the hangars and other buildings.

In 1941 the airfield was expanded with 3 concrete runways and 18 hangars. Dispersal areas ran to the north, northwest, southwest and southeast of the runway system. The first USAF Liberators landed at the base too. Between October 1941 and April 1942 the base was also home to a detachment of 320 (Netherlands) Sqn, flying Lockheed Hudson IIIs.

In March 1943, the No 1 operational Unit was replaced by No:6 O.T.U.

There followed an influx of personnel and aircrew from around the country, with some also arriving from allied countries.

Silloth Trainer

Silloth Trainer
Silloth Trainer

The Silloth Trainer was used for the training of all members of an aircraft crew. It was a type of familiarisation trainer for learning drills and the handling of malfunctions.The “Silloth Trainer” was developed by Wing Commander Iles at Silloth Airfield.  It consisted of a Hudson fuselage with electrics and pneumatics fitted to simulate drills, handling of malfunctions, instrument readings, engine sound, and movement for “realistic” training.  As well as the basic flying behaviour, all engine, electric and hydraulic systems were simulated. An instructor’s panel was provided to enable monitoring of the crew and the malfunction insertion.

Silloth trainers were manufactured for 2 and 4 engined aircraft throughout the war. In mid-1945, there were fourteen  trainers in existence or on order. All computation was pneumatic as in another simulator called the Link Trainer.

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Link Trainer

Towards the end of the war, a Wellington simulator was developed at RAF St Athan, using contoured clams to generate the characteristics of the aircraft’s flight and engines. This machine, however, did not supplant the Silloth Trainer, as all activity on those ceased at the end of the War. Therefore, in effect, the Silloth Trainer was one of the predecessors of the modern flight simulator.

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