Author John Nixon
I still remember quite clearly the day that I was taken to Cark Airfield by my father for the first time. My father was, I believe, delivering wood and as a small boy, I was under strict instructions to remain in his wagon until he had completed his business. I can recall even now, how I was enthralled by the old control tower, the air raid shelters and the runways, though at the time I had no idea why. The reason has become clear to me over the years. I am, and have been from birth, an incurable romantic and like all those of this nature, I seem to have an instinctive sense of history. It is my experience, however, that there are very few sites on earth that convey the powerful atmosphere one experiences on an abandoned World War II airfield. I developed a keen interest in local WWII airfields throughout my teenage years when, after a carefree and aimless working life, I joined Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Fate would have me working at HMP Haverigg situated on the site of the wartime airfield of RAF Millom. Over the years I learned more and more of the history of the place and even met many who had links with the site during the war.
In 1992 HMP Haverigg had occupied the airfield site for 25 years, and our Governor, Mr Bernard Wilson, was looking for a suitable way to mark the occasion. I suggested that I attempt to research the history of the site back to its origin as an airfield, I had little idea how to begin but felt that local appeals and notices in various RAF publications for photographs and information would be a good start. I had not, however, bargained on the huge response with which my appeals were to be met!
By the time our gala day dawned, I had amassed a display which took up two large rooms, with countless letters, photographs, plans and artefacts. Taking pride of place amongst all this unexpected trove of material were the substantial, and unexpectedly sound remains of an Armstrong Siddeley radial engine from one of RAF Millom’s crashed Avro Ansons. Haverigg’s Inshore Rescue Team, along with a group of Prison staff, had recovered the engine three months previously from the Irish Sea. Our gala day was a great success, and was attended by a vast crowd, made up of members of the public and ex-servicemen and women of the old RAF Millom. Local radio, newspapers and TV began to take a keen interest and my mail tray started to sag and groan as the flow of photographs, information and artefacts became a torrent. The most common question I was asked at the time was “what are you going to do with all this wonderful stuff?” …
The RAF Millom display containing many first hand reports, photographs & artefacts can be seen at Millom Discovery Centre in Millom, Cumbria.