The History of RAF Millom and the Genesis of RAF Mountain Rescue
It is not my intention to write an in-depth history of the period leading up to World War II, but to set the scene for the building of RAF Millom and the many airfields like it during the build up to the onset of the war and beyond.
A period of expansion by the RAF on a scale never before undertaken was about to begin. By the time war was declared on 3 September 1939, the Emergency Powers Act had been established which authorised the requisitioning of any suitable land for military purposes. An area of level ground, 1½ miles south of Millom in Cumberland was deemed suitable, plans were duly drawn, submitted and approved.
Though RAF Millom spent its life as a training airfield, it was in fact built under the jurisdiction of No. 9 Group as an advanced fighter station. This may well have been as part of a protection plan for the West coast, should the Germans occupy Ireland, and perhaps the Isle of Man.
Although we cannot pinpoint with any certainty the exact day on which work began, we do know however that the construction of RAF Millom was undertaken by the Construction Firm Constable and Hart. Mr Alan Shute of Millom recalled for me that he had worked as an office boy for the company before being lured to the ranks of the carpenters for more money! He was also able to tell me that the land for the airfield was requisitioned from Layriggs Farm, Hemplands Farm, a piece known locally as ‘Van Diemans Land’, and Gelderbanks, along with some which belonged to Bankhead Farm. RAF Millom was to have eight Bellman Type hangars, which were constructed by Carters of Sheffield, and ‘blister’ type hangars around its dispersal points. The Bellman hangars appear to have been used, almost exclusively, for maintenance whilst the ‘blister’ type hangars, constructed from curved corrugated steel and open at both ends, offered shelter for otherwise openly dispersed aircraft.
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE STATISTICS!
- Airfield construction peaked in 1942
- During the five years of war, the Air Ministries Directorate of Works spent £600 million on airfield construction, and laid approximately 160 million square yards of concrete in the form of runways, dispersals and perimeter tracks.
- It is further estimated that 336,000 miles of electrical cables were installed and that by 1945 airfields occupied 360,000 acres of land in Britain.
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