RAF Woodvale is celebrating 75 years of being an active Royal Air Force airfield.
Formed in December, 1941, RAF Woodvale was originally built as an all-weather, night fighter airfield for the defence of Liverpool during World War Two and remained open following the end of the war.
It has gone through many changes over the years and has seen all manner of pilots, planes and military hardware through the years.
Thousands of people see Woodvale each day travelling on the Formby bypass, but few will know all about the colourful history of the Ainsdale-based airfield.
During the Second World War, RAF squadrons would fly up from the south of London – a journey of 200 miles – to rest for short periods at Ainsdale.
The surrounding beaches and closeness of Southport as a resort coastal town was viewed as an ideal mini getaway for pilots and their crew exhausted from fighting seemingly endless battles against the Luftwaffe.
In April 1945, as the war wound down, Woodvale briefly became a tender for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Airfield at Burscough, known as HMS Ringtail II.
A lull in the airfield’s usefulness followed when it was no longer needed to defend the skies across the North West and it was temporarily wound down for a period of inactivity.
Yet the airfield was to make an important return to operations, helping to train not just the future of the Royal Air Force post-war pilots but also to act as a base for flight testing Spitfires, Hurricanes and other aircraft.
Spitfires and Hurricanes were a particular sight in the skies above Ainsdale and Formby between 1953 and 1958 as they underwent special all weather testing at Woodvale.
In fact, in June 1957, the legendary Spitfire made its last ever operational flight from RAF Woodvale!
A year later Gloster Meteor planes operated at the base until 1971. RAF bosses then finally settled on what was to become the mainstay of operations at Woodvale until the present – an RAF training unit as well as a base for occasional civillian flight lessons.
To commemorate RAF Woodvale’s 75th Anniversary, station personnel and invited guests attended a short re-dedication ceremony in the hangar followed by a reception in the Officers Mess.
Station Commander, Wing Commander David Hooton said: “Commanding RAF Woodvale on the occasion of its 75th Anniversary is an extremely proud moment for me.
“The station is not ‘front line’ but quietly and efficiently gets on with the task of supporting Royal Air Force in many ways, as it always has”