Formby civic group hopeful of securing memorial status for Woodvale plaque

A special plaque honouring war heroes who were based at Woodvale air base could soon become an official war memorial, local historical groups hope.

Members of the Formby Civic Society are keen to secure special war memorial status for the plaque which is currently found near to RAF Woodvale at the Freshfield Dune Heath Nature Reserve.

Local historian Dr. Reg Yorke, of the Formby Civic Society, was instrumental in getting together members of the society, the RAF and the Widlife Trust to secure the plaque – which has been dubbed the RAF Woodvale Historical Interpretive Panel

The Panel bears the wording: ‘Lest we forget’:- “In memory of all airmen and aircrew killed on service at RAF Woodvale during the Second World War.”

It also shows their names, rank and squadron.

RAF Woodvale was designed as an allweather fighter airfield for the defence of Merseyside. The decision was made in early 1941 but It was completed too late for the 1940-41 Blitz on Merseyside.

However the base provided strong support for the defence of the entire region until the end of WWII.

A spokesperson for Formby Civic Society said: “Previously, the site had been partly a large private Golf Club as well as a good amount of farmland adjacent to the new By-Pass; indeed, much farmland on the other side of the new road was requisitioned also to provide space for the accommodation of 2000 personnel.

“It was opened officially on December 7, 1941 and became operational when a Polish squadron arrived from RAF Northwich with six Spitfires.

“Flying began on 15 December 1941. In 1943, No.222 (Dutch) Squadron’s Spitfires added to the Polish squadrons already based at  Woodvale.

“Night protection was undertaken by Beaufighters and Mosquitos, and Woodvale became Sector Control Station for the North West, controlling all operational flying, especially enemy aircraft interceptions.

“Second line units also operated from Woodvale , flying a variety of types of aircraft used for calibration; some of this work was undertaken with the Royal Navy gunnery training range at HMS Queen Charlotte on the beach at Ainsdale.

“Woodvale was used regularly by American aircraft bringing personnel for rest and recuperation at Southport.

“In October 1944 a B-24 crashed on landing, killing 7 of the twenty occupants.

“After the War, Woodvale housed auxiliary and training units; this is a task that continues today.

“The very last Spitfires to fly routine duty in active military markings retired from here in June 1957.

“In January 1958, No.5 Civilian Anti-Aircraft Co-Operation Unit moved in and operated Meteors until September 1971.

“The airfield today is surrounded by Freshfield Dune Heath, the largest lowland heath site in Lancashire.

“Formby Civic Society is grateful for the work and commitment of Dr. Reg Yorke in bringing this Interpretive Panel to fruition.

“This was achieved when Reg was also leading the FCS efforts to develop our programme of introducing a number of Blue Plaques to the Formby Community.”

A bid has now being made to seek permission for the plaque to be given historical war memorial status.