The history making day 100 years ago when planes first landed at Halton

Three Bleriot aircraft on the sheep pastures in September 1913
Three Bleriot aircraft on the sheep pastures in September 1913
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It all started when an F20 Henri Farman aircraft touched down on a clear September afternoon in front of a crowd of interested onlookers, many of whom had never seen anything quite like it before.

The location was a sheep pasture inHalton owned by Alfred Rothschild, the date Thursday, September 18 1913, and it marked the start of 100 years of flying on the estate.

Francis Hanford, curator of the Trenchard museum, which aims to preserve and display items relating to RAF Halton, said: “The aircraft landed on a temporary airfield, which later became known as Maitland Parade Square.

“That first flight was from Haines Hill near Marlow.

“We know there were two members of crew on that first flight but we don’t know their names.”

The first few flights were not without their problems.

Mr Hanford said: “On that first day, we had four Bleriot planes land here but one of them came in slightly too high and ended up in the hedge on Tring Road.

“The good news was that nobody was hurt but they did have to change the plane’s propeller.

“The bigger crowds came at the weekend when thousands of people turned up, however due to the bad weather there was very little flying.

“The crowds were still very enthusiastic and they just enjoyed being able to get a glimpse of the aircrafts.

“Two police constables and twelve of Mr Rothschild’s gamekeepers came to keep an eye on the crowds but there was no trouble.”

That first aircraft on September 18 belonged to number 3 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps, one of the forces involved in the army manoeuvres of 1913.

A Major Robert Brook-Popham from the corps negotiated the use of the landing ground with Rothschild.

Halton was close to where the squadron was encamped during a three-day period of army manoeuvres – so the location suited them perfectly.

Flying at Halton in those early days was a great success and the Royal Flying Corps became established there in 1917.

In 1918, they changed their name to the Royal Air Force, and the title of RAF Halton was born.

The airfield has always been busy and Mr Hanford explained about the different activities that still go on there today.

He said: “From 1917 up until during the 1980s a lot of planes were used as training machines by apprentice mechanics.

“Eventually they were all broken up and so more were flown in to replace them.

“The base is the home of Halton Aerial Club as it has been since 1930 .

“The Joint Services Gliding School are also very active here and offer military personnel the chance to experience glider flight.

“The Halton Microlight Club are based here as well, and they offer flying opportunities to serving and ex-serving members of the Royal Air Force.”

Some of the highlights of RAF Halton’s 100 years came when three Vulcan and two Comet aircrafts landed during the 1950s, events which were described as ‘spectacular’.

Mr Hanford added that he was looking forward to what he hoped would be the next 100 years of flying at Halton.

He said: “RAF Halton has a very proud tradition of flying and we are very optimistic that it will continue for the forseeable future.”

The Trenchard Museum at RAF Halton tells more of the story of its history.

The museum is open every Tuesday between 10am and 4pm. It can also be opened on request by arrangement by contacting the museum on 01296 656841. There is an answerphone if nobody is available to take your call.