21st June 1890. RAF Hangars.
Of the hundreds of RAF airfields built in WWII the most identifiable building was the giant hangar with one of the key companies involved in their construction being the old established Teesdale Iron Works of Head Wrightson & Co., which Today in 1890 was registered as a public company.(1)
Head Wrightson played a major part in the construction of the Bellman Hangar designed by structural engineer N.S. Bellman in 1936, to the specification of The Board of Works.
These hangars were so designed to be constructed and dismantled by unskilled workers and set to become a feature of most airfields here and abroad. Along with the semi-circular ‘Blister’ patented by Miskins & Sons in 1939, many are still in use today.
The Daily Telegraph reported in April 1942, under the heading: Britain as a Huge Air Raid Base: ‘Britain is to become the strongest air base in the world…springboard for the most devastating aerial attacks ever contemplated outside the realm of imaginative fiction’.
The Paper continued, ‘a striking force capable of levelling half Germany will be assembled at aerodromes in the United Kingdom. Already the bomber forces of the R.A.F. have reached considerable dimensions…
… every one of the new giant bombers is the equivalent of three of the older types…and the United States would augment and stiffen our air attacks’.(2)
Two air-fields were selected for the non-Blister tests: RAF Thornaby for the Bellman and RAF Usworth for an alternative model by Callender Cable, with a decision to plump mainly for the Bellman Model.
With the probability of war, purchases were made in bulk in 1938 and 40 were stored at the central parts storage at No.3 MU at Milton, Oxfordshire.
The preparation for war had started in 1936 with ‘Shadow Factories’ which could quickly be turned over to munitions. This along with the ability to build 100.s of airfields in a matter of a few years contrasts with the situation today when it has taken decades to consider whether to build an extra runway at Heathrow.
When needs must, the Devil drives!
(1) In 1922 the Company acquired the interests of Whitwell & Co., previously held by Amalgamated Industrials. The Times 26.6. 1922.
(2) The Daily Telegraph. Tuesday, 21st April 1942.