Official recognition of Langley Airfield, WW2 home of Hawker Aircraft Co. Ltd.
October 15, 2019
Seeing BBMF Hurricane LF363 flying into WW on 3rd September 2019), and WLAC Members Day on 7th, reminded me of something which may be of interest to some. LF363 was built at Langley Airfield situated close to Heathrow where multitudes of Hurricanes were built (c 7,000) and later Tempests, Sea Furies etc and, Yes!, Hunters. Even civil Yorks, Tudors, Lancasters, Wellingtons and Vikings flew from there before the airfield closed in 1959. Hawkers then concentrated their work at Kingston & Dunsfold. Douglas A Rough
On 5th October 2019 (at 1100hrs), a memorial plaque to the airfield was unveiled by the Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Unfortunately the BBMF wasn’t able to do a “fly by” because as of 28th September all the BBMF fleet commenced winter maintenance
….and now details of the actual ceremony at Langley
On time and at the entrance of Harvey Park (centre of the airfield as was) and south of Parlaunt Road and west of Heathrow Worldwide Distribution Centre, alongside Tamar Road (postcode SL3 8TA) the following Indian Marble plinth was unveiled. Doing the honours were Kenneth Bannerman founder (in 2006) of the Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust (ABCT) and currently Director General. Alongside him was Peter Trafford who has researched the history of the airfield to the “n’th” degree. ABCT has currently erected some 200 memorials.
Present at the ceremony were about 70 people including old Hawker employees and locals whose family members had worked there. Inevitably many enthusiasts and curious residents wondering what was going on! The memorial was unveiled by The Mayor of Slough, Councillor Avtar Kaur Cheema whose father had served in the British Army.
The Langley Potted History
Councillor Cheema said she was proud to be doing the unveiling and Mr. Bannerman gave a succinct account of what ABCT was all about. Peter Trafford gave a concise summary of the history of Langley Airfield as of 1939 when Hawker moved in to build nearly 7,000 Hurricanes and later types like Typhoon, Tempest and Sea Fury followed by Hunter jet fighters. Post WW2 a number of airlines also made use of Langley as their Maintenance Base as no hangar facilities were available at the new London (Heathrow) Airport. Main users were British South American Airways (BSAA) with Avro Yorks & Tudors and Airwork General Trading Co. Ltd. who did much aircraft testing and maintenance. Flying ostensibly ceased in 1955 but non-flying aviation activities continued until 1959 with the
controversial plans to sell Hawker Hunters to Fidel Castro’s Cuba (Cuba was operating Langley-built Sea Fury fighter-bombers at the time). Surplus Sea Furies and Hunters were stored at Langley until the Cuban contract came to nothing and the aircraft were dispersed or scrapped by late1959. A new c1960 resident at Langley was Hawker Siddeley Nuclear Power Co. Ltd developing the “Jason” reactor for the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet. This came to an end circa March 1962.
Other Personalities at the Unveiling
There were a small number of former Hawker employees mostly with Dunsfold & Kingston connections. Dunsfold was Hawker’s Test Airfield after Langley and Kingston became the main manufacturing factory and Company HQ. To try and keep interest in Hawker alive, there is The Hawker Association (which was very involved in achieving the memorial) and representatives were present in the line-up behind the plinth. With them in the photo and dressed in maroon + regalia is The Mayor of Slough (see earlier reference).
Other notables present were Angela Bailey (below) the daughter of the famous Hawker Test Pilot, Frank Murphy who carried out much Test Flying at Langley. His daughter has created a series of profusely illustrated and highly informative publications about her father’s activities.
Noreen Cooper (below) is a totally charming person.
She is the daughter of the very charismatic and controversial Australian aviator known as Don Bennett. His connection with Langley was as of 1945 when he was appointed as Chief Executive of British South American Airways (BSAA) mentioned earlier. BSAA’s maintenance and operations HQ were based at Langley. He had altercations with the BSAA Board and eventually resigned. “Don B” later formed a successful company named Airflight Ltd using two Avro Tudors.
The ceremony went off without hitches and more than a few locals left far more educated than when they arrived. One very elderly lady said her Dad had worked on Huricanes at Langley during the war and she had learned a lot that morning…and wished to convey her “Thanks” to everybody before she shuffled off.
The final photo is of a painting by Geoff Beckett showing an Anson of the ATA at Langley dropping off Ferry Pilots no doubt to whisk new-build Hurricanes off to operational squadrons.
The painting is in The Maidenhead Heritage Centre which is also worth a visit as is the Langley Memorial if you’ve not yet visited either.