The Airfield Circuits of Great Britain & Northern Ireland
30th October 2018 | Introduction
I'm going to draw you a line. A sketchy, squiggly, possibly tenuous, and no doubt disorganised line that I believe loosely connects Britain's very own multiple F1 World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, with a man called Reg Miles, a flight engineer on a Halifax bomber in World War II.
And whilst I weave together the various strands of the story in a potentially haphazard fashion, I'll also drop in a host of Scalextric track plans which might also have a bearing on the case.
This is the momentous story of the airfields of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It's the story of how they not only helped to save Britain from Nazi occupation, but how they went on to shape the future of British motorsport.
19th May 2015 | East Moor
East Moor Airfield
Not far from here, is a battlefield.
It's not an ancient, long forgotten site in a far off land, but one that is very close by, and still within living memory for many. Just a couple of miles to the south of where I live lies East Moor Airfield, where brave young warriors once set out to defend this country, and indeed the world from Nazi occupation.
But there are no signs to mark this site, no grand memorial, and no commemorative plaque. Nor is there much left of the runway, the control tower, or anything else that might alert you to it's presence. Most of us would just drive on through the winding country lanes that surround it with no idea of the old airfield's existence.
But if you look very carefully, there are traces of the past. If you peep behind the hedgerows you might just be able to pick out a defensive position, or you might spot the remains of an old airfield building. But mostly it remains hidden, neglected, and forgotten. These days the land has been almost completely returned to it's original state, agricultural farmland.
But East Moor is certainly not in any way unique, nor even uncommon. After all there were many similar sites spread all across the vale of York, and indeed throughout Britain. Nevertheless, like all those other sites, it is a poignant reminder of our past, and it's important that we remember.
24th January 1939 | Reg Miles Biography
On January 24th 1939 I arrived at Wendover Railway Station in Buckingham, on a special train from Paddington with about one thousand other new boys. We were all shapes, sizes, and colours, and aged between fifteen and eighteen.
The first thing that happened to all us new boys was a medical to see if we were fit enough for service in the R.A.F. The first complete check up for most of us, told me I had flat feet
All of the boys in the new entry were taken in groups to the airfield and given a short flight in a De Haviland Tiger Moth, which gave us some idea how big the training site at Halton was, and in most cases the first taste of air sickness. Never had any trouble with this problem when I was flying as crew, but even a short flight at times as a passenger made me hang on to my seat and swallow heavily!
When the war started in September 1939 things changed very rapidly. Our three year course was cut down to just over two by stopping all holidays, and we worked from dawn to dusk on our training. The subjects did not get shortened, just longer days and no holidays or week ends.
I would have been 18 when I finished the apprenticeship, but due to the war and cutting out holidays etc, I was only 17. I therefore was still classed as a boy when I left Halton and was not informed what rank I had passed my final examinations. So when I arrived at my first operational posting I was paid the princely sum of ten shillings a week, yet was the only qualified member of the gang.
3rd September 1939 | Los Angeles Times & Daily Mail newspaper headlines
Great Britain and France are at war with Germany. We now fight against the blackest tyranny that has ever held men in bondage. We fight to defend, and restore freedom and justice on earth.
10th April 1944 | Reg Miles Biography
We had gradually crept up to the runway threshold and were now awaiting the green from the Aldis lamp. I had left my position to stand next to my pilot at the top of the steps leading down to the wop, nav, and bomb positions, ready to hold the throttles open as we charged down the runway. I had already told the skipper that all engines were running okay, and so we set forth to battle.
The tail came up and the whole aircraft was shuddering with the effort of leaving the ground. A few skips off the concrete and we were airborne. Time to take a breath, it had stopped completely as the trees bordering the 'drome had got closer and closer. We once arrived back with bits of branches still caught in the undergear, and a failure of only one engine at that time with a full bomb and fuel load meant the end.
So with the constant roar of four engines, our little world of icy cold draughts, a lethal cargo, shuddering and rocking in the streams of air from those in front, with many staring eyes, looking for any others who might be near us in the black sky, seven young men went about their duty.
I always took my job seriously and did all I could to ensure my side of things ran like clockwork, no guesses, keep checking and worrying until home again safe and sound.
23rd July 2004 | Britain 1939-1945: The Economic Cost of Strategic Bombing by John Fahey
Above you'll see the basic layout of East Moor airfield, with the three main runways, the perimeter road, and the many aircraft dispersal points. For an idea of the massive scale of the building wok involved, the diagram above represents an actual size of 1,900m x 1,500m, and this isn't even all of the site. There were 131 bomber airfields built in Britain during the war.
Before 1938, few engineers really understood the technical challenges of building concrete or paved airstrips. The programme of construction confronting the Air Ministry Directorate of Works presented a host of challenges, not just in size and expense, but also in the development of new engineering and industrial techniques.
In addition, the imperative to build airstrips as quickly as possible did not allow time for experimentation or testing. However, given the demand for rapid construction, it is most surprising that so little went wrong, and it is a mark of the Air Ministry's success with this programme that it was able to construct enough airfields to meet American needs as well as its own. It was a startling success and an example of British engineering excellence and industrial expertise.
The 131 bomber stations that Britain built for Bomber Command were a fundamental part of the strategic air offensive, as fundamental in fact as the aircraft and the aircrew that flew from them. It is odd, to say the least, that the history of the strategic air offensive has for so long overlooked the vital importance of this infrastructure and failed to appreciate the effort, skill and wealth that building the bomber stations required.
As Sir Archibald Sinclair told the House of Commons in 1944, it was one of the greatest engineering works undertaken in modern Britain.
4th September 2003 | Formula One: Made In Britain By Clive Couldwell
Made in Britain
In over fifty years of competition, British Formula One has seen it all; speed and spectacle, charisma and competition, domination and disaster. It has blossomed into one of the world's most glamorous and most professional sports, inspiring intrigue and passion with its mix of cutting-edge technology and high drama.
We should perhaps be thanking for all of this, those Second World War military planners who decided to build huge airfields all over the country. The importance these strips of concrete and outbuildings played in helping Britain to become the centre of the modem motorsport industry cannot be underestimated.
When the war ended, and the fleets of Allied bombers were grounded, these redundant airfields became ideal racing circuits for motorsport enthusiasts. Silverstone, the Northamptonshire track that sits at the hub of Britain's motor racing industry, started life as a base for American B-52 bombers.
It holds a unique place in the history of Formula One, having staged the very first round of the official World Championship back in 1950, though it had actually hosted its first British Grand two two years earlier in 1948, the airfield's perimeter roads and runways roped in as part of the circuit. By the time the circuit joined the championship it just used the perimeter roads. Silverstone has been altered numerous times since, but has always remained one of the fastest and most exciting race tracks on the calendar.
Size 2.73 x 1.77m, 8.95 x 5.80ft
13th June 2018 | Sportskeeda: Top 5 Silverstone Races
Significance of Silverstone
Nestled in history and untouched by the changing vaguaries of time, Silverstone is pure gold for its sheer significance to F1 racing.
This is a signature F1 event where the fighting instincts unveiled at the track pay homage to the sweltering heat and bustle of World War II.
Back then, the track was but an airfield used by the giants serving Britain in one of the most tectonic events of the world. Victory and prevalence of the brave are therefore sacrosanct in the DNA of this belter of a track, spread over 5.8 kilometres, sprinkled by 18 turns, and ignited often by humid and sometimes wet weather conditions.
Today, the motor-racing circuit is bejewelled by feisty achievements claimed by legendary names in the annals of Formula 1.
First opened way back in 1947, a time in the history where some nations hadn't yet been formed while some hadn't yet claimed independence, Silverstone is a track that unites motor-racing lovers like few other tracks can.
In an age where F1 has spread it's global feathers in wider destinations such as Central Asia and dived into the midst of Europe, Silverstone sits calmly in the heart of the sport as a destination one can't turn a blind eye to. One that can't be ignored for the sheer thrill it offers, seeped in the heart of this great sport of ours that respects tradition and serves surprises through a template that's constantly embracing technology.
Size 3.91 x 2.27m, 12.82 x 7.43ft