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RAF Bridgnorth

Stanmore Country Park, Bridgnorth

Each year the Bridgnorth receives many visitors who served and were trained at the former Royal Air Force base at Stanmore.

RAF Bridgnorth was located just east of the town, close to the junction of the A454 Wolverhampton and A458 Stourbridge roads. Watch for the sign for Stanmore Industrial Estate.

As you turn into the estate imagine that you are passing through the gates of RAF Bridgnorth. There’s not a lot to see of the base anymore, the parks department has taken it over and made it into a tranquil place to visit the war memorial, take a stroll and relax. This is a sharp contrast to the activity that once took place on these grounds with the sights and sounds of marching, drills, parades and training exercises.

The training camp began its days on 6th November 1939 and it was considered to be a good location because it was not very far from any of the major towns. It was less than 20 miles from Shrewsbury, Wolverhampton, Kidderminster on fairly good roads and its proximity to the railway station was an added benefit. In the beginning most of the building construction was of wood which were intended to be temporary.

Due to delays and weather, the camp took a while to be completed, but in the mid 1940's it was close to completion and was occupied by almost 3000 recruits and 500 instructors.

The recruits mostly arrived at the town by train and some residents remember them marching them through Low Town and up the hill to the camp.

H.R.H. The Princess Royal visited Stanmore March 19, 1941 and people still recall what a grand occasion that was. Not long after the Royal visit the recruits were moved and the grounds began to serve their new purpose as they became occupied by Woman’s Auxiliary Air Force (W.A.A.F).

The W.A.A.F. training ended in September 1942 and the camp started in training the R.A.F. again in September 25, 1942. Because Stanmore didn’t have any runways and yet wanted to project the idea that they were an air force station, they would bring in disabled planes on flatbed lorries to set about the grounds, thus making it appear as if they were really an airfield.

People called these planes “the guardians of the grounds” kind of like those present day “watch dog on premises” signs. It is said that they had a good variety of planes Spitfires, Lancaster Bombers and a Hurricane (displayed until 1950's). Eventually some were rebuilt or moved to other bases or museums for display. It must have looked impressive even if they could pose no actual threat.

This new training routine was ground combat and navigation. In 1944 the training was extended to air gunners, wireless operators, and bomb aimers. Training sessions lasted for 8 weeks at a time. Just as you entered the estate on the right side was the base cinema. This was one form of entertainment for the cadets during leisure time. Other pursuits were the pubs in town and dance halls, but one was given a pass to leave base with the return time before midnight.

The general consensus from the cadets was that they loved Bridgnorth and its people, the services and inhabitants were rated to a high standard and as mentioned in the town’s general history, there is a plaque in the Town Hall from some Dutch cadets attesting to just this good care.

In Oct. 1945 R.A.F. Bridgnorth ceased air training and went back to ground service training. On March 23, 1945 His Majesty the King approved the crest for the station ”This is the gate, The walls are Men". The design was a torch in front of a portcullis.

In 1947 the town adopted the camp into the borough because of the camp’s support in the town’s activities. The men were pleased to march in parades and entertain the locals as a means of saying thank you for making them feel at home and part of a community when most of them were a long way from home.

On April 12, 1950 the base was awarded The Freedom of Entry to the Borough award which would allow them to enter and march in town in full colours with weapons and musical instruments.

The last Remembrance parade on the grounds was in 1962 because there was no need to have such a facility in the area any longer. It was a sad loss for the locals of Bridgnorth, but they have their memories. The facilities have now been made into a country park for all to enjoy, even those who don’t remember any of the war. The memorial is a brick chimney with a plaque and benches in a circle for visitors and old veterans “to remember when or who” and maybe meet up with an old friend or speak of him with someone who remembers.

Some of the land was auctioned in 1964 and now is Stanmore Industrial estate. The memorial plaque was placed on the chimney May 28, 1994 with flypasts during the ceremony, the final fly past being a Spitfire, it must have been an emotional day. This new memorial area makes up about 100 acres and is managed by the Severn Valley Country Park wardens as well as supervised by the still loyal locals. There must be many stories and fond memories waiting to be related, if anyone has any they would like to share with us or photographs, please contact us and we will be happy to include them in our site and perhaps if you are lucky some of you “can meet again”.

A good place to hear stories of the camp and the activities from participants and residents is at the Severn Valley Railway’s Station Pub on a Saturday night or during one of their 1940's special events weekends.

More Information

Memorabilia from RAF Bridgnorth and a visitor book can be found in Bridgnorth Tourist Information Centre. Click here for location.

Copyright © Paul & Sabine Hutchinson