Postcards from Slough
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Woodley Airfield

Woodley Airfield and Miles Aircraft

In the 1930s Jack Phillips and Charles Powis founded the company Phillips and Powis Aircraft at Woodley Airfield. In 1932 Charles Powis met aircraft designer Fredrick George Miles, or FG Miles, He was subsequently married to Maxine ‘Blossom’ Freeman-Thomas.

 

In 1933 Phillips and Powis built an aircraft called the Hawk which had been designed by FG and Blossom Miles. Later the couple joined the company with Miles Aircraft successfully producing some record-breaking. and race-winning aircraft. In 1935, the company went public with financial support from Rolls-Royce Ltd.

Photograph source uncertain

FG and Blossom Miles with Charles Lindbergh along with his Mohawk aircraft

 

In 1936, Charles Lindbergh visited the airfield and asked Miles to design a light aircraft for him and his wife to use on European business trips. The aircraft was named the Mohawk.

Miles M.12 Mohawk

 

The company went from strength to strength with such aircraft as the Magister, Master and Martinet receiving large orders from the Air Ministry.

 

In 1941, Rolls-Royce sold its shares to FG Miles who became chairman. Blossom and FGs brother George becoming directors. Two years later the company officially became Miles Aircraft Ltd.

Miles Martinet

 

Following the end of the Second World War, all aircraft manufacturers faced falling orders and Miles Aircraft were no exception. Sadly in 1948 the company was wound up.

 

47 different Miles aircraft types were designed and 5,644 aircraft of their designs were produced between 1929 and 1946. One of the most exciting projects was the M.52 supersonic experimental aircraft. It had reached flying scale model stage and had achieved Mach 1·38. Sadly it was cancelled before full-size prototypes could be built.

Charles Lindbergh’s Mohawk

Sometime after his triumphant crossing of the Atlantic in his aircraft The Spirit of St Louis, Lindbergh moved to England. He approached George Miles to design a one-off aircraft for him to tour Europe with his wife Anne.

 

The result was the Miles Mohawk, a tandem two-seat monoplane built in 1936 specifically for Lindbergh. The aviator wanted a small, fast, long-range aircraft. It was registered G-AEKW and first flew 22 August 1936. It was powered by a 200hp Menasco Buccaneer B6S engine and had a maximum speed of 190mph. Lindbergh and his wife Anne first went on a trip to India in the machine and later toured Europe. In April 1939 Lindbergh flew the machine for the last time, bringing it home to Woodley for storage whilst he and his wife returned to the USA. In late 1941 it was commandeered into service as a communications aircraft with the RAF and given the military registration HM503. It saw little military service and in early 1944 it was delivered to 5 MU at RAF Kemble for storage.

Photographer unknown – PfS/MoBA 11/01/2017

Miles Mohawk G-AEKW at Hendon

 

The aircraft was bought by Southern Aircraft (Gatwick) Ltd who restored it flew and won second place at the Folkstone Trophy Air Race. In 1949 it was taken to North Africa to take part in the Oran International Rally but it was forced to land in Spain never to fly again. Discovered in a junkyard near Seville and taken to the USA for restoration. In 2002 the Mohawk was shipped to the RAF Museum who displayed it at Hendon but currently keep it in storage.

Douglas Bader

Born on 21 February 1910 at St John’s Wood, Douglas Bader is one of the most famous pilots of all time. He joined the RAF in 1928 as an officer cadet. He took his first flight with an instructor in 1928 and flew his first solo in 1929. He became a Pilot Officer with 23 Sqn RAF flying Bristol Bulldogs.

Photograph source uncertain

Douglas Bader

 

Bader often flew illegal and dangerous stunts. Strict orders were issued forbidding unauthorised aerobatics below 2,000 feet. Bader took it as unnecessary safety rules rather than orders to be obeyed.

 

At Woodley Airfield on 14 December 1931, Bader tried some low-flying acrobatics in a Bulldog. The port wing of his aircraft caught the ground and he crashed. Bader was rushed to Royal Berkshire Hospital, where prominent surgeon J Leonard Joyce amputated both his legs.

 

In 1932, after a long convalescence, Bader was sent to the hospital at RAF Uxbridge and fitted with a pair of artificial legs. After some time he was able to drive a modified car.

 

Later that year it was arranged for him to take up an Avro 504, which he piloted competently. The RAF decided that his situation was not covered by King's Regulations, Bader was invalided out of the RAF and took a job with an oil company. In 1933 he married Thelma Edwards whom he had met during convalescence.

A road sign in Woodley dedicated to Bader

 

In 1939, Douglas Bader returned to the RAF as a pilot and fought in both the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain. In August 1941, Bader bailed out over France and was captured. He made a number of escape attempts until being sent to Colditz Castle. He remained there until April 1945 when the camp was liberated.

 

Bader left the RAF in February 1946. During the 1950s, a book and a film, Reach for the Sky, chronicled his life and RAF career to the end of the Second World War. Bader died aged 72 on 5 September 1982, following a heart attack.

Street names on housing estate with a direct link to Woodley Airfield

Blossom Grove – Possibly Blossom Miles aviation designer, wife of FG Miles

Gemini Road – Miles M.65 light touring aircraft

Miles Gemini G-AKEJ

Herald Way – Handley Page airliner

Marathon Close – Miles M.60/Handley Page HPR 1 light transport aircraft

Martinet Road – Miles M.25 target tug

Master Close – Miles M.9A/M.27 training aircraft

Messenger Road – Miles M.38 military liaison aircraft

Miles Way – Aviation manufacturer based on Woodley Airfield for some time

Mohawk Way – Miles M.12 light touring aircraft custom-made for Charles Lindbergh

Monitor Way – Miles M.33 target tug

Perimeter Road – marks some of the south-eastern edge of the former airfield

The Bader Way – Douglas Bader WW2 fighter ace who lost his legs at Woodley Airfield

Spitfire W3185 D-B of Wg Cdr Douglas Bader, 1941

Street names on housing estate with a link to aviation generally

Beaver Way – de Havilland Canada DHC-2 light utility aircraft

Buccaneer Close – Blackburn-built maritime strike aircraft

Catalina Close – Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat

Comet Close – de Havilland DH 106, world’s first jet airliner

Concorde Way – world’s first supersonic airliner

Dowding Close – Air Chief Marshall Hugh Dowding in charge of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain

Harrier Close – World’s first Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) fighter aircraft

Harris Close – Marshall of the RAF in charge of Bomber Command, known as ‘Bomber’ Harris

Harvard Close – US-built training aircraft from WW2

Photographer unknown – PfS/MoBA 11/01/2017

Harvard G-AZSC once belonged to Gary Numam

Hawker Way – Hawker Aircraft based at Langley during and post WW2

Hurricane Way – Hawker Hurricane, important fighter aircraft of WW2

Lindberg Way – (sign misspelt) Charles Lindbergh pioneer aviator, first to make a solo crossing of the Atlantic

Lysander Close – WW2 liaison/special operations aircraft built by Westland

Lysander V9289/C as flown by Flight Lieutenant Peter Arkell, a great-grandson of John Arkell, the founder of Arkell’s Brewery

Meteor Close – first RAF jet fighter, built during WW2 by Gloster

Mitchell Way – RJ Mitchell was the designer of the Spitfire

Nimrod Close – RAF maritime patrol aircraft developed from the Comet airliner

Orville Close – aviation pioneer along with his brother Wilbur Wright produced first successful heavier than air flying machine

Shackleton Way – RAF maritime patrol aircraft developed from the Lancaster bomber

Sopwith Close – aircraft manufacturer Sopwith Aviation Co founded by Thomas Sopwith

Spitfire Way – WW2 fighter aircraft of the RAF and many other forces

Sunderland Close – WW2 RAF maritime patrol flying boat

Vickers Close – aircraft manufacturer

Victor Way – RAF bomber or inflight refuelling tanker

Viscount Way – Turboprop airliner built by Vickers

Vulcan Close – RAF Delta-wing bomber built by Avro

Photographer unknown – PfS/MoBA 11/01/2017

Vulcan B2

Walrus Close – WW2 light utility seaplane

Wright Close – Orville and Wilbur Wright, aviation pioneers

 

 

 

 

In the museum there is a ring binder which gives much more detail on the street name references to aviation. It is usually found on one of the tables in the café/reception. If it isn’t there, ask a museum volunteer to find it for you.

Bombing of Woodley Airfield

Based on notes from the Operational Record Book of No 8 EFTS (Elementary Flying Training School) Woodley Airfield

 

16/08/1940 – One stick of 4 bombs dropped on south-west boundary of Woodley Aerodrome. Damage to RAF aircraft: one Magister set on fire and completely destroyed.

 

16/09/1940 – 10 bombs were dropped across Woodley Aerodrome, all of which failed to explode. Damage: nil. Casualties: nil

 

03/10/1940 – Enemy attack: 6 bombs dropped across centre of Woodley, 3 of which were delayed action. Damage to RAF Aircraft and equipment: nil. Casualties: nil.

 

06/10/1940 – Enemy attack – 2 bombs dropped in allotment 50 yards north of Woodley Aerodrome. Windows and hangar walls damaged. Damage to RAF Aircraft and equipment: nil. Casualties: nil.

 

In the last report there is no mention of damage to cabbages or other vegetables. You might think I’m being flippant but I’m rather partial to cabbage.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks for the help, support and guidance on this and other articles within this website to the Museum of Berkshire Aviation. For the latest information, opening days, times and the location of the museum, visit the homepage of their website by clicking on the button below:

Information contained in these pages is correct as of 2018

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