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History Aircraft Aerospace & Airfields

Cowes And Somerton Airfield

REF NR: 359

In 1916, Whites purchased land and set up an airfield which opened at the end of March. In addition, a parcel of land nearby was purchased and a new factory was built. The RAF used the aerodrome in 1918 and 1919, basing the Coastal Battery Co-Operation School aircrafts there (consisting of a dozen BE2Cs). The RAF left at the end of WW I and Whites ceased aircraft production in July 1919. The airfield then lapsed into (temporary) disuse.


During the early 20s, the airfield operated as an unlicensed space for light aircraft and gliders. From 1929, Saunders (later SARO) took over the airfield and used it for flight testing. They were joined on 20th February 1931 by Spartan Aircraft who moved into the buildings previously used by J.S. Whites.

 

Interesting Crash Report

WW II saw the airfield back in use and one of the more memorable incidents in the closing days of the war in June 1945 took place with a Walrus aircraft ( A R.J. Michell Design).  This was supposed to be transported by a WAFF pilot or ferry pilots as they were known.

 

Isle of Wight Walrus WW2 amphibious bi-plane. Image courtsey of Cowes Heritage group

The young First Officer named Anne Walker had the job in question and made her way to Somerton Airport, Cowes and was soon at the controls.

However, Anne’s flight was doomed, as soon after take-off  she caught a really bad gust of wind that side swiped her sideways and although she valiantly tried to control the aircraft, as it was not known for its agility, caught the side of a hut and catapulted her unconcious out of the aircraft as it burst into frames.

Luckily for her a local baker’s boy, passing by, rushed to her side pulling her clear of the flames and she lived to tell the tail. She spent the next six weeks at East Cowes Frank James cottage hospital before returning to active duty.

After the war it was used for a few years before being take over by the ever increaseing need for land and the growth of the factory complexes housing the Radar developments. Various owners such as plessey and and lately BAE Systems have owned the aerodrome and a new book recently published The History of Somerton Airport by Cowes Heritage delves deeply into its history.


 


 

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