Ref Number: 00401
Ref Number: 00401
J Samuel Whites acquired the property in 1916 and built an airstrip, which opened at the end of March. A adjacent tract of land was also acquired, and a new factory was constructed. In 1918 and 1919, the RAF utilised the airfield to base the Coastal Battery Co-Operation School aircraft (a dozen BE2Cs). The RAF left after the end of World War I, and Whites stopped producing aircraft in July 1919. The airfield was later (temporarily) decommissioned.The airfield was used as an unauthorised place for light aircraft and gliders in the early 1920s. Saunders (later SARO) took acquired the airstrip in 1929 and utilised it for flight testing. Spartan Aircraft moved into the premises previously occupied by J.S. Whites on February 20, 1931.
Report on an Interesting Crash
During WWII, the airport was reopened, and one of the more noteworthy episodes occurred in the final days of the war in June 1945, involving a Walrus aircraft (A R.J. Michell Design). This was meant to be conveyed by an ATA pilot, also known as a ferry pilot.
The duty went to a young First Officer called Anne Walker (an ATA ferry pilot stationed in Hamble) who flew to Somerton Airport in Cowes and was soon at the controls.
However, Anne’s flight was doomed when she caught a really bad gust of wind that side swiped her sideways and, despite her valiant attempts to control the aircraft, it caught the side of a hut and catapulted her unconscious out of the aircraft as it burst into frames.
Fortunately for her, a passing baker’s lad ran to her side, yanking her out of the flames, and she lived to tell the tale. She stayed at East Cowes Frank James Cottage Hospital for six weeks before returning to active duty.
It was utilised for a few years after the war before being taken over by the ever-increasing need for land and the expansion of the manufacturing complexes housing the Radar projects. Various owners, including Plessey and, most recently, BAE Systems, have owned the airfield, and a new book, ‘The past of Somerton Airport,’ produced by Cowes Heritage, digs thoroughly into its past.