Castle Vale, West Midlands: Hidden Aviation History
The Royal Flying Corp flew from Castle Vale Housing Estate during World War One, which was then Castle Bromwich Aerodrome. Alfred Maxwell flew the first aeroplane in the Birmingham area in September 1909 on the site and the location played an important role in two world wars.
Sir Arthur Harris trained here as a pilot during WW1 before going on to lead bomber command in WW2 and it became a hugely important place in the training of pilots. Many young pilots died and are buried in local churches, some from Canada and New Zealand.
The Castle Vale Housing Estate is situated at Junction 5 of the M6 just to the east of Spaghetti Junction and the modern centre of Birmingham. The estate is a typical early 1960s build with a mixture of high rise flats and lower blocks and yet it passes over one of the very cradles of British aviation.
The runway was broken up, the buildings were demolished, and construction of a Birmingham overspill estate (Castle Vale) started in 1964, and completed in 1969.
All that remains today is a stained glass window in the estate's church, and streets and housing blocks with aviation names. Remnants of the airfield also exist such as a row of ex-RAF housing along Church Road, and the three main roads on the estate were the original runways of the airfield.
The graves of WW1 pilots at local churches are now overgrown.
Location: Castle Vale Housing Estate, Castle Vale, Birmingham B35 7PR
Image shows Castle Bromwich Aerodrome during wartime
Image courtesy of English Heritage
Available since: Mon 3 Feb 2014
This clip is from
WW1 at Home: a growing collection of stories about life on the WW1 Home Front
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