In Fradley Fields

RAF Lichfield, or Fradley Aerodrome as it was sometimes known,  was Staffordshire’s busiest airfield during the Second World War. At its peak, there were over 3,500 people serving there. Note I say people and not men. At Fradley, as at other airfields up and down the country, women made an enormous contribution.

RAF Lichfield memorial.jpg

Author: 66usual (taken from Wikipedia)

Some of the women associated with RAF Lichfield were Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) pilots, who delivered aircraft to and from the base.  It’s said that Amy Johnson was amongst them and that Johnson, the first female pilot to fly solo from Britain to Australia, was the first person to touch down on the runway at when the airfield opened on 1st August 1940, and 51 Maintenance Unit (M.U.) took up residence. Johnson lost her life on one of the ATA ferrying missions, flying an Airspeed Oxford from Prestwich to RAF Kidlington.   After the war, the job of 51 M.U. was to break up aircraft. Although these were mostly recycled, according to David Mace of the Jet Age museum who contacted me early last year, some parts may have been dumped in the hedges and woodlands surrounding the airfield. Although nothing has turned up yet, several walks in the area have brought other new discoveries and so, I remain hopeful that some trace of the 900 Typhoons , 500 Liberators and 150 Fortresses broken up here might still remain in amongst the surviving hangars and other buildings.

RAF Lichfield Nov 16 2.jpgraf-lichfield-nov-16raf-lichfield-nov-5RAF Lichfield Nov 4.jpg


One of the most intriguing recent discoveries is this scribble on the wall of one of the buildings believed to have been used to store ammunition.

From 23rd April 1941, until the end of the war,  RAF Lichfield was home to 27 O.T.U which trained crews from mainly Australia (you may have noticed a bench in The Close with a plaque commemorating the many Australian airmen who served at Fradley) and other Commonwealth countries before they went on to join their squadrons. australian-airmen-plaque

Sadly, some didn’t get that far and many of those who were killed whilst training at Fradley are buried at the church of St Stephen in the village. They may have lost their lives but I’m determined that we don’t lose their stories, or the stories of the other ordinary men and women who were brought together at RAF Lichfield in extraordinary circumstances and loved and lived, laughed and cried here.   Later this month, we’re holding a community meeting in Fradley to discuss how best to carry on the work of the now defunct RAF Lichfield Association and continue to tell the stories of the airfield and its people. Together, we will remember.

If anyone would like to get involved, or has any stories or information to share regarding RAF Lichfield and those who served here, please do get in touch via the blog.

11 thoughts on “In Fradley Fields

  1. Hi Kate. This reminds me of one book I read some years ago, if my memory serves me right it was called “No moon tonight” this was about a chap stationed at Fradley plus other airfields, in one part of the book he talks about one of his friends Joe Turnbull, and the rest of the crew took of from Fradley on a bombing mission. Just after they took off the plane crashed killing all on board. becouse it was carrying a load of bombs, they stationed 4 pickets to gaurd the wreck over night, unfortunatly early in the morning the bombs exploded killing the 4 pickets.
    very sad story.
    one of the roads on fradley housing estate is called Turnbull.


  2. Hi Kate

    I was interested to see your piece on RAF Lichfield. I am working on a project to record all military sites across the UK. See

    I have visited the old RAF site and photographed a number of the buildings including the hangars but have not located the other structures that you have illustrated. I would be grateful for some pointers.


    Jeremy Flack


  3. Pingback: Taking the air | Lichfield Lore

  4. G’day Kate, this post is several years old now but we did have contact a few years back on Lichfield, the old Angel Croft Hotel and a couple of wartime postcards that I have that link everything together – wondering if anything came of the RAF Lichfield Association meeting? I lost contact with Chris Pointon, the man who was behind it, a while back.
    Cheers, Adam


  5. Hi Kate & Adam, I’m very interested in your posts on RAF Lichfield and it’s Association. My uncle and name sake; Frank Purcell served there from 1946 to 1952 when his plane crash landed on its return from a tour of duty in South Africa. He died on impact and was thrown clear into an adjoining field where he was found by a local man also named Frank Purcell, what are the chances? Adam any chance the local man was a relation of yours? I would be grateful for any contacts or information re. same!


    • G’day Frank – I’ve only just seen this post. I don’t think I can help you directly unfortunately; I have no known relatives named Frank – I’m not local, my branch of the family moved to Australia from Ireland in the 1850s and I live in Melbourne (the Australian one!).


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