A RARE FIND
The demolition of RAF Burtonwood may have removed all of the familiar structures normally associated with an airfield but there is still evidence of this once great air base hidden underground.
RAF Burtonwood still holds many secrets, which make it irresistible to explore. Officially the land is not open to the public, but try explaining that to the dozens of local residents who use the land to walk their dogs.
One Sunday afternoon in April a small secret was discovered quite by chance. What looked like a normal man hole or drain turned out to be a rare underground fortification.
After some research and hours scouring the World Wide Web (see acknowledgements) the underground structure was identified as a Pickett-Hamilton Fort.
Research carried out by Henry Wills indicates only about 30 - 40 of these were built during the early part of the war, most of which were in East Anglia, namely Bury St. Edmunds, Honington, Ipswich, Hornchurch, Martlesham, North Weald, Stapleford, Stradishall, Wattisham, and others at Hawkinge, Silloth and Sunderland. Now one has been found at Burtonwood.
Unlike a normal "pillbox" which stands proud of the ground the Pickett-Hamilton Fort fits flush with the ground making it ideal for airfield locations. When required, the fort is raised using a hydraulic pump or counterbalance system.
PICTURE DAVID FARRANT
The accommodation is fairly cramped for five men, but at least four were required to raise the fort taking about 4 seconds. The fifth man was probably the commander. The whole structure could then be lowered in about 10 seconds.
It would be nice to preserve this piece of military history or recover it before the land is redeveloped but a look at the "ingredients" for its construction make it seem an impossible task.
70 cwt cement
6.5 yards of fine aggregate
12.5 yards of coarse aggregate
10 cwt steel reinforcement
23 cwt of steel
In the meantime a photographic record is being compiled, the details of which will be added later. Most of the airfields listed had 3 forts, perhaps there are another 2 at Burtonwood waiting to be discovered. Who knows what other secrets lay beneath the surface?
As of 2010 the fort has now been listed as an Ancient Monument. It is still in situ and it is hoped that it may be recovered for the Burtonwood Association.
The following pictures were taken on the day the water was pumped out so that an internal inspection could be carried out.
Entry hatch. Original hatch door missing
Nick McCamley, author 'Secret Underground Cities'
David Farrant, Airfield Research Group member
Henry Wills, author 'Pillboxes'
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