Memories: Residents reflect on Welwyn Garden City’s Panshanger airfield
PUBLISHED: 15:05 29 January 2018
Image from the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive.
Aviation enthusiasts have wistfully reflected on Panshanger Aerodrome and the role it played in their lives.
The airfield has been closed since 2014, with a large part of the site now earmarked for housing and other community facilities as part of the borough council’s Local Plan.
In 1940, the WGC aerodrome was built to act as a decoy for Hatfield Aerodrome during the war, and was also used to train pilots using the Tiger Moth aircraft.
Thirteen years later it became a privately-run civilian airfield when air-race pilot Nat Somers bought the land, buildings and the London Aeroplane Club. In 1993 it became a centre for pilot training – known as the East Herts Flying Club.
WGC Society chairman Will Davis said: “From the mid 70s it was a great playground.
“You could go down into the air raid shelter, there was a whole line of wartime hangers and buildings along the southern side of the airstrip, which are long gone now.
“All of this was well explored by us local kids.
“I remember on one occasion we found boxes of large glass radio valves and bits of technical wartime equipment. There were classrooms with blackboards that still had details of squadron numbers and pilots chalked up.”
To the dismay of many residents, landowner Mariposa Investments closed the site in November 2014, and most of the hangers and buildings have since been demolished.
However, several parties have since expressed an interest in reinstating a community airfield, pushing the borough council to leave room to the north of the site for a relocated runway.
Mr Davis added: “As a child the place felt a bit like an old film set. You also had the feeling that something very important must have gone on there during the war, and in a way it did.”
Lots of people, including fellow aviation enthusiast Jerry Larke, also used the airfield’s cafe as a community hub.
He told the WHT: “I have many fond memories of the weekends at the airfield, many elderly cyclists would descend on the cafe and spend happy days chatting and sitting in the sun.”
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