Thornaby Aerodrome

The shot is dated 1934 and shows the layout of what was to become RAF Thornaby.

The information I received with this picture says that the cluster of buildings disappearing off the top of the picture belonged to Stainsby Grange Farm, I think this places it at the top of the Acklam Road area of Middlesbrough.

The area at the bottom shows the river and Thornaby Village, complete with The Green and The Church, it is still a very pleasant enclave to this day.

Also in the picture is Millbank Lane which runs along the left hand side of the aerodrome, backing on to this road are a series of buildings that as far as I am aware are still there.

One of the buildings became the Thornaby Conservative Club (Non-Political), that sign always amused me, I had a number of pleasant evenings there on concert nights, another building is the Green Baize snooker hall, I have had many equally pleasant afternoons in there, it may even be the same building, does anybody know?.

The aerodrome its self had a very short concrete area, I presume it was for taxiing before take off and the grassed area was the runway, there are a few aircraft dotted about the area, all relatively small as was the case in the 1930s so grass runways were not unusual.

My Grandfather was stationed at RAF Thornaby during the Second World War, he had been in the RAF in the 1920s and was a reservist, even though he was over 40 at the time, he was a non combatant and my Aunt tells me he was involved in making dummy aircraft for standing around the airfield to give an impression of strength, I know this did happen but don’t know for sure it happened at Thornaby, he also served in Italy very late in the war after the Italian surrender.

Photo and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman

13 thoughts on “Thornaby Aerodrome

  1. During WW2 it was a common practice for us to take walks past the Pleasure Gardens and the cemetery, coming to the aerodrome and watch the aircraft coming in and out. If my memory serves me right, on one of my walks I saw one of the first jet fighter. I have good memories of Thornaby, where my grandparents lived. Now living in Canada, since 1953, I have enjoyed many return visits to my home country and have never been disappointed. John Scott.


  2. At the time of this photo the aerodrome was being used by 608 squadron. They had been formed here as a day bomber squadron in March 1930. The aircraft next to the runway are Westland Wapiti’s. The squadron flew them from 1930 to 1937.


  3. Thornaby Aerodrome as we called it was a grass field until the second world war started although my Dad a Haulage Contractor started to take asphalt there as the rush to re-arm started.
    dad took me to see the Flying Circus I think I was 8 years old at Thornaby, Single engined twin wing planes were doing all kinds of tricks and one that stuck in my young mind was a man holding a pole with a flag on its and a plane picking up the flag on its wing tip.
    There were double cockpit planes giving rides to people and a De-Haviland twin engine also giving rides. Dad asked if I wanted to go up, “You bet I did” flying to us kids was like space flight to my Grandchildren something we wanted to do.
    It cost Dad 10 Shillings and that was half price a goodly sum when a Workman’s wage was around three pounds per week. My memory is canvas seats a smell of oil and some other people who had wanted to go up.
    The engines started with a rattle and bang a few puffs of smoke which I could see from my window and we set off bumping and shaking across the grass field, I was beginning to wonder what I had let myself in for. At the end of the field we turned and started to gain speed then suddenly slowed down. We trundled slowly back to our starting area. They asked us to get out an engine had lost power Dad got his money back and it was ten years before I took to the air in a Dakota that also had to abort with an engine fault. They made us stay in the plane while they fixed it then I flew for the first time and many time thereafter.
    I went with my Dad with loads of Tar-Mac for runways and hard standing points to nearly all the airfields around, Goosepool Caterick Dalton and many others as the rush to get them ready for war began. Thornaby eventually got hard runways although the Polish Pilots training there preferred to use the grass. They also took part in repelling the German Raid in daylight out over the North Sea, the Germans never came in daylight again.


  4. Yes. Thornaby villiage green is in the forground. Back from that is Thornaby Road with the junction with Millbank Lane on the left. To the right of the junction is the Oddfellows Arms – still serving pints these days. I moved to Thornaby in 1949 when the aerodrome had been very much developed with a number of large hangers, a new control tower and extensive runways. Opposite the Oddfellows was the main gate with the guard room and drill hall nearby. After the war the site was home to an auxilliar training squadron. Early Vampire and Meteor jets did circuits and bumps almost every Sunday – so low that the ornaments on the mantlepiece rattled. My “claim to fame” as a child was to fly a kite 1/2 mile from the end and to the side of the main runway. My pals and I were capture by the milatry police and driven in a Landrover to the guardhouse where the error of our ways was clearly spelt out. Happy days.


    • David,
      You are correct about Meteor and Vampire jet fighters been in service at Thornaby
      They were flying during my National Service years there 1955-57.
      There were also Bristol Sycomore Helicopters employed as part of 275 Air Sea Rescue Squadron,to whom i was attached.
      I trained as a Nursing Attendant (Medic) at the Station Hospital Sick Quarters.
      Part of our duties involved,going up in the Copters and observing,Landing and Winching up operations.
      The flights along the coast and over the Moors were a great experience..
      Thornaby Airodrome closed,Autumn 1958,One year after my Demob.


  5. Our first house, bought new in 1968, was 567 Thornaby Road and was on the very edge/end of the old runway. When they built the houses between us and the roundabout, getting through the runway caused us a few cracking problems necessitating a Building Society structural survey which turned out fine.


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