Liverpool has long had a connection with aviation. When Sir Alan Cobham, the aviation pioneer, visited Merseyside to promote flying and educate the public about the benefits of flying, Liverpool City Council were quickly on the case.
They invited Cobham to check out potential sites for an airfield and he plumped for Hooton Park or Speke. The Council pressed for the latter and in 1928, purchased 2,000 acres of land within the grounds of Speke Hall – a manor house that was built in 1530.
Construction of Speke Airport commenced in 1929 and it was issued with a licence the following year and Imperial Airways offered a Liverpool-Manchester-Birmingham-Croydon service, but it only lasted 3 months. The aerodrome continued on a flying club basis until the onset of World War 2 in 1939 when the Royal Air Force requisitioned the airport. New hangers were constructed, as No. 611 Squadron moved in with Hawker Hart bombers.
In the weeks that followed, more Squadrons arrived and by the early 1940s, RAF Speke had hundreds of military aircraft, and became even more crowded during 1941-42, when Liverpool had to defend itself against the Luftwaffe during the Blitz. The elegant Hawker Harts gave way to the Spitfires and Hurricanes required to protect the city.
No. 611 Squadron destroyed over 240 enemy aircraft throughout the war during their stay in Speke, now better known as Liverpool John Lennon Airport since 2001.
Post Script: On 8th October 1940 (a day before John Lennon’s birth), Pilot Officer Alois Vašátko and Sergeant Josef Stehlík, led by Flight Lieutenant Denys Gillam took off from RAF Speke in their Hawker Hurricanes after a lone Luftwaffe Junkers Ju88 medium bomber was sighted flying up the River Mersey. All three fighters machine-gunned the raider killing its observer and setting fire to its two engines resulting in a forced landing near Bromborough Dock, where the surviving crew were captured. It was the squadron’s first victory and probably the fastest confirmed victory of the war.