Fradley is unique amongst the villages of Staffordshire as during the Second World War, it was chosen as the site of an important R.A.F. base. It was given the title R.A.F. Lichfield, but to many villagers, it was always Fradley Aerodrome. The airfield became both a Maintenance and an Operational Training Unit under the auspices of the R.A.F. until April 1958. It was eventually sold off by the Air Ministry on the 1st. of May 1962. Thereafter, the site was converted to commercial use; initially under the Birmingham based company of Joseph Lucas.
The Significance of R.A.F Lichfield in the Second World War
- It was the busiest airfield in Staffordshire.
- It was the controlling point for all air traffic passing through Birmingham.
- From December 1942 until June 1945, 113,800 landings were made.
- It was responsible for the maintenance of aircraft and also the checking of new aircraft coming directly from factories; such as the nearby production centre at Chelmsley Wood, Birmingham. After checking, the aircraft were then sent on to the various squadrons around the country.
- It became responsible for the rapid training of aircrew many of whom came from the colonies; predominantly Australia.
- It served as an Operational Unit.
Crews took part in the following:
- Nickel Raids (the dropping of propaganda leaflets) over Europe.
- The bombing of Nazi gun batteries and ammunition dumps in occupied France.
- The “1,000 Bomber Raids” on German cities such as Dresden, Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Bremen.
- Preparations for the D Day landings in the form of glider training.
Today, many people could be forgiven for not realising that an airfield existed here at all. Very little of the original site now remains. There are some clues remaining; a number or wartime pill boxes along the canal and looking from the A38, one can see the hangar shaped units now used by modern commercial enterprises. The last few buildings such as the Guard House however have only just been demolished.
The aim of Fradley Heritage Group is therefore:
- to try to preserve the memory of the airfield
- to honour the men and women who served at the base, both military and civilian, many of whom lost their lives serving their country, or in some cases Commonwealth.
- to assess the impact of Fradley Aerodrome on the development of the village and the effects upon the everyday lives and memories of the villagers at the time and in the present.
- to develop an archive of photographs, maps, drawings, documents, memories, personal anecdotes, illustrating this significant period in the history of Fradley.