History

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Grangemouth Aerodrome

In February 1939, Scottish Aviation Limited announced plans to provide central Scotland with what would be the largest airport in the country.

Five hundred acres of farm land were purchased in the Grangemouth area by the firm which had secured a Government contract to train pilots in preparation for the war that everyone seemed to expect. They had also decided that there was a real opportunity to develop a commercial airport serving both Glasgow and Edinburgh and within two months of starting work the new grass runways were in use for a commercial flight on the Shetland to London route. The first ticket was sold to Provost Robert Peddie for £9 10shillings and he flew south in a six-seater de Havilland Dragon Rapide. By June the airport was almost ready with 2000 feet of runway, a fine terminal building and control tower and two large hangers. It cost £160,000 and was officially opened by Air Marshall Viscount Trenchard, the ‘Father of the RAF’ on July 1st. But the outbreak of war a few months later changed everything. The airport’s commercial activities came to an abrupt end as the military took over.

An aerial view of Grangemouth Air Base in 1939

Grangemouth was designated as a base for fighter aircraft given the task of defending against enemy bombers aiming for our local iron works and dockyards. When the fear of such bombing raids declined at the end of 1940 Grangemouth became a training centre where young pilots were introduced to the spitfire and taught the skills of formation flying and gunnery and it remained in this role until near the end of the war. Over sixty young men, from Britain and all parts of the Commonwealth as well as Poland and Czechoslovakia, died while learning the daring manoeuvres demanded in those incredible times. In all nearly 80 air and ground crew lost their lives while serving at Grangemouth and many are buried in a special part of Grandsable Cemetery.

With the peace came a change of heart and the ambitious plans were abandoned as was the airfield. In 1955 it was closed to flying altogether and its runways provided practice ground for learner drivers and courting couples. By the 1960s it was being ripped up and gradually filled with streets, houses, warehouses and factories. The hangers survive but that’s about all. But the service and sacrifice of those who came here has never been forgotten by 1333 Grangemouth Squadron Air Training Corps. The spitfire project had its origins five years ago after the cadets visited Poland as guests of the Polish Air Force whose pilots had played such a distinguished part in the story of RAF Grangemouth. The complex fund raising and organisation was handed over to the Grangemouth Memorial Spitfire Trust. When the work of installing the full size replica spitfire is complete it will stand as a reminder to the present generation and those still to come that the land surrounding the memorial once thronged with young men and women and hummed with the sound of propellers turning and engines roaring as they prepared to defend the liberty which we all take for granted today.

Anybody interested in the history of the airfield will find an excellent article by John Walker in Falkirk Local History Society Journal Calatria 5 (1993) and in Geoff Bailey’s comprehensive ‘from airlines to air cadets – the story of the ‘drome’ (2006).

Gallery

Sergeant Pilot Eugeniusz Lukomski

Sergeant Pilot Eugeniusz Lukomski was evacuated to Romania after the fall of Poland from where he escaped to France.

In 1940 he was withdrawn to England with the Free Polish Forces and, under RAF command, trained as an air gunner. Volunteering for RAF Fighter Command, Sergeant Lukomski moved to Grangemouth, 58 Operational Training Unit in October 1941 where he trained to fly Spitfires.

Sergeant Eugeiusz Lukomski's name engraved on the Memorial Wall in Warsaw

On 24th November 1941 while engaged with Spitfire X4859 in a flying formation exercise, Sergeant Lukomski broke formation during a turn prior to landing and entered a wisp of cloud. The plane went into a spin and, with insufficient height to recover, crashed in Avondale estate, Polmont. Men from the Officers Mess at Avondale House rescued the pilot who was unconscious but he died at 2pm shortly after being admitted to the medical facility at Polmont Park.

Sergeant Lukomski was 23 years of age and is buried in Grandsable Cemetery.