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The post-war runway puzzle at RAF Cosford

By Toby Neal | Telford | Nostalgia | Published:

You’ve heard about a third runway for Heathrow. But what about a second runway for RAF Cosford?

The mystery lengthened runway marked on a 1950s plan

A much longer runway would greatly expand the range of aircraft which could be safely flown from the base.

It’s not something that’s been suggested – although there has been talk of a vision for Shropshire’s future which includes looking at bringing air freight services at Cosford.

But intriguing evidence has emerged which raises the question of whether there was indeed a second runway many years ago.

It’s a possibility that is causing some head scratching for aviation historian Stephen King, who has come across a 1950s plan in which a much longer runway is marked at the base.

“It’s a post-war RAF Cosford puzzle,” said Stephen, from Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton.

No sign of the extra runway in this 1997 view

“In the early to mid-1950s a map or plan of the air base appeared with what seems to be a temporary runway cutting across the main runway, but twice as long and passing very close to the control tower.

“Some years ago I asked the RAF Museum at Hendon what it was and the reply came ‘We are not able to be certain as to what this feature is, but we would suggest it is most likely to be a grass landing strip’.

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“Many airfields at that time saw increased activity for the conflict in Korea, like Halfpenny Green. Was this strip at Cosford for this purpose? Was it for training short take off aircraft, like Piper Cubs, Grasshoppers, and so on, communications flights and gliders?

“Recent, modern base plans for Cosford have not mentioned this added or temporary runway, but state that in addition to the main runway ‘also, the whole grass area is suitable for landing’ and ‘grass runways for use by station-based aircraft and gliders only’.

“Can anyone shed any light on this 1950s temporary Cosford strip?”

The hard runway was built during the war, and Stephen says that years ago he spoke to Sid Lenthall, who was at wartime RAF Cosford, about it.

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“Sid was an aero engine fitter with 9 Maintenance Unit from 1940 and recalled the concrete runway being constructed.

“This replaced the earlier grass landing ground, as it was required to cope with heavier aircraft of all types.

“This new 1,200 yard runway complete, Sid said inspection engineers came in to check it and found that there was no metal base, and McAlpine had to re-do it.

“Maybe this was the origin of the dip in the runway – a problem at many a wartime airfield, including RAF Perton.”

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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