Marske Aerodrome

Marske Aerodrome was a First World War-era airfield used by the Royal Flying Corps, and later by the Royal Air Force, between 1917 and 1920. The aerodrome was just to the east of the village of Marske-by-the-Sea in Yorkshire (North Yorkshire), England. Marske aerodrome hosted air gunnery schools and trained pilots in tactics and methods of aerial combat so that they could be deployed to the front. Marske is known for being the aerodrome where W. E. Johns, author of the Biggles books, undertook his training, as well as being noted for some of the flying instructors who were famous among the aircrew cadre.

Marske Aerodrome
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg
Marske-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire in England
A black and white image of an aircraft hangar in a semi-derelict state
One of the large hangars at Marske Aerodrome
Relief map of North Yorkshire showing location
Relief map of North Yorkshire showing location
Marske Aerodrome
Location in North Yorkshire
Coordinates54°35′51″N 01°02′06″W / 54.59750°N 1.03500°W / 54.59750; -1.03500Coordinates: 54°35′51″N 01°02′06″W / 54.59750°N 1.03500°W / 54.59750; -1.03500
Grid referenceNZ624225
Area1,900 square yards (1,600 m2)
Site information
OwnerAir Ministry
OperatorRoyal Flying Corps
Royal Air Force
Site history
Built1 November 1917 (1917-11-01)
In use1920 (1920) (Military use)
FateDemolished, partially converted to housing
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: None, ICAO: None
Direction Length and surface


Whilst some civilian landing flights had been tested out on the beach below Marske, the aerodrome at Marske-by-the-Sea opened inland just west of the village on 25 June 1910. With the outbreak of the First World War, the site was surveyed for possible military use,[1] however, it was not until the summer of 1917 that a spur was laid near Ryehills Farm at Marske from the railway line between Redcar and Saltburn-by-the-Sea. This allowed for easy transport in of men and materials to build the aerodrome.[2] The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) base opened officially on 1 November 1917, with the first occupants being No. 4 (Auxiliary) School of Aerial Gunnery.[3] The site measured 1,000 yards (910 m) by 900 yards (820 m) and was furnished with 17 Bessonneau hangars along Green Lane at the west side,[4] and four permanent sheds on the southern side each measuring 170 feet (52 m) by 200 feet (61 m).[5]

The air-to-ground gunnery range was at the east end of the site on the cliff edge. Telegraph wires to the north and east were lowered to enable low flying.[5] However, training by the No. 4 School was orientated towards pilots, whereas the back-seat gunners, were trained at No. 3 School in New Romney.[6]

In April 1918, just five days after the RFC became the Royal Air Force (RAF), both Harry Butler and W. E. Johns were posted in to No. 2 Aerial Gunnery School at Marske. During this period, the school started using the M.1c Bristol monoplane, which was delivered to Marske via the rail link.[7]

Not long after he was credited with shooting down the Red Baron, Captain Roy Brown was posted into Marske as a flying instructor. However, within three months, he had a serious accident which kept him in hospital until the First World War was over.[8] Between April and August 1918, the 25th Aero Squadron of the United States Army Air Service, moved into Marske from Ayr to undertake training. They later deployed to France in August of the same year.[9]

On 29 September 1918, the commanding officer of one of the air training schools died when his aircraft plunged 1,000 feet (300 m) into the sea. Major Aizlewood had been practising aerial manoeuvres which were being recorded for a training film. The inquiry determined that his flying clothes became caught in the aircraft's controls. He was buried in the graveyard of St Germain's Church in Marske, overlooking the sea where he had crashed.[10][11][12]

The last school was closed in November 1919, however, the base was retained until 1920 with the site being listed as available for flying but having no facilities to cater for civilian traffic.[13] During the railway strike of 1919, aircraft were used to deliver mail. Marske was one of the aerodromes used during the dispute.[14] The site was re-used during the Second World War, but by the Royal Artillery, rather than the RAF.[15] However, two pillboxes were constructed to protect the aerodrome, which was manned by regular soldiers from the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, the Green Howards and the South Staffordshire Regiment. This was believed to have been in case the RAF needed to use the site as an emergency ground, and to prevent it being used by enemy forces.[16] The four permanent hangars were demolished in the 1990s.[17]

In the late 1990s/early 2000s, part of the south-east corner of the site was converted into a housing estate with roads named after people and aircraft from the Second World War, even though the site was not in use for the Air Force during that period.[18]

St Mark's Church in Marske, has an aviator's window which commemorates the death of a civilian flyer in 1912, but also has images and a dedication to the young men who trained at the aerodrome nearby.[19][20]

Based unitsEdit

Unit Dates Aircraft Notes Ref
No. 2 Fighting School 29 May 1918 – November 1919 Sopwith Camel [21][22]
No. 2 School of Aerial Fighting & Gunnery 6 May 1918 – 29 May 1918 Sopwith Camel, Sopwith Dolphin, Sopwith Triplane Disbanded in May 1918 to become No. 2 Fighting School [23][24]
No. 4 (Auxiliary) School of Aerial Fighting & Gunnery 1 November 1917 – 6 May 1918 Airco DH.9, Sopwith Dolphin Disbanded in May 1918 to become No. 2 Fighting School [1][25]
No. 8 Wing (headquarters) December 1918 – April 1920 [17][26]
25th Aero Squadron 23 April – 7 August 1918 Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 [17][22]

Notable personnelEdit


  1. ^ a b Halpenny 1982, p. 140.
  2. ^ McEntee-Taylor 2015, p. 158.
  3. ^ Philpott, I. M. (2005–2008). The Royal Air Force : an encyclopedia of the inter-war years. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation. p. 245. ISBN 1-84415-154-9.
  4. ^ "Marske Aerodrome". Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  5. ^ a b McEntee-Taylor 2015, p. 159.
  6. ^ Jefford, C. G. (2001). Observers and navigators : and other non-pilot aircrew in the RFC, RNAS and RAF (Updated and expanded ed.). London: Airlife. p. 51. ISBN 978-1-909808-02-7.
  7. ^ Parsons, Les (2019). The Red Devil : the story of south Australian aviation pioneer, Captain Harry Butler, AFC. Mile End, South Australia: Wakefield Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-74305-672-1.
  8. ^ "Pilot pulled from wreckage at Marske airfield is man who brought down Red Baron | The North-East At War". Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  9. ^ Maurer, Maurer (1982). Combat squadrons of the Air Force, World War II. Washington D C: Albert F. Simpson Historical Research Center. p. 129. OCLC 9018678.
  10. ^ "Aircraft accidents in Yorkshire". Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  11. ^ Waller, Symeon Mark (2014). Doncaster in the Great War. Barnsley: Pen & Sword. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-78303-644-8.
  12. ^ "Pledge over Captain Cook churchyard". 28 July 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  13. ^ "No. 31751". The London Gazette. 23 January 1920. p. 982.
  14. ^ McEntee-Taylor 2015, p. 169.
  15. ^ "War was certainly in the air over Marske". 16 October 2010. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  16. ^ Lloyd, Chris (18 July 2020). "The hidden leftovers of the Second World War dotted around our coast and countryside". Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  17. ^ a b c Delve 2006, p. 299.
  18. ^ "Marske, Redcar: Where the Biggles Author Trained Fighter Pilots". Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  19. ^ "Inside St Mark's Church, Marske-by-the-sea". Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  20. ^ "Glass artist shines a light on notable events". Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  21. ^ Lake 1999, p. 72.
  22. ^ a b Chorlton 2014, p. 168.
  23. ^ Lake 1999, p. 180.
  24. ^ "SOPWITH TRIPLANE N5912/8385M Museum Accession Number 74/A/19" (PDF). Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  25. ^ Lake 1999, p. 35.
  26. ^ McEntee-Taylor 2015, p. 165.
  27. ^ Amos, Mike (12 April 2016). "New book recalls accident prone author WE Johns – and Roy Brown, who shot down the Red Baron". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  28. ^ Harris, Claire (2 August 2019). "New book celebrates Butler's story". Stock Journal. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  29. ^ Wixted, E. P. "Cultural Advice". National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  30. ^ Kieza, Grantlee (4 August 2012). "Following his footsteps". The Courier-Mail. Weekend Magazine. p. M21. ISSN 1322-5235.
  31. ^ McEntee-Taylor 2015, p. 162.
  32. ^ Franks, Norman L. R. (2017). Fallen eagles : airmen who survived The Great War only to die in peacetime. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword. pp. 4–10. ISBN 9781473879980.


  • Chorlton, Martyn (2014). Forgotten airfields of World War I. Manchester: Crécy. ISBN 9780859791816.
  • Delve, Ken (2006). Northern England : Co. Durham, Cumbria, Isle of Man, Lancashire, Merseyside, Manchester, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Yorkshire. Ramsbury: Crowood. ISBN 1-86126-809-2.
  • Halpenny, Bruce Barrymore (1982). Action Stations 4. Military Airfields of Yorkshire. Cambridge: Patrick Stephens. ISBN 0-85059-532-0.
  • Lake, Alan (1999). Flying units of the RAF : the ancestry, formation and disbandment of all flying units from 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-84037-086-6.
  • McEntee-Taylor, Carole (2015). From Colonial Warrior to Western Front Flyer : the Five Wars of Sydney Herbert Bywater Harris. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword. ISBN 978-1-47382-359-4.

External linksEdit