RAF Cranage, Cheshire

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RAF Cranage

The site of RAF Cranage is now farmed but the owner kindly gave me permission to wander around the fields to look at some of the remains. The building in the photo above was the detonator store. Note the bomb blast walls protecting the doors. The runways were in the fields just beyond in this view.

For a time RAF Cranage was home to 96 Squadron – night fighters defending Liverpool and Manchester against Luftwaffe attacks in Hurricanes and Boulton-Paul Defiants.

Below; artwork of a 96 Sqn Defiant night fighter from Wings Palette


Below an unusual pill box


Interior of the pill box.


The pilots of the 96 Sqn Defiants mentioned in the two photos below were New Zealanders.

Crash site of a Junkers 88 which was shot down by a 96 Squadron Defiant based at RAF Cranage, though the claim was apparently disputed with the crew of a Defiant from 256 Squadron at RAF Squire’s Gate.

Crash site of Boulton-Paul Defiant above the Derwent Valley. The 96 Squadron crew safely bailed out when their Defiant developed engine trouble.


50 comments on “RAF Cranage, Cheshire
  1. christopher newman says:

    I am interested in the whereabouts of the site where a Hudson crashed in April 1942 killing all 9 aboard, 8 of which are buried in Byley church yard.Are there any photos of site or crew killed ? My interest is that I have an interest to one of those killed ,George Buxton.Any info would be most helpful

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Christopher,

      It is not a site I have visited I’m afraid. I will take a look in some books, see if it is detailed in any. Craig at RAF Cranage would be the best person to ask as to its whereabouts.

      Will get back to you if I find anything.


      • christopher newman says:

        many thanks .I have visited Byley church and driven round Cranage meeting people who remember,some sadly now passed on but I have not found out the exact location of crash. Would like map reference or direction ,field etc .

        • Ian D B says:

          Not had any success yet Christopher. I was about to e-mail Craig at Cranage, have you done that already? If not I will drop him a line.

          • Christopher Newman says:

            No, I have come to a blank on this .I have been to the church (Byley) and wandered around the airfield ,got history of Cranage and other crashes but I just wondered wher the Plane came down in relation to the airfield

    • Nigel Cartwright says:

      Hello Chris,I have lived near Byley Church for over 13 years,but only found out about the war graves last Sunday.The Church had a flower festival and the lady at the door mentioned them.I went to have a look,and on returning home did some research on the internet.I just’googled’The war graves in Byley Church,Cheshire,and all the deceaseds details are on that’site’.I hope this info has been of some use Chris,Kindest regards,Nigel.

      • chris newman says:

        Hi Nigel ,many thanks for email on my interest on war graves at Byley church , one of whom is my father GC Buxton , the grave of whom I have visited. I have been trying to find the exact spot on a map where they crashed , near Byley, and any other info of interest to me about the airdrome etc .
        It is nice that people take an interest so thank you again
        Regards Chris Newman

    • John Carr says:

      Hi , George Buxton was my fathers best friend at at Brighton College. I too have been searching info.

      • Christopher Newman says:

        Gosh I know this was years ago when written ,but did you have any luck ?

        • christopher newman says:

          no further news on crash or airdrome has been made
          Have almost given up finding more hence delay

          • John Hamblin says:


            I came across this by chance and have done a bit of research on George as he appears on the Lloyd’s of London war memorial. Most of what is below comes from the RAF casualty file at the National Archives

            Hope its of interest

            Best John

            Buxton, George Cornelius Flying Officer 66531
            HAVE PHOTO
            No. 2 Service Flying Training School, Royal Air Force
            Killed on active service on the 28th of April 1942 aged 21
            George Cornelius Buxton was born at Erith in Kent on the 4th of March 1921 the son of George Henry Buxton, a company director, and Ellen Mary (nee Sawtell later Hinde) Buxton of “The Elms”, Lesney Park, Erith in Kent, later of “Awbrook”, Scaynes Hill, near Haywards Heath in Sussex. He was christened at Christ Church, Erith on the 24th of July 1921.
            He was educated at Brighton College where he was in School House from 1935 to 1939. He was a member of the Colts II from 1936 to 1937 and of the Water Polo Team in 1939. He was a member of the Rugby XI in 1937 and 1938. He was appointed as Head of House and as a School Prefect in 1939.
            He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on the 27th of April 1941 and was promoted to Flying Officer on the 27th of April 1942.
            On the 28th of April 1942 pilots from No. 2 School of Navigation, based at RAF Cranage in Cheshire, were detailed to move twenty aircraft to West Freugh in Scotland. Having delivered the aircraft, the pilots and their crews took off from West Freugh in Hudson Mk IV AE618 for the return ferry flight to Cranage. As the aircraft approached the runway at Cranage, in what were very blustery conditions, it was making its final turn at about 300 feet when it stalled and span into the ground, killing all on board.
            The passengers and crew were: –
            Flying Officer John William Lloyd Botting (Pilot)
            Flying Officer George Cornelius Buxton (Pilot)
            Flying Officer George Edward Carrington Seale (Pilot)
            Warrant Officer Harold Robinson (Pilot)
            Warrant Officer Leonard Charles Salter (Pilot)
            Flight Sergeant Brian Walter Bowman (Pilot)
            Flight Sergeant David John Williams (Pilot)
            Corporal Reginald Bernard Snashall (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner)
            Flight Sergeant Charles Ernest Forrest (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner)
            He is commemorated on the war memorial at Scaynes Hill and on the memorial at Brighton College.
            He is buried a St John’s Church, Byley Cheshire

    • John Carr says:

      Hi Chris, just checking you’ve seen the information on http://www.rafcranage.org.uk/raf-cranage-1942.html detailing the crash. Cheers

  2. christopher newman says:

    Thanks for contact ;no I have not contacted Craig but have been in touch with several people who lived in the area and met some when I visited but I never found the exact location of crash or who (if known ) the pilot was . I gather several were (training ) pilots . Any info from anyone will be gratefully received Chris Newman

    • Ian D B says:

      Sorry for the late reply Christopher. Have asked Craig if he knows anything of it. It is odd that none of the usual sources of info have any reference to it, so I’d be very interested if anything does turn up. You might try the RAF Museum at Hendon, they may be able to assist?

    • Charlotte Peters Rock says:

      The pilot was Warrant Officer Salter.

  3. chris newman says:

    Thanks again for reply on my query on crash site to Hudson near Byley, sorry about delay in reply .
    Have tried most websites and contacted severallocal people but will try your suggestion on Hendon or perhaps Duxford , near me , can help . Anyway appreciate your response Regards Chris

  4. chris newman says:

    Hi John thanks for both emails . No I had not seen the crash report and info so hanks for that . I did understand the aircraft was overloaded and that the pilot was not GH Buxton but I still am tryingto find our the locality of the crash .
    I have visited Brighton college , they were more that helpful and I have several college books and photos of that period but only met one person (at a Armstice day reunion there )who knew of him . I have group photos of him at college , do you ? Any info you are seeking I might have , just ask and I will let you have my email address Regards Chris

    • John Carr says:

      Hi Chris,
      Thanks for your reply.
      I remember visiting George Buxton’ s father, with my father and brother, at their home at Scaynes Hill in the late sixties.
      I was also at Brighton College and remember the old squash courts which had a plaque in memory of George Buxton. I wonder if it’s still there?
      My email address is rjncarr@yahoo.co.uk
      Kind regards
      John Carr

      • Christopher Newman says:

        Yes it was still there ,I visited the college and they were very helpful with photos of George and included a bit of lunch ! I also was invited to the remembrance day (Nov11 ) service there once ,sadly not a lot of people remembered him

  5. chris newman says:

    Hi John. Funnily enough i just been going through family history with my son who is over here with family from Australia and showing him photos I have of George Jnr and the Awbrook house at Scaynes Hill (sadly no longer there). I also have group photos of George jnr at Brighton which i visited and who were so helpful .Yes the squash court was still there ,but no info could be ,or can be, gleened about George snr so any info you may have I would be most welcome to receive ,.
    I fairness to you I will let you have all known details that i have at a later date after my son has returned to Oz at end of week, the details are of some considerable amount and is going to take a lot of email butwill do my best regards Chris Newman

  6. Rol says:

    I have some information on this incident if you still need it.

  7. chris newman says:

    Hi, many thanks for email re crash site at Cranage involving Hudson which killed G H Buxton amongst others. Most of the information that I have has been posted previously on this site butI am always pleased to receive any information that will add to my enquiry.
    Where was location of crash. are there any 1st hand accounts or contacts etc .
    Thank you for you interests, I look forward to hearing from you
    Kind regards Chris Newman

  8. Roland says:

    Hi Chris.

    The map ref for the Hudson AE618 crash is approx. 698708 a position between Brownheys Farm & Stublach Dairy Farm there was very little sign of a crash but there were a few melted alloy pieces as you can see in the picture of me & the late Roger on the Cranage web site,that confirmed that we were in the right place. As far as I know there are no eyewitness reports, but there might be in the RAF Court of Inquiry, I have not seen that. George Searle’s daughter wrote to me back in March 1991 & gave me some information on her Dad. I have also been in touch with Gron Edwards (ex flight commander of No.1 Flight of No.2 School of Air Navigation at RAF Cranage)around about the same time (March 1991)he was posted away shortly before the accident, but did fly with him & give dual instruction to George & Sgt Forrest also flew with Poole. He remembered George Searle as a tall, thin, red-haired and moustached, gentle, with a presence & authority, good humoured. An Oxford graduate & a qualified solicitor. My email if you want to contact me is tango99@ntlworld.com

  9. dave poole says:

    i would be interested in any information on either cyril edwin poole (sid poole ) who was an engineer on this site or his good friend “RUDY/ROODY” (possibly surname of marrow FIRST NAME PETER ?)
    rudy was killed after the wing touched the ground either on a test flight or on return from a mission (possibly on fire as they returned)
    one guy died instantly (no name) but rudy “made it through the night..but died” as sid told me.

  10. chris newman says:

    Hi Roland ,sorry have only just got back to this site so thanks for giving position of crash site .brings me a little closer to the event
    (sorry Dave cannot give any info on your Rudy enquiry,but sure there are paople around who can Chris Newman

    • Christopher Newman says:

      No, I have come to a blank on this .I have been to the church (Byley) and wandered around the airfield ,got history of Cranage and other crashes but I just wondered wher the Plane came down in relation to the airfield .I do not have any info on the ‘Rudy’ enquiry , sorry

  11. dave poole says:

    update rouff is a derivative of rudolf/adolf so rudy way a little more acceptable…..

    29/07/1943CasualtiesFg Off Rouff, Vickers TP; Mr E. Booth, Aircraft InspectorAircraftVickers Wellington Mk X HE819Took off fromCranage, CheshirePurpose of flightProduction test flightIncident locationCranage, CheshireIncident detailsStalled on approach, burnt out on airfield –

    any more info on this one ?

  12. Roland Griffith says:

    Wellington Mk.X HE819 F/O Rouff MAP (Ministry of Aircraft Production)buried at Enfield (Hertford Road) cemetery Middlesex – approved test pilot (23)& Mr Edward Booth (Test Inspector Vickers Armstrong)Civilian war dead (Congleton Rural District Council), Byley Cheshire. Flown from Cranage. 3rd Production test flight to check that the fitting of a new carburettor had cured the reported throttle stiffness.
    ‘On return to Cranage the aircraft was observed executing a steep turn & apparently perfectly controlled gliding turn to port on the approach to land. Shortly after the aircraft had rolled wings level at an observed very slow speed, the aircraft stalled, the port wing dropped & touched the ground. The aircraft then slewed around, br
    oke up & burnt out. Both crew were thrown out of the cockpit & were trapped beneath the wreckage of a wing that was on fire. They were eventually extradited alive from the wreckage at great danger to the rescuers, but the inspector died in the ambulance on the way to the Hospital at RAF Wilmslow & the pilot died in the hospital at 22:00hrs that day.

  13. Roland Griffith says:

    I should also mention that F/O FJ Ruoff held the AFM. Sorry I spelt his surname incorrectly in the first post.

  14. Alistair H G Allcroft says:

    My 2nd cousin Flt Sgt (A/G) Frederick Augustus Allcroft was killed, along with his pilot, when his Boulton Paul Defiant of No 96 Squadron R.A.F. crashed near Ashford on the night of 4th August

  15. Alistair H G Allcroft says:

    …..1941 (sorry)

    • Ian D B says:

      Thank you for commenting Alistair. There’s not much on the internet about this crash so it is good that you have provided us with the location.

      A few more details about that accident from ASN;

      Defiant N3447 crashed on a night flight DBF. 5.8.1941
      Crew, both killed:

      P/O (61964) John Rogers DUNCAN (pilot) RAF
      F/Sgt (902259) Frederick Augustus ALLCROFT (AG) RAFVR

  16. Roland Griffith says:

    A couple of incidents that might be of interest:

    LAC(Pilot/u/t)WC Thompson died from his injuries sustanied on the 26.10.41 in Oxford I N4594 of 11 SFTS which crashed on a night take-off at RAF Cranage.

    F/O HJ Davidson killed in Defiant I AA297 of 285 Sqn which crashed whilst attempting to force land at base after engine failure & burnt.

  17. Neil O'shaughnessy says:

    Hi All, does anyone know what has happened to the RAF Cranage website.? It seems that it’s now RAFCRAN and a clothes sales website. Regards, Neil

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Neil, I didn’t know that about the RAF Cranage website. Thanks for the heads-up.

      I have removed the link from the text above.

      The website was organised by a man called Craig, the last email address I have for him is info@rafcranage.org.uk – might be worth a try, don’t know if that adress is still used?


      • Neil O'shaughnessy says:

        Thanks Ian, I grew up near “Byley Aerodrome” as we used to call it. It was only later in life I discovered its official title of RAF Cranage. I spent many days in the early 80’s exploring the pill boxes and you could still see PSP stuck in the hedgerows to keep animals in. We had a unit in what was then Firmin Coates warehousing which was a Hangar, and I think part of the Vickers Armstrong site. I distinctly remember my father saying that Firmin Coates were looking for the blueprints one time and the MOD still held them and wouldn’t release them under the official secrets act.
        The blast proof doors were still on the hangar at the time and they used a forklift to open and close them due to the weight. The unit we had was a shower block originally, you could still see some tiles etc.
        I remember the Commonwealth War Graves in Byley church and in the village at the old Smithy/garage you could easily make out the replaced brick work on the table end where an aircraft had crashed into it, I think it was an Airspeed Oxford, or it may have been an Avro Anson too. Heading towards Middlewich from Byley a couple of miles from the airfield was a lone brick building on the left in a field, apparently it was something to do with when the site became the Central Navigation School, I would love to go for a wander around again while there is still some of the airfield left as it seems to be decaying into the history books now.
        Regards Neil

  18. Amanda Stubbs says:

    My grandfather, Alf George, was an engineer at the Armstrong Vickers factory adj to RAF Cranage. Apparently he had to ‘stamp’ his work (assume quality control / traceability). He told us he did many test flights, sometimes as co-pilot, some as pilot. Wellingtons for sure, but he also mentioned Spitfires. Not sure if he was delivering these elsewhere? He travelled to work on Sunday evening and came home on Friday evening so we assume he was billetted onsite. He was too old to serve in WWII (he served in WWI) but as an engineer he could do his bit. He told us that he was scheduled as co’ on one test flight but was replaced at the last minute and the plane crashed, both pilots being killed. I wish I had more information but he is long gone. We do have his navigators pad that would have been strapped to his thigh during flights, I believe.

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Amanda, thank you for sharing this. I just started looking for aircraft that crashed after take-off from Cranage, but there are so many that without more information it would be difficult to identify the crashed aircraft your grandfather nearly got on. But it’s not impossible, any other detail you might recall could help – the type of aircraft or where it crashed and any indication as to the year? Do you know your grandfather’s rank at the time? His surname was Stubbs? There are many stories on these pages of crashed aircraft where one man boarded as a last minute crew change, or for some other reason wouldn’t normally have been on board.

  19. Dennis Walker says:

    i am seeking any info on the crash of a Wellington my father A L Walker (navigator) 158 squadron was involved in sometime between April and July 1941
    Returning from a training exercise 2nd pilot couldn’t pull the nose up resulting in crash.
    Burning engines separated on impact, 2 crew believed deceased
    Pilot believed to be a Dennis / Denis Weston
    My father had his leg smashed in two and spent 12 months in rehab
    Rescue team came from about 10 minutes from crash site… he said probably Cranage
    I can’t find any info so would be pleased if anyone can help.

    • Rol says:

      I dont think it can be 158 Sqn as they did not reform untill 14th February 1942.

    • Roland Griffith says:

      Hi Dennis,
      This is a tad late! but I just came across this info in case you are still looking for it.

      Wellington IC R1299 of 11 OTU (Operational Training Unit) took off from their base RAF Bassingbourn on 29.05.41 on a night training flight while making an approach to RAF Cranfield, Bedfordshire crashed two miles SW of the airfield.

      P/O DM Weston pilot – killed.
      Sgt WC Kasson RCAF Co/Pilot -injured
      P/O AL Walker RAAF Nav – injured
      Sgt ER Simpson RAAF WoP/A/G – injured
      Sgt WJP Gibbons WoP/A/G – injured
      Sgt PJC Watkins R/G – safe

      This information comes from ‘Bomber Command Losses Vol 7 p.52’ by WR Chorley.

      kind regards,

  20. Craig Singleton says:

    Hello all. Sadly the rafcranage site, that I built, was sabotaged by an unknown person. After this I let the domain name go and it was taken by someone from Scotland who then used it for a rather dodgy online clothing store.
    I still have all the files, info and images and may, one day, build it again. In the meantime, anyone wanting info can contact me at singletonecraig@gmail.com

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Craig, good to hear from you, hope you are well. I enjoyed your website and was sorry to note it had gone.

      This site was attacked some years ago by brute force, managed to recover it but it took a lot of work with some professional help. Even with back-ups it took ages to get it back the way it was, it’s so demoralising after all the work put into it. I pay to keep this site going and won’t have adverts on it, but there’s only so much you can do isn’t there?


    • S. Ruscoe says:

      I grew up in Middlewich and knew of byley aerodrome. Years later I did my CBT Bike training there all them years ago. I had no idea that there were pill boxes and stuff still there. I wonder if whoever owns the site would be interested in developing or having someone re purpose it as an airsoft site (could call it RAF Cranage or Byley aerodrome)
      I know as an airsoft player myself that there’s nothing closer than Stoke or Wrexham so I’m sure it would be very popular and used by the many people that play in the area, plus it would bring the history of the site back to the forefront. I played at a site in Wrexham last Sunday called the armoury which was an old MOD secret munitions factory hidden in woodland and it is packed every weekend. You could make it that only bio degradable bbs are used on site so there’s no environmental impact. Just an idea

  21. Rose Hurley says:

    Does anyone have any information on cause of death of the two RN commonwealth graves, L B Sharman and G G Reynolds. There is much about other accidents at Byley but nothing I can find that explains what lead to the death of these two chaps on 11 Feb 1946.

    • Roland Griffith says:

      Hi Rose,

      Com/E LB Sharman RN, Petty/Officer CG Reynalds, Lt AW Watson MBE & Lt AH Lavington were killed in Dominie X7453 of 782 Sqn RN FAA which was in a mid-air collision with Seafire SW822 killing the pilot Sub/Lt RB Clarence RN of 806 Sqn RN FAA over the Middlewich (Wimboldsley?) area of Cheshire on 11 Feb 1946.

  22. Brian Hutchinson says:

    Hi Rol
    I am interested in finding out more about the mid-air collision over Wimboldsey as my uncle Sub Lt Robert Brian Clarance (not Clarence) was the pilot of the Spitfire. He was 20 years old. Apart from brief local newspaper stories with little detail I have found no information about how it happened. Does anyone have more information?

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