Hangar 42 is a must-visit for those interested in Blackpool and the Fylde’s role in World War II; during this period almost eight hundred thousand RAF recruits had their initial training in the town, described as the ‘greatest troop-training station in the world’.
Prior to the First World War the site of Hangar 42 was the Clifton Park Racecourse and during the War it became the King’s Lancashire Military Convalescent Hospital; the area was also the site of the famous 1909 and 1910 Blackpool Aviation Meetings, drawing huge crowds. In 1933 it was once again used as an airport, and was swiftly taken over by the RAF at the outbreak of WWII.
Changes were made to bring the site up to operational standards. By 1940 there were three large runways, four large Bellman hangars, control towers and accommodation. The airport became known as the No. 42 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School and provided essential night cover for the Preston and Merseyside docklands as well as housing various RAF and Polish squadrons.
At the end of the War the airport was returned to local government and has remained relatively untouched since, with many original features and décor. Since its formation in 2009 the Lytham St Annes Spitfire Display Team volunteers at Hangar 42 have offered a unique experience to engage with high altitude PR spitfires, Hawker Hurricanes and other RAF aircraft and vehicles. The Visitor Centre also showcases memorabilia as well as reconstructing sights and sounds for a full sensory experience.
Many of the aircraft and vehicles have been seen at events across the Fylde Coast and on television and film sets including the 2018 film Mission of Honour. In 2009 the team raised funds through public donations to build a full-sized replica of the Mark VB Spitfire W3644 which was shot down over France in 1942, killing the pilot Sgt. A.L. Riding. The replica is sited at Fairhaven Lake as a lasting tribute to the bravery of the RAF and aircrewmen.