RAF Woodvale
Near Woodvale, Merseyside in England
RAF Woodvale
Ut Aquilae volent
(Latin for 'That Eagles May Fly')
RAF Woodvale is located in Merseyside
RAF Woodvale
RAF Woodvale
Shown within Merseyside
Coordinates53°34′54″N 003°03′20″W / 53.58167°N 3.05556°W / 53.58167; -3.05556
TypeRoyal Air Force station
Area173 hectares
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force
Controlled byNo. 22 Group (Training)
Site history
Built1941 (1941)
In use1941–present
Garrison information
Squadron Leader M Barrett
Airfield information
IdentifiersICAO: EGOW
Elevation11 metres (36 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
03/21 1,647 metres (5,404 ft) Asphalt
08/26 1,068 metres (3,504 ft) Asphalt

Royal Air Force Woodvale or more simply RAF Woodvale (ICAO: EGOW) is a Royal Air Force Station located 4 mi (6.4 km) next to the towns of Formby and Ainsdale in an area called Woodvale which is located to the south of Southport, Merseyside. Woodvale was constructed as an all-weather night fighter airfield for the defence of Liverpool. However, it did not open until 7 December 1941 which was just after the Liverpool Blitz which peaked in May of that year.[1]


Second World War

Woodvale opened in December 1941, six months after the end of the Liverpool Blitz. It was used for short periods by RAF squadrons that were rotated out of the zones in southern of England closest to German-occupied Europe. During their time at Woodvale, squadrons defended Merseyside. Polish 308 (Krakowski) Squadron was the first to arrive, on 12 December 1941, from RAF Northolt before leaving on 1 April 1942.[2] Squadrons were rotated regularly. Several were Polish, including 315 (Dęblinski) Squadron and 317 (Wilenski) Squadron. Spitfire IIs and Vbs were operated by these units.[3]

Support units working with all three Services also served there, calibrating anti-aircraft guns and towing targets for the Royal Navy. In April 1945, Woodvale briefly became a Tender for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm airfield at Burscough, HMS Ringtail, being given the name HMS Ringtail II.[4]

Cold war

10 AEF Grob Tutor and hangar at RAF Woodvale.

After a period of inactivity, Woodvale reopened on 22 July 1946, when the Spitfire Mk.14s of No. 611 (West Lancashire) Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force, moved here from Liverpool Airport at Speke. The squadron re-equipped with Spitfire Mk.22s in February 1949.[5]

Gloster Meteor F.4 and F.8 jets were flown between May 1951 until 9 July 1951. Because of the need for better facilities, the Squadron moved to RAF Hooton Park, joining No. 610 Squadron, where it remained until its disbandment on 10 March 1957. The Temperature and Humidity Flight, operating Spitfires and Mosquitos, was based there from 1953 to 1958.[6]

The last operational flight by an RAF Spitfire was flown from Woodvale in 1957. Its mission was related to the work of a meteorological unit stationed at the base.[1][7]

No. 5 Civilian Anti-Aircraft Co-Operation Unit moved to Woodvale on 1 January 1958, and operated target-towing Meteors until 30 September 1971 when the unit was disbanded.[8]

Training station

Since 1971, RAF Woodvale has remained a training station. Liverpool University Air Squadron- LUAS moved in from RAF Hooton Park on 2 July 1951.[9] Manchester and Salford University Air Squadron (then named Manchester University Air Squadron) (MUAS) (now MASUAS) moved in from Manchester's Barton Aerodrome in March 1953.[10] 10 Air Experience Flight was formed at RAF Woodvale on 25 August 1958[10] and 631 Volunteer Gliding Squadron moved in from RAF Sealand in March 2006.[11]

The current station commander is Squadron Leader Mark Barrett.[12]

A BAe Hawk T1A, number XX247, was installed as the site's gate guardian in November 2017,[13][14] replacing an earlier Jet Provost.[14]

Based units

Flying and notable non-flying units based at RAF Woodvale.[11][15]

Royal Air Force

No. 2 Group (Air Combat Support) RAF

No. 22 Group (Training) RAF


Woodvale Rally

In 1971, RAF Woodvale hosted the first annual Woodvale International Rally.[16] The event is a charitable event, that originally began as a model aircraft show. It has grown over the years to include car clubs with both classic cars, vintage cars and other vehicle displays. It usually occupies the first weekend in August.[17] The 2012 rally had to be re-located and rescheduled[18] to nearby Victoria Park, Southport, Merseyside, on safety grounds. Asbestos was discovered from old World War II structures[19] that had been buried long ago.[20]

Merseyside Police Air Support Group

Basing the Merseyside Air Support Group at RAF Woodvale made the station something of a target for criminals. Just before 2230 on Friday 9 October 2009 a window of the helicopter was smashed and petrol poured inside causing the helicopter to be grounded.[21]

On 17 May 2010 the Merseyside Police helicopter was again attacked and grounded, after four masked intruders broke into the airbase at around 04:00 causing what was described as minor damage.[22]

As part of the reorganisation of Police Air Support in England and Wales and the formation of the National Police Air Service, Merseyside operationally retired its dedicated Police helicopter G-XMII in July 2011.[23] Cover would then be provided with four aircraft from Cheshire, Lancashire, North Wales and Greater Manchester, the nearest to Merseyside being based at Hawarden Airport with G-XMII providing back up.[24] From 1 June 2012, Merseyside Police signed a four-year deal to lease the helicopter to the Norwegian Police Service in response to the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway.[24]

Freedom of the Borough

RAF Woodvale was granted the Freedom of the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton on 17 May 2011.[25]

See also



  1. ^ a b "Mersey Reporter History Page - RAF Woodvale". merseyreporter.com. Archived from the original on 14 June 2006. Retrieved 8 December 2006.
  2. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 85.
  3. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 86.
  4. ^ "Woodvale". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Archived from the original on 6 September 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  5. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 100.
  6. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 100.
  7. ^ "RAF Woodvale". raf.mod.uk. Archived from the original on 18 May 2021. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  8. ^ Lake 1999, p. 48.
  9. ^ "Who is based here". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 11 April 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  10. ^ a b "RAF Woodvale". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Welcome to 631 Volunteer Gliding Squadron". 631 Volunteer Gliding Squadron. Archived from the original on 1 October 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  12. ^ "RAF Woodvale". RAF. Retrieved 20 November 2023.
  13. ^ "Out of Service British Military Aircraft". Demobbed. Archived from the original on 14 November 2019. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  14. ^ a b Regan, Pat (28 November 2017). "RAF Woodvale's new Gate Guardian - UPDATED". On The Spot (OTS) News Southport. Archived from the original on 14 October 2019. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  15. ^ "Who is based here". RAF Woodvale. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  16. ^ "Wood Vale Rally". woodvalerally.com. Archived from the original on 15 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  17. ^ "Whats On - Woodvale Rally". Sefton Council. Archived from the original on 14 August 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  18. ^ "Woodvale Rally 2013 - The Woodvale Transport Festival". Southport Reporter. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. report
  19. ^ "Woodvale Rally is moving date and to a new location". Southport Reporter. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. report
  20. ^ "Press Release". Woodvale Rally. Archived from the original on 16 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  21. ^ "Liverpool Daily Post". Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  22. ^ "Liverpool Echo". 17 May 2010. Archived from the original on 22 November 2021. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  23. ^ "Liverpool Echo". 18 July 2011. Archived from the original on 22 November 2021. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  24. ^ a b "Norwegian Police lease second EC135". 23 May 2012. Archived from the original on 25 June 2017. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  25. ^ "Honorary Freedom of the Borough". Sefton Council. Retrieved 29 November 2023.