|The following article was researched by and written by local avation historian Colin Schroeder
of Greasby Wirral. Pictures are courtesy of Philip Butler.
The "Great Northern Aerial Company" of Liverpool acquired 35 acres of land near Bidston railway
station in September 1919, for an aerodrome to be used as headquarters for their proposed services
linking numerous cities around the country to “health & leisure” resorts. During the 1920 Easter
mark the opening of the aerodrome. It would then close until Whitson, then reopen and continue
throughout the summer. Admission to the Gala was 1/- (5p), with a three-penny tax.
Unfortunately they had not managed to put the finishing touches to the aerodrome before it was
opened, three hangars had almost been completed. It was intended that the field would become
permanent, and eventual be properly levelled, and made dry. Great things were being promised
with the establishment of the aerodrome. Flights to London, departing Bidston at 8.45am and
arriving at the London aerodrome of Cricklewood at 10.45am, this would allow “almost a full day of
business”. The return journey it was suggested could be made on the same day. This service was
to link up with the London to Paris flight. This started from Cricklewood at 11.30am and cost about
£15. Enquires had been received from various interested parties. One Liverpool business man,
wanted to booked four trips each week to London at £15 15s a journey, and a prominent medical
men enquired as to the possibility of undertaking long trips at short notice for urgent consultations
or operations. For the Gala, it was intended to get about twenty aircraft to the aerodrome, but the
weather interfered with the arrival of a number of aircraft from Blackpool and London. The weather
not only restricted flights but also decreased the attendance. How popular the Gala might have
been, is shown by the fact that on the Good Friday when the weather cleared up, 800 people paid
for admission and 51 passengers were carried for short trips.
A full programme had been planned including “long flights”, with Blackpool as a favoured destination
at five guineas (£5.25) single and seven guineas (£7.35) return. Guinea (£1.05) flights over the River
Mersey would be available, and for those not minded to venture so far a field, the thrills and
sensation of flight would be provided by short “flips”. There were also free flights to holders of lucky
numbered admission tickets purchased in advanced.
Flying was of course the chief attraction, but to give the aerodrome the character of a pleasure
haunt, there were refreshments, dancing and music by the military band of the Comrades of the
Great War, all held in a large pavilion which had been erected.
At the opening ceremony, Mr. J.J. Beasley, the chairman of the Great Northern Aerial Company, said
that the company was trying to create popular interest in flying, and had established a number of
aerodromes throughout the country. They were conscious of the tremendous sacrifice, which the
flying man had made for their country during the Great War. He sincerely hoped that the
Government would back up the efforts of the civilian flying companies. He than asked the Mayor of
Birkenhead, Alderman J.H. McGaul to open the aerodrome.
Alderman McGaul wished the company every success and having expressed his, admiration for the
airman went on to say:
“I feel that for certain purposes considering the great unrest and turmoil throughout the country, that
aviation is going to be our salvation. If we can come to a place of this description when transport has
been stopped between here, London, and Paris (There had been a good deal of industrial unrest with a
recent rail strike). If wires have been cut, and means of communication are at the mercy of agitators who
care not for the good of their country but only for themselves. If we can come to loyal citizens at a place
like this and book a passage for a certain place, flying will have done a wonderful service on behalf of the
rest of the Empire”.
He welcomed the construction of the aerodrome, because of it proximity to the borough over which
he presided and said he was sorry that their friends in Wallasey had prevented them from including
the aerodrome grounds in Birkenhead’s expansion scheme. He went on to say:
“The Government was perhaps not behaving as well as it might towards aviation, and it behoved those
interested to create such a feeling in the whole country that the value of aviation would become apparent
to every man in the street. If they did that, they would be doing a great service, not only to aviation, but
also to the nation. They would be doing something for England as well as for themselves”.
Mr J.S. Bumphrey of the International Aviation Company in responding to a toast to the pilots
described the obstacles placed by the Air Ministry in the way of civilians who wished to purchase
aircraft. He had set out to purchase one with his naval gratuity. It took him six weeks to buy it and
three months to obtain delivery. The Air Ministry had refused to loan an aircraft to an aero club, but
he had seen 500 machines being broken up at Aintree.
Following the speeches, William Nichole attempted a flight, but days of continuous rain, and a very
heavy thunderstorm on the previous night, had made the ground so sodden, that, although the
aircraft could have taken off, it was considered advisable, not to risk the possibility of a bad landing.
Conditions did improve the next day to allow flying to commence.
On Thursday, Major H.S. Shields MC. of the Golden Eagle Aviation Co. Ltd. flew over from Blackpool in
a Bristol aircraft. Major Shields had been award the Military Cross (MC) for bringing down the first
Germany two seat Albatross aircraft behind British lines. He was twice mentioned in dispatches and
promoted to field rank in 1917 at the age of 21. He commanded a squadron, which obtained 23
awards for gallantry. Since leaving the Royal Air Force in August 1919, he had carried over 3,000
passengers in ex military De Havilland aircraft modified for carrying passengers.
On the Saturday, mist prevented any flying until 4.30pm when Lance Rimmer, took up two
passengers, a lady and gentleman who had motored up from Chester. The longest flight of the
afternoon was one taken by an ex-officer who having a badly damaged foot, hobbled to the aircraft
on crutches. Lance Rimmer took him for a “spin” over Wallasey and West Kirby, the passenger
voting it “A top hole stunt”.
The pilots came from the International Aviation Company and were all ex officers from the Royal Air
Force, were they had been instructors and had amassed over 1,100 hours of flying. They were G.S.
Hughes, William Nichole, Norman Giroux, and Lance Rimmer Norman Giroux later operated pleasure
flights from the beach at Southport as Giro Aviation and Lance Rimmer a local from Meols, would
figure continuously in aviation activities around The Wirral. Two of the aircraft used were ex-military
Airco DH6, G-EARA (ex-military serial C5527) and G-EARD (ex-military serial C7768).
Bidston aerodrome, which was overlooked by Bidston Hill, covered an area of some thirty-five acres
of grassland lying between Bidston railway station and the sand hills, a spot completely free from
telegraph wires, trees, and other obstacles. It was within two minutes walk from the railway
station, and was only a short distance from Hoylake Road, which was served by buses of Birkenhead
Corporation Transport, who had promised to transport the public to the aerodrome. There are no
records of the aerodrome reopening at Whit. The Bidston site would be considered for possible use
during the Second World War as a site for aircraft off loaded in Birkenhead docks from ships that had
transported them across the Atlantic from the USA.
So far Colin has not been able to pin point the exact location of the aerodrome. Following an
approach to Bidston Golf club, he has established it was not located there as they had been in
existence since 1913. He believes that it must have been located somewhere the near M53 and
Bidston by-pass fly over.
The search continues. . .