Unit History: RAF Bridgenorth
RAF Bridgnorth was a Royal Air Force Station, created on 6 November 1939, at Stanmore, to the East of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, England. However, as RAF Stanmore Park already existed in Middlesex, it was named RAF Bridgnorth. Although during its existence, various static aeroplanes were displayed as Gate Guardians, RAF Bridgnorth never had a runway.
The first unit stationed there was No.4 Recruit Centre. Their role was to carry out the basic training of new recruits in the RAF. In 1940 spare accommodation at Bridgnorth enabled it to be used as a transit and kitting out centre for troops returning from France. In 1941 the Station was renamed No.1 Women’s Auxiliary Air Force Depot involved with the training of W.A.A.F. recruits. 1942 saw another change of name to the No.1 Elementary Air Navigation School. Other changes subsequent took place as dictated by the needs of the war effort.
Only after the war ended in 1945 could the Station revert to its original task of providing basic training to recruits, as the No.7 School of Recruit Training. It retained that name until closure in 1963. The unit badge carries the motto “This is the gate, the walls are men.”
On Armistice Sunday 6 November 1949, a massed parade of 3,400 men supported the Mayor of Bridgnorth. In April 1950 the Borough of Bridgnorth granted RAF Bridgnorth the Freedom of Entry to the town. It was the first RAF Station to be granted Freedom of Entry in the U.K. On 7 June 1951, RAF Bridgnorth exercised it’s right for the first time* to march through the town, via the North Gate, with bayonets fixed, drums beating and colours flying. A Lancaster flew overhead. That was only possible after the RAF Service had received the Kings Colours on 26 May 1951.
Tens of thousands of recruits passed through Bridgnorth for their initial eight weeks training or ‘square bashing’ as it was called. Very few remained unaffected by the experience and many, even sixty years later, remember it well. For many it was their first time away from home and it became their first step into the wide world. Former recruits and Permanent Staff are now found scattered throughout the world.
The Station closed down on Friday 8 February 1963. A Commemorative plaque was unveiled on the former ’3’ Wing mess hall / cook house chimney on 28 May 1994. That’s in the part of the former RAF Station that’s now a Country Park.