In the mid 1940s, the American troops were stationed at the airport and the grounds adjacent to Hall Farm. As a lad in my early teens, I attended Musters Road School, West Bridgford. After school it was my practice, along with friends, to cycle from our homes in West Bridgford to the entrance with Hall Farm on Tollerton Lane to conduct our cycle taxi service.
As the soldiers left the camp by Hall Farm drive, we would offer them a lift to Melton Road where they would catch the bus to Nottingham. The method was that they would ride the bike with us on the cross bar and at Melton Road, would alight and give us the fare – this could be as much as two & sixpence (a king’s ransom in those days!). We would then race back to the pick up point to collect out next fare. At the end of the rides we would all return to the fish & chip shop on Manvers Road, West Bridgford for fish, chips & peas and a bottle of pop.
Coincidentally, I started work with Field Aircraft Ltd at the airport in 1949 as an apprentice aircraft fitter. Ex American Dakota’s were flown in for their engines to be re-conditioned and, after testing, they were flown to Derby Airport to be fitted out with seats to become passenger aeroplanes. My job as an apprentice was to empty the fuel from each aircraft as it arrived; it could not be taken into the hanger with any fuel in the tanks.
Unbelievably, the method I had to use was this; the plane was left some distance from the hanger and I approached it armed with a bucket and a very high pair of step ladders. I would set the steps under the wing, climb precariously to the very top and was just able to reach the fuel tap. With a bucket in one hand I would endeavour to release the fuel from the tap while getting my arm away before it cascaded – of course, I never did. When the bucket was as heavy as I could manage to keep steady, I would turn off the tap, once again getting aviation fuel down my sleeve and climb down the steps.
My instruction from the foreman was to go the furthest perimeter of the airfield and empty the contents of each bucket into the hedgerow. I don’t know if he had health and safety or the environment in mind but he insisted that I did not empty my lethal cargo in the same place each time.
My time was short (as you can imagine) with Field Aircraft. I left to go into the grocery trade where I spent the next forty or so years. I moved to Tollerton in 1997 and not much had changed. The entrance to Hall Farm was as it was and driving south from the A52 you can still make out the words “Field Aircraft” painted on the original hanger. I wonder if the hedgerows ever recovered? I hope so.