RAF hospital at Halton is grounded after 80 years

UNUSED for over a decade, St Mary's Hospital at RAF Halton has now been demolished to make way for a new housing estate, Princess Mary Gate.

The hospital closed in 1995 because the MOD wanted one centralised unit to train military nurses, making the Royal Hospital in Haslar, at Gosport in Hampshire, their main base.

The demolition will come as a huge disappointment to the community which was already deeply saddened by its closure in 1995.

A large number of local residents were born in the hospital and many more worked in its wards and grounds.

The hospital first opened in 1927 as an institute for pathology and tropical medicine after a temporary hospital was set up for training nurses during the First World War.

It also became the first Aeromed unit - meaning casualities could be evacuated using aircraft - during World War II, teaching nurses to parachute into conflict zones so they could get easier access to injured soldiers.

After peace was declared in 1945, St Mary's was kept as a training unit and aided the NHS by using the best facilities and medical specialists.

It later became a specialist burns unit, employing the skills learnt helping victims who suffered during the Second World War. The medical unit originally grew alongside the main RAF base during the Great War.

As part of the forces involved in the 1913 army manoeuvres, 3 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps deployed to Halton to support the operations of the Household Division.

They landed and set up their temporary airfield on what was later to become the Maitland Parade Square.

From this site 3 Squadron launched a series of reconnaissance sorties and staged the first confrontation between aeroplane and airship.

A year later, in 1914, when Lord Kitchener called for his "first hundred thousand" volunteers to augment the professional army, many landowners offered their estates as training grounds.

Halton's owner Alfred Rothschild, of the famous banking dynasty, was one of the first and some 20,000 troops descended onto his estate, to train for the slaughter of the Western Front.

The base continued to grow - in size and prestige - until the end of the Cold War, when all technical training was concentrated at RAF Cosford. However, after brief fears of closure, Halton became the RAF's premier non-technical ground training station and its future was secured.

What are your memories of the hospital?

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