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Airbases in World War 2

1940s

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As the East of England is very flat and because of its relative closeness to mainland Europe, many airfields were established or enlarged during the Second World War, roughly one every seven miles. Several of these were around Peterborough, amongst them were: RAF Peterborough (now the Westwood area of the city) was used as a training base for pilots. American servicemen were stationed there during the war and post-war French airmen were also trained there. It was not used for operational missions but was bombed several times. RAF Wittering, established in 1916 as a fighter station for the Royal Flying Corps. In 1938 it became a fighter base, with Spitfires and Hurricanes based there taking part in the Battle of Britain. It was bombed at least 5 times, one attack in March 1941 resulting in the deaths of 17 servicemen. Post war it was a home for the British nuclear deterrent and a base for Harrier jump jets. The American Air Force also had bases in this area, including at the villages of King's Cliffe, Polebrook and Glatton from which they launched daylight bombing raids over Germany in their B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. Clark Gable, the Hollywood star did his military service from Polebrook in 1943, flying combat missions as Major Clark Gable. In his time off duty he was very popular with the female population of Peterborough!  Peterscourt in Midgate was the base for the American servicemen when off duty, being known as, 'The American Red Cross Club'.  





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St Peter’s College Opens

1864

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St Peter's College in Midgate was opened as a teacher training college for men in 1864. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott who designed many notable buildings. These including St Pancras station and the Albert Memorial in London. He was also a restorer of many churches, one of which was Westminster Abbey, where he is buried. The Midgate building is made of red brick and is a nice example of his Gothic revival style. It was enhanced, after World War II, with the addition of  a door from the bomb damaged Guildhall in London. In 1973 it was made Grade II listed. The college closed in 1914 and reopened in 1921 as a teacher training college for women. During the Second World War it was the American Red Cross Club, a centre for American servicemen in the city. One notable visitor was actor Clark Gable! After the war it was once again a training college for men. For a brief time it was use for training men and women, before it closed in 1950. In 1952 Perkins Engines bought the building and converted it into offices, renaming it Peterscourt. In its time it has also housed the Peterborough Development Corporation and, after a refurbishment in 1984, continues to be offices today. References: Secret Peterborough by June & Vernon Bull, Amberley Publishing, 2018.  





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