Although Betchton wasn’t directly involved in the war effort, it played its role in a plot to deceive enemy forces and protect a Cheshire airfield from attack.
In 1939, the Royal Air Force opened RAF Cranage near Byley, just north of Middlewich, as a training and aircraft maintenance unit. In 1940 when bombing attacks by the Luftwaffe were regular occurrences, the station took on an operational role, housing 96 Squadron which was equipped with Hawker Hurricanes. The squadron had a night air-defence role, and protected the port of Liverpool from German bombers.
Inevitably, the Byley station itself became a target. The RAF could ill afford to lose it to an enemy raid, as it was the only night fighter station in the north-west and a decision was taken to create a decoy airfield in an attempt to trick enemy bombers. The decoy was built some eight miles or so from the “real” airfield, in Betchton, north of Hassall Green and east of where the M6 motorway is today. The dummy airfield was a “Q”-type night decoy which displayed lights to make it appear from above to be an active airfield, and was designated Q102A.
Listed as operational throughout 1941 and 1942, the site was decommissioned in 1943 andthe land had returned to open fields by 1946. Nothing remains today of the decoy airfield, although part of the control bunker remains as shown in the photographs on the right. The site is on private property and cannot be accessed via any public right of way.
The decoy was manned by four RAF personnel. In May 2015, the last survivor of the four, Aircraftman 1st Class Jack Bowser passed away. Some of AC1 Bowser’s personal history and mementos can be found here.