Sleap (pronounced "Slape") is an ex-Royal Air Force airfield, opened in 1943, and used by RAF advanced flying training. Initially it was the base for No. 81 Operational Training Unit equipped with Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bomber aircraft.
Through the co-operation of the Shropshire Aero Club, the Wartime Aircraft Recovery Group operates a small museum on the site, which itself is steeped in history.
This all-volunteer group investigates crash sites and recovers and displays artifacts as a memorial to pilots that gave their lives operating in the Shropshire area during World War II. The displays include a number of aero engines, and a reconstruction of an airfield Flight Office.
Admission to the museum is free.
Opening times May-October Saturday and Sunday, other times by prior arrangement.
Since the museum is run entirely by volunteers it would be advisable to phone the airfield manager when planning a visit to avoid disappointment.
Construction on the airfield begins.
The First Year & Tragedies
The airfield officially opens in April as a satellite to Whitchurch Heath (now Tilstock), the main role of the airfield is training.
The first RAF aircraft to be operationally based at Sleap were Armstrong Whitworth “Whitley” aircraft as seen below.
In the very early days a Whitley undergoing night training crashed at Loppington, killing all 5 crew.
In August, also at night, a Whitley lost control on landing, continued off the runway and crashed into the control tower. Three crew members in the front of the aircraft were killed, and six others on board survived. The tower building was damaged however normal operations resumed the following day.
One week later an entire Whitley crew from Sleap were lost over Hertfordshire in another night training exercise.
Within another week more tragedy struck – a Whitley taking off on a night training exercise veered off the runway and again hit the control tower.
Four of the crew were killed together with two WAAFs who were on duty in the building and succumbed to the resulting fire. Local legend tells that the control tower at Sleap is haunted by the innocent victims of that fateful night. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, being alone in the control tower building on a cold, dark blustery evening does sometimes make the hair on the back of your neck stand up!
Some more information on these events and the ongoing investigation into paranormal activity at Sleap can be found at Paranormal Friends.
Sleap became a main training base for Horsa gliders towed by Whitleys and Stirling bomber aircraft.
In November, American B-17’s landed at Sleap after being diverted from their East Anglia bases.
Also in November a Horsa glider crashed on the edge of the airfield, killing the pilot.
After the end of WWII, Sleap continued to be active with a major role as a training base for air traffic controllers with Vampires and other early jets being early visitors.
Shropshire Aero Club was founded in 1955 by a group of local enthusiasts and today is the only civilian licensed airfield remaining in Shropshire, becoming the best GA airfield in the UK.