This film is part of Free

Opening of West Hartlepool Airport

A red letter day for Hartlepool aviation as the Secretary of State for Air opens a new civic airport at Greatham on the brink of World War Two.

Home movie 1939 8 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for North East Film Archive


As the nation gears up for war against Germany, an elite guest films the official opening of West Hartlepool’s new civic airport at Greatham. Although not strikingly composed (or focused), this is rare footage of an important historical event, attended by Secretary of State for Air, Sir Kingsley Wood, the Marquess of Londonderry, and significant local business men such as shipyard owner William Gray. A visiting Spitfire and Royal Air Force displays entertain the guests.

Although the airport was conceived in 1928 to serve the peace-time needs of the Hartlepools and Teesside, international events interceded. The project coincided with a rapid expansion of the Royal Air Force and was earmarked as a RAF Volunteer Reserve Centre. Scores of men trained at Greatham in the months leading up to and following 3 September 1939, when war was declared. This footage was probably filmed by Neville Horsley, brother of George, who at the time ran the important dockside cargo and timber merchants, known locally as Todd’s Yard. The Horsleys were one of the wealthy shipping families in Hartlepool.