Film ID: NEFA 21004 Video of NEFA 21004 Opening West Hartlepool Airport OPENING OF WEST HARTLEPOOL AIRPORT 1939 Visitor TabsDescription This film is a record of the opening of West Hartlepool Airport on the 15 April 1939 by the Lord Mayor of West Hartlepool and other dignitaries including the Secretary of State for Air, Sir Kingsley Wood, and Lord Londonderry. A number of contemporary aircraft are on show, including RAF and civilian planes. The film opens with a shot of the platform where the opening ceremony and speeches will take place. The platform is decorated with flags and bunting. Four engined biplanes are on the airfield with crowds of bystanders standing in front. A panning shot follows across the front of a hangar, beyond the hangar the windswept airfield, where a number of aircraft are parked. Two biplanes slowly taxi across the field, on which a variety of biplanes and single wing aircraft are parked. One or two taxi across the field, watched by the spectators. The film cuts to a rear view of two men wearing AA [Automobile Association] overalls. A number of biplanes take off together in formation. Planes taxi on the field in preparation for take off. General views of the spectators follow. Limousines arrive at the platform with the official guests. Close-ups follow of some of the spectators. A sign reads 'Guests Enclosure'. Those attending by invitation take their seats. Dignitaries, including a gentleman in the chains of mayoral office, ascend the steps to the platform. They take their seats behind a table on the platform. Speeches are made. Cars take the official party away. General views follow of the officiasl leaving the platform. Those in the guests enclosure also take their leave. General views follow of groups of people outside a marquee and particular attention is given to one marquee with a sign reading 'Gentlemen'. General view of some of the passenger and military aircraft on show. [Blank Section] A group of men in AA overalls stand in front of a single wing aircraft. The doors of a hangar are open. General views follow of other buildings on the site. Two fighter aircraft start their engines. Members of the ground crew help manoeuvre a single wing aircraft into position for take off. It taxis across the field while another RAF plane taxis into position quite near to the spectators. Another twin engined plane waits to taxi across the airfield. Context Off to a flying start in Hartlepool 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. 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.