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Your memories of when Ipswich had an airport

PUBLISHED: 22:32 29 September 2018 | UPDATED: 23:40 29 September 2018

The Ipswich Airport Association 2018 reunion. Picture: MARTIN WHITEHEAD

The Ipswich Airport Association 2018 reunion. Picture: MARTIN WHITEHEAD

Archant

It brings back fond memories of when you could reach Ipswich from anywhere across the globe by plane.

The Ipswich Airport Association 2018 reunion. Picture: MARTIN WHITEHEADThe Ipswich Airport Association 2018 reunion. Picture: MARTIN WHITEHEAD

But as people gathered this weekend to remember Ipswich Airport more than 20 years after its closure, a sense of sadness still remains over its controversial demise.

Opened in the 1930s at a total cost of £13,245 after the government’s Air Ministry promised “every town of importance would have an airport just like it had roads and a railway station”, the site on what is now the Ravenswood housing estate was a key focal point of the town for decades.

It served as a military base for Spitfires and Blenheim Bombers during the Second World War and offered commercial flights to places as far away as Amsterdam and as nearby as Manchester and Clacton.

During its 67-year history it was also used by many parachutists, those learning to fly and light aircraft pilots - many of whom staged a passionate defence on New Year’s Day 1997 by flying from all over the country in a last ditch bid to save it.

The Ipswich Airport Association 2018 reunion. Picture: MARTIN WHITEHEADThe Ipswich Airport Association 2018 reunion. Picture: MARTIN WHITEHEAD

It started what became known as the “occupation of Ipswich Airport”, with airport staff and residents taking turns to guard the site day and night for four and a half months.

But the closure went ahead despite a public outcry, meaning there is now a generation of people who have grown up since who may not even realise that Ipswich even had an airport.

Angelika Voss, who helped organise the reunion event which was attended by 60 people - many of whom had a connection to its past - said: “I think people still miss the airport.

“Of course there is now a generation has grown up not even realising Ipswich had an airport, but the airport was part of the town’s history.

The Ipswich Airport Association 2018 reunion. Picture: MARTIN WHITEHEADThe Ipswich Airport Association 2018 reunion. Picture: MARTIN WHITEHEAD

“People always felt it was special and that it made Ipswich a proper town, because it had its own airport and not every town had one.”

Many people also marked the event by recounting their memories of the airport.

Michael Moore, a retired US Air Force major now living in San Antonio, Texas, said: “I was stationed at RAF Bentwaters from April 1982 through April 1984.

“I honestly cannot remember whose idea it was, or how even the idea of it came up, but a couple of us who lived in the dorms on RAF Woodbridge decided we wanted to jump out of airplanes - so we ended up at the Ipswich Parachute Centre in September 1983.

Pitts Bar from apron Picture: COURTESY OF  IPSWICH AIRPORT ASSOCIATIONPitts Bar from apron Picture: COURTESY OF IPSWICH AIRPORT ASSOCIATION

“I will always have fond memories of not only my time being stationed in the UK but of Ipswich Airport. I was heartbroken when I learned it had been closed in 1996.”

Beccie Biggs wrote: “As a teenager in the early 1980s I spent a lot of time at the airport where my uncle learnt to fly and gained his licence there.

“We flew out of there most weekends I loved it.”

Dave Elden, from Ottawa, Canada, wrote: “My first ever flight in an aircraft was from the airport with my younger brother and father some time in the 1960s.

Auster Autocrat outside terminal  Picture: COURTESY OF  IPSWICH AIRPORT ASSOCIATIONAuster Autocrat outside terminal Picture: COURTESY OF IPSWICH AIRPORT ASSOCIATION

“We both well remember that day. Was there again in the 80s with a flying friend in a Cessna 170.”

John Nunn, now living in France, added: “My first holiday ‘abroad’ began at Ipswich Airport in July 1954.

“As a seven-year-old, along with my mother and father, I boarded a De Havilland Dragon Rapide, a biplane. It was not a direct flight, too far for the fuel capacity of this aircraft, so we made two stops en route - at Southend and Shoreham.

“Between that first holiday by air in 1954 and 1961, we flew to Guernsey three times from Ipswich, each time with Channel Airways.

Busy day on the apron in the 1990s Picture: COURTESY OF  IPSWICH AIRPORT ASSOCIATIONBusy day on the apron in the 1990s Picture: COURTESY OF IPSWICH AIRPORT ASSOCIATION

“People from all over East Anglia came to Ipswich Airport to take advantage of the travel opportunities offered by Channel Airways. As a complete contrast to the situation now, Norfolk-based passengers travelled to Ipswich to begin their holidays.”

What are your memories of Ipswich Airport? Write, giving your full contact details, to andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk

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