Tim Burtons switching on of the Lights this year prompted me to write about the Fylde’s TransAtlantic Connections.
Blackpool in particular has had TransAtlantic stars over many years with visits from the likes of Sinatra, Bob Hope, Sammy Davis Jnr. Ellis (2013) adds Bing Crosby, Glenn Miller and Boxer Joe Louis to the list. Many performed at the Warton Air Base as well as Blackpool. At its peak and at any one time, there were 10,000 US Service men stationed at Warton, which had become one of the largest US Bases in the UK.
The majority of those many thousands of Servicemen entertained themselves in the hotspots of Blackpool, By contrast, Evangelist Billy Graham visited Blackpool in 1982, on a two day Crusade.
The BBC reported that Bill Clinton & Kevin Spacey walked into a late night Burger Bar in October 2002. Clinton’s verdict; ‘I like Blackpool. The weather’s great. And the town’s… kinda sleazy, isn’t it?’
More recently, ‘Baywatch’ star David ‘The Hoff’ Hasslehoff opened at the Winter Gardens with the World Premiere of the musical ‘Last Night a DJ Saved My Life’
Alcock & Heyhouses
The earliest direct connection between the Fylde and USA is that of Heyhouses School, in St Annes to St Johns, Newfoundland, Canada.
John Alcock, an ex-pupil of Heyhouses and a colleague, Arthur Whitten Browne flew the first direct flight across the Atlantic, in June 1919.
They landed in a bog in the the West of Ireland at Clifden, Co Galway. They completed the journey in just over 16 hours. A ‘Blue Plaque’ records the adventure in the School Garden, on Church Road, St Annes opposite the Church.
Perhaps the earliest ‘loose’ transatlantic connection was the journey taken by Amy Johnson and her husband James Mollison. They flew a DeHavilland Dragon Rapide called ‘Seafarer’ from Pendine Sands in South Wales to Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA although plan was to land in New York, completing a new world record – ‘First married Couple to cross the Atlantic’, however, they ran out of fuel. Both were injured in the venture, but were given a ‘Ticker Tape Welcome’ in Wall Street, New York, a few days after landing.
Mollison had already broken records between UK and South Africa and Australia and UK. Amy had broken Jim’s South African record only one year before this attempt.
The couple had married in July 1932.
During the Second World War, Both Warton and Squires Gate airfields became the first regular UK TransAtlantic Aerodromes, when hundreds of Liberator Bombers flew directly from Newfoundland, being serviced at Base Air Depot (BAD2), Warton, being ferried to other UK airfields and flying operationally from Blackpool.
Thousands of American aircraft technicians arrived in Blackpool too. Family anecdotes suggest many working on parts and parachute manufacture and testing that went on under Harrowside Bridge. Many of those forming long lasting relationships with local girls.
As the first proposals for a Super Casino in Blackpool emerged, a team from Blackpool College flew to Atlantic City, New Jersey to investigate ‘Gaming’ Training, Casino Operations and Community Impact research. The research led eventually, to the establishment of the first UK National Gaming Academy, at the College, designed originally to support Blackpool’s Super Casino.
In January 2002 The Gazette reported the visit of the Mayor of Atlantic City, James Whelan. Atlantic City, like Las Vegas enjoys a 24 hour a day gambling culture and his visit was to advise on the impact of gambling on the economy and culture.
The plans for the Casino went to nothing but astonishment when the Government, handed the License to Manchester. All Super Casino licenses were withdrawn shortly after.
In February 2014, the Gazette reported that David Cameron told The Gazette his Government would look “favourably” on a fresh bid for a licence. Although ruling out a Super Casino.
In my own time at Blackpool College, literally hundreds of students spent valuable time, gaining valuable experiences on work Experience in the United States, many of them eventually becoming Captains of industry there. Some of the great names in the industry are Blackpool Students, For example: Ray Allen, an ex catering Student brought Kentucky Fried Chicken to the UK from the US; one becoming Vice President in the Disney Empire, setting up the Paris operation, another becoming Chairman & CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation.
TransAtlantic Shipwrecks off the Fylde Coast
A number of the Shipwrecks registered of f the Fylde Coast record destinations or embarkation points as USA, Canada or South America
The following have been recorded and there are likely to be more. Sea traffic between Liverpool and the Americas was extensive in the 1800’s.
1840 MARGARET MILLER
1862 ANNIE E HOOPER
1867 H.L ROUTH
1888 ALBERT WILLIAM
More information on these vessels is available elsewhere on this Blog.
This posting has simply been a collection of random, easily researched TransAtlantic connections. No doubt there Are many more. Why not post your own on this Blog.
Sources and further information:
Pictures via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Photographs
Warton Airfield at :www.americanairmuseum.com/place/398
The Flying Sweethearts at: www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/wales/entries/c58b0e1b-336e-3c48-8a56-60013fecf254
Alcock and Heyhouses School at: www.lsacivic.org/blue-plaques/4588037103
Clinton quote and Blackpool’s UNESCO Bid for World Heritage Site: www.archaeologyuk.org/ba/ba90/feat1.shtml and news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2294147.stm
National Gaming Academy, Blackpool College at: www.blackpool.ac.uk/gaming
Blackpool Super Casino, search ‘Blackpool Super Casino’
Please note I wrote book on John Alcock’s incredible Atlantic flight. ‘Yesterday We Were in America’, with Foreword by Len Deighton.
Title is from Alcock’s reply to disbelieving Marconi radio station staff who were first to greet him and Brown. He was first person in Europe to be able to say that!
Many thanks for that useful addition to the posting.
Just to clarify the situation with regard to the B-24 Liberator aircraft and the Fylde Coast airfields during WW2. The only B-24s to arrive at Squires Gate were part of the Atlantic Ferry Organisation (ATFERO), the first aircraft arriving here on 14 March 1941. Shortly afterwards ATFERO flights came into the UK via Prestwick. This was totally separate from the activity at Warton. No B-24 units operated from Squires Gate although there may have been the occasional diversion here. Finally, whilst the USAAF had many workshops and facilities in an around Warton, I am not aware of similar activities in Blackpool. Certainly, the Harrowside Bridge site was occupied by Vickers Armstrong workers producing parts for Wellingtons.