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Beaumaris

Major

Did you know?

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It was an RAF Catalina which had passed through Fryars that found the Bismarck in 1941 after it had escaped in bad weather.

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Also known as: Friars / Fryars
County: Isle of Anglesey
Current Status: Industry
Date: 1940 - 1945; minor use 1949 - 1955
Current Use: Disused
Used By: RAF
Landing Surface Types: Water

In 1940, the Government decided to order Consolidated Catalina aircraft from the USA to replace the Saunders-Roe (Saro) Lerwick flying boat, which was proving to be not fit for task, due to handling issues. Delivery of the Catalinas commenced in early 1941, and conversion work was required to meet Air Ministry specifications. The flying boat manufacturer Saunders-Roe were contracted to undertake this work. Saunders-Roe produced flying boats (the Supermarine Walrus and its successor, the Sea Otter) on the Isle of Wight. This location left Saunders-Roe extremely vulnerable to enemy attack and a safer location was sought for the Catalina conversion work.

The Menai Straits were found to be an excellent location for flying boat operations, and the company purchased the Burton’s Fryars estate near Beaumaris in 1940. The Saro Shrimp was one of the aircraft that first appeared here in the summer of 1940. Saunders Roe dismantled one of their spare hangars at Cowes and re-erected it on site in August 1941. The Ministry of Aircraft Production then built a further hangar and workshops on the site in December 1941, linked to the foreshore by a concrete slipway.

For four years there were flying boats stretching from the Gazelle Hotel down to Fryars Bay. In all, 399 Catalinas came through the site. Substantial work was carried out to prepare them for various roles with both the RAF and the Royal Navy.

After the war Saunders-Roe transferred their shipbuilding operations to the site. An experimental Auster floatplane was tested at Beaumaris in 1944, 1949 and again in 1955. However, it was found to be severely lacking in power and the design was never carried forward. The firm also manufactured bus bodies for both London and Cuba. Other vehicle manufacturers went on to take over the site, which closed completely in 1997.

The flying boat slipway remains, as do all of the wartime hangars, although they have been significantly modernised.

 

The following organisations are either based at, use and/or have at least potentially significant connections with the airfield (as at 01/07/2013):

  • Beaumaris Library
  • Beaumaris Town Council

 

ABCT would like to thank the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales for the use of their images. Find out more here: www.rcahmw.gov.uk and search their database here: www.coflein.gov.uk.

Main unit(s) present:

  • Saunders-Roe Limited
C721313.jpeg

Aerial view of Beaumaris Flying Boat Station, 1945. From the collections of the National Monuments Record of Wales: © Crown copyright: MoD

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Launching structures belonging to the Saunders-Roe Factory at Beaumaris, April 2007. © Eric Jones and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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A Martin PBM Mariner at Beaumaris during the Second World War. © IWM (ATP 12363F)

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A launching ramp at Beaumaris, April 2007. © Eric Jones and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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A Consolidated Coronado at Beaumaris during the Second World War. The background has been deleted by the censor. © IWM (ATP 12692B)

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A Consolidated Catalina on the ground at Beaumaris during the Second World War. The background has been deleted by the censor. © IWM (ATP 12693E)

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Inside part of the Saunders-Roe factory at Beaumaris, December 2011. © Andy Davis and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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Part of the Saunders-Roe factory at Beaumaris, July 2013. © John M and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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One of the remaining hangars at Beaumaris, October 2014. © Andy Davis and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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Part of the Saunders-Roe factory at Beaumaris, January 2011. © Oliver Mills and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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Part of the Saunders-Roe factory at Beaumaris, October 2014. © Chris Andrews and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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