Did you know?"
It was an RAF Catalina which had passed through Fryars that found the Bismarck in 1941 after it had escaped in bad weather."
|Also known as:||Friars / Fryars|
|County:||Isle of Anglesey|
|Date:||1940 - 1945; minor use 1949 - 1955|
|Landing Surface Types:||Water|
|Aircraft Roles:||Aircraft modification/repair (main role) / Experimental|
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
Footage of Beaumaris. Courtesy of HuntleyFilmArchives
Footage of Beaumaris, September 2018. Courtesy of 1tothirtysix
Footage of hangars at Beaumaris. Courtesy of Sky High asp