After The War

Shortly after the last servicemen had left Birch and the gates had been locked, the airfield sprang back to life. The Ministry of Agriculture soon recognised the vast amount of storage space available on the now deserted airfield. In particular the two large hangers that were originally built for the maintenance of bomber aircraft. These would be used for the storage of grain. Convoys of lorries which were comparable to the ones created by the Americans a few years earlier, thundered around, only this time driven by locals dressed in civvies, with accents as broad as the ‘Yanks’ was long. For many, transporting grain to and from Birch was the first opportunity to earn a steady income after the uncertainty of the previous difficult years. For the more enterprising drivers, it was a chance to make a ‘quick quid’.

Royal Observer Corps Birch Airfield 1945Girls of the Royal Observer Corps 18 group inspected by Air-Commodore Finlay Crerar, CBE (Commandant R.O.C.) at Birch aerodrome, on stand-down.
From Essex at War, page 105.

“When we arrived at the drome, we gave the gate guard a ‘drink’, this meant we would get paid for the load without tipping it. We then went round again, this time unloading and getting paid a second time”

Whilst the two large T2 hangers were full of grain, the Nissen huts that were left vacant were populated with hundreds of prisoners of war, which resulted from six years of conflict. This was quite a relaxed affair, with prisoners allowed to mix freely with local life. Some families in the area were made responsible for the welfare of an individual. They were given a certain amount of freedom as long as they followed some basic rules. This wasn’t always the case, with some guardians becoming particularly fond of their foreign friend and gave them much more freedom than was planned.

” Over the weeks we became very attached to the prisoner we were entrusted with. On one occasion he expressed an interest to go and watch an evening of boxing at the Colchester Hippodrome theatre. Although this was not allowed, we set about giving him a real treat. We dressed him in the smartest clothes we could find at the time, then set off out for the night. He had strict instructions not to speak to anybody for fear of being found out. After successfully evading the door security we settled into our seats. As the evening wore on, his enthusiasm for the nights entertainment became increasingly more obvious until eventually he was drawing so much attention to himself we had to make a hasty exit “

Gradually over a period of months, most prisoners were returned home, although a minority did stay beginning a new life in this country.

In May 1946, three 150ft aerial masts were erected on the airfield. This was part of the Governments continuation of National Security and Safety. Given the title P.O.P.I Station (Post Office Position Indicator), they were used to broadcast and receive secret information and signals, which still remains secret to this day.

On the 17th of July 1946, almost one year after the RAF had left, the airfield officially closed.