The Branch was founded in 1944 as the Birmingham Branch, by an enthusiast named Albert Strawford, who was working at that time as an Inspector on the Spitfire production line at Castle Bromwich. Albert went on to serve the Branch for 54 years, becoming an Honorary Life Vice president and is remembered each year, when our first lecture of every new season is held in his name.
During its early years, the epi-centre of Branch activity was in Birmingham, around what was then Lucas Gas Turbine Equipment (later to become Lucas Aerospace), who created the first fuel systems for jet engines.
In the late ‘50’s, this epi-centre shifted to Wolverhampton, with the growth of aviation equipment suppliers in the cluster of Companies to the north of the city, comprising H.M.Hobson, Boulton & Paul, ICI Marston Excelsior and Goodyear’s, each of them with reputations for innovation and technical excellence. In 1959, the Branch name was changed to Birmingham and Wolverhampton, to reflect these changes. At this time, a major contributor to the Branch was J.D North, Chief Engineer and subsequently Managing Director of Boulton & Paul Aircraft and a pioneer of the use of metals in aircraft construction. Our named lecture, which is held in March each year, is dedicated to his memory.
The Branches fortunes waxed and waned in parallel with that of local industry, declining with the TSR2 cancellation, but bouncing back with the growth of both Airbus and Boeing commercial fleets. Its Golden Jubilee was celebrated in 1994, with a grand dinner at which Astronaut Helen Sharman was guest speaker. At this time, RAF Halton was closed and its activities merged with N0. 2 School of Technical Training at RAF Cosford, with a resultant increase in Branch membership. The Branch name was then amended to Birmingham, Wolverhampton & Cosford, when we were pleased to inherit the bi-annual celebration of the Trenchard Lecture, shared with Cranwell Branch. Our Branch was also pleased to assist with the establishment of a Society Branch at the newly formed tri-services Defence Helicopter Training School at RAF Shawbury.
The branch has twice hosted Branches Conference, the second time being at the RAF Museum Cosford, in 2003. Closer ties with RAF Cosford and the Museum resulted in the signing of a MoU between the Society and the Museum, giving the Branch use of the Museums lecture theatre, whilst the Museum was awarded Corporate Membership of the Society. This provided us with a first class venue, and relieved local industry of the burden of providing facilities. However, the Branch has always received help and support from local Industry, throughout its history, but they are now Goodrich, Moog and H S Marston.
Following the last Corporate Strategic Review, the Branch renewed its own Strategy, to reflect the corporate lead, whilst concentrating on its own strengths. This resulted in the creation of two sub-groups within Committee, one to concentrate on Youth Activities (up to school leaving age), and the other to concentrate on issues affecting Young Professionals (college to 30 age group), in addition to the normal business of Lecture Programmes and Visits, etc.
The youth Activities Group is currently heavily involved with managing and supporting two separate Build a Plane projects at local schools. The Branch has supported many other youth events such as Cool Aerospace days at Cosford Museum, a rocketry competition, school visits and balsa aircraft design challenges.
President: Mr Stuart McLachlan
Chairman: Sq Ldr Adam Dingle
Secretary: Chris Hughes
Contact: Chris Hughes