Heritage shapes our future and when you have a heritage as important as Airbus has right on your doorstep you need to share it.

Preserving the past helps us learn for the future and that is why it is so vital we tell people about all the amazing things that go on today and have gone on in the past at Airbus at their Broughton site in Flintshire.

This year is the 80th anniversary of the record-breaking Wellington Bomber aircraft build.

As Jeremy Greaves, Head of UK Heritage at Airbus said: “Broughton’s success today is based on the talent and technology of the past. It’s the talent, it’s the technology, it’s the people, it’s the families.”

Jeremy lives and breathes aviation and his passion for planes and the industry he represents is infectious.

In this 80th anniversary year Jeremy is quite right to be proud and to want people to hear how the plane that helped the Allies win the war was built in fact built in North Wales.

He isn’t alone in that goal as working at the Broughton site itself is Stephen Swift who too wants to preserve the past and learn more about our forebearers and how they helped shape our futures.

The Leader: Stephen Swift, AirbusStephen Swift, Airbus

A heritage champion, Stephen says “We’re currently trying to gather as much information as possible, and store it. What we have made here at Broughton, what photographs people may have of family, friends who have worked here. There are so many generations who have come through the

Broughton site and we want to celebrate that with them.”

Jeremy added: “By understanding the past we help to define the future. We want to inspire people because of all the incredible passion and dedication and skill there is here. What our forebearers did was just extraordinary at the time. They were at the cutting edge of technology, they were using new methods, you know they were the football stars of the day.”

Stephen agreed: “You only have to think of Barnes Wallace and what he did in his career, working on airships and he developed the Wellington, other aircraft, bombs and supersonic aircraft towards the end of his career. He was an amazing engineer.”

So why is it so important to mark and celebrate the past?

Jeremy said: “We see ourselves as the inheritors of a British aviation legacy dating back more than 113 years and by remembering our heritage- part of a wider European and global success story - it helps us define not just who we are but what we are capable of.

The Leader: Wellington productionWellington production

“Those forebearers were bold, risk takers, technical innovators, passionate manufacturers, visionary leaders of their time who I would argue carried out some of the most ambitious technological feats in aerospace history.

“Actually the most cutting edge technology in our factories and laboratories today stands on the shoulders of those British giants in aerospace.”

Stephen said: “It was only 30 years after the Wright brothers had flown the world's first flight of 260m that Barnes Wallace had designed the Wellington bomber. He had designed a particular structure known as a geodetic structure, that can be described simply as criss cross. If a section is taken out by an explosion, the surrounding structure is still supported. So everything around it supports itself.”

“It was very clever. Light, strong, battle damage tolerant but complicated to manufacture.”

And it was in Broughton that this amazing feat of British engineering was manufactured, knocking spots off the Americans at the time who were unable to build it as fast.

Around 5,540 Wellington bombers were built in Broughton.

In fact the staff at Broughton were so quick and skilled at putting the Wellington together the story goes that they had to wake up the test pilot as he thought he had plenty of time to take a rest before the plane would be ready for him to fly.

The Leader: Wellington productionWellington production

By pre-assembling parts, the construction was much more efficient and seamless. The Americans had been building it in around 48 hours but a challenge was thrown down and the assembly came in at 23 hours and 48 minutes.

Stephen said: “It was amazing. Over 6,000 people were working here at the time, and half were women who had been conscripted, along with some boys as young as 14 who worked on the lines.”

Jeremy said: “I have an enormous amount of respect for all those people not only in the design, and manufacture, but also the testing, the workforce, all the incredible people who played an amazing part who may have been a small cog in the machine but the sacrifices they made were immense.”


The Broughton site is also famous for its work on other famous aircraft.

Broughton built the Lancaster bomber, the one the Battle of Britain Memorial flight is still flying today, and the same designer, Ray Chadwick, 11 years later designed the Vulcan nuclear bomber.

Stephen said: “People are amazed even when they see a Beluga. I don’t think they ever get tired of seeing a Beluga take off.

The Leader: Wellington bomberWellington bomber

“The women who were building these aircraft were not engineers, they would have come from all sorts of different backgrounds when they were conscripted because half of the workforce were sent off to war.

“But they soon became experts and on top of their job. It’s an amazing legacy.”

Do you know anyone who was involved in this period of history?

If you know of anyone who has a story to tell about how their relative/friend was involved in this amazing piece of history please get in touch with news@leaderlive.co.uk

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