Burtonwood is a civil parish, near to Warrington in Cheshire.
Home to a population in 2001 of 11,265 people, its name is best known for being the site of the largest airfield in Europe during the Second World War. The camp was opened as RAF Burtonwood on 1st January 1940 but transferred to the United States Army Air Forces in June 1942 for use by that country following their entry into the conflict. Many USAAF Station Units were stationed at the airfield and by 1945 it was home to some 18,000 personnel who would flood the centre of Warrington during their leave.
The airfield was ostensibly handed back to the RAF in June 1946 but a strong US presence of B-29 Superfortress bombers began to be unofficially located there as part of the cold war deployment until 1959. The US army took over a part of the airfield when France withdrew its military support and bases for NATO in February 1966 and stayed until June 1994. Although much of the wartime infrastructure had been demolished at the end of the 1950s, and the M62 motorway opened through the site in 1974, the last demolition of the military buildings took place between 2008 and 2009. Now, only some of the perimeter track, and the northwest end of a secondary runway exists to the west and north of junction 8 of the M62.
Burtonwood in Coronation Street
As with so many women in Britain in the war, the presence of so many "over-paid, over-sexed and over here" US military men proved a magnet for Elsie Tanner and Dot Greenhalgh. Steve Tanner was one of these men and he and Elsie met several times near the base at the Roebuck Inn and back in Weatherfield. Steve was re-posted and asked Elsie to go with him but she didn't want to end her marriage to Arnold Tanner and reluctantly let him go. Dot herself enjoyed a similar romance with Steve's friend Gregg Flint.
Vera Sharples was also attracted by the allure of the yanks at the camp but her mother, Ena locked her in the Vestry rather than let her bring shame on the family. Someone who did meet a GI was Linda Tanner who, following in her mother's footsteps, romanced Roy Newman and was briefly engaged to him before marrying Ivan Cheveski.
When the soldiers returned to the camp in April 1967 as a result of the French NATO withdrawal, Steve and Elsie met again. This time she was free from Arnold and when Steve proposed, she accepted, albeit after a period of soul-searching. Steve needed the permission of his C.O. to marry and therefore he and Elsie travelled to Burtonwood where she was interviewed by Major A.J. Ryan. He gave his approval for both the marriage and Elsie's possible emigration to the US though the couple parted before a year was up. During this period, Steve suggested they move to married quarters on the camp but Elsie refused. In September 1968 Steve, now separated from Elsie, was found dead at the bottom of some stairs in digs in Claydon Court and it was assumed to be foul play. An open verdict was given at the subsequent inquest.
Another soldier posted to Burtonwood in 1967 was Joe Donelli. He attended Steve and Elsie's wedding and hung around Weatherfield into 1968 along with Gregg and another GI, Gary Strauss. In November 1970 Joe went absent without leave from the army and turned up in Weatherfield where he and Irma Barlow became an item. Gregg and Gary were sent by Major Ryan to bring him back but events took a sinister turn when it became apparent that two years before Joe had murdered Steve to get out of a large gambling debt. To escape the authorities, Joe besieged himself in 5 Coronation Street holding first Minnie Caldwell and then Stan Ogden hostage. US Military Police were sent from Burtonwood to assist the British police in the incident which ended when Joe shot himself. Within a day or so, Gregg and Gary were re-posted to Germany and a farewell party was held for them in the Rovers Return Inn, bringing to an end Coronation Street's association with the base.