Former flying boat slipway, Llanfaes, near Beaumaris

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The slipway at Llanfaes, near Beaumaris, was originally installed in the Second World War for flying boats, planes which use water as runways. Aero-engineering company Saunders-Roe prepared the aircraft for service at a complex up the slope from here (behind the trees on the opposite side of the road).

The land was previously occupied by a mansion called Fryars, which the government requisitioned along with c.50 acres of land in September 1939 for Saunders-Roe. The company was based on the Isle of Wight, where it could have made an easy target for enemy bombers. The mansion house was used as office accommodation and for the company’s design department.

In the grounds, large workshops and hangars were constructed for Saunders-Roe to modify American and Canadian flying boats for use by the Royal Air Force. Many of the buildings still stand today.

The RAF used flying boats, also known as seaplanes, for long-range reconnaissance duties, to escort convoys of Merchant Navy ships and bomb enemy submarines. New aircraft were transported across the Atlantic by ship to Scotland before being flown to Anglesey, where they would be moored on the Menai Straits awaiting space in the hangars. The planes were hauled up the slipway for Saunders-Roe to fit them with long-range fuel tanks and bomb racks for their service with Coastal Command.

At its peak c.200 people were employed at this site. They included Tecwyn Roberts, who became a key figure in the USA’s manned space flight programme. Others were employed in ancillary workshops in Beaumaris. Saunders-Roe converted over 300 flying boats during the Second World War.

The aircraft modifications finished with the end of the war in August 1945. The site continued to be used until 1997 for the design and manufacture of a diverse range of items including Motor Torpedo Boats, military vehicles and the coachwork for buses. It was such a significant employer locally that new houses at Cae Bricks in the 1950s were designed with Saunders-Roe workers in mind.

With thanks to Adrian Hughes, of the Home Front museum, Llandudno

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