MICHAEL BURTON OBITUARY

The staff of the Trenchard Museum regret deeply to report the death of Michael Burton, in December 2020.

During his declining years he refurbished our Dart aero-engine and proved a fount of technical knowledge. Above all, he was ever ready and able to enthral the visiting school children engaged in the Cool Aeronautics programme with facts about flight. He will be sorely missed; his legacy is tremendous.

Michael first came to Halton in 1968, to become an instructor in the Airframe Training Squadron. He was a
newly promoted Sergeant who had worked on a wide selection of aircraft, ranging from Chipmunks to Vulcans. Here he rapidly revealed a breadth of technical knowledge and a ready wittiness which gained him the respect of the lively, intelligent young men whom he trained in New Workshops.

He was equal to any occasion, as he demonstrated one night when Orderly Sergeant in the Henderson/Groves Guardroom (now the Armoury). A large crowd of Aylesbury youths had collected outside the gate, demanding to be let in to, “sort out those apprentices.” Telling the Orderly Corporal to order all apprentices to assemble on the barrack square immediately, he walked slowly down to the main gate. Identifying the Aylesbury ringleader, he invited him to “come with me.” They walked up to the corner of Groves Mess, from where the visitor could see some 1,000 apprentices milling about with more joining them from the barrack blocks. With a muttered “we’ll be back,” the young man returned to his friends, who dispersed, never to be seen again!

After marrying in 1970, he decided to leave the RAF. However, he reappeared the next day as a civilian instructor with his enthusiasm for the task undiminished. Thus, when he was asked to restore Spitfire Mk 16 SL574 in December 1985, the challenge was accepted enthusiastically. With a team of volunteers, which included his wife and 12-year-old son, the task progressed apace with the latter proving extremely useful when accessing the inside of the fuselage and revelling in the Blue Peter and John Craven’s Newsround interviews which got him a day off school. When completed in 1989 it was exchanged for the North American P-51D Mustang 44-73415 which is in the RAF Museum. Spitfire SL574 is now in the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

When Airframe Training moved to Cosford in 1988, Michael left the Civil Service and became a ground-school instructor first at Cranfield and then free-lance, finally retiring in 2010.
However, Michael has left his mark on RAF Halton. In 1986 he heard that the Station Commander was unhappy with the absence of a Gate Guardian. Surveying his workshop his eye fell on Hawker Hunter F6 XF527 which had come to Halton from Boscombe Down, where it had been used for development projects. With so many modifications it was unsuitable as a Halton training airframe. After appropriate preparation, one Friday afternoon, he and a band of “trusties” quietly wheeled it down the road past Old Workshops and into the position which it has occupied ever since.