Essex

North Weald airfield: Centenary celebrates 'pivotal' RAF station

Blenheim at RAF North Weald Image copyright Contributed
Image caption A Blenheim night fighter which was destroyed during a bombing raid at North Weald in September 1940 during the Battle of Britain

An airfield which played a "pivotal" role in World War Two is commemorating its centenary.

North Weald in Essex was established in 1916 as a base for fighter planes to combat airship raids over London.

Fighter planes, mainly Hurricanes, flew from the site during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

The RAF left the base, just off the M11 near Epping, in 1964 and it is currently used by businesses and small aircraft.

Image copyright Weald Aviation Services
Image caption The latest arrival at North Weald is a North American Mustang
Image copyright Contributed
Image caption The earliest known photo of North Weald shows a BE2e of 39 (HD) Squadron in 1917

Pilots from Norway, USA, New Zealand, Czechoslovakia and Poland also flew RAF planes from North Weald during the 1939-45 conflict.

Arthur Moreton, airfield historian and chairman of the North Weald Royal Air Force Association, said: "It was involved in the defence of London in WW1, but it really came to public prominence during the Battle of Britain when it played a pivotal role as an RAF Fighter Sector Station with Hawker Hurricanes defending the eastern approaches to the capital.

"Spitfires arrived later in the war and its role continued during the Cold War, but the growth of civilian flights around London's major airports meant it was too restrictive for the RAF to continue using it.

"Today it's a thriving airfield for private flying, restoration of historic military aircraft and the museum."

Image copyright Contributed
Image caption Another photo from World War One shows 2nd Lt CC Durston
Image copyright Contributed
Image caption This German map dates from just prior to the Second World War in May 1939

North Weald, which is owned by Epping Forest District Council, hosts its Centenary Air Fete on Sunday.

Ash Bailey, event manager for EM Aviation Services, said: "This is our big event of the centenary year and we're most excited about the return of three Norwegian veterans who flew from here for the RAF during World War Two.

"The weather's looking good and we're confident it's going to be a fitting celebration."

Image copyright North Weald Royal Air Force Association
Image caption Spitfires flew from the airfield during its "pivotal" role in World War Two
Image copyright Contributed
Image caption The Black Arrow Display Team at North Weald in 1957

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