Many of our airfields and airports that we host flying days and experiences from at FlyDays have previous connections to the Royal Air Force, and were used during the Second World War. So, it is only right that today, we mark and reflect on the 80th Battle of Britain Day.
On this day in September 1940, the last large-scale aerial battle between the RAF and the German Luftwaffe, that brought the Battle of Britain to its conclusion after three months, took place. This was, to this point, the largest and most intense attack made by the Luftwaffe on the British Isles, in particular London.
Last Sunday, the BBC One programme Antiques Roadshow presented a special episode from Biggin Hill, a former Royal Air Force base in Kent, that played a vital role in this last day of the Battle of Britain combat in protecting London from aerial attack.
It was where several RAF squadrons, including the No. 92 and No. 72 Squadrons were ordered to cover airspace over nearby Canterbury, in Spitfire planes, under order of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Rodney Park of the RAF No. 11 Group as a means of non-attrition.
These were additionally backed up by standby squadrons at RAF bases in Northolt, North Weald, Kenley, Debden and Hornchurch, as well as Maidstone in Kent and Chelmsford in Essex.
The No. 92 and No. 72 Squadrons successfully made contact some 3000 ft above the Luftwaffe whilst both were 25,000 ft over Canterbury. Of the attacks made that day, there was not much to tell between the losses, with a ratio of 2:1 in favour of the British fighters.
This defeat eventually led to the Germans concentrating their efforts on the Blitz air raids that decimated London and many major cities across Great Britain, which had begun a few days before on 7th September 1940, and would continue on into May of the following year.
RAF Biggin Hill ceased military operations around 1963, with the airport now known as London Biggin Hill Airport, which still operates private civilian aviation to this day. At the entrance to the site is the St George’s Chapel of Remembrance, outside of which stands a replica Spitfire.
These, together with the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum, still stand today as a reminder of the remarkable courage and bravery of those who served in squadrons here during the Battle of Britain, and to whom we owe so much gratitude for their sacrifice.