North Weald Airfield’s History

North Weald Airfield was established in 1916 to defend the UK and in particular the greater London area, against the WW I German Bomber raids and airship attacks. The following video highlights the arrival of Norwegian 331 Squadron, later followed by their 332 Squadron peers. The following is a video-edited version of the Streets Ahead Productions “North Weald Airfield/flying for freedom” DVD. The full DVD can be purchased through the company’s website.

The first squadron to be stationed at North Weald was in August 1916 the 39th Royal Flying Corps Squadron and the last was the RAF 111th Squadron which left North Weald Airfield in February of 1958. North Weald Historic Airfield stopped being an active airfield for the RAF on September 1, 1964.

Operational flying at North Weald came to an end 1919 but was resumed in1927 when the airfield, once again, became an operational station for RAF Fighter aircraft.

Seven nations had over 52 squadrons stationed at North Weald including Norway and the U.S. They carried out numerous flights from here until the last fighter squadron left the airfield in 1958.

The airfield played a crucial role in 1940 during the Battle of Britain which brought the North Weald Village community straight into firing lines and at enemy raids, quite a few bombs came down on the village and surrounding areas. Check out also this article about the North Weald Airfield Museum.

Several North Weald buildings were directly hit and one of the air raids killed nine young British soldiers as well that had taken cover in one of the local shelters.

The North Weald residents kept on welcoming the airmen and women into their besieged community throughout the war and many of these servicemen and women returned to North Weald to settle in the quaint village and continue to live there today if they’re still alive.

A great and lasting reminder of those heroic days is the North Weald Airfield Memorial that sits right at the air field’s former main entrance which is dedicated to all service men and women that at North Weald RAF station in the period 1916 – 1964.

The memorial incorporates a Memorial Stone from the Norwegian people in 1952 and honors the almost 265 people who lost their lives while serving at North Weald Airfield. The following video is a Streets Ahead Productions film covering the famous Essex airfield’s history. You can purchase the full DVD from the company on their website.

The 385-acre Airfield is a fine example of British Aviation Heritage and is owned by the Epping Forest District Council as a fully operational airfield including facilities for all sorts of aviation activities such as executive aircraft, gliding, and veteran aircraft. Check out as well this article about the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Center in East Kirkby.

The airfield houses several companies that are involved in aircraft maintenance, restoration, and sales, and boasts several collections of classic aircraft collections as well as the one-of-a-kind “Squadron”.

At North Weald Airfield, there are also several international air fairs and shows, great fly-ins, model aircraft clubs that fly their models, a golf driving range, a gymnastics facility, shooting and archery activities and clubs, as well as various motorsports training and racing activities. The airfield is open to general aviation and there are some 20,000 aviation movements each year connecting people from Essex and the greater London area through air travel with lots of destinations across the UK. Read also this post about an important RAF airfield in the years 1943 through 1945: RAF Polebrook in Northamptonshire.

On Saturdays and on Bank Holidays, there is a world-renown Market that is actually the biggest in its kind in Great Britain and attracts over 25,000 visitors each week. At the south side of the airfield, there’s a thriving concentration of business activities so you see that the former fighter jet station is continuing to play a very active role in the every-day life of the local community. Take also a look at this video about the North Weald Airfield “2008 Fly-In” to get a good impression:

North Weald airfield is all about aviation history yet it retains its fantastic vitality through all the people that continue to play, work, and live there. Many people here are dedicated to preserving and showcasing the fighter jets and all related things to keep the history of British aviation alive and the role it played in keeping our communities safe in such a crucial period of time. This former RAF Fighter Station definitely has had an important and great past and the airfield deserves a fine and safe future. For more information about listed historic airfields, check out this page.

North Weald Airfield was originally established in 1916 and during World War II, the field became one of Britain’s key airfields in the southeast. During the 1940 Battle of Britain, North Weald was equipped with Hurricanes aircraft (56th and 151st squadrons). By the end WW II’s hostilities, however, North Weald had housed more than 20 fighter aircraft squadrons that flew also Mustangs and Spitfires.

At the outbreak of World War II, North Weald Airfield measured 400 acres, or 161 hectares, and included two paved runways of each 50′ wide. The east-west runway measured 2750 feet, or 840 meters and the north-south runway measured 2800 feet or 850 meters.

The airfield is home to quite a few private aircraft and several historic aircraft types. Throughout the year, there is a wide range of activities and events such as the Classic Air-Britain Fly-In and lots of smaller airshows. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the charming North Weald Airfield Museum located at the airfield’s main entrance. During the main season, the museum opens its doors on Saturdays and Sundays and, of course, on Bank Holidays.

North Weald Airfield houses several veteran vintage aircraft such as the Mustang, Dakota, Kittyhawk, Spitfire, Skyraider, Harvard, and Seafire and Harvard. It is additionally home to a few rare military older jets like the Hunter, Vampire, Venom, Jet Provost, and Gnat, along with a few general aviation aircraft like the Cessna 172, the SportCruiser, Piper PA28, Cirrus SR22, and the Aero AT3. It goes without saying that several volunteer organizations deserve great credit for keeping this important part of British History alive!

There is still an original and complete 1927 hangar and the former Officers Mess is also preserved and has the status of a Grade-2 listed building and the entire airfield received listed status in the year 2005. A replica of the Hawker Hurricane Mk1 replica is marking the airfield’s main gate on market days.