Unit History: RAF Debden
RAF Debden is a former RAF airfield in England. The field is located 3 miles SE of Saffron Walden and approximately 1 mile north of the village of Debden in North Essex.
The airfield was opened in April 1937 and was first used by the Royal Air Force. During the early years of World War II, it was a Sector Station with an Operations Block for No.11 Group RAF during the Battle of Britain. Many different RAF Squadrons were here including 1, 17, 29, 65, 73, 80, 85, 87, 111, 157, 418, 504 and 601. The airfield was attacked several times during the Battle of Britain.
Hard surface runways were laid in 1940. During May through into September 1942 it was used by No. 71, 121 and 133 "Eagle Squadrons" with Spitfire V’s.
One of Debden’s early and most bizarre experiences was when the airfield was chosen as a location for the film "It’s in the Air" in which George Formby was to pilot a Hawker Fury through Hangar No. 3. The rather sharper angle of the hangars at Debden built around the tarmac apron allowed free access at both ends of the end hangar. The flying for the sequence was actually done by Flying Officer R. H. A. Lee who went missing on August 18 1940 when he was last seen ten miles north of Foulness Point chasing three German aircraft out to sea.
During the Battle of Britain, the airfield was a sector station for No. 11 Group being occupied by eight RAF fighter squadrons at different times. The first air-raid sounded on 18 June 1940 although the first bombs were not dropped on the airfield until seven days later. Then, on 2 August, came a heavy attack which destroyed several buildings killing five to be followed by another severe raid on 31 August. During August and September, Debden fighters claimed seventy aircraft destroyed, thirty probables and forty-one damaged.
On 28 January 1941, the station was visited by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the following month by a German aircrew. It was on 4 February 1941 that a German pilot landed his aircraft and taxied to the watch office (control tower) at which point the German pilot must have realised his mistake as he took off in a hurry