Unit History: RAF Biggin Hill

RAF Biggin Hill
The airfield was originally opened by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) during the first world war. At first it was used for wireless experiments, but was then established in 1917 as part of the London Air Defence Area, responsible for defending the capital against attacks by Zeppelins and Gotha bombers. To this end, 141 Squadron of the RFC was based at Biggin Hill and equipped with Bristol Fighters.
 
Between the wars, the airfield was used by a number of experimental units, working on instrument design, ground based anti-aircraft defenses, and night flying. The base was closed between 1929 and 1932, during which period reconstruction work took place including the building of new hangers.
 
Wing Commander R Grice commanded Biggin Hill when the World War II was declared on September 3rd 1939. The resident squadrons were No 32 and No 79. Just as the war started, these 2 squadrons were joined by No 601 (County of London) Auxiliary Squadron that flew Bristol Blenheim – the first twin-engine planes to fly from Biggin Hill. The 90th AA Regiment protected the base while 74 men from the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment protected Biggin Hill from an attack by paratroopers.
 
Biggin Hill Fighter Base was a controlling station in No 11 Group, Fighter Command and played a decisive part in the Battle of Britain with both Spitfires and Hurricanes from a variety of squadrons being based there. It gained the nickname “The Strongest Link”, which was later incorporated into the fighter station’s crest. The squadrons based at Biggin Hill claimed to have destroyed 1,400 enemy aircraft, at the cost of the lives of 453 Biggin Hill based aircrew. Because of its importance to the capital’s defence, the airport itself became a target. Between August 1940 and January 1941, the airfield was attacked twelve times, the worst of which wrecked workshops, stores, barracks, WAAF quarters and a hangar, killing 39 people on the ground.
 
After the war, Biggin Hill was briefly used by the RAF’s Transport Command, and then became a base for both regular and reserve fighter squadrons, flying Spitfires, Meteors and Hunters. However in 1958 Biggin Hill ceased to be an operational RAF station, becoming the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre for the RAF. Due to the impending closure of the nearby original London Airport at Croydon, from 1956 much of the civilian light aviation from Croydon relocated to Biggin and it became a joint civilian and military airport. Croydon closed completely in 1959, at which time Biggin Hill became a mainly civilian airport with only occasional military flying taking place.

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