© Friends of Ingrebourne Valley and Hornchurch Country Park
Hornchurch Country Park is situated on the site that used to be Sutton's Farm and has historic connections with the Royal Air Force (RAF). A military airfield was set up on the site in 1915 during the First World War for the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and by 1917 Sutton's Farm had become an important airfield. Planes from this airfield shot down the first Zeppelin of the war. RFC Sutton's Farm was closed in 1919 after the end of WW1 and the land returned to agricultural use.
In 1922 the RAF expanded and Sutton's Farm was again chosen as an ideal location for a military airfield essential as a base for the defence of London and the South East of England. The new airfield opened in 1928 when No. 111 Squadron landed their Armstrong Whitworth Siskin III’s led by their Commander, Squadron Leader Keith Park. For the next 10 years the latest fighter planes, from Bristol Bulldogs to Gloster Gladiators, flew from the airfield.
In 1939 the first Spitfires arrived to re-
It was 222 Squadron that brought Flight Lieutenant Douglas Bader, the legendary pilot who refused to give up flying despite losing both his leg in a pre-
Between 1941 and 1944 pilots from RAF Hornchurch claimed 268 German aircraft shot down and 96 others probable. Many more enemy aircraft were damaged or destroyed while still on the ground as well as numerous military installations, trains and convoys. Sadly 126 RAF Hornchurch pilots were killed in the defence of our country and many more were injured or captured.
During the Battle of Britain RAF Hornchurch was bombed at least 10 times but the amazing ground crews continued to service, refuel and re-
In 1962 RAF Hornchurch closed never to re-
47 years of service history had ended but the legacy of the airfield, its pilots, aircrew and ground staff will never be forgotten. Reminders of the parks history in the form of turrets, pillboxes, tunnels, trenches and gun emplacements can still be seen throughout the park.
Contributed by Stephen “Chip” Curtling
Hornchurch Country Park at War