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World War One



3 Oct 1915.

The Royal Flying Corps arrive by truck at Sutton’s Farm. Bell tents are erected foraccommodation and two canvas hangers are also put up. The pilots were billeted in the local WhiteHart public house in Hornchurch village, while ground staff sleep at one of the local farmhouses. Initially they were equipped with two BE2c air­craft.


13 Oct 1915.

Lieutenant John Lessor tried to shoot down a Zeppelin (L.15) but normal bullets did nothing. He had to resort to dropping explosive darts, the Zeppelin managed to slipped away into the mist.


Since the opening of RFC Suttons Farm, for nearly a year, nobody was able to shoot down a Zeppelin.


2nd/3rd Sept 1916.

Lieutenant William LeefeRobinson, shot down the German Army Airship SL.11 (Schutte-Lanz 11) with machine guns using the new 

explosive rounds. The airship crashed in Cuffley, Hertfordshire.


3rd Sept 1916.

The SL.11 was the first enemy aircraft to be downed over British soil. People as far as Staines and Southend could see the airship

go down, this made William Leefe Robinson a hero over night.


5th Sept 1916.

Lieutenant William Leefe Robinson was awarded the Victoria Cross(he was the only Hornchurch pilot to be so honoured whilst serving there).


23rd/24th Sept 1916. 

Zeppelin L.32 was dropping bombs on Averly, Purfleet and Hornchurch. One of the bombs appeared to hit the runway at Suttons Farm.  Lieutenant Frederick Sowery shot down the zeppelin as it turned for home. The Zeppelin crashed near Billericay, Essex.


1st/2nd Oct 1916.

Lieutenant Wulstan Tempest shot down Zeppelin L.31, even though his fuel pump had failed and he had to crank the fuel by hand whilst flying the plane and firing his guns.  The Zeppelin came down near Potters Bar.


June 1917.

The squadrons aircraft - BE2c and BE12 were replaced with faster planes. The new aircraft included - Sopwith 1½ Strutter, Sopwith Pup,

FE2, F2b Bristol Fighter and SE5a.


In 1918.

The squadron received more aircraft.  The Sopwith Camel and the Sopwith Snipe.


11  Nov 1918.

War Ends. By the conclusion of hostilities, there were over 300 men and 24 women based at Suttons Farm supporting three squadrons

of aircraft (78 Squadron, 141 Squadron and 189 Night Training Squadron). A far cry from the three pilots and six ground crew of late 1915.


During the three years the station was active, only two pilots based at RFC Suttons Farm were killed (both in accidents) and an observer and gunner injured in combat.


31st Mar 1919.

The 189 Night Training Squadron was disbanded.


31st Dec 1919.

78 Squadron was disbanded.


31st Dec 1919.

The requirement for an airfield at Suttons Farm was called into question. RFC Suttons Farm was closed, the landing ground was then

returned to agricultural use.

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