RAF Kenley

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The former Royal Air Force Station Kenley, more commonly known as RAF Kenley (now known as Kenley Aerodrome) was a station of the Royal Flying Corps in World War I and the RAF in World War II. It is located near Kenley, London, England.



Its active phase commenced in 1917, and ceased in 1959 when RAF Fighter Command left the aerodrome. The airfield at Kenley now hosts 615 Volunteer Gliding Squadron (VGS), a Royal Air Force gliding squadron of the Air Cadet Organisation.

During World War II RAF Kenley was one of the three main fighter stations, which was, together with Croydon and Biggin Hill, responsible for the air defence of London. It was during the crucial days of the Battle of Britain that all three RAF stations came into their own, fighting off the overwhelming might of the German Luftwaffe.

RAF Kenley suffered its worst damage in an attack on 18 August 1940. While 15 September is considered by many to be the climax of the Battle of Britain, 18 August is often cited as the costliest or hardest day — the British lost 68 aircraft and the Germans lost 69. At Kenley, all ten hangars and twelve aircraft, including ten Hurricanes, were destroyed and the runways badly cratered. The Sector Operations Room had to be moved to an emergency location away from the airfield.

Hammond Innes' book Attack Alarm, published in 1941, was based on his experiences as a Royal Artillery anti-aircraft gunner at RAF Kenley during the Battle of Britain. Innes' novels are marked by attention to accurate detail, and the book contains graphic descriptions of the station and attacks on it in 1940.

The pilots

Many famous pilots are connected or served at Kenley, including the famous South Africans 'Sailor' Malan, Group Captain P.H. 'Dutch' Hugo, C.W.A. Scott (winner of the MacRobertson Air Race) who served there with No. 32 Squadron RAF from 1923 to 1926, and the British ace JE "Johnnie" Johnson, later Air Vice-Marshal, who took over the Canadian wing at Kenley in 1943.

Film location

The aerodrome was used as a location in the following films: Angels One Five (1952) and Reach for the Sky (1956), the latter about Douglas Bader who was posted to RAF Kenley in 1930 No. 23 Squadron RAF shortly before his accident in 1931.[citation needed]

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