Hillingdon’s RAF Northolt celebrating 107 years of service

Celebrating 107 years of service in May, RAF Northolt has a rich and proud history from both World Wars to becoming the busiest airport in Europe.

RAF Northolt, is the oldest Royal Air Force base in the United Kingdom even predating the formation of the RAF itself.

Looking back to 1915, the height of the First World War and the flat areas around Ruislip were being used for the first flights across the English Channel from the UK.

The airbase was expanded to allow flights to counter the Zeppelin raids of London by Germany and the Axis.

Situated North-East of Northolt and at junction 16 of the M40, the airfield was the first to take delivery of the Kingston-made and designed Hawker Hurricane in World War Two.

During the Battle of Britain, the base was crucial in the brave efforts to repel the Nazi’s homing many RAF squadrons including the revered No. 303 Polish Squadron, the most successful fighter command in the Battle of Britain shooting down 128 German planes in just 42 days.

Polish War Memorial at RAF Northolt
LESS WE FORGET! The Polish War Memorial at RAF Northolt. Copyright Roger Davis and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

RAF Northolt was also the first base to have serving squadrons of Supermarine Spitfires within German Airspace towards the end of the war.

Following Victory in Europe and whilst Heathrow Airport was being built, RAF Northolt welcomed commercial flights in and out of the UK, becoming Europe’s busiest airport for a period of time.

In 1952, the airfield saw 50,000 air movements making it the busiest, whilst the RAF still maintained a presence through its own civil airlines.

It became a major base for British European Airways, with their headquarters nearby until 1954 when works at the London Airport, now Heathrow, were finished and was fully operational.

More recently the Queen’s Colour Squadron, at the time based at RAF Uxbridge, acted as the bearers for the body of Diana, Princess of Wales when the aircraft carrying her landed at Northolt in 1997.

During the 2012 London Olympics, Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft were flown from Northolt in order to maintain air superiority and to provide security for London alongside other measures.

The base is still active today and houses the The Royal Squadron, The Queen’s Colour Squadron, the City of London Squadron, the No. Aeronautical Information Documents Unit, The historical Airbranch and the Central Band of the RAF.

Feature Image: Credit Harrison49 under Creative Commons Licence Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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