RAF North Weald in Essex began life as a RFC base in 1916. In the interwar years the airfield and facilities were expanded by the RAF, and by May 1940 it housed a squadron of Hurricanes, which saw action over Dunkirk. Bristol Blenheim night fighters were also stationed here. In 1941 one of the newly formed Eagle squadrons (manned by American volunteers) arrived at North Weald, and in the following year a Norwegian squadron was based here.
RAF North Weald was home to the North Weald Sector Operations Room in 11 Group.
One of the most famous – or rather notorious – actions in WW2 to involve North Weald was the ‘Battle of Barking Creek’ on only the third day of the War, when the Spitfire claimed its first ‘kill’ and the battle claimed first RAF airman to be killed in the War. The downed pilot came from North Weald, and the plane the Spitfire shot down was, unhappily, his Hurricane – a bad case of mistaken identity.
North Weald was targeted on numerous occasions by the Luftwaffe during the Battle. The first major raid took place on 24th August, when more than 200 bombs fell on the airfield, many were killed, and the Officers Mess and married Quarters were damaged.
The airfield was in the thick of the Battle. The two squadrons to be based here in the first phase of the battle, 56 and 151, took a terrible battering. 56 Squadron lost 11 aircraft in just five days and 151 was reduced to just ten Hurricanes. By the end of August both squadrons had to be withdrawn as non-operational due to the loss of pilots and machines. They were replaced on 1st September by 249, 46 and 25 squadrons. On 3 September, just as the planes were taking off, the Luftwaffe again bombed North Weald. Aircraft and hangars were destroyed and five people killed. However, throughout the Battle the airfield was never put out of action.
Although attacks abated as the Luftwaffe turned their attention to London, the airfield was hit again on 29th October, when six were killed.