An ambitious project to preserve the history of Kenley’s Battle of Britain airfield and make its history available for the digital world has been granted £881,000 from the Lottery Heritage Fund.
Kenley was part of London’s front-line of defence in what Churchill called “their finest hour”, 75 years ago in the summer and autumn of 1940, when the only thing between Britain and the Nazi invasion was the English Channel and “The Few”, the fighter pilots of the Royal Air Force’s Spitfires and Hurricanes.
On August 18, 1940, Kenley suffered its worst Luftwaffe attack, when nine people were killed and a dozen aircraft, 10 of them Hurricanes, destroyed and the runway badly cratered.
Croydon Aerodrome and Biggin Hill were other notable local RAF stations during the Battle of Britain, but Kenley is possibly the last remaining capable of being preserved close to the state it was in 1940.
“Kenley Common is an incredible example of outer London’s heritage,” said Stuart Hobley, of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Hobley called it “an important local story of ordinary lives making an extraordinary contribution for the whole country”.
Kenley had served as an air force base from 1917 until 1959.
The HLF grant follows more than four years’ work by volunteers of the Kenley Airfields Friends Group on what’s called the Kenley Revival Project.
It aims to preserve the surviving blast pens, which were used to protect fighter planes on the ground from bomber raids, and other surviving World War II buildings, while creating a heritage trail for visitors and an online archive of the base’s history.
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