Battle of Britain heroes to be remembered at Kenley

A Spitfire re-enactment at Kenley airfield will see the Battle of Britain remembered next month. Photograph: Clive Totman

Kenley aerodrome, the most intact RAF fighter airfield remaining from World War II, will be returned to its former glory for a free and spectacular Sky Heroes event on Sunday September 10, showcasing the site’s important Battle of Britain history and centenary.

The event is part of the Kenley Revival Project. The project, which is a partnership between the City of London Corporation, Kenley Airfield Friends Group, Historic England and made possible thanks to support from National Lottery players, aims to preserve and protect the heritage of the airfield, which played an important role in defending Britain from the German Luftwaffe at a key part of World War II in 1940. As the UK’s most complete surviving Battle of Britain fighter airfield, it gives a direct and tangible link to the UK’s aviation past.

RAF Kenley was one of the three main fighter stations (the others being Croydon and Biggin Hill) responsible for the air defence of London.

During the Battle of Britain, these three RAF stations became prominent because of their role in defending London against German bombers.

Sky Heroes is free to attend and will bring Kenley’s Battle of Britain history to life with guided tours, museum and archaeology stands and pilot re-enactors including replica Spitfire and Hurricane fighter planes where visitors can sit in the cockpit and have their photo taken.

For those who want to connect with science and nature or become the next Howard Carter, the world-famous British archaeologist, there will be fun activities around the archaeology of the area. And for Winston Churchill fans, it’s an opportunity to explore the airfield where he learned to fly.

The day also includes fascinating Battle of Britain memorabilia housed in the historic Portcullis Club, the meeting place for the Kenley and Caterham branch of the Royal Air Forces Association.

The re-enactment day will show many elements of World War II history

There will be two land trains operating a hop-on hop-off service around the airfield to help explore the site.

Limited free grass parking is available on site and a free shuttle bus service will be operating from nearby railway stations.

Philip Woodhouse, the chairman of the City of London Corporation’s City Commons Committee, said: “We are re-connecting people with RAF Kenley’s important history and linking the generations to record the story of RAF Kenley so that the memories are preserved forever.

“This is going to be a spectacular event celebrating Kenley Airfield’s rich aviation heritage and undeniable contribution towards the victory for the British armed forces during World War II.”

And Alan Morgan, the chairman of the Kenley Airfield Friends Group, said: “Kenley is by far the most complete surviving Battle of Britain fighter station. Sky Heroes will commemorate and celebrate the vital role it played in winning the Battle of Britain and saving this island from invasion.

“With plenty of varied attractions and things to do – including the chance to sit in a Spitfire and a Hurricane – there’ll be lots for all the family to enjoy.”

Accurate models of World War II aircraft will be on show throughout the day

Jane Sidell, the inspector of Ancient Monuments for Historic England said: “Historic England is incredibly pleased to have been a part of this important project, conserving RAF Kenley Airfield for local people and visitors to enjoy.

“England is rich in history but it’s only recently that we’ve begun to fully appreciate the importance of these kinds of military sites in our national story. The site is a physical reminder of the dramatic and tragic events of the war years. By conserving the site, we help to commemorate the lives lost in the defence of the country.”

The City of London Corporation and its partners in the Kenley Revival Project have secured £880,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Together with money raised by Kenley Airfield Friends Group and others, the total funding amounts to over £1.1million.

The City of London Corporation manages the adjoining Kenley Common, and more than 11,000 acres of green space in London and south-east England. Its green spaces, which include Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest, are run at little or no cost to the communities that they serve. They are funded by more than £29million a year from the City of London Corporation, together with donations, sponsorship, grants and income generated on site.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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