London Biggin Hill Airport - History and Facts | History Hit

London Biggin Hill Airport

Biggin Hill, Bromley, Kent, England, United Kingdom

Amy Irvine

24 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About London Biggin Hill Airport

London Biggin Hill Airport was formerly a Royal Air Force station, RAF Biggin Hill, best-known for its role during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War when it served as one of the principal fighter bases protecting London and South East England from attack by German Luftwaffe bombers.

History of London Biggin Hill Airport

Biggin Hill airfield was originally opened by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) during the First World War, originally to conduct wireless experiments in 1916 but in 1917 the RFC transferred there and established it as part of the London Air Defence Area. Nearby grounds were also requisitioned for use as a radio transmitter and fighter ground control station. The station was responsible for defending the capital against attacks by Zeppelins and Gotha bombers.

The aerodrome was extended after the end of World War One and used by a number of experimental units, working on instrument design, ground-based anti-aircraft defences, and night flying – closing briefly for reconstruction and expanstion work.

Britain launched its Home Defence Force in May 1936 with Biggin Hill coming under Fighter Command. Biggin Hill was so successful in establishing ground-to-air and air-to-air communication, it was seen as the perfect place to continue important work developing radar.

During the Second World War the airfield was one of the commanding bases for the Battle of Britain, with Spitfires and Hurricanes from a variety of squadrons based there. Over the course of the war, fighters based at Biggin Hill claimed 1,400 enemy aircraft, at the cost of the lives of 453 Biggin Hill based aircrew.

Due to its importance to London’s defence, the airfield itself became a target, and was attacked 12 times between August 1940 and January 1941. The worst attack killed 39 people. Despite the heavy damage the Luftwaffe inflicted on it, Biggin Hill remained operational throughout the Battle of Britain.

After the war, Biggin Hill was briefly used by the RAF’s Transport Command, then became a base for regular and reserve fighter squadrons, flying Spitfires, Meteors and Hunters. In 1958 Biggin Hill became the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre for the RAF, ceasing to be an operational RAF station.

From 1956, much of the civilian light aviation from the London Airport at Croydon relocated to Biggin, making Biggin Hill a joint civilian and military airport, though mainly civilian as only occasional military flying took place from then on.

London Biggin Hill Airport today

The RAF left Biggin Hill in 1992, when its Selection Centre moved to RAF Cranwell, though a small enclave on the airport still retains that designation.

Today, the RAF’s 75 year presence there – and the 454 allied aircrew who gave their lifes in the Second World War on operations from the Biggin Hill Sector – are commemorated in St George’s Royal Air Force Chapel of Remembrance, whose entrance is flanked by full-scale replicas of a Hurricane and Spitfire. Special commemorative services are held on Battle of Britain Sunday and Remembrance Sunday. The Chapel is open daily from 10-4pm and visitors are welcome.

In January 2019, the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum opened, on the same site of the chapel. The museum tells the story of Britain’s most famous fighter station through the personal experiences of those who served there and the community that supported them. It also holds regular exhibitions, talks and learning events for both adults and children. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm throughout the year.

Biggin Hill airport itself is now a dedicated business aviation airport and boasts a collection of thriving lightplane clubs and charter companies.

Getting to London Biggin Hill Airport

Biggin Hill airport is in the London Borough of Bromley, located 14 miles south-southeast of Central London. If travelling by car, take the A233 off the M25 motorway. Alternatively, Biggin Hill is a 20 minute drive (8.6 miles) from Croydon, via the A212.