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GRAVESEND AIRFIELD

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  RAF GRAVESEND
DESCRIPTION + /

The site of a former civil airport and military airfield, much if which now built over. The site was initially a civil airport, established in 1932, run by Gravesend Aviation. In 1937 it was taken over by Essex Aero and the Royal Air Force, who used it as a Flying training School until 1939 when the whole airfield was requisitioned and allotted to 11 Group Fighter Command. This group was in the forefront of the Battle of Britain in 1940. At the start of the war accomodation and facilities were split between three sites: Cobham Hall (officers mess), the control tower (for pilots), and the "Laughing waters restaurant" (for groundcrews). Air phtos taken in 1942 show ground defences including pillboxes and a line of barbed wire encirling the site. Later in the war the base was expanded for use by three American fighter squadrons, and as an emergencey runway for bombers returning from action over occupied Europe. A perimeter road defined the original and extended layout of the airfield. Although the main landing surfaces remained grass, by 1944 it had 30 hard standings, eight blister aircraft hangars, and one type T1 aircraft hangar. After the war the flying field returned to civillian use; the RAF left officially in 1956 and much of the site was built over with houses, sports ground and golf course. Part of the perimeter road on the southern side of the airfield still survives. RAF Gravesend was mapped from aerial photographs as part of the English Heritage: Hoo Peninsula Landscape Project.

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