A BRIEF HISTORY
HORNCHURCH AIRFIELD The Inter-war Years
31 Dec 1919.
RFC Suttons Farm closed. The Air Ministry decided that they no longer required the airfield and the land was returned to the farmer Tom Crawford. The land went back to its former use, growing crops.
By November 1922.
The Royal Air Force decided that they wanted to increase its force by 15 new Squadrons. As Suttons Farm was in an ideal place to protect London, they went to the Air Ministry to acquire the land. Tom Crawford refused to let the land be turned into an airfield again, they tried on numerous occasions to obtain the land but were always told they could not have the land. It was decided that the only way they would acquire the land was by compulsory acquisition, this was also found to be difficult as the history of the farm dated back to 1295. After a lot of negotiations some of the land could not be purchased, but left for the residence of Tom Crawford and another area of land on the western side was purchased. The Air Ministry now had enough land to start the construction of the airfield.
1 April 1928.
The new airfield opened. After the airfield opened the first squadron to occupy Suttons Farm was 111 Fighter Squadron which was commanded by Squadron Leader Keith Park.
Still known as Suttons Farm, the name was changed to RAF Hornchurch. 111 Fighter Squadron was equipped with the Armstrong Whitworth Siskin MkIIIa. and in January 1931, their planes were replaced with the Bristol Bulldog Mk.IIa.
111 Squadron was joined by 54 Fighter Squadron, equipped with the Siskin, they were upgraded to the Bulldog in April 1930.
In July 1934.
111 Fighter Squadron moved out of RAF Hornchurch, they were replaced by 65 Squadron. They were equipped with Hawker Demon converting to the Gloster Gauntlet in 1936 and the Gloster Gladiator in 1937.
74 Squadron joined the other squadrons at RAF Hornchurch. They were equipped with the same planes as 65 Squadron.
Around the same time Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding was reorganising the RAF and he visited Hornchurch to discuss how the Operations Room should be laid out, Also, weather Hornchurch could become a Sector Station and the station became a part of 11 Group.
The squadrons were starting to be equipped with Spitfires. With the possibility of war with Germany Looming, orders were given in August 1939 for all buildings on the station to be Camouflaged and the station to be manned at all times night and day. Group Captain Cyril Bouchier was appointed Station Commander and RAF Hornchurch was now in the early days of being a front line station in the Second World War.
Keith Park was promoted to Air Marshal and appointed the Group Commander of 11 Group during the Battle of Britain. Both during and after the Battle of Britain both he and Dowding came under much criticism for the way that they had organised their forces.