RAF Northolt to open its doors to the public
Tickets will go on sale soon for summer’s NORFEST
RAF Northolt is one of Hillingdon’s most significant landmarks and has a rich and colourful history in the borough.
While not everyone in the area is ecstatic about the presence of a working RAF base near their home, the airfield has helped define the area since it became operational in 1915.
The base will now be welcoming the public onto its runways for another of its famous open days, called NORFEST, taking place on Saturday July 22.
RAF Northolt last held an event similar to this in 2015 to mark 100 years since it opened, and it was attended by 11,000 keen guests.
Project officer for the event, Wing Commander Gaz Littlechild, said: “The thought behind the day is for the station to host an entertaining day out for the whole family and give something back to everyone who supports us at RAF Northolt; families, local communities, local councils, businesses and societies.
“There will be plenty of military stands on show, but we encourage and welcome local community groups to get their group, club or society stands involved and on display.
“We are working with the local councils and civil agencies that are part of the fabric of our communities and that make Ealing, Harrow and Hillingdon boroughs such exciting and includes places to live and work.”
There range will be a whole of family entertainment, food courts, and static aircraft displays.
Stands and ground displays will also be set up, including the 32 (The Royal) Squadron’s aircraft, the Queen’s Colour Squadron, Royal Air Force Bands and working dog teams.
Tickets are expected to go on sale next month, with 7,500 expected to be made available.
The station is actually older than the Royal Air Force itself, as it was established in March 1915, while the RAF was not formed until the end of the First World War in 1918.
RAF Northolt became operational in June 1915 and BE2C aircraft began flying defensive patrols against the German Zeppelin raids carried out across the capital.
The officers mess, built around 1920, is still in use today along with one of the hangars and several of the blocks of barracks dating from the 1920s to the 1930s.
Northolt was the first station to fly the Hawker Hurricane aircraft – a singleseat fighter plane used in the Second World War.
During the Battle of Britain in 1940, the station was home to Hurricane and Spitfire Squadrons, including the legendary No 303 Polish Squadron.
The RAF were at first hesitant to let the Poles fly as few spoke English and there were concerns about their morale, but it turned out that many were excellent pilots and had in many cases seen more action than their British counterparts.
As a pilot shortage escalated during the Battle of Britain, two Polish fighter units were set up – Nos. 302 and 303.
The 303 was the most successful Fighter Command unit in the battle, shooting down 126 German planes in just 42 days.
Maverick Czech pilot Sergeant Josef Frantisek, an “honorary Pole”, was the top scoring pilot during the battle with 17 victories.
In 1946, the airfield was used for civil purposes while Heathrow Airport was under construction and Northolt became the busiest airfield in Europe, with 50,000 flights a year.
In 2008, the £320m MoDEL (Ministry of Defence Estates London) project involved the closure of RAF Bentley Prior and RAF Uxbridge and the consolidation of most of their units into Northolt.
By 2010 the RAF Central Band, the Queen’s Colour Squadron, the Service Prosecution Authority, the Military Aviation Authority and various other smaller units had all moved into new or refurbished facilities at Northolt.
In 2012 RAF Northolt was the forward base for Typhoon fast jets and Royal Navy helicopters which provided air security for the 2012 Olympic Games.
CELEBRATION: An open day at RAF Northolt in 2015