RAF Northolt to open its doors to the pub­lic

Tick­ets will go on sale soon for sum­mer’s NORFEST

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Alexan­der Ballinger alexan­der.ballinger@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

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

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