1947 – 1962
In 1947 RAF Hornchurch became a training establishment with
the establishment of the Aviation Candidate Selection Board,
the Officers Advance Training School and the Recruits Advanced
Drill Unit. Flying continued from the air field with the 86th
Reserve Centre providing refresher training for de mobilised
airmen. In 1948, the training establishment was extended with
the formation of the Combined Selection Centre which ran aptitude,
intelligence and medical tests for air crew selection. This
was renamed the Air Crew Selection Centre in 1952.
In 1949 the demolition of the air fields facilities began
with the dismantling of the 12 Blister Hangers. The same year,
however, also marked 30 years of the RAF at Hornchurch which
meant that a station badge could be awarded.
With increasing industrial discontent and the onset of a
series of dockers strikes RAF Hornchurch became a mobilisation
depot for service personnel who were to cover for the striking
dockers in what was to be called Operation Homeland. Further
strikes by dockers, power workers and cold storage workers
saw similar preparations being made in 1950. In 1953 RAF Hornchurch
was again mobilised as a centre for servicemen and women tasked
with providing much needed relief and medical aid to thousands
of people affected by or made homeless by the great east Coast
floods of that year.
Throughout the immediate post war period RAF Hornchurch once
again played host to impressive open days and air displays.
The At Home Air Displays of 1951 and 1952 both attracted massive
crowds that at 40,000 in 1952 rivalled the gate of the famous
Empire Air Days of the pre war period.
The RAF presence at Hornchurch was, however, steadily cut
back during the 1950's as large parts of the aerodrome were
moth balled only to be reopened as emergency depots when required.
By 1960 even theAir Crew Selection centre was beginning to
see a drop in the numbers passing through and the final death
knell for RAF Hornchurch was sounded when it was announced
that a purpose built Air Crew Selection centre was to be opened
at RAF Hornchurch's great pre war and war time rival Biggin
On 9th April 1962 RAF Hornchurch passed into the history
books. Within a year the site had been sold for storage and
gravel extraction. Most of the airfield facilities and structures
were demolished by 1966 and in the 1970's extensive gravel
quarrying tore up the old flightways and technical areas.
The memory of RAF Hornchurch, it's glorious history and the
famous pilots who flew from it in two world Wars has not,
and should never be forgotten. Much of the old airfield area
is now a housing estate but it is an estate with street names
that are redolent with a glorious past and connection with
the RAF. Wander through these streets and you will find streets
named in honour of the Zeppelin Busters Leefe Robinson, Tempest
and Sowrey of World War I and the many Spitfire Aces such
as Al Deere, Rob Stanford Tuck and Eric Lock of World War
II. Parts of the old airfield can still be seen in the island
of tranquillity that is now Hornchurch Country Park.
If you visit this place remember that this place once throbbed
with the powerful roar of Merlin engined Spitfires flown by
brave young men, many barely out of school. Remember this
but also take a moment to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice
that many of them made to help fashion the world that we now