First Things First
was the motto given to RAF Hornchurch. And rightly so, for
the aviators, air craft, ground crews and women auxiliaries
who were based at Hornchurch were in the first line of defence
against aerial attack from Continental Europe in two World
Wars. Hornchurch flyers and aircraft also scored some very
famous (and also one, alas, infamous) firsts in aerial combat.
In addition Hornchurch has been host to an august roll call
of famous aviators and aircraft types. These have included:
In World War I: Lieutenants William Leefe Robinson,
Wulstan Tempest and Frederick Sowrey truly flew by the
seat of their pants in the BE2c, a plane made of wood
and canvas, to take on the Dread Zeppelin threat.
Between the wars Air Chief Marshall Keith Park, later
the commander of embattled 11 Group during the Battle
of Britain and Frank Whittle the father of British jet
design both flew from Hornchurch.
During the early years of World War II Hornchurch reverberated
with the growl of Rolls Royce Merlin Engines as Spitfires
were flown, into some of the hottest aerial fights in
history over the beaches of Dunkirk and during the Battle
of Britain, by the likes of Adolph “Sailor”
Malan, Douglas Bader, Alan Deere and James “Prof”
Leatheart to name but four of those glorious few.
As the tide of World War II changed the Hornchurch Spitfires
took the fight into the skies over France and Holland
escorting Allied bomber formations and sweeping on hunter
killer missions to strafe German airfields, troop convoys
Other notable persons to have been based at Hornchurch
have included Max Bygraves and Ronnie Corbett.