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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 and trains.

  • Other notable persons to have been based at Hornchurch have included Max Bygraves and Ronnie Corbett.

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