Forgotten Langley Airfield … and its pivotal role in World War II

That there may once have been an runway, albeit a grass airstrip, and a huge aerodrome at Langley are facts that have long been consigned to the history books – along with an important chapter in the development of aviation.

"If the Hurricane hadn't been manufactured in Langley we would not have won the Battle of Britain"

“If the Hurricane hadn’t been manufactured in Langley we would not have won the Battle of Britain”

The 1951 map below shows the principal runway at Langley and the extent of the land held by the Ministry of Supply.  Notes the “1,400 yards grass strip” along with the two other runways not in general use.

Superimpose the plan over a map of modern day Langley and Richings Park and you get a better feel for an altogether different time when much of Langley had not yet been built, there was no M4, and the smattering of houses at Brands Hill would have had excellent views of take-offs and landings.

Then ...

Then …

... and now

… and now

Originally built in 1937 for construction of the Hurricane in 1937, Langley Airfield was also where the Tornado, Typhoon, Tempest and Fury were developed and first flown.

It was operated by the Hawker Aircraft Co until 1956 and most of the site was taken over by the Ford Motor Company which operated there until the 1990s.  The 1951 map shows that part of the Hawker factory (on the SE side of the airfield) had already been leased to Ford. It also notes that the Homewood Park Site (now part of Richings Park Golf Course) had been allocated to the USAAF (US Army Air Force) “for storage purposes”.

Langley Plan

At one point the British South American Airlines (BSAA) company flew commercial planes from Langley.

If the Hurricane hadn’t been manufactured in Langley we would not have won the Battle of Britain as simple as that, and transatlantic travel would have taken many more years to be established.

Local historian Pete Trafford told the Slough Express in 2013 that Langley Airfield had played a major part in the outcome of the Second World War and the development of post-war transatlantic commercial air travel.

 

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