Summer of 1916
Operational flying first began at North Weald Airfield in 1916, with more than 50 squadrons from seven nations flying from this historic airfield over 100 years. North Weald Airfield was established as a Night Landing Ground for 39 (Home Defence) Squadron in the summer of 1916 during the First World War to combat the Zeppelin airship raids.
In April 1918 the Royal Flying Corps merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force. By then North Weald was a Home Defence Flight Station. Major A T Harris was Commanding Officer of 44 Squadron which disbanded here in 1919. With the immediate threat of war over, North Weald Airfield was put under care and management, becoming largely inactive.
Reopening in 1927, as the threat of a future war was recognised, North Weald Airfield became base of 56 Squadron, one of the most distinguished units of the RAF, once again becoming a front-line fighter station.
56 Squadron became the community and heritage of the district and by 1939 it was equipped with new hawker hurricane fighters to which North Weald has become most closely associated with.
These hurricanes covered the retreat from Dunkirk and were among the first committed to what has now become known as the Battle of Britain.
56 Squadron went on to operate from the airfield for 13 years.
Today visitors entering the airfield are reminded of this period by a replica of a hawker hurricane in 56 squadron markings. Which has come to represent the spirit of North Weald.