About North Weald Airfield 1916 - 2019
A History of North Weald Airfield
Royal Flying Corps Station North Weald Bassett aerodrome was established in the summer of 1916 during the First World War by the Royal Flying Corps. Later it became Royal Air Force with effect from Monday 1 April 1918. Its military functions continued to develop during the interwar period, with the building of large hangars and accommodation for Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel. The airfield played an important part in the air defence strategy of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. Initially Hawker Hurricanes were deployed at the airfield, alongside Bristol Blenheim night fighters. The Hurricanes from North Weald saw action over the beaches of Dunkirk and played a key role in the Battle of Britain. In 1940, two American Eagle Squadrons moved into North Weald supplied with Spitfires. A couple of years later, Norwegian squadrons were reassigned to the airfield.
Following the war jet fighter squadrons were based at North Weald. The sight of Gloster Meteors and de Havilland Vampire fighters in the west Essex skies was commonplace from 1949. In the late 1940s and early 50’s an Air Training Corps gliding school also operated at North Weald on weekends, teaching cadets up to certificate A. Later the Essex Gliding Club was formed at North Weald and operated for many years until local airspace congestion forced a move to Ridgewell in North Essex.
The last front line combat unit, No. 111 Squadron RAF flying Hawker Hunters, the famous Black Arrows of 22 loop formation fame, left North Weald in 1958. In 1964 the RAF withdrew from the airfield completely. The airfield spent time in both British Army and Royal Navy hands for a short time until in 1979 North Weald became surplus to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) operational requirements and was sold to Epping Forest District Council.
Epping & North Weald Model Fling Club a History
It also hosts its own Model Flying Club and we are indebted to Mick Savage who has kindly provided this short history of Model Flying on North Weald Airfield:
Epping and North Weald Model Flying Club (E&NWMFC) is a long established model flying club, affiliated to the BMFA, based and flying on North Weald Airfield. Flying off a live airfield from a designated separate concrete runway we undertake all aspects of model RC flying as well as enjoying our purpose built clubhouse that includes a workshop and toilets all of which are a suitable distance from the flight line. Furthermore the Squadron bar and restaurant serving the full size fraternity and public is available for use by our members.
Weather permitting we fly seven days a week with various types of models ranging from helicopters to electric fixed wing, IC and turbines with members competent in all RC disciplines. These facilities have come about with the full cooperation, support and assistance of Epping District Council who remains the owners of the airfield. http://www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/index.php/out-and-about/north-weald-airfield
The history of the club began in the early 1970’s – approximately the time when the airfield was vacated by the MOD – when a few modellers would use the site on an ad hoc basis which at that time appeared to be abandoned. Inevitably by the mid 1970’s an ever increasing number of modellers started to fly there attracted by the superb long runways. From the onset a few modellers led by David Windrow were keen to organise everything and put the model flying into a proper club basis. This eventually involved long negotiations with Epping Council who had by then taken control of the airfield.
It must be emphasized that model flying had the full support of Epping Council in its endeavours helping to ensure the airfield’s availability for sporting and recreational use, particularly sports and hobbies requiring large air and ground spaces, this was in conjunction with developing the operation of full size aircraft. It became apparent that if model flying was to be undertaken on a permanent basis the council was keen that it embraced the widest possible catchment area of clubs. This in turn led to the original arrangement whereby a consortium of local clubs allowed its members the right to fly at North Weald under the umbrella of the Epping & North Weald MFC abiding by its organisation and rules etc.
While this arrangement was good in some aspects, for example staging truly massive model aircraft meetings it nevertheless had its downsides that included an administrative nightmare as well as a complete lack of club “feel”. By the early 1980’s the groundswell of opinion was calling for a dedicated club to be formed with the sole club right to fly model aircraft on the airfield. Again led by David Windrow and supported by some other members, long negotiations were held with the Council the outcome being that E&NW MFC was finally reformed with the sole right to fly model aircraft at North Weald.
We have always striven for – and achieved – an excellent working relationship with the Council and its staff which in turn has enabled generations of modellers to enjoy flying at the site. This included the sadly missed Ayrton Senna who was an active member when not racing in Formula 1.
As stated previously the club facilities are excellent and the buildings were renovated to a high standard by a team of volunteers led by club member Woody. Throughout the clubs history it has attracted various members who stood out and went on to help pioneer aspects of our hobby including air to air photography, very early gas turbine development, multi cylinder IC four stroke engines including numerous radials, very large models and much more.
Whilst this seems common place in our hobby today, back then it was cutting edge technology. Some even went further and flew (or attempted to) their own design full size flying machines.
The purpose of this Web Site is to keep you informed about developments and attractions at the Wings and Wheels Model Spectacular each year.