Southend Timeline

Bringing Your Memories Back to Life

1915-1934: The First World War

Monday 31st May 1915: The first recorded operational sortie out of the airfield.
Sub Lieutenant A.W Robertson of the Royal Naval Air Station had been tasked to fly a mission to attack the German Zeppelin LZ38. Who was flying a Bleriot monoplane was unfortunately forced to make an emergency landing on near by Leigh mashies due to engine failure.
The airship LZ38 was destroyed in an Air Raid on 7th June 1915 in side its hanger in Evere Brussels.

May 1915:  Southend's first real air-raid came when in the early hours one morning a Zeppelin flew over the town dropping a number of bombs. Attached to one was a note that read, "You English we have come and will come again soon, Kill or Cure". The Zeppelins did return 11 days later killing two people in Leigh.

1916:  37 Squadron moved on to the airfield and begin night training with their Be2 aircraft.

March 1916:  After numerous raids on the town zeppelin L15 was bought down during the night, the airship came down in to the estuary just east of the pier.

Friday 31st March 1916 – Saturday 1st April 1916:  Night operations include BE2c 1164 flown by Sub Lieutenant G L F Stevens returns at 02:41 after uneventful night sortie, Be2 1189 flown by Sub Lieutenant E P Hicks takes over.

Sunday 2nd April – Monday 3rd April 1916:  Night operations include Be2c 1164 night sortie from 11:55pm, Be2 2526 & Be2 8610.

Wednesday 26th April 1916:  The last Royal Navy Air Station flight, as control of the airfield is handed over to the Royal Flying Corps.

Wednesday 31st May 1916: Aircraft from the airfield scramble to intercept a Zeppelin but fail to find the intruder.

June 1916:  The airfield building programme is begun.

Sunday 4th June 1916:  RFC Rochford Home Defence Night Landing Ground.

Friday 15th September 1916:  RFC Rochford became Flight Station (Night) 1st Class Category, a flight of  No37 Home Defence Squadron of the 50th Wing Southeast Division with Be2s & BE12s arrive.

Tuesday 28th November 1916:  Day time operation include No37squadron Be2 on sortie between 1:45pm—3:25pm.

January 1917:  11 Reserve Night Training Squadron arrived.

February 1917: 11 reserve Night Training Squadron changed name to 98Dept Squadron and reequip with Avro 504s and Sopwith camels.

Thursday 1st March 1917:  No37 squadron make two sorties during the day.

Friday 16th March 1917: One sortie carried out by 37Squadron.

Friday 16th—--Saturday 17th March 1917:  Night sorties by 37Squadronn ‘B’ flight Be2 6820 Capt K N Pearson 10:41pm—00:01am, Be2 5877 Lieutenant Carpenter 00:25am—01:40am, Be2 Lieutenant Ransome 01:10am—02:25am.

June 1917: No99 Dept Squadron arrived.

Friday 1st June 1917: 198 Squadron formed as an Elementary Night Flying Unit with Avro 504’s.

Sunday 24th June 1917: 61 Squadron formed as Home Defence Unit with Sopwith Pups.

July 1917: No99 Dept Squadron departed.

Thursday 2nd August 1917: 61 Squadron formed at RAF Rochford with Sopwith Pups A653, A6243, B735, B1771, B1801 (6), B2159.

Sunday 12th August 1917: 61 Squadron intercepted German Gotha bomber over the Southend area. When the German air raids switch to night raids in January 1918 the squadron change aircraft to the SE5a's comprising of : B658, B679, C5338, C8711, C9486, D239, D3459 they later change to the Sopwith Camels.

Sunday 12th August 1917: RAF Rochford Bombed the resident fighters intercept 10 Gotha’s 40 miles out to sea but fail to shoot any down.

Monday 20th August 1917: The Slaughter of Innocence
Thousands of day-trippers and holiday-makers were returning home after enjoying a hot lazy day out by the sea, the residents of the town were out doing their shopping and also enjoying the weather when. 20 German aircraft started circling the town, and for the next 15 minutes all hell was let lose. The aircraft started dropping aerial torpedoes on the crowds making their way home; the torpedoes exploding at their feet as they ran for cover. By the time the bombs had stopped raining down 32 people lay dead many of them children a further 43 were very seriously wounded. The attack that was concentrated mainly on the centre & eastern areas of the town was the most brutal of the war but by no means the only attack. Southend was on the flight path to London, the Gothas didn't carry any navigation aids so the pilots had to use a couple of compasses to find the Thames then follow it to London. If the Ack-Ack guns protecting London forced the raiders to turn back they would quite often drop them on Southeast Essex a lot of the time on Southend.

September 1917: 190 Dept Squadron formed on site.

October 1917: 198 Dept Squadron changed to 190 Night Training Squadron.

December 1917: 198 Night Training Squadron.

Thursday 6th December 1917: Gotha crash landing
A group of German Gotha Biplanes were spotted over the estuary. The Ack-Ack guns at Canvey hit one of the aircraft, the aircraft pulled away and headed for the airfield. The Gotha crash-landed on Rochford golf course next to the airfield; the crew survived the crash and was quickly taken prisoner. It was whilst the RAF crews who were based at Rochford were examining the damaged aircraft that one of them picked up a very pistol not realising it was loaded he accidentally let it off. The petrol soaked aircraft was immediately engulfed in flames and by morning only a charred twisted frame was left.

January 1918: A captured German Albatross fly’s in the airfield from France.

January 1918:  ‘A’ flight of 61 Squadron formed.

Tuesday 1st January 1918: 141 Squadron formed with Bristol F2b’s

Saturday 2nd February 1918: 141 Squadron moved to Biggin Hill.

Wednesday 13th February 1918:  ‘A’ flight of 61 Squadron departed.

March 1918: 190Night Training Squadron Departed.

Thursday 7th March 1918: Captain H C Stroud of 61 Squadron (SE5a) and Capt A B Kynoch of 37 Squadron (BE12 Stow Maries) killed in midair collision over Shotgate.

Monday 1st April 1918: That year the RNAS & RFC merged to become the RAF, in June the Night Fighter Squadron 37 moved out.

Saturday 10th May 1919: Handley Page 0/400 drops newspapers by parachute off the which are then collected by boat and taken ashore.

June 1919: Gotha bomber exhibited in the Sunken Gardens (now Adventure Island) on Western Esplanade.

Tuesday 1st October 1918: No152 Night Fighter Unit formed and moved to France the same month.

October 1918:  Night Training Station Rochford.

Friday 13th June 1919: 61 Squadron dispended.

September 1919: 199 squadron disbanded,

September 1919: 198 Squadron disbanded.

Thursday 4th December 1919: The last RAF flight of The Great War
The last flight saw flew out of the airfield was when Lieutenant Bromfield flew a Bristol Fighter (E2581 on display at Imperial War Museum Lambeth) The site of the airfield reverted back to farming during 1933-1935. In stead flying was carried out at Holt Farm Rochford, this site located just to the north of the airport it was used whilst the current site was upgraded, after the First World War.

1920: Airfield closed.

1923: The Seaplane & Pleasure Trip Company launches service with Superannuated Shorts aircraft.

1929: Surrey Flying Services launches service from Shoebury common using an Avro Bi-plane.

Friday 14th & Saturday 15th April 1933:  Alan Cobham’s National Aviation Day came to Southend.

Tuesday 22nd August 1933: Alan Cobham’s National Aviation Day came to Southend.

Monday 28th August 1934: Alan Cobham’s National Aviation Day came to Southend.

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