Southend Timeline

Bringing Your Memories Back to Life

1935-1946 The War Years


Wednesday 18th September 1935: Civil flying returned to Southend after the war, but it wasn't until this date that the airport was officially opened by Sir Phillip Sassoon who at the time was Under-Secretary of State for Air, he arrived at Southend in his DH85 Leopard Moth. The Airfield was operated for the council by the Southend Flying Club The early days of the airport were very prosperous with many pilots moving their aircraft in to Southend as well as airlines setting up a base at the airport. Regular services were set up flying to other parts of the country including Norwich & Portsmouth. An Hourly service serving Southend and Rochester was set up, this cost 5/-(25p) single, the service was actually run by Shorts Bros so that they could test fly their new Short Scion S.16.

Wednesday 22nd July 1936: C. W. A. Scot holds flying display.

Summer 1937: Southend was home to one of the first RAF Volunteer Reserve Squadrons.
This time saw the MOD set up two Auxiliary Air Force squadrons at Southend these were 602 Squadron (City of Glasgow) & 607 Sqn (County of Durham) they operated Hawker hinds and Demons, also established at the airfield was No34 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School, this was run by Air Hire Ltd with the DH Tiger Moth, in readiness for what lay a head. By the time the war started all civil flying out of Southend had ceased and it had now become RAF Rochford. Through out the war the airfield was at the forefront of all the bombing raids on London, as the German aircraft would fly straight up the River Thames and in to the hart of our Capital city. Nether the town of Southend nor the airfield escaped the attentions of the bombers during the war both being attacked on several occasions.

1938: Civil Air Guard set up in Southend.

Saturday 27th August 1938: Southend Flying Club At Home Display.

Sunday 1st January 1939: 34 Elementary & Royal Flying Training School formed flying Hawker Audax, De Havilland Tiger Moth, Hawker Hind and Avro Ansons.

Friday 11th August 1939: The 12 Spitfires of 54 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch.

Sunday 3rd September 1939: The Blackout starts.
The Southend Illuminations went out as did much of the county in the Blackout. It may have hid the towns but there was no hiding the Estuary like in the last war the German bombers followed it up to London. Those that were turned back went for their secondary targets the shipping in the Estuary which a lot of the time meant Southend would get hit. To counter this menace a large percentage of the UK's Ack-Ack guns were located in the local area. They were thickest in the Vange area, but they were also in every Southend Park, open space, along the Pier, on specially built forts in the Estuary and on ship's permanently moored in the estuary.

Tuesday 3rd October 1939: Elementary & Royal Flying Training School disbanded.

Monday 16th October 1939: 600 Squadron "City of London" equipped with Bristol Blenhiem’s arrived.

Friday 20th October 1939: 600 Squadron re-located to Hornchurch.

Sunday 22nd October 1939: 74 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfires Mk1a’s.

Saturday 28th October 1939: 54 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Sptfires Mk1a’s.

Sunday 29th October 1939: 74 Squadron departed to Hornchurch.

Friday 3rd November 1939: 54 Squadron departed to Hornchurch.

Friday 3rd November 1939: 74 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a’s.

Tuesday 14th November 1939: 74 Squadron departed to Hornchurch.

Friday 17th November 1939: Supermarine Spitfire Mk1’s of 54 Squadron arrived forming part of Fighter Commands Rochford Line, a flight of aircraft flying at 25.000 ft.

Friday 1st December 1939: 74 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfires Mk1a’s.

Saturday 2nd December 1939: 54 Squadron departed to Hornchurch.

Saturday 16th December 1939: 74 Squadron departed to Hornchurch.

Friday 29th December 1939: 54 Squadron departed to Hornchurch.

Friday 29th December 1939: 74 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a’'s.

Tuesday 16th January 1940: 54 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a’'s

Tuesday 13th February 1940: The first damage done by a Rochford based aircraft to a German, a 74 Squadron aircraft intercepted a HE111 over the Thames Estuary a few days later the squadron damaged a DO17 in the same area.

Wednesday 14th February 1940: 54 Squadron departed.

Wednesday 14th February 1940: 74 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a’s.

Saturday 23rd March 1940: 54 Squadron return with Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a’s

Saturday 23rd March 1940: 74 Squadron departed to Hornchurch.

Saturday 20th April 1940: 54 Squadron departed.

Saturday 20th April 1940: 74 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a’s.

Saturday 18th May 1940: Two German bombers attack Southend scoring direct hits on the Nore Yacht club wrecking it & destroying a Billet bordering the Airfield killing 10 soldiers.

Monday 27th May 1940: 74 Squadron departed to Leconfield, Yorkshire.

Monday 27th May 1940: 616 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a’s.

Thursday 6th June 1940: 616 Squadron departed to Hornchurch.

Thursday 6th June 1940: 74 Squadron arrived from Leconfield with Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a’s.

Tuesday 18th June 1940: RAF Rochford entered the record books, when Flt Lt Sailor Malan shot down an enemy aircraft at night thus becoming the first fighter pilot of a single seat fighter to do so.

Tuesday 25th June 1940: 54 Squadron returned from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a'’s.

Tuesday 25th June 1940: Flt Lt Sailor Malan in the record books again becoming the first pilot to down two enemy aircraft in one night.

Saturday 20th July 1940: RAF Rochford bombed.

Sunday 21st July 1940: Rochford based Spitfire 1, N3184 of 54Sqn was lost after engine failure during convoy patrol P/o J L Kemp bailed out safely in to water, he was picked up by a Royal Navy destroyer the aircraft was destroyed.

Wednesday 24th July 1940:  54 Squadron combat. 
Six Spitfires were tasked in the morning to attack a number of Dornier’s that were attacking a convoy in the Straits of Dover, however during the mission the squadron had to break up in to two groups one remaining over Dover the other returning to the Thames Estuary where another convoy was under attack, the two attackers were disrupted with the raiders retuning to Nazi occupied Europe with out any kills the RAF fighters also failed to get any kills. Later in the day "B" Flight intercepted a formation of Do215s off Dover they were able to break up the formation forcing them to jettison their bombs and turn back across the Channel later in the morning a second raid was forming up to attack the shipping in the Thames Estuary this time the attack was by 18 Dornier’s escorted by 40+ Bf109s. The Spitfires of 54 Squadron were joined by those of the Hornchurch based 65 Squadron a successful intercept of the bombers forced them to jettison their loads failing to hit any of the shipping in the Estuary, the Gravesend based 610 Squadron had been scrambled to intercept the fleeing bombers with the Messchermitt Bf109’s covering the bombers a dog fighter broke out however the German fighters were soon to run low on fuel, during the combat action three of the German bombers were shot down for the loss of a 54 Squadron Spitfire flown by Flying Officer Johnny Allen, as the fighting moved across the Kent countryside and out towards Dover four Bf109s were downed.

Wednesday 24th July 1940: Rochford Based Supermarine Spitfire 1 P9389 of 54Sqn made an emergency landing at Rochford after combat damage with a Do17 engaged in an attack on a convoy off Dover the Pilot P/o A Finnie was unhurt.

Wednesday 24th July 1940:  Supermarine Spitfire 1 P9549 54Sqn returned to Rochford damaged in combat over Dover.

Wednesday 24th July 1940: Supermarine Spitfire 1 R6812 54sqn suffered damage to engine during combat with Bf109s the aircraft diverted to Manston but stalled on approach crashing at Clifftonville F/o J L Allen was killed.

Wednesday 24th July 1940:  Supermarine Spitfire 1 R6710 of 54Sqn damaged by Bf109s returned to Rochford with cockpit canopy shattered P/o H K F Matthew unhurt aircraft repairable.

Wednesday 24th July 1940:  Supermarine Spitfire N3192 Ran out of fuel during a chase and forced landed at Sizewell pilot safe aircraft written off.

Wednesday 24th July 1940: After a busy day 54 Squadron left for Hornchurch.

Friday 26th July 1940:  RAF Rochford bombed at night by Do17s.

Wednesday 31st July 1940: RAF Rochford bombed.

Monday 26th August 1940: RAF Rochford Bombed.

Monday 26th August 1940: Dornier Do17 crash landing.
Donier Do17 Z-3 of 2/kg2 (U5+LK)was attacked by Flt, Lt Saunders of 65 Sqn the German bomber sustained damage and started to lose height, the bomber made a wheels up landing on the airfield and remained intact after the crash landing, the aircraft was of great interest to the war office who dispatched a recovery team with great haste to retrieve the valuable bomber. The Crew Hptmn Bose (pilot), Uffzs Schmidt, Lungard Roeder, Odergfr Roeder all survived the crash and were captured.

Wednesday 28th August 1940: Airfield bombed twice in one day.
The first wave of 27 bombers set buildings on fire and caused slight damage to other parts of the airfiled, the second raid created 30 craters on the landing ground but with little other damage.

Wednesday 28th August 1940: RAF Rochford bombed.
The airfield was heavily by 15 He111's at 13;00hrs dropping 15tons of High Explosives most landing on the airfield but some do fall around the site 9 raiders were shot down one of the raiding bombers crash lands on the airfield the airfield is forced to close at night and have single aircraft taking off and landing at day-light due to the damage to buildings fires and damage to runways; Raid on the Thames Estuary sees 12 out of 100 raiders shot down between 15:50-16:45; Two women are killed in the Victoria area of the town by a stray bomb during a raid on the Thames Estuary by 60 aircraft at 19:00hrs with one being shot down.

Thursday 29th August 1940: RAF Rochford remains closed due to time delay bombs.

Saturday 31st August 1940: RAF Rochford bombed.

August 1940: Claims made by Nazi warmongers that "RAF Rochford had been obliterated. By an air raid what was left was a mass of smoking burning ruins"; raid by 21 He111's "stick raid" from shore-end of the pier to airfield.

Sunday 1st September 1940: RAF Rochford unserviceable due to craters after raid.

Monday 2nd September 1940: Dornier Do17 crash landing.
The Hurricanes of 249 Squadron attacked and damaged Do17 Z-2 of 9/kg3 (5K+BT) the aircraft sustained heavy damage and had to make a wheels up landing on the airfield the second of the type to do so! The Pilot Uffz Seidl and F W Spink were both wounded in the crash but survived and were taken prisoner whilst the gunner Uffz Hillbrecht died. Two other bombers crashed in to the Estuary off Southend.

Tuesday 3rd September 1940: Rochford based Spitfires intercepted a flight of He111's they attacked and shot one down, the aircraft crashing in to Lifstan Way.

Saturday 7th September 1940: RAF Rochford attacked & left unserviceable for short time.

Saturday 28th September 1940: The airfield is the prime target for the Luftwaffe.
The airfield was hit 30 times, the squadrons resident at the time were able to get into the air before the attack started, because of the early warning from the radar station at Canewdon. This coincided with the airfield being renamed R.A.F Southend, with Wing Cdr. Basil Embry as D.S.O Station Commander.

Monday 30th September 1940: R.A.F Rocford was upgraded to R.A.F Station Southend this Coincided with the Luftwaffe changing from Daylight raids on London to Night-time raids.

Monday 28th October 1940: RAF Rochford becomes an Independent Station of Hornchurch Sector & renames RAF Southend, at the same time it is proposed as a night fighter base with 264 & 151 Squadrons operating out of it but the plans are dropped.

Sunday 29th October 1940: 264 Squadron arrived from Kirton-in-Lindsey with Boulton-Paul Defiant 1’s.

Sunday 24th November 1940: Dornier crash lands on airfield.

Friday 15th November 1940: Boulton Paul Defiant N1547 P/o W R A Knocker & P/o F A Toombs of 264 Squadron were both killed when the engine cut on approach to the airfield the aircraft hit a tree and exploded.

Wednesday 20th November 1940: Boulton Paul Defiant Mk.I N1626 264 Squadron crashed on take off during night sortie Pilot Officer Hackwood & gunner killed.

Wednesday 27th November 1940: 264 Squadron departed to Debden.

Tuesday 3rd December 1940: 603 Squadron (City of Edinburgh) arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire Mk2a'’s.

Friday 13th December 1940: 611Sqn (West Lancashire) arrived from Digby with Supermarine Spitfire Mk2a'’s.

Friday 13th December 1940: 603 Squadron departed to Drem.

Thursday 2nd January 1941: The Mad Magister.
The Southend communications Miles Magister was being flown back from a sortie to Cranwell when a technical fault saw the aircraft make an emergency landing in a field near Ongar, the aircraft had its wings removed and was towed to North Weald, where it was put back together, a pilot from RAF Southend was dispatched to bring it back, however the pilot sent rang the Southend Engineering Office to say that the North Weald riggers had wrongly rigged the aileron controls and asked what he should do. The E/o jokingly told the pilot to "sit facing backwards or fly it upside down!" to his surprise the Maggie landed back at Southend a short time later with the rigging still not rectified!

Tuesday 7th January 1941: Hit & Run attack on RAF Rochford eight fifty-kilo bombs dropped.

Thursday 9th January 1941: RAF Southend becomes a Forward Offensive Fighter Base

Sunday 19th January 1941: The Heavy Attack
Five-hundred incendiaries dropped on Southend, Westcliff, Chalkwell, & Leigh after German bombers are forced to turn back from an attack on London by heavy Ack-Ack fire & increased patrols by night fighters, the town was hit after the Nazi bombers failed to locate the airfield & Estuary Bombed by delayed action bombs & landmines dropped on Thorpe Bay.

Monday 27th January 1941: 611 Squadron departed to Hornchurch.

Monday 27th January 1941: 64 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire Mk2a’'s

Monday 31st March 1941: 64 Squadron departed to Hornchurch.

Monday 31st March 1941: 54 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire Mk2a'’s.

April 1941: 137 Squadron fly in with their Westland Whirlwinds these are soon replaced with the new Hurricane IV.

Thursday 17th April 1941: 100th kill for RAF Southend.

Saturday 2nd May 1942: 403 RCAF Squadron arrived from North Weald with Supermarine Spitfire Mk5b’s.

Wednesday 2nd May 1942: The airfield transferred to the North Weald sector

Sunday 7th June 1942: 1422 Fighter Gunnery School departed to Martlesham Heath.

Wednesday 3rd June 1942: The Americans arrive.
The American 121 Eagle Squadron arrive at Southend this was one of three squadrons in the RAF whose pilots were American, they flew with the RAF before America entered the war, after the USA entered hostilities 121 became 335 USAAC Squadron.

Wednesday 3rd June 1942: 403 RCAF departed to Martlesham Heath.

Sunday 7th June 1942: 1488 Fighter Gunnery Flight departed to Martlesham Heath.

Sunday 16th August 1942: 19 Squadron arrived from Perranporth flying Supermarine Spitfire 5b’s

Thursday 20th August 1942: 19 Squadron departed to Perranporth.

Wednesday 23rd September 1942: 350 Belgian Squadron arrived from Redhill with Supermarine Spitfire Mk5b’s

Monday 26th October 1942: Dornier Do217 crash landing.
Southend attacked by Do217s, A second raid of 8th Staffel of KG2 took off from Deelen Holland to attack Skefko Ball Bearing Factory Luton one is attacked en-route and it dives away from its group the pilot attempts to return to occupied Europe but only makes it as far as Southend and upon sighting the airfield make a crash-landing but hits the dispersal area of the newly arrived 350 Squadron destroying a workshop & killing W/o Dyon at his post with two air men injured. This was the third Do17 to crash at Southend.

Tuesday 24th November 1942: 350 Belgian Squadron departed to Hornchurch.

Monday 7th December 1942: 453 RAAF Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire Mk5a’s

Tuesday 9th Febrauary 1943: A lone Do217 (up graded Do17) sneaks in at night and attacks the airfield The resident Spitfires were on patrol over the town during bad weather the German bomber then gets away without any trouble from the British fighters.

March 1943: RAF Southend dive-bombed.

Monday 1st March 1943: 453 RAAF Squadron departed to Westcott.

Sunday 14th March 1943: 453 RAAF Squadron arrived from Newmarket with Supermarine Spitfire Mk5b’s.

Saturday 27th March 1943: 222 Squadron arrived from Ayr with Supermarine Spitfire Mk5b’s.

Wdnesday 1st April 1943: 222 Squadron departed to Martlesham Heath.

Tuesday 1st June 1943: Southend reverts back to Hornchurch sector. It later changes again back to North Weald Sector Control.

Saturday 12th June 1943: 137 Squadron arrived from RAF Manston with Westland Whirlwinds.

Wednesday 30th June 1943: 137 Squadron re-equip with Hurricane IVs.

Sunday 8th August 1943: 137 Squadron departed to Manston.

Tuesday 17th August 1943: 1488 Fighter Gunnery Flight moves in from Martilesham Heath with 2 Miles Masters, 2 Miles Martinets & 7 Lysanders.

Monday 6th September 1943: 611 Squadron arrived from Coltishall with Supermarine Spitfire LF5b’s

Thursday 16th September 1943: 234 Squadron arrived from West Malling with Supermarine Spitfire Mk6’s.

Tuesday 12th October 1943: 350 Belgian Squadron arrived from Hawkinge with Supermarine Spitfire Mk5b’s

Friday 15th October 1943: 234 Squadron departed to Hutton Cranswick.

Monday 18th October 1943: 1488 Fighter Gunnery Flight renames as 17 Armament Practice Camp.

Tuesday 26th October 1943: 349 Squadron arrived from Friston with Supermarine Spitfires.

Sunday 31st October 1943: 350 Belgian Squadron departed to Hawkinge.

Wednesday 10th November 1943: 349 Squadron departed to Friston.

November 1943: 148 Gunnery School formed.

Tuesday 16th November 1943: 66 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire LF9’s

Tuesday 30th November 1943: 66 Squadron departed to Hornchurch.

Thursday 2nd December 1943: 317 Squadron arrived from Northolt with Supermarine Spitfire Mk9’s.

Saturday 18th December 1943: 317 Squadron departed to Northolt.

Monday 20th December 1943: 222 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire Mk9’s & LFIb’s.

1944:  RAF Southend is selected to become a V1 Barrage Balloon Network Site.

Monday 3rd January 1944: 413 Polish Squadron arrived from Odiham with Hawker Typhoons.

Friday 21st January 1944: 501 Squadron arrived from Hawkinge with Supermarine Spitfire Mk9’s.

February 1944: No17 APC 9 Miles Martinets, 1 Miles Master 3's & 10 spitfire Mk9s

Friday 4th February 1944: 501 Squadron departed to Hawkinge.

Sunday 6th February 1944: 41 Squadron arrived from Tangmere with Supermarine Spitfire Mk12’s

Friday 11th February 1944: B17 31694 of 351st BG crash-landed due to battle damage after raid on Frankfurt burned on field.

Tuesday 22nd February 1944: 41 Squadron departed to Tangmere.

Tuesday 22nd February 1944: 312 Squadron arrived from Mendlesham with Supermarine Spitfire LF9b’s.

Wednesday15th March 1944: 413 Polish Squadron departed to Thorney Island.

Friday 12th May 1944: 19 Squadron arrived flying North American Mustang 3’s

Friday 18th February 1944: The airfield returned to North Weald Sector after the closure of Hornchurch Sector From February to May ten squadrons used the camp for training.

Friday 3rd March 1944: 312 Squadron departed to Mendlesham.

Sunday 5th March 1944: 331 Norwegian Squadron arrived from North Weald with Supermarine Spitfire Mk9’s.

Monday 13th March 1944: 331 Squadron departed to North Weald.

Tuesday 14th March 1944: 313 Czech Squadron arrived from Mendleshan with Supermarine Spitfire Mk9’s.

Monday 20th March 1944: 313 Squadron departed to Mendlesham.

Tuesday 21st March 1944: 332 Squadron arrived from North Weald with Supermarine Spitfire Mk9s

Monday 27th March 1944: 332 Squadron departed to North Weald.

Tuesday 28th March 1944: 310 Squadron arrived from Mendlesham woth Supermarine Spitfire LF9’s.

Tuesday 4th April 1944: 222 Squadron arrived from Hornchurch with Supermarine Spitfire LF9b’s

Sunday 9th April 1944: 222 Squadron departed to Selsey.

Wednesday 12th April 1944: 302 Poznanski Squadron arrived from Deanland with Supermarine Spitfire Mk9’s.

Friday 14th April 1944: 302 Poznanski Squadron departed to Deanland.

Saturday 22nd April 1944: 66 Squadron arrived from Bognor with Supermarine Spitfire LF9’s.

Monday 24th April 1944: 66 Squadron departed to Bognor.

Thursday 11th May 1944: B17 42-107147 "Sweet Melody" 303BG 360C(SQN) divert to Southend due to damage gear collapsed target Checchini.

Friday 12th May 1944: 19 Squadron arrived from Ford with North American Mustang 3’s.

Saturday 20th May 1944: 122 Squadron arrived from Funtington with North American Mustang 3’s.

Sunday 28th May 1944: 122 Squadron departed to Funtington.

Monday 29th May 1944: 19 Squadron departed to Funtington.

June 1944: 287 Squadron moved in with Airspeed Oxfords, Bristol Beaufighters and Lysanders in an 'Ack Ack' and fighter coordinator role. The R.A.F Regiment used the station as a transit camp for a short time.

Wednesday 12th July 1944: 127 Squadron arrived from Tangmere with Supermarine Spitfire Mk9’s.

Sunday 23rd July 1944: 127 departed to Tangmere.

Monday 24th July 1944: 74 Squadron arrived from Selsey with Supermarine Spitfire Mk9’7 & LF9e’s

Friday 1st September 1944: Back to Hornchurch Sector Control

Friday 1st September 1944: Placed under 'Care and Maintenance' for the rest of the War.
Through-out the war Years Southend was used by many aircraft as an emergency landing ground. By the end of hostilities a total of 752 high explosives had been dropped on Southend, there were also countless V1 Doodlebugs, Incendiary devices, Paramines and Butterfly bombs. A total of 29 men, 24 women and 7 children were dead with a further 394 seriously wounded, the low Child rate was due to the fact that most of the towns Children had been evacuated.

Tuesday 31st December 1946: Airfield derequisitioned.

1946: Air Training Corps, Air Ministry Southend Gliding School opened.

Recent Photos