18th August 1940

70th Anniversary of the Air Raid on Ford Airfield

On the 18th August 1940 RNAS Ford (HMS Peregrine) came under attack from a formation of German Stuka dive bombers. The air raid resulted in 28 dead and many more injured as well as the devastation caused to the airfield buildings and runways. The final resting place of several of those killed can be seen in Clymping Church yard.

Now, 70 years on, the Yapton & Ford Local History Group are commemorating this event and honouring all those who served on the station since its construction in 1917, many making the ultimate sacrifice, by organising an exhibition in the Yapton & Ford Village Hall. This event will take place on Sunday 8th August 2010 and will include displays on the playing field.

The YFLHG are using the occasion as the catalyst to research the history of the airfield from its conception during WW1 when it was built to the present day.

The airfield has had a chequered history. It was originally built for the Americans as a “jumping off point” for France during WW1, a facility that they never utilised because the war ended. It continued as a military airfield for a while before becoming a base for commercial flying and farm land.

Ford Motor Company based their flying operations on the airfield. Their hangers occupied an area now covered by The Peregrines housing estate. Their intention was to use the Ford Tri Motor passenger aircraft as a commercial operation from here but the plane did not receive an airworthy licence from the government even though it was flying commercially in the US. The Ford logo was emblazoned on the ground in the grass in front of the hangers. Yapton Aero Club was very active between the wars, making use of the hangers which Ford had vacated. Another internationally famous name also used the airfield as the base for his flying activities and he was Sir Alan Cobham and his Flying Circus. He toured the country putting on air shows featuring “wing walking” amongst other spectacular flying feats. His company “In-Flight Re-fuelling” went on to develop the technique of refuelling aircraft in the air. A technique which is still used today.

With WW2 looming large, the military re-commissioned the base and it became “HMS Peregrine” a land base for the training of Fleet Air Arm personnel. Shortly after the bombing in August 1940, the station was taken over by the RAF with one of the main purposes was a base for night fighting aircraft. It also housed the Aerial Photography School. Ford was heavily involved in the air battle fought over northern France during D-Day and beyond.

After the cessation of hostilities Ford was handed back to the Navy and was closed for a while so that the runways could be extended and concreted to accommodate the new breed of aircraft powered by jet engines. Eventually the station became surplus to requirement and finally closed in 1959. Private flying continued for a while but even this ceased under the weight of local complaints.

Today parts of the site are occupied by Ford Open Prison, Trading Estates and a Water Treatment Plant with the main runways used for Sunday Markets, Car Boot Sales and a Rifle Club. The rest has reverted back to farmland.

We would like to hear from anyone who has memories, photographs or any memorabilia of the airfield in any of its forms so that we can produce as complete a picture as we can of its history. Were you stationed here? Our intention is to have a reunion area so that you can possibly meet up with old friends and share your memories over some refreshments. Please contact us.

We have the full support of Rear Admiral Simon Charlier, Chief of Staff (Aviation and Carriers) & Rear Admiral Fleet Air Arm, and the backing of the Parish Councils of Yapton, Ford & Clymping. Now we need your support to make this event as complete as possible.

Allen Misselbrook
May 2010