Incredible pictures from above of Croydon’s airfield where spitfires were hidden during World War 2

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Croydon has an incredibly rich history especially when looking into its service to the country during World War Two. Although now very much part of Greater London during the 1930s and 1940s Croydon was simply a market town on the outskirts of London.

Areas of the Croydon borough such as Coulsdon, Purley and Kenley were part of Surrey rather than London with beautiful rolling hills of countryside as opposed to the dense streets of the capital. With so much space and close proximity to London these areas were incredibly important to the capital’s World War Two efforts.

Two of the most important infrastructures defending Britain from attacking German forces were Croydon Airport and RAF Kenley. Along with Biggin Hill in Bromley, Croydon Airport and RAF Kenley were the three main fighter stations responsible for the air defence of London.

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501 squadron in 1940 at RAF Kenley

In 1939 Kenley was given two new concrete runways which were built to accommodate Hurricanes and Spitfires, two planes that would become synonymous with Britain’s battle against Nazi Germany. It was from these three airports that the Battle of Britain fighter pilots took off from and fought with the all-powerful German Luftwaffe.

On August 18, 1940 Kenley suffered its worse attack when it was severely damaged by enemy bombs, a date which the British lost 68 aircraft and the Germans lost 69. A photo of Kenley airport in 1941 shows how important the airfields were in the battle against fascist forces in Europe.

In the photograph from late 1941 you can see attempts to camouflage the runways and around the edge of the airfield are E- shaped structures containing aircraft. These structures, called fighter E-pens were, built to give some protection from air attack when the aircraft where on the ground.

The photo forms part of Historic England’s new Aerial Photography Explorer allows people to search and explore an online map showing aerial photographs across the country over the past 100 years. Over 400,000 images from 1919 to the present day have been added to the tool, covering nearly 30 per cent (c.15,000 square miles) of England.

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