World War Two - More War
The run up to the Second World War saw a massive increase in passenger numbers as British holidaymakers and refugees rushed to leave mainland Europe. In the final days of August 1939 before the outbreak of war, Croydon saw passenger numbers increase 3 fold to 1500 a day. On the 30th August 1939, Croydon reverted back to its original role of defending Britain from aerial attack. The civil airlines moved out and London Airport was now known as RAF Croydon, a fully operational frontline fighter airfield, forming part of 11 Group, Fighter Command.
Over the next months, many aircraft and squadrons now arrived or transited through RAF Croydon. The airfield saw the arrival of Gloster Gladiators, Hawker Hurricane Mk1’s, Vickers Supermarine Spitfire Mk1’s and a host of other aircraft.
Battle of Britain Fighter Squadrons based at Croydon include No.3, No.17, No.72, No.85, No.111, No.401, No.501, No.605 and No.615 to name but some.
The above Squadrons were led by many decorated pilots such as Sqdn Ldr J.M. Thompson, DFC; Sqdn Ldr E A McNabb, DFC; Sqdn Ldr P W Townsend, DFC; Sqdn Ldr W. Churchill DSO, DFC; Sqdn Ldr G.R Edge, DFC; Flt Lt A A McKellar DSO,DFC and Bar.
The 15th August 1940 saw a massive Luftwaffe attack on southern Britain. Having failed to locate RAF Kenley, a squadron of Luftwaffe bombers attacked RAF Croydon and made multiple hits on the surrounding factories, airfield, airport terminal and a direct hit on the armoury. Some 62 people lost their lives and over 200 were injured.
From 1941, significant buiding works took place to complete the conversion to a fully operational RAF airfield, with concrete extensions built for the grass runways, air raid sleeping quarters and a Standby Set Building. The Standby Set contained diesel generators to supply emergency electrical power to the airport in case the main supply was knocked out during an aerial bombardment.
In 1943 RAF Transport Command was established at RAF Croydon and over the following years transported thousands of troops in and out of mainland Europe. Thousands of personnel from all over Europe including wounded military personnel, prisoners of war, and refugees flew into Croydon. Users of the airport peaked in 1943 at just over 230,000 people.