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  1. #1
    Ever notice how fast Windows runs? Neither did I The_Toe_Of_Bo's Avatar
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    Really More hometown links to war ....

    Today I present another entry in my occasional series about the connections between my hometown, Southend in Essex, and the military.


    Southend Airport, unlike many other airports in the UK, has a long past, dating back to the dawn of aviation. Heathrow was just an undeveloped bog until 1946, but Southend airport's history stretches back 100 years. The airport started life as a base for the RAF, but its first recorded contact with an aircraft occurred even earlier, in the first decade of aviation. In 1909, Victor Forbes and Arthur Arnold, used fields at Westbarrow Hall Farm to test out their home-made monoplane, largely made from bamboo poles. It was the First World War, however, that turned a few flat buttercup meadows into an official aerodrome. The aerodrome site was acquired for military purpose in 1914, very shortly after the outbreak of war. Flat and well drained, close to the mouth of the Thames, the site had clearly been designated by God to be an airport.


    At first the new airfield was used for training purposes only, but after the first Zeppelin bombardment of London it rapidly transformed into a frontline station. Although the glory of shooting down the first two Zeppelins went to pilots operating from Hornchurch, patrols from Rochford airport were credited with deterring many raids.


    By the end of the war, Rochford aerodrome was the largest in Essex and it had a reputation for being the most comfortable billet in the RAF. Cecil Lewis, a British air ace from the First World War, and author of the classic account of aerial warfare Sagittarius Rising, was stationed there in transit to the Western Front. He was struck by the scale and modernity of Rochford Aerodrome, and the way it represented the growth of air power. He recalled it as "a magnificent aerodrome almost a mile square in extent."


    Within a year the war was over, the military operations were run down, and Rochford aerodrome had reverted to farmland.


    That might have been the end of Southend Airport, had it not been for the far-sightedness and drive of one Southend councillor, GE Weber. He saw a future when every town would need a municipal airport to ensure its prosperity. The old First World War runways still lay beneath the crops and Weber persuaded his fellow councillors that the airport could be revived. In 1933 it was purchased and reactivated by the council. The transformation of a wartime military base into one of Britain's first municipal airports was hailed in glowing terms by the local newspapers.


    On the day of the official opening, September 19, 1935, one local newspaper welcomed what it called "perhaps the most significant and vivid page in the history of modern Southend".


    In 1939, the Air Ministry requisitioned Southend airport and renamed it RAF Rochford. It became a satellite base for RAF Hornchurch and was home to fighter squadrons of Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricane fighters, as well as a Bristol Blenheim fighter-bomber. One of the earliest squadrons based there, 616, was heavily involved flying fighter cover for the Dunkirk evacuation.


    Flying a Hurricane out of Rochford, Flight Lieutenant "Sailor" Malan downed two Heinkel bombers, the first enemy aircraft shot down at night by a fighter aircraft. Many of the 50 pillboxes that were built to protected the airport from German troops still survive in surrounding fields, as does the underground defence control room, which is hidden near the Southend Flying Club. As a kid, I used to play in the pillboxes with my friends.


    In closing ..... do you think you've never seen Southend Airport? Think again.


    Southend Airport features in one of the most loved of the James Bond movies, Goldfinger. The scene where Goldfinger's Rolls Royce is loaded aboard a Carvair aircraft, all the while being observed by 007 in his DB5, was filmed at Southend Airport. When Bond checks to see if the tracking device is working, that is an actual map of Southend that he is looking at. Sean Connery spent a day filming on the tarmac. Although he did not talk to the local press or members of the public, he could be glimpsed in the distance through binoculars or a telephoto lens.





  2. #2
    Oops. My brain just hit a bad sector DaddyWabbit's Avatar
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    what is funny, is how mr bond had a GPS in his car way back then.

  3. #3
    Save the whales. Collect the whole set DaveSchilling's Avatar
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    Damn, and you did not show me this place!! ;)

    Really inetresting stuff you come with - keep it coming! :)

  4. #4
    Ever notice how fast Windows runs? Neither did I The_Toe_Of_Bo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AOD_DaveSchilling View Post
    Damn, and you did not show me this place!! ;)

    Really inetresting stuff you come with - keep it coming! :)
    Sorry mate.

    I was driving past it the other day, and I forgot that there is a Avro Vulcan that lives there ..... XL426.

    XL426 is owned by the Vulcan Restoration Trust, and there are regular guided tours under the aircraft and cockpit visits.

    XL426 is maintained in full ground working condition. It is not airworthy but its systems, including its engines, are kept in operating condition and the aircraft is capable of being taxied.

    I think the ultimate aim of the Trust is to put her back into the air.


 

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