Wimbledon Airfield To Be Remembered By Plaque

Airfield on The Common helped saved lives during World War I

Wimbledon's little-known airfield is to be commemorated with a special plaque at the Ranger's Office on Wimbledon Common.

The World War I airfield - one of ten Royal Flying Corps airfields employed to defend London - was located on The Plain on the Common from 1915-1918.

The Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust (ABCT) has launched a campaign to commemorate all of the airfields that were critical in the defence of the nation. By 2030 they hope to have installed 400 memorials.

Two Royal Aircraft Factory BE2cs of No 19 Reserve Squadron (a training unit) were based at each of the ten Royal Flying Corps airfields in London, with the Wimbledon unit becoming No 39 Squadron (a frontline unit) in April 1916.

This was a major development in the history of Home Defence operations during WWI, and one good reason why the Trust wished to establish a plaque on Wimbledon Common.

Wimbledon Airfield plaqueThe lead airfield in this particular scheme was Hounslow, later Britain’s first airport and where ABCT unveiled a full-sized memorial in April 2016.

Nos 39 and 141 Squadrons subsequently had use of the landing ground; by 1918 it served as a 3rd Class Night Landing Ground (NLG) for Royal Flying Corps (later Royal Air Force) fighters, meaning that it had more in the way of restricted landing approaches for visiting aircraft.

Airfields such as Wimbledon proved invaluable in other ways, due to the vagaries of aircraft of the period plus the fact pilots were not allowed to use parachutes.

Although unfortunately very badly documented, they undoubtedly saved many lives, not to mention played a most significant part in the winning of WWI through overcoming and/or at least proving a major deterrent against the enemy aerial threat, whether Zeppelins or latterly also fixed-wing aircraft such as Gotha bombers.

The airfield was dismantled soon after the Armistice.

October 24, 2017