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    GRAVESEND AIRPORT
    AND THE DUMMY AIRFIELDS

     

    by MR FRANK TURNER

     

    Report of meeting held
    on Thursday, 20th May 2010

photograph of the May 2010 meeting poster


Frank Turner, a local hostorian and author, gave a presentation on Gravesend Airport. In 1930 135 acres of land were developed into an airport on the west side of Thong Lane. It was a busy private airport as there were plenty of qualified pilots after WW1. You could also learn to fly there and many races and record attempts took off from Gravesend. 22 Percival Gull aircraft were built at Gravesend and some were modified there for racing. Gravesend, Gatwick, Hendon and Northolt were the four satellite airports for London, Gravesend often being used when Croydon was fog-bound. A plane load of gold bullion had to be diverted to Gravesend, and as there was no vehicle available to take it to London, Mr Pratt of Saddington Street General Store lent his van for the delivery.


Colin "Hoppy" Hodgkinson collided over Clay Lane Woods whilst pilot training and lost both his legs in the accident. However, he flew as a fighter pilot in WW2 but insisted his false legs were filled with ping-pong balls. He had a fear of being shot down over the Chanel and he thought they would keep him afloat! 66 Squadron flew from Gravesend and there is a memorial to them in Thong Lane.

Gravesend airport was closed as a RAF station in 1944 and 1500 barage balloons were erected to combat the threat of doodlebugs (V1 and V2 flying bombs). However 2 dummy airfields consisting of runway lights were in use in Luddesdown Valley and Cliffe Marshes. When enemy aircraft were overhead the lights would be switched on briefly in an attempt to lure them away from the Gravesend targets.

Gravesend airport remained open commercially until 1956.

 

 

Report written by Polly Chandler.

Last Revised: 29-May-2010

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