Military Wiki
Royal Air Force Station Joyce Green
Located near Long Reach, Dartford, Kent, England
RFC Joyce Green - Long Reach Tavern with RFC hangars in the background 1929.jpg
Long Reach Tavern with RFC hangars
Type Airfield
Coordinates Latitude:
Built 1911
Height beneath mean tide level
In use 1911–1919
Demolished Oct 1919
Occupants RAF roundel.svg Royal Flying Corps
US Army Air Roundel.svg  Air Service, United States Army
Battles/wars First World War

Joyce Green, at Long Reach, near Dartford was one of the first Royal Flying Corps (RFC) airfields. It was established in 1911 by Vickers Limited (the aircraft and weapons manufacturer) who used it as an airfield and testing ground. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the RFC followed and established a base. Subject to frequent flooding and a reputation as being unsuitable and too dangerous for training, it was eventually replaced by a more suitable site at RAF Biggin Hill.

There were two parts to Joyce Green's military operations; the RFC, and the Wireless Experimental establishment. The latter were the first to move out in 1917 (after exhaustive searching south of London) when they found an ideal site on a farmers field near the village of Biggin Hill; the RFC were soon to recognize the new sites suitability for flying and its strategic location, and soon followed, transferring there on 13 February 1917. The RFC took with them their Bristol Fighters, leaving Joyce Green with only a pilots pool and ground crew.[1] Once the RFC moved out the aerodrome, Vickers continued their testing work, until moving to Brooklands. Following the Armistice with Germany the airfield was closed by December 1919.

The site

Joyce Green farm, a cattle farm to the north of Dartford, lent its name to the largely uninhabited area 15 miles (24 km) downstream of London Bridge, located between Dartford and the River Thames. The aerodrome itself was on part of a plot once known as Franks Farm, on ground reclaimed from the Dartford salt marshes.

The only habitation in the area, apart from the odd farm was the isolated "Long Reach Tavern"; known for organized bare-knuckle boxing matches in the 19th century, notably Tom Sayers who fought there between 1851-1854, and a ferry to Purfleet on the opposing bank of the Thames. A reach is a length of a river between 2 bends and the longest reach on the Thames is 'Long Reach' hence the name of the Tavern. The surrounds of the tavern were to become the RFC encampment.

1:62260/1:50000 OS map sheets 171/177 : (51): OS survey grid reference: TQ 542774. County: Kent, Area : 121 acres : 1200 x 1000 yards. Slightly below sea level.

The airfield consisted of a grass landing field, slightly below sea level, criss-crossed by ditches covered with boards. 121 acres (49 ha) site, 1200 x 1000 yards of low-lying marshland below mean tide level, bordered by the River Darent to the west, the Thames to the north, the taverns access road "Joyce Green Lane" (running north to south) to the east, and the grounds of the Joyce Green Hospitals to the south.

Further to the west of the tavern across the estuary of the River Darent was the Thames Ammunition factory. Along the river to its east the nearby Long Reach Hospital; where the three smallpox Isolation hospital ships had been moored on the Reach, they had been scrapped in 1904 leaving just the adjacent land based hospital facilities intact. Further to the south and east were the Dartford salt marshes. Also in the area to the south were the Joyce Green and Orchard Hospitals with a small military (Army) unit attached to them. The hospitals set up for the isolation of smallpox patients from London.

Further to the south the main A206 road gave access to London. It is 2 miles from Dartford railway station and 1½ miles from Erith railway station.

The RFC buildings and camp were at the north end by the Thames; grouped to the immediate south and west of the Long Reach Tavern. The RFC had six hangars in total; three aeroplane sheds, 80 x 60 feet, as a treble unit, and another three sheds, 80 x 50 feet, as a treble unit.

Vickers 1910-1919

The site was first used in 1910 by Hiram Maxim who in conjunction with Vickers had built a biplane at Crayford, and at Joyce Green unsuccessfully attempted a test flight; without funds to continue developing his ideas, Maxim parted company with Vickers to form a new company with Louis Bleriot and Claude Grahame White.[2]

Vickers were to persist with aircraft development and establishing an (Aviation Department) in 1911, promptly built hangars and workshop facilities at Joyce Green; for testing the aeroplanes constructed at their Erith works. Vickers had factories at nearby Bexleyheath, Crayford, Erith, and Dartford.[3] The Vickers hangars and buildings were grouped at the south end of the site near to the entrance gates.

Once assembled aircraft were stripped down piece small and moved by road from Erith, through the streets of Crayford to Joyce Green and returned the same way.[4]

Vickers first monoplane was tested at their new airfield in July 1911, using an under license French-built rear fuselage and engine designed and made by the Frenchman Robert Esnault-Pelterie (hence R.E.P.); (the rest of the components being Vickers-built), it made its maiden flight, piloted by Captain Herbert F. Wood, the manager of Vickers' aviation department.[5] Development of the aircraft was rapid the No. 8 monoplane was built by 1913 at the Erith factory. However the Army Manoeuvres in the autumn of 1912 proved disastrous for the type, four RFC officers were killed using monoplanes, and this led to a suspension of the type by the Military Wing.[6]

Shortly before the war started among the many designs initiated by the Drawing Office was one known as the 'Hydravion', based on the notion that an aeroplane should be able to take off from water as well as from land. Floats, made of Duralumin, made at the Dartford works were tested in the nearby River Darent. Archives at the company headquarters imply that the Hydravion was to be constructed at Dartford, despite the factory only producing explosives and projectiles at the time.[7]

In 1912 Vickers commenced work on a two-seat pusher biplane, the F.B.1 (Fighting Biplane 1), it was one of the first aircraft designed to carry a machine gun, the FB5 (fighting biplane) Gun Bus. The company abandoned plans for boat planes at the start of the war and concentrated on land based aircraft.

Vickers No. 8 monoplane at the Erith factory 1913.[8]

In 1914, the companies works at Crayford took over the production of Vickers aircraft. Development of variants of F.B. series continued apace. The last of these variants the F.B.5, eventually emerged as the Gunbus; of the first batches two were sent to the RFC to be based at the airfield. Experimental work continued during the war evolving the basic Gunbus into the FB9, known as the 'Streamline Gunbus'.

During World War I it produced the Vimy heavy bomber; the FB27 Vimy Prototype built at the Vickers Crayford works was assembled and flown out of Joyce Green. The plane was found to be too large for the hangars; so Vickers had to dig out the ground inside them, for them to fit. See photo, right.[9]

This first prototype B9952 made its first flight on 30 November 1917 at Joyce Green, piloted by Capt. Gordon Bell. The company had planned to use a pair of Royal Aircraft Factory 200 hp 4d air-cooled V-12 engines, however they were not ready in time (production was later abandoned) and the plane was fitted two 200 hp Hispano-Suizas instead. By April 1918 it was decided use a Rolls Royce Eagle engine instead. The aeroplane went into production that month and was at that point named the Vickers Vimy. Ironically, it was never used operationally in the First World War. In 1919 Vickers moved their aircraft production from Crayford to Weybridge in Surrey. The planes main claim to fame was that on 14/15 June 1919, Captain Jack Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten-Brown in a converted Vimy (built at Weybridge), made the world's first non-stop trans-oceanic flight, across the Atlantic. Later at the end of 1919 Ross and Keith Smith flew a Vimy all the way to Australia, thus highlighting the possibility of organising scheduled overseas long haul flights.

Vickers would soon by December 1919 move their test facilities to Brooklands in Surrey.

RFC 1914-1919

The Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was established in May 1912. Initially the RFC regularly visited Joyce Green for testing and reviewing prototype aircraft. After the outbreak of war in 1914, Joyce Green became an ‘air defence’ airfield to protect London from bombing raids by Zeppelins. The airfield was to house a permanent RFC unit, under No. 6 Wing, and the first occupants were No. 10 Reserve Squadron with a variety of aircraft including Henry Farman’s, Vickers FB5 and FB9, DH2 and FE8 machines. The role of this unit was to receive pupils from preliminary training schools for final training for their wings. Each course consisted of about 20 pupils and lasted two or three weeks. This included time spent at Lydd where aerial gunnery was practised at the Hythe range. On gaining their wings the young pilots would get a 48-hour pass before being posted to the Front.

It was decided that the aerodrome should house two FB5 Gunbuses, and they were transferred from Netheravon. No.6 Wing was appointed to oversee operations, and the training of potential pilots.

Concurrently the erection of hangars, workshops and ground staff quarters commenced at the northern edge of the landing field alongside the Long Reach Tavern.

On Christmas Day 1914, the field was to see its first action when 2Lt M. R. Chidson and gunner Cpl Martin were in a Gunbus were sent up in pursuit of a German plane, Friedrichshafen FF.29, a single-engined, two-seater float plane belonging to See Flieger-Abteilung I (Flyer department I) of the Imperial German Navy, based at Zeebrugge in Belgium. Unfortunately the gun jammed over Purfleet, and the gunner (having forgotten his gloves) found his hands too cold could not clear the mechanism, thus leaving the German free to drop two bombs on Cliffe railway station. Nevertheless the Gunship did chase the German aircraft as far as the Nore sandbank. At the time the German plane was mistaken as a Taube monoplane it being an aircraft type that people knew (in the same way that Second World War German pilots always claimed to have been shot down by a Spitfire, when it was probably a Hurricane).

The airfield soon proved unpopular, being situated primarily on marshland.

Early in 1915, the construction of the Royal Flying Corps base at Joyce Green was completed and No.10 Reserve Squadron moved in. Equipped with Henry Farman, Vickers FB5 and FB9, DH2 and FE8 aeroplanes, the squadron's main function was to receive pupils from preliminary training schools for final training and qualifications for their wings. There were many accidents and quite a few trainee pilots were killed. The Long Reach Tavern, was closed, the Salmon family were moved out, and the RFC took it over as a canteen and used it for sleeping quarters.[10]

On 19–20 January 1915 the Imperial German Navy mounted the first airship raid on Britain. Three Zeppelins (L3, L4 and L6) were despatched; one was forced to turn back with engine difficulties 90 miles from the English coast. The remaining airships bombed Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn, killing 2 civilians of Yarmouth and injuring 3, and killing 2 and injuring 13 civilians of King's Lynn. These were the first British Military casualties due to air attack.

The first night air defence sorties are flown by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). Following the attack by Zeppelins L3 and L4, two Vickers FB5 Gunbuses of No.7 Squadron were ordered to take-off from Joyce Green and patrol over the southern outskirts of London, without result.[11]

James Thomas Byford McCudden VC DSO (and Bar), MC (and Bar), Croix de Guerre, one of the most highly decorated air aces in the First World War, arrived at Joyce Green in March 1917 to take up the appointment of Wing Fighting Instructor. McCudden had shot down fifty-seven German aeroplanes by the time he was 22. His job involved teaching combat duties to the more advanced pupils.[12]

In mid April 1915, No. 39 Home Defence Squadron was formed bringing together all units and detachments detailed for anti-Zeppelin raid duties in the London area.

In October 1915 a BE2c was posted here, and the machine fitted with a bomb rack. On October 13 the station would put up five aircraft against Zeppelins L13, L14, L15, and L16; two would land safely after the action. In particular 2/Lt Claude Ridley took off from Joyce Green in a BE2c and spotted the airship for a brief moment in searchlights. He fired off 20 rounds at extreme range but then lost sight of the airship.

Dartford played an important role in the defence of London. Anti-aircraft guns were sited on the River Brent, Dartford Heath and the Dartford Marshes, and dozens of searchlights and listening posts were erected in the district. The total number of air raids in or near Dartford (1914–18) was thirty-seven. Despite large numbers of high explosive and incendiary bombs dropped on the area, no-one was killed in Dartford as a direct result of these air raids.

Zeppelins generated enough fear that the lord mayor of London offered a £500 prize to the first pilot or gun crew to shoot one down on British soil, an award claimed by members of an anti-aircraft gun emplacement sited on the Brent at Dartford. The gun crew played an important part in bringing down Zeppelin L15.

The units and detachments under No.19 reserve squadron around London for anti-zeppelin defence were reorganized on 15 April 1916 as the No.39 Home Defence Squadron. Zeppelin operations moved to the north of London leaving Joyce Green on the southern perimeter.

On 22 March 1917 McCudden arrived to instruct advanced students (including Mannock) on combat techniques. McCudden would return here two more times in his career in Nov 1917 and Apr 1918.

Later in Autumn 1917 the threat came from Gotha bombers which had started raiding London. The Gotha had been based at Ostend as early as the spring of 1917.[13] In one week that year, the German planes passed over Dartford three nights in succession; the Brent guns firing nearly a thousand rounds at the raiders.[14][15]

63 TS were moved to Redcar on 13 February 1919, and the aerodrome was left only a pilots pool; and ground crew mainly composed of USAAF personnel on final training duties awaiting deployment to France.

Wireless Testing Park

In 1914 the RFC took over the Marconi Company experimental section at Brooklands in Surrey (formed in early 1911) and turned it into a wireless training school for pilots and engineers; under the command of Major Charles Prince, a former a Marconi engineer. The existing regulations had been that all communications work for the RFC had to be undertaken by the Royal Engineers. This resulted in conflicts of interest and views between the two organisations and things rapidly came to a head, and a decision was taken to separate the two bodies, resulting was that in August 1915 most of the wireless research work was sent to Wooolwich, and the RFC wireless staff were despatched to a new site at Joyce Green.

The move was at first welcomed, as despite its pre-war success the Brooklands aerodrome was unsuitable for training and testing due to close proximity of high obstacles and electrical interference.

The Wireless Testing Park moved to this busy airfield in August 1915 on a convoy of trucks. Training, testing and wireless experiments, and work started. immediately while around them young men practised war, throwing flour bombs as they tried to make their cumbersome Henry Farman Trainers fly. The first ground to air upward message was sent in 1915 at the aerodrome by Major Prince, calling Captain J. M. Furnival as he circled the field in his aircraft. 'Hello Furnie. If you can hear me now it will be the first time speech has ever been communicated to an aeroplane in flight.' 'Hello Furnie if you can hear me dip your wings". The aeroplane, at its top speed of 50 mph, responded with 'an obedient lurch.'

Despite ongoing bureaucratic difficulties the team successfully and developed a practical aircraft telephony set towards the end of 1915; the Mark One weighing only 20 lbs (9 kg). This being the first operational air to ground wireless telephony equipment in the world. Prince made a report: ‘It seemed almost beyond hope to achieve really practical wireless telephony from an aeroplane, but the difficulties have been overcome, and the new set is by no means a toy, or only of scientific interest. A new and amazing power is conferred by it.’

By May 1916, 306 aircraft and 542 ground stations were equipped with spark wireless and crystal set receivers.

Also, despite Princes best attempts, four-fifths of the work for the RFC was officially still undertaken by the Royal Engineers Signals Experimental Establishment. Only one RFC officer was allowed on the premises at any one time, and he was unable to bring any influence to bear the designs and equipment they produced. Of a dozen new sets the RFC submitted to the Wireless Testing Park, all were subjected to damning comments such as ‘a monument of incompetence’ ‘hopelessly bad design’ and ‘a primitive attempt to get round real difficulties’.

As time progressed it became ever more apparent that the field of aviation radiophonics was too different from that of the army that the two services required to be separated.

Reasons why Joyce Green was replaced by Biggin Hill

Air Vice Marshal Gould Lee wrote in his book "Open Cockpit", chapter 17: ‘To use this waterlogged field for testing every now and then was reasonable and to take advantage of it as an emergency landing ground for Home Defence forces was credible, but to employ it as a flying training station was folly and as a Camel training station was lunacy. A pupil taking off with a choked or failing engine had to choose, according to wind direction, between drowning in the Thames (half a mile wide at this point), or crashing into the Vickers TNT works, or hitting one of their several high chimney stacks, or sinking into a vast sewage farm, or killing himself and numerous patients in a large isolation hospital, or being electrocuted in an electrical substation with acres of pylons and cables; or trying to turn and get back to the aerodrome. Unfortunately, many pupils confronted with disaster tried the last course and span to their deaths.’ [16][17]

Jimmy McCudden VC in his book "Flying Fury" described the airfield (where he and others like of Mick Mannock VC spent much time) as a "quiet little spot near Dartford", below sea level at the side of the Thames. The Corp resided in a wooden barrack block, and the actual airfield (grass runways) were located almost next to the River Thames, where many pilots lost their lives by drowning.

The Wireless Radio Unit found the foul weather, incessant mist, the state of the ground, the cold, and damp at Joyce Green non conducive to the best research. Numerous accidents, several fatalities and the planned formation of the Royal Air Force in 1918, led to the Wireless Testing Park eventually being moved in February 1917 to Biggin Hill.[18]

Joyce Green cant take all the blame for pilot losses however, the Sopwith Camel[19] was a demanding plane of all but the most experienced pilot, and had had a fearsome reputation for spinning out of control during tight turns, causing the deaths of many young pilots during their training period. Also as the war progressed the quality of new students progressively declined aggravating matters, with virtually no safety measures in place, one half of all pilots in training were killed at the many training bases.[20]

US Army Air Service 1917-1919

Prior to its eventual closure, the airfield hosted some of the earliest elements of the US Army Air Service to arrive in Europe.[21] Three flights of the 8th Aero Squadron USAAS arrived on 24 Dec 2017, soon to be dispersed elsewhere, leaving a ground unit which eventually departed in May 2018 for Thetford.

None of the many USAS squadrons in the UK were flying units. When squadrons arrived from the States, pilots were attached to British units for further training and some were attached to operational squadrons in France. The ground crews were attached to British training units to learn maintenance procedures. A considerable number of USAS squadrons were construction squadrons and had no flying or maintenance personnel; they were charged with aerodrome construction.

Ground crew from the 149th Aero Squadron an Instructional flying squadron (Pursuit), were here in May 2018. The squadron was established 7 December 1917, and assigned to the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) from 5 March 1918. It was transferred to France to the 3d Air Instructional Center at Issoudun Aerodrome, and demobilized March 1919. One of the aircrew Private Carroll H. Bunch, an aerial photographer, took several photographs of the field and facilities when the squadron was based there.[22]

Ground crew elements of the 159th Aero Squadron a Day Bombardment) squadron, were here sometime between 15 March, and 25 October 1918. The squadron was established 7 December 1917, and assigned to the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), it was transferred to France from Codford on 2 November.[23]


After a Whitsun public display in May 1919, Vickers began pulling out for Brooklands in earnest.

Following the Armistice with Germany Joyce Green was declared surplus to requirements in October 1919 and was restored to agricultural use by Dec. All of the hangars had been dismantled by 1939.

The Long Reach Tavern would eventually close in 1957, and was demolished in the late 50's.[24]

Role of Operations

Unit Date from Date to Notes
Manufacturer’s Aerodrome for Vickers Ltd 1911 1919
Home Defence (HD) October 1914
Night Landing Ground (NLG) October 1914
Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) October 1914
HD Advanced Base, Royal Flying Corps (RFC) October 1914 1915
HD NLG 1st for 39 (HD) Sqn, 50 (HD) Sqn and 112 (HD) Sqn RFC/RAF 1916 1919
Training Squadron Station RFC/RAF July 1915 October 1918
Wireless Testing Park RFC October 1916 January 1917
Pilots’ Pool RAF October 1918 December 1919

Royal Flying Corps / Royal Air Force: resident units and aircraft

Unit Date From Date To Aircraft Notes
No. 1 Sqn HD detachment October 1914 Brooklands November 1914 Brooklands
No. 1 RAS HD detachment 19 December 1914 Farnborough December 1914 Farnborough
No. 7 Sqn HD detachment 22 December 1914 Netheravon December 1914 Netheravon
No. 2 RAS HD detachment July 1915 Brooklands 1 September 1915 Absorbed into No. 10 RAS
No. 10 RAS/RS/TS 1 September 1915 Formed ex No. 2 RAS nucleus 1 September 1917 Ternhill
5th Wing HD detachment 8 September 1915 Gosport & 23 Sqn 1 February 1916 Attached to No. 19 RS Hounslow
No. 10 RAS HD detachment 31 January 1916 Detached from parent unit 31 January 1916 Farningham
No. 10 RAS HD detachment 1 February 1916 Farningham 1 February 1916 Re-joined parent unit
No. 22 RS B Flt nucleus June 1916 Formed, attached to No. 10 RS 24 August 1916 En route for Egypt
Wireless Testing Park 21 October 1916 Brooklands 1 January 1917 Biggin Hill
No. 63 TS 1 June 1917 Ternhill 5 October 1918 Redcar
No. 10 TDS B Flt nucleus 15 October 1917 Formed, attached to No. 63 TS 1 October 1917 Feltwell
8th Aero Squadron USAAS HQ* 24 December 1917 Flower Down* 1 May 1918 Thetford
8th Aero Squadron USAAS flights 24 December 1917 Flower Down* December 1917 Northolt, Thetford and Wyton
Pool of Pilots 5 October 1918 Manston December 1919 Disbanded

Wing chain of command

Wing Date from Date to Notes
6th Wing September 1915
18th Wing 12 April 1916
6th Wing January 1917
58th Wing, 1 (Training) Group, SE Area 1918
18th Wing, SE Area *1919
49th Wing, HD Group, SE Area, VI Brigade 1918


  • Units and location marked with an * were ground units and non-flying stations.
  • HD = Home Defence
  • NLG = Night Landing Ground
  • RAS = Reserve Aeroplane Squadron: when the squadrons of the RFC went to France in 1914, the remaining machines were grouped into the original Reserve Aeroplane Squadron, which became a training unit. When further such units were formed, numbering was introduced.
  • RS = Reserve Squadron: the RAS were re-tiled RS in January 1916 and by July of that year were classified as either Elementary (for initial training) or Higher (for type specialisation). 10 RS was one of the latter, being dedicated to turning out pilots for 'pusher' scouts, DH2 and FE8.
  • TDS = Training Depot Station: these were introduced during the autumn of 1917 in an attempt to streamline the training system. Hitherto, pilots had undertaken elementary training at one station and moved to another for higher training - a waste of time and resources. TDS provided all-through training and had type specialisations.
  • TS = Training Squadron: the RS were re-designated TS on 31 May 1917, to more accurately reflect their role. That coincided with 10 TS switching bases with 63 TS, as a response to the Gotha raids on SE England - 63 TS had Sopwith Pups and DH5s as part of its equipment and was given temporary HD duty.
  • The Wireless Testing Park had arrived as a nucleus from Brooklands and was an out-station of the Signals Experimental Establishment at Woolwich.
  • No. 63 TS was given temporary HD duty during the summer of 1917.
  • The Pool of Pilots comprised a concentration of pilots awaiting posting to units at home and overseas.
  • Above three tables are from the National Archives. The six-part RAF Quarterly Survey of Stations, Autumn 1918 (AIR 1/452/15/312/26 & AIR 1/453/15/312/26).

Some notable officers who served at the aerodrome


The dashed line on the plan from the RAF Quarterly Survey of Stations, Autumn 1918, indicates the aerodrome boundaries - as it does on all the plans in TNA AIR1 452 and 453. The RFC/RAF buildings were mainly on the northern boundary, in and around Long Reach Tavern. The Vickers buildings to the far south. The plan was drawn on existing 25 mile to the inch OS maps, so existing surrounding buildings show, e.g. Outside the base is the Joyce Green hospital in the far SE corner. The Orchard Hospital to its immediate left.

Accidents and incidents

Some notable accidents and incidents involving military aircraft:

The first fatalities occurred on 13 January 1913 when a new biplane design, converted from a Vickers No.6 Monoplane, on a test flight, came down in the River Thames. The Vicker's pilot, Leslie McDonald, and his mechanic, Harry English, were drowned. The publican of the Tavern (and retired waterman) Richard Salmon (1843-1915), witnessed the accident and gave evidence at the inquest in Dartford. The Coroner concluded that the accident had occurred as a result of a sudden loss of power to the engine. The incident didn’t deter Richard from flying as he later experienced a joyride from the aerodrome, at age 69/70.[27]

Captain Gilbert William Mapplebeck DSO (22) (Gibb Mapplebeck) 1892-1915. was posted to No 2 Reserve Air Squadron in August 1915 to carry out flight tests. On 24 August Mapplebeck (a recognized ace) after taking off in a Morane-Saulnier N “Bullet” climbed to 80 feet and then entered a sharp right-hand turn. The plane stalled and spun into the ground. Mapplebeck was killed. Noel Pemberton-Billing MP asked questions in Parliament and it was investigated in 1916. Billing claimed that the plane was of a type condemned by the French air force and that there was a problem with the safety belt. The verdict of the Board of Inquiry on 25 August concluded that the French had indeed in large part taken the plane out of service, and that it would have been negligent to put an inexperienced pilot in such a machine, however Mapplebeck was an ‘expert’ so it was not negligent; the crash was caused by ‘an unfortunate error of judgment on the pilot’s part’, and “that the accident was due to the machine ‘spinning’ on a heavily banked turn, the pilot not having sufficient height to regain control before hitting the earth.”[28][29]

Major Ernest Frederic Unwin (35), died 22 March 1916 in a B.E.2c, 10 RS, hit a tree on a night approach and caught fire, at Joyce Green.[30]

Capt Bert James (22) RAF, was killed at Joyce Green May 1918, within sight of the airfield as witnessed by Carroll Bunch.

2Lt Edwin John Leslie Lonnen (27) killed 16 August 1916 in Vickers FB.9 5273, 10 RS, at Joyce Green. Stalled in turn and nose dived.

Lt Harold Staples Brewster (22) (Canadian) killed 6 December 1916 in a D.H.2 A4988, 10 RS, Joyce Green, Nose dived and crashed, at Dover.

Lt Henry Richard Deighton Simpson (20), RFC (American) killed 20 December 1916 in a Vickers F.B.16A, Vickers Ltd. Crashed on test - 'excessive strain on machine', at Joyce Green.

Lt. Sydney Esmond O’Hanlon Mid. MC. (23) 63 Squadron, killed 29 January 1918. While instructing on the 29 January 1918, another aircraft gone out of control, hit O'Hanlon's Sopwith Pup, and he was seriously injured. Died on 3 February.[31]

Vickers test pilot Harold Barnwell, (39) flying solo in a Vickers F.B.26 Vampire, B1484 crashed at Joyce Green, when he attempted a spin without sufficient altitude for recovery. Pilot KWF.[32]

Partial list of incidents

23 March 1916 Major E. F. Unwin killed 10 RS BE2c 4700 aero accident (accident was actually on 31.1.1916 - card a post-dated report)
2 August 1916 Cpl Jackson injured 10 RS DH1 4629 side-slipped from turn with insufficient speed
16 August 1916 2Lt Leslie Edwin John Lonnen killed 10 RS Vickers FB5 5273 flat turn with missing engine, dived in from 200 ft
1 November 1916 2Lt A. Pryce-Davis injured 10 RS HF F.20 A1154 pilot lost consciousness in air
6 December 1916 Lt H. S. E. Brewster killed 10 RS DH2 A4988 error of judgement, nose-dived in
23 December 1916 2lt G. H. S. Gregeen injured 10 RS Vickers FB5 5659 engine failed, force landed in ploughed field Sgt W.G. Spooner also injured
14 January 1917 Lt R. O. C. Bush injured 10 RS DH2 A2559 30047/WD2190 turned and side-slipped when gliding, to avoid sheds Capt H.H. Griffith (pilot) killed
14 January 1917 2Lt Vicat Scott Taylor killed 10 RS HF F.20 A1183 pupil inexperience or instructor's error
14 January 1917 2Lt D. A. R. Chapman injured 10 RS HF F.20 A1183 27305/WD3338 pilot error or pupil inexperience
12 February 1917 2Lt A. G. Graves injured 10 RS DH2 A4991 30489/WD4179 turned on left side and crashed
13 March 1917 Lt J. H. Ideson killed 10 RS DH2 A4786 30420/WD4141 spinning nose-dive from bank at 1000 ft
19 April 1917 2Lt C. Hartland-Roew injured 10 RS HF F.20 A1218 2985/WD261 crashed after engine failure
30 April 1917 2Lt Newton-Jones injured 10 RS Vickers FB9 A8611 30066/WD2209 engine failed, fell into river
1 May 1917 Capt Harry Wadlow killed 10 RS DH2 A2602 30591/WD11664 collided with hut on landing
7 July 1917 2Lt Wilfred Graham Salmon killed 63 TS Pup A6230 WD10895 machine gun fire from HA
10 July 1917 Cpl J. W. Rattray injured 63 TS Avro B1397 WD11668 took off with one wing low, steep LH turn and nose-dived from 50 ft
17 August 1917 Lt A. G. P. Dow killed 63 TS Avro B3120 Mono 6465/712/WD6678 collided in air with Avro B3143 (pilot OK), fell in river and pilot drowned
2 November 1917 Capt H. H. Griffith killed 63 TS Avro B3234 Mono 30768/WD11841 failed to exit spin and crashed on to barge
2 November 1917 Sgt W. G. Spooner injured 63 TS Avro B3234 Mono 30768/WD11841 failed to recover from spin and hit barge in the R Thames
7 November 1917 2Lt Romuald John Charles Leduc killed 63 TS DH5 A9206 35671/WD9320 crashed from RH turn at 1500 ft
8 November 1917 2Lt Wilfred George Redman killed 63 TS DH5 A9395 35568/WD9217 choked engine on take-off from Harling Road (collection flight?), attempted to land downwind and crashed
11 November 1917 2Lt L. Duffus injured 63 TS DH5 A9252 choked engine and crashed on landing
18 December 1917 Cpl J. W. Cook injured 63 TS propeller accident
22 December 1917 2Lt R. S. Coldney injured 63 TS Avro B9959 Mono 30808/WD20379 stalled and crashed when turning back with failing engine
28 January 1918 2Lt H. B. Davies injured 63 TS accident while flying over Dover
29 January 1918 Cdt W. R. Avery injured 63 TS Avro C4418 Mono 20816/WD20387 collided with Avro C4322 Lt S. E. O'Hanlon fatally IIFA
29 January 1918 Lt Sydney Esmond O'Hanlon fatally injured 63 TS Avro C4418 Mono 30816/WD20387 mid-air collision with Avro C4332 Cdt W. R. Avery injured
19 March 1918 2Lt Charles Herbert Wheelock killed 63 TS Camel C1694 1260/WD11409 spun from RH turn at c.500 ft card says Dartford
28 March 1918 Capt Roden Latham Chatterton killed 63 TS Camel B9231 R1966/WD15095 gliding too slowly in strong wind on landing, got into slow spin
20 April 1918 Sgt Frank March killed 63 TS Avro C4417 Mono WD4228 came out of spin and nose-dived from 50 ft
22 April 1918 Pte G. E. Maxwell injured 63 TS (attached ex 159th Aero Sqn USAS) propeller accident
24 April 1918 Pte E. Maxwell Glenn injured 63 TS Pup B6138 WD45803 propeller accident
7 May 1918 Capt Bert James Killed 63 TS Avro B8707 Le Rhone WD41980 mid air collision with Avro C4477 (2Lt JG Ward) 2Lt G. Nash also killed
7 May 1918 2Lt Gordeon Nash killed 63 TS Avro B8707 Le Rhone WD41980 mid-air collision at 2000 ft with Avro C4477 (2Lt JG Ward) during fighting practice Capt B. James also killed
7 May 1918 2Lt John Gordon Ward killed 63 TS Avro C4477 Le Rhone WD10386 collided at 2000 ft with Avro B8707 while on fighting practice
2 June 1918 2Lt John Percival Van Ryneveld killed 63 TS Camel B4632 WD38440 mid-air collision at 2000 ft with Camel C130 (2Lt F.L. Shield)
2 June 1918 2Lt Frank Leslie Shield killed 63 TS Camel C136 WD53680 mid-air collision at 2000 ft with Camel B4632
3 June 1918 2Lt Norman Owen killed 63 TS Camel B7424 WD15722 spun coming in to land from 2000 ft
3 June 1918 2Lt G. W. Cochrane injured 63 TS Camel B7435 struck on aerodrome by machine piloted by 2Lt E.S. Houseley
3 June 1918 2Lt E. S. Houseley injured 63 TS Camel B7435 5273/WD38500 error of jusdgement in diving 2Lt G. W. Cochrane injured on ground
14 June 1918 2Lt Guy Manwaring Knocker injured 63 TS Avro D8783 Clerget WD38316 swinging propeller on Ware landing ground Capt T. E. Withington uninjured
18 June 1918 Lt Charles Wilson O'Connell killed 63 TS Camel B7414 WD38288 climbing RH turn from ground, stalled at 50 ft and spun
27 June 1918 Cpl Patrick Alexander Birkholy injured 63 TS attached ex 162nd Aero Sqn USAS Avro D7058 Clerget 20969/WD39388 propeller accident
2 July 1918 Flt Cdt Harton Woodwak Barwood killed 63 TS Avro D6306 Clerget WD38327 vertical nose dive from half roll at 300 ft
4 July 1918 Pte Paul White injured 63 TS attached ex 162nd Aero Sqn USAS Avro D7053 Clerget 2100/WD15229 propeller accident
17 July 1918 Capt Claude Robert James Thompson killed 63 TS Camel B7820 WD38568 stalled turn at 800 ft onto target, RH spin and nose-dived in
19 July 1918 2Lt Harry Hall Gunther killed 63 TS Camel B7760 WD43810 crashed near Cobham Woods
21 July 1918 2Lt J. W. Fife injured 63 TS Camel B7427 WD15229 crashed after cylinder blew off
27 July 1918 Flt Cdt Charles David Brown killed 63 TS Avro 6152 Clerget WD2283 collided during fighting practice E1652?
27 July 1918 Flt Cdt Richard Eric Merry injured 63 TS Avro D8833 propeller accident
27 July 1918 Lt George Edward Taylor injured 63 TS Avro D8834 Clerget WD38382 collided at 200 ft during fighting practice with Avro 6152
30 July 1918 2Lt Victor Samuel Gordon Hawkins injured 63 TS Avro D7113 Clerget WD7866 engine missing at 2000 ft, crashed in forced landing
2 August 1918 Lt Charles Henry Williams killed 63 TS Camel B2435 WD30548 flat turn to avoid another machine while firing at targets, spun and nose-dived into Dartford Creek
10 August 1918 2Lt John Edmund Seaton injured 63 TS Avro D8833 struck by propeller of the machine, which was landing
14 August 1918 Lt Frank George William King injured 63 TS Avro D4474 Clerget WD6389 turned downwind at 100 ft to avoid village, stalled and crashed Pte F.C. Miller also injured
14 August 1918 Pte Frederick Charles Miller injured 63 TS Attached ex 162nd Aero Sqn USAS Avro D4474 Clerget WD6389 turned downwind at c.100 ft to avoid over-flying a village, stalled and crashed Lt F.G.W. King (pilot) also injured
29 August 1918 Flt Cdt Phillip George Dalton Winchester killed 63 TS Camel C8291 WD45923 wing broke off in mid-air
4 September 1918 2Lt William Riley injured 63 TS Avro D2088 Clerget WD61561 failed to flatten out on landing
4 September 1918 AM2 John Foster injured 63 TS propeller accident
18 September 1918 Flt Cdt Harry Marklands Jackson injured 63 TS Avro D1996 Clerget R1335/WD11484 engine failed, stalled attempting to land
29 September 1918 Sgt Henry Girling Henderson killed 63 TS Camel E1574 WD44578 choked engine at 80 ft on take-off, attempted to turn back, stalled and spun in


North Kent Nomads Flying Club

One of the fields is used by this Large Radio Controlled Model Aircraft club.[33]

Wells Fireworks Factory

In 1938 a long-established English firework maker Joseph Wells and Sons Limited acquired land between the Orchard Hospital and what was the Aerodrome. A part of the aerodrome site was included; where the RAF Officers mess had been located near the main gate. Wells had been originally established in 1837 at Earlsfield and Camberwell in London. To meet increasing demands and compliance with the requirements of the Explosives Act 1875, they had opened a new factory at Honor Oak Park in 1878, just north of the railway station. They also opened a factory in 1915 at Colchester to supplement Honor Oaks' production. Colchester was closed in 1938 when the new factory was built at Joyce Green, Dartford. The Honor Oak factory was closed in 1947 and the construction sheds from the old factory were transported to the Joyce Green site. Wells carried on production of fireworks until the family sold the site in 1968.[34][35]


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  34. Lancaster, Ronald (1998). FIREWORKS Principles and Practice (3rd ed.). New York: Chemical Publishing Co., Inc.. pp. 21–23. ISBN 0-8206-0354-6. Retrieved 5 March 2017. 
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  • McCudden, James Byford (1987). Flying Fury: Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps. London: Lionel Leventhal. ISBN 0-947898-60-3. 

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