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RAF Kidbrooke
Kidbrooke, London
Type Royal Air Force station
Coordinates Latitude:
Longitude:
Built 1917 (1917)
In use 1917-1965 (1965)
Current
owner
Ministry of Defence

RAF Kidbrooke was a Royal Air Force base, situated in Kidbrooke in south-east London, in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The site was operational from 1917 to 1965 and was mainly used as a stores, maintenance and training facility.

History

Established in 1917, the facility was initially a Royal Flying Corps storage depot, situated on both sides of the railway line close to Kidbrooke railway station.[1] In 1917, several large storage warehouses and offices were constructed, that stretched for 1,000 yards (910 m) alongside both sides of the line, served by sidings and an extensive 2ft gauge network.[2][note 1]

The RFC became the RAF on 1 January 1918. Kidbrooke was named No 1 Stores Depot in March 1920. It became No 1 Equipment Depot in February 1937 and No 1 Maintenance Unit in April 1938. It was disbanded as a stores in February 1947, though its facilities remained in use but managed from elsewhere.[3]

During the Second World War, the base was expanded to include a barrage balloon depot, providing balloons to defend London against low-flying enemy aircraft.[1] This was also the base for the No 1 Balloon Centre and 901 Squadron (a barrage balloon squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force) and No 2 Installation Unit, responsible for constructing and repairing Chain Home radar station masts.[3][4] On adjacent land to the north of the railway line, No. 141 Gliding School RAF for the Air Training Corps operated from October 1942 to December 1945,[3] after which it transferred to RAF Gravesend and then RAF Detling in north Kent.[5] After the war, the radar installation Unit transferred to RAF West Drayton in Buckinghamshire.[4]

Between 1949 and 1953, the Joint Services School for Linguists taught servicemen and women with an aptitude for languages to speak Russian.[1] In January 1954, the RAF Movements School was formed at RAF Kidbrooke, tasked to provide cargo movements and mobility training to personnel of all three Services and other Government departments. It had a staff of 47 and ran around 25 courses, ranging in length from under a week to a 17-week basic recruit course, delivered to over 1,900 personnel per annum. In January 1963, the School moved to RAF Kirton in Lindsey in Lincolnshire, but was disbanded the following December.[6] RAF Kidbrooke closed in 1965.

Wartime murder

During the Second World War, on 14 February 1944, Iris Miriam Deeley, a leading aircraftwoman with No 1 Balloon Centre was murdered near Well Hall railway station as she was returning to Kidbrooke. Her murderer, Ernest Kemp, was arrested a week later. He was tried and convicted at the Old Bailey, and, after being condemned to death, was executed at Wandsworth Prison on 6 June 1944.[7][8][9]

The site today

The Kidbrooke training facility was on the site today occupied by Thomas Tallis School,[1][3] in which the RAF Linguists' Association unveiled a commemorative plaque in 2008[10] (re-dedicated in July 2014).[11] After the base's closure, much of the rest of the site was used for housing, with the Ferrier Estate (1968–2012) being constructed to the south of the railway lines. In the 1980s the Rochester Way Relief Road was built across the northern part of the site, alongside the railway line, carrying the A2 south of its earlier route.

Part of the eastern side of the glider school site is now occupied by Corelli College (from 1954 to 2011, Kidbrooke School).

Notes

  1. A steam engine, Kidbrooke, used on the narrow gauge system at this time is preserved on the Yaxham Light Railway in Norfolk. Another engine, P-class No.178, is preserved on the Bluebell Railway in Sussex.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Barrage balloons and trainee spies in Kidbrooke". https://thamesfacingeast.wordpress.com/tag/ferrier-estate/. Retrieved 2 October 2017. 
  2. "Kidbrooke". http://www.kentrail.org.uk/kidbrooke.htm. Retrieved 2 October 2017. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "History". http://www.kpaa.org.uk/history.htm. Retrieved 2 October 2017. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "My Experiences of Radar Installation by Ted Clark". WW2: The People's War. BBC. 16 December 2003. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/91/a2137691.shtml. Retrieved 2 October 2017. 
  5. Moor, Anthony (2013). Detling Airfield: A History 1915-1959. Amberley Publishing Limited. ISBN 9781445624945. 
  6. "Unit History: RAF Movements School". https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/3736/raf-movements-school/. Retrieved 2 October 2017. 
  7. "Ernest Kemp". http://www.stephen-stratford.com/ernest_kemp.htm. Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  8. Powell, Gary (2017). Death Diary: A Year of London Murder, Execution, Terrorism and Treason. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 9781445665030. 
  9. "Remember Leading Aircraftwoman Iris Miriam DEELEY.". http://scarletboy44.tumblr.com/post/110996641398/remember-leadingaircraftwoman-iris-miriam-deeley. Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  10. "History". http://www.rafling.com/history/. Retrieved 2 October 2017. 
  11. Little, Mandy (14 July 2014). "Children’s thanks to RAF in 14 languages at plaque ceremony". South London Press and Mercury. https://www.londonnewsonline.co.uk/1684/childrens-thanks-raf-14-languages-plaque-ceremony/. Retrieved 2 October 2017. 


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