Military Wiki

RAF Southampton was a World War I military base in the United Kingdom, located 3.5 NM (6.5 km; 4.0 mi) north north-east of Southampton,[1] in the Borough of Eastleigh within Hampshire, England. It is now known as Southampston Airport.


The airport's runway is built over the remains of a Roman villa. It was excavated in May 1925 but the villa had been robbed of much of its material.[2]

The site's connection with aviation can be traced back to 1910 when pioneer pilot Edwin Rowland Moon used the meadows belonging to North Stoneham Farm as a take-off and landing spot for his monoplane, Moonbeam Mk II.[3] In 2010, the airport arranged a series of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first flight at the airport.[4]

During the First World War, when forces from the United States Navy arrived in 1917, work on the building of hangars began. At the peak of the American presence, some 4,000 officers and men were billeted in tents and huts along the adjacent London to Southampton railway line.

After that war, the site became a transit camp for refugees, mainly Russian, who were anxious to sail to America from the port of Southampton. The shipping companies Cunard and White Star Line (the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company) together with the Canadian Pacific Railway formed the "Atlantic Park Hostel Company" to house them temporarily. In 1921 the hangars were converted into dormitories, kitchens and dining rooms.

The hostel was intended to be a short-term clearing house for those trans-migrants changing ships, but following changes to US immigration law which restricted entry to the United States under national origins quotas, some residents were forced to stay much longer. In 1924 about 980 Ukrainian Jewish would-be emigrants were cared for at the hostel. Some of them were still there seven years later, stranded between the US and UK which would not accept them, and unable to return the countries they had fled. Atlantic Park had a school, library, and synagogue while the refugees formed football teams that played local sides and took part in local events, such as Eastleigh carnival. At the height of its use 20,000 passed through Atlantic Park in 1928 but then figures started to fall away, leading to the closure of the hostel in 1931.

In 1932 Southampton Corporation purchased the site and it became "Southampton Municipal Airport". By 1935 part of the site was being used by the Fleet Air Arm of the RAF and was briefly known as RAF Eastleigh before it became RAF Southampton in 1936. The military site was transferred to Naval command in 1939 and renamed HMS Raven, and subsequently spent most of the war in a ground and air training role for the Royal Navy.[5] It eventually passed back into civilian ownership in April 1946.

During the 1950s a mainstay of business for the airport was the Cross channel car ferry service operated by Silver City Airways using Bristol Freighters and Superfreighters. In 1965 a new concrete runway was built, opening for use in 1966, enabling the operation of larger aircraft.

In 1936 Supermarine opened a test flight facility on the site, followed shortly thereafter by the opening of the Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft factory on the southern end of the runway. Both companies later closed their Southampton operations, Supermarine moving flying activities to Chilbolton, and the Cunliffe-Owen factory being acquired by Briggs Motor Bodies during 1949 - 1951[6] who were taken over by Ford in 1953. This factory is still in use, although now located off-field due to the opening of the M27 motorway in 1983. The Cierva Autogiro Company rented portions of the Cunliffe-Owen plants starting in 1946, and had to move to another location on the field when it was acquired by Briggs. In 1951 Saunders-Roe (commonly abbreviated Saro) took over the interests of Cierva Autogyro and built a rotor testing building on the eastern side of the airfield, which is now derelict. They continued operations on the field until about 1960.

Southampton airport only has one main ground handler which is Swissport (Servisair), who took over from Aviance. They handle all passenger services and ramp operations for all airlines except for Aurigny Air services who operate their own ground handling,

Links with the Spitfire

On 5 March 1936 the first test flight of the Supermarine Spitfire took place at the airport, an event commemorated in 2004 by the erection of a near-full size sculpture of K5054, the prototype Spitfire, at the road entrance.

On 5 March 2006 five restored Spitfires took off from Southampton Airport to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first test flight of the Spitfire.

There are plans, supported by the local council, to rename the airport after R. J. Mitchell, designer of the Spitfire. However, the decision rests with BAA Limited.[7][8]


  1. Southampton - EGHI
  2. MONUMENT NO. 230032, Pastscape, retrieved 29 May 2012
  3. Mann, John Edgar (2002). Book of the Stonehams. Tiverton: Halsgrove. p. 25. ISBN 1-84114-213-1. 
  4. "Centenary of flight". Hampshire County Council. 28 January 2010. Retrieved 27 February 2010. 
  5. BAA Southampton Official Airport Website
  6. How Southampton became 'home' to the Ford Transit van
  7. Airport rename to honour Spitfire
  8. Airport Spitfire rename supported

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).