Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force Duxford Timeline

1912 - 1961

PLEASE NOTE: Timeline subject to further research and confirmation.

Duxford’s suitability as a landing field first led to its use for military flying following Military Manoeuvres held at various locations during 1912. With what is now the A505 Royston to Newmarket road passing through it, the original site consisted of 15 acres to the north of the road for what was eventually to become the domestic area and 223 acres south of the road for the airfield.


October 1917 – Building started on the construction of an airfield to include hangars, service buildings, offices, work shops and living quarters for a Training Depot Station (TDS) which were instructional flying units of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). TDS’s were built in pairs to form one wing with Fowlmere as the other TDS.

February 1918 – Although still uncompleted, Duxford opens as a TDS.

March 1918 – The US Government agree to send newly qualified American mechanics to RFC bases, including Duxford, to release experienced RFC personnel to service aircraft and equipment on the front line. Initially No.159 US Aero Squadron & No.137 Aero Squadron are based at Duxford and help construct eight temporary Bessonneau wood and canvas type hangars until completion of the main permanent hangars. No.151, 256 & 268 US Aero Squadrons soon follow. RFC flying Squadrons (Sqdns) in residence are No.119,123 & 129 operating de Havilland DH9’s.

April 1918 – Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air services amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force (RAF).

July 1918 – No.35 Training Depot Station, as the Duxford site is officially known as, opens.

September 1918 – RAF Duxford officially opens.

October 1918 – No151 Aero Sqdn leaves Duxford for France.

November 1918 – The American government ceases all US aviation activity in the UK and recalls all American Aero Sqdns. The airfield is used for RAF Sqdns returning from France for disbandment. Out of 301 airfields at the end of WW1, 271 are closed by 1919 but RAF Duxford is retained as a core TDS.

July 1919 – No8 Sqdn in residence flying Bristol F.2B Fighters.

April 1920 - RAF Duxford becomes No.2 Flying Training School (2FTS) flying Avro 504’s, Bristol Fighters and de Havilland DH.9s.

April 1923 – RAF Duxford changes from a training station to a fighter station with the formation of No.19 & 29 Sqdns flying Sopwith Snipes.

October 1923 -  Sqdn arrives flying Gloster Grebes which also re-equip No.111& 29 Sqdns.

June 1924 - No.2 FTS moves to Digby and 111 Sqdn re-equips with Armstrong Whitworth Siskin 111’s.

January 1925 - Formation at Duxford of the Metrological Flight.

October 1925 - Cambridge University Air Squadron formed with Avro 504’s arriving in February 1926 and replaced with Avro Tutors in 1933.  

1927 - Sqn Ldr Keith Park becomes Station Commander.

March 1928 - N0.111 Sqdn move to Hornchurch

April 1928 - No.29 Sqdn moves to North Weald.

1928/1932 – Major building programme and Duxford enlarged.

October 1932 - Following his Bristol Bulldog crash and leg amputation, Douglas Bader re-joins No. 19 Sqdn at Duxford but in April1933 is retired from the RAF on ground of ill health.

January 1935 - No.19 Sqdn, having flown the AW Siskin 111/111a’s & Bristol Bulldog, re-equipped with the then fastest aircraft in the RAF’s inventory. The Gloster Gauntlet.

July 1935 – Duxford is the venue for the Silver Jubilee Review for King George V and Queen Mary. 182 aircraft took part in the flypast with 100,000 members of the public in attendance.

July 1936 - No. 66 Sqdn formed with Gloster Gauntlets.

                   - Duxford moved from No. 11 group to No. 12 Group in charge of the defence of the industrial  Midlands.

August 1938 – Arrival on the 4th August of first Spitfire, K9789, for 19 Squadron.

September 1938 - Duxford placed on 2 hours alert following the Munich crisis.

October 1938 - No. 66 Sqdn begin to relinquish their gauntlet for Spitfires.

May 1939 – over 12,000 visitors attend Empire Day.

August 1939 - No. 611 (West Lancashire) Squadron, flying Spitifires, arrive at Duxford for Summer Camp.. All Squadron at Duxford placed on half-hour readiness.

September 1939 - War declared on Germany by Britain and France following German forces invading Poland. 19 & 66Sqdn flying patrols over the North Sea from Horsham St. Faith in Norfolk.

October 1939 - No 611 Sqdn replaced with newly-formed No. 222 Sqdn becoming operational in December flying the Bristol Blenheim 1F on North Sea shipping protection.

January 1940 - No 66 Sqdn, flying from Norfolk, claim first victory in crippling a Heinkel He.III which had attacked a trawler and later crashed in Denmark.

February 1940 - Douglas Bader re-enlists in the RAF and returns to No. 19 Sqdn still at Horsham St. Faith.

April 1940 - No 19 Sqdn move on semi-permanent basis to Horsham St. faith and No. 222 Sqdn swap their Blenheim fo Spitfires.

May 1940 - Holland invaded, Douglas Bader promoted to Flight Commander No. 222 Sqdn and moved to Digby to be replaced by No. 264 Sqdn flying Boulton Paul Defiants. No 19 Sqdn claim their first victory a Junkers Ju88. No. 19 Sqdn returns to Duxford with No. 66 Sqdn replacing them at Horsham St. Faith. No. 19 Sqdn move to Hornchurch for 10 days covering the Dunkirk evacuation  No 19 Sqdn claim 28 victories and 9 probable’s during this period with the loss of 3 pilots. No. 264 Sqdn claim 56 victories for the loss of 14 Defiant’s with the Squadron standing down at the end of the month.

June 1940 - No. 19 Sqdn return to Duxford and No. 92 Sqdn move to Northolt. Luftwaffe night raids take place in the Cambridge area and No. 19 Sqdn start night patrols. No.19 Sqdn move to Fowlmere.

July 1940 - No. 310 Sqdn, flying Hawker Hurricanes, formed at Duxford with mainly Czechoslovakian pilots who had fled the German occupation of their country.

August 1940 - With 12 Group providing additional aircraft for 11 Group, No. 611 Sqdn would fly to Duxford from Digby, and return each night, to provide cover so No 19, 310 & 611 Sqdns could be at readiness assist 11 Group when required. No. 242 Sqdn, flying the Hawker Hurricane manned by Canadian pilots and commanded by Douglas Bader, moved on a daily basis form Coltishall to Duxford. While covering North Weald, about 30 miles south of Duxford, No. 242 Sqdn attacked a force of  Heinkel III’s and Me.110s as they were about to drop bombs on Enfield in Norht London. No. 242 Sqdn claimed 12 victories and 3 probable’s. Dornier Do.17’s and Me.II0’s attacked Fowlmere. No.19 Sqdn claimed two victories for the loss of two aircraft with the pilots parachuting to safety. One damaged Spitfire tried to land back at Fowlmere but crashed killing the pilot. No. 310 Sqdn attacked a fromation of Dornier Do.215’s, Me.II0’s and Bf.109’s east of Hornchurch claiming four Do.215’s and one Bf.109’s for the loss of two Hurricanes.

September 1940 - No. 611’s ’A’ Flight was temporarily moved to North Shropshire with B’ flight remaining  at Digby to provide cover for Duxford.  Following problems with its canon armed Spitfire, No. 19 Sqdn were to move from Fowlmere to Digby and replaced by No. 611 Sqdn while the canons were being replaced with machine guns. No.19 & 310 Sqdns claim eight aircraft destroyed and one probable following a Luftwaffe bombing raid on North Weald for the loss of one Hurricane and pilot from No. 310 Sqdn. No. 19 Sqdn along with No 242 and 310 Sqdns were ordered to fly together as a single big wing in what was to become known as the ‘Duxford Wing’



December 1940 - Arrival of the RAF’s Air Fighting Development Unit.

January 1941 – The King & Queen visit Duxford to inspect base and hand out medals.

August 1941 – ‘Eagle Squadron’ of American Volunteer’s arrive.

April 1943 – Duxford handed over to the Americans to become ‘Station 357(DX)’ of the United States Eighth Air Force

May 1943 – The King & Queen visit Duxford to welcome the Americans.

December 1944 – The grass runway was replaced with prefabricated steel matting, known as Pierced Steel Planking, to take the heavier weight of aircraft that were being flown by the Americans.

December 1945 – Duxford returned to the Royal Air Force as a jet fighter station as part of RAF Fighter Command.

October 1949 – the PSP runway is replaced with a concrete runway and perimeter track. Duxford closed for 2 years.

August 1951 – Duxford becomes operational again.

July 1961 – A Gloster Javelin FAW.7 makes the last operational flight from the airfield

August 1961 – A Gloster Meteor NF14 made the last take off from RAF Duxford. The airfield is closed and put in care & maintenance.

1968 – Duxford used as one of the locations for the filming of the Battle of Britain Movie.

1968 – Cambridge University Gliding club move to Duxford before moving again to Gransden Lodge in 1991.

1969 – MOD put Duxford airfield up for disposal and eventually acquired in 1977 by Cambridgeshire County Council and the Imperial War Museum as a conservation and storage facility for the large exhibits not able to be displayed at its London Museum.

October 2008 – The CCC sold the runway and surrounding grassland to the IWM for £1.6 million.