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Stories

The man behind the film ‘Reach for the Sky’

Did you know the war-time classic Reach for the Sky was filmed on location at Kenley airfield in 1955? Let’s take a closer look at one of Kenley’s famous faces: Group Captain Douglas Bader DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar. Douglas Bader’s father was a major in the British Army in the First World War: badly wounded by shrapnel in 1917 he died from his wounds in 1922. The loss of his father put a serious financial strain on his family. There were doubts whether Douglas would be able to go on to public school but he won a sports…

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Stories

Johnnie Johnson: Kenley’s Ace

Arguably the most prolific of RAF fighter aces James Edgar ‘Johnnie’ Johnson took command of the Kenley Wing in March 1943. After being mobilised in 1939 he completed operational training at Hawarden, Chester in 1940, Johnson joined No. 616 (County of Yorkshire) Squadron during its brief stay at Kenley in August/September 1940 just prior to its removal to Tangmere near Chichester. Although this was the height of the Battle of Britain Johnson saw little of the action. Aggravation of a previous broken collarbone caused trapped nerves and hospitalisation. Fully fit Johnson rejoined his squadron in the December. 616 was now…

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Stories

“All hell let loose” August 1940

When I am asked “Did you take part in the Battle of Britain?” I usually reply “Yes — but I did not know it ’til it was all over.” I was a 19-year old Scot who had never spent much time away from my home town of Forfar, in the heart of Angus, when in early 1940 I joined the Royal Air Force and found myself with two other lads from the north posted to Royal Air Force Kenley. Alighting at Whyteleafe railway station, wearing full kit and carrying our gas masks, tin hats and kitbags, we were informed, by…

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