The Hawker P.1127 and the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel FGA.1 were the experimental and development aircraft that led to the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, the first vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) jet fighter-bomber. Kestrel development began in 1957, taking advantage of the Bristol Engine Company’s choice to invest in the creation of the Pegasus vectored-thrust engine. Testing began in July 1960 and by the end of the year the aircraft had achieved both vertical take-off and horizontal flight. The test program also explored the possibility of use upon aircraft carriers, landing on HMS Ark Royal in 1963. The first three aircraft crashed during testing, one at the 1963 Paris Air Show.
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Banner Photo credit : Andy Lawson, BAe Systems
Night-time Ex-RAF Harrier at Cosford, credit www.steviebeats.co.uk
The Hawker Hunter is a transonic British jet-powered fighter aircraft that was developed by Hawker Aircraft for the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the late 1940s and early 1950s. It was designed to take advantage of the newly developed Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engine and the swept wing, and was the first jet-powered aircraft produced by Hawker to be procured by the RAF. On 7 September 1953, the modified first prototype broke the world air speed record for jet-powered aircraft, achieving a speed of 727.63 mph (1,171.01 km/h; 632.29 kn).
The Hunter flying from Dunsfold
The Hunter in use with the RAF
The RAF Black Arrows formation team, 111 Squadron:
The single-seat Hunter was introduced to service in 1954 as a manoeuvrable day interceptor aircraft, quickly succeeding first-generation jet fighters in RAF service such as the Gloster Meteor and the de Havilland Venom. The all-weather/night fighter role was filled by the Gloster Javelin. Successively improved variants of the type were produced, adopting increasingly more capable engine models and expanding its fuel capacity amongst other modifications being implemented. Hunters were also used by two RAF display teams: the “Black Arrows”, who on one occasion looped a record-breaking 24 Hunters in formation, and later the “Blue Diamonds”, who flew 16 aircraft. The Hunter was also widely exported, serving with a total of 21 overseas air forces.
During the 1960s, following the introduction of the supersonic English Electric Lightning in the interceptor role, the Hunter transitioned to being operated as a fighter-bomber and for aerial reconnaissance missions, using dedicated variants for these purposes. Two-seat variants remained in use for training and secondary roles with the RAF and the Royal Navy until the early 1990s. Sixty years after its original introduction it was still in active service, being operated by the Lebanese Air Force until 2014.
The Hunter saw combat service in a range of conflicts with several operators, including the Suez Crisis, the Aden Emergency, the Sino-Indian War, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Rhodesian Bush War, the Second Congo War, the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, and the 2007 Lebanon conflict. Overall, 1,972 Hunters were manufactured by Hawker Aircraft and its successor, Hawker Siddeley, as well as being produced under licence overseas. In British service, the Hunter was replaced in its principal roles by the Lightning, the Hawker Siddeley Harrier and the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.
How to fly a Hunter:
For a comprehensive history of the Hunter.
The North American B-25 Mitchell is an American twin-engine, medium bomber manufactured by North American Aviation (NAA). It was named in honor of Major General William “Billy” Mitchell, a pioneer of U.S. military aviation. Used by many Allied air forces, the B-25 served in every theater of World War II and after the war ended many remained in service, operating across four decades. Produced in numerous variants, nearly 10,000 Mitchells rolled from NAA factories. These included a few limited models, such as the United States Marine Corps’ PBJ-1 patrol bomber and the United States Army Air Forces’ F-10 reconnaissance aircraft and AT-24 trainers.
Primemeads is an early 17th century oak timberframed farmhouse, with a possible smoke hood and early diamond mullioned window. Brick house with decorative dentil course shows the house built in two phases. It was Listed by Historic England in April 2017. Home to the test pilot Neville Duke – in 1955 Duke set the world air speed record of 727.63mph flying the Hunter WB188.
WB188, the first P.1067 and Neville Duke’s record breaking aircraft
Please note: The aerodrome is private land and an active airfield. Access is not permitted to some of the buildings and features and we strongly discourage access without permission.
Dunsfold Airfield was cleared of woodland, farmland and buildings to form the Canadian Air Force airbase in 1942. Units of Canadian troops cleared land requisitioned from the people to form runways, perimeter roads and after little more than one month the first aircraft had landed. The old Brighton Road from Godalming was relocated so that it no longer ran through the site at Pains Hill. The old cast iron milestones were amended by one mile to reflect the additional mileage diversion. Most farm buildings and farm houses were removed with the exception of the Chiddingfold Kennels (now Honey Mead), Primemeads Farmhouse (originally Stillwells Farm) and Broadmeads Cottage (now referred to as Canada House). The latter was moved to the southern perimeter and now stands alongside Benbow Lane.
The three runways and perimeter track are very complete, built with a pioneering form of construction and still retain original features such as light fittings and cast iron drainage channels. In 1942 this airfield was an expression of a technical and social innovation of the period to meet demands of the war time. It has been adapted to suit the needs and development of the Vertical Take Off and Landing aircraft with the VTOL platforms for these ‘jump jets’.
Research and Sources: Surrey History Centre, Airfield Research Group, Brooklands Museum Archive, Imperial War Museum –March 2017
Work on the airfield started 11th may 1942 with a bold estimate that work would be completed in 18 weeks. This was a challenge that the 2nd Battalion Royal Canadian Engineers, 2nd Road Construction Company & the Canadian Forestry Corps were capable of meeting using explosives and some of the heavy machinery supplied from the USA under the lease lend arrangements.
Tree stumps were blasted and from May 27th concrete was being poured in two shifts 18 hours a day. One of the obstacles encountered in the construction of the 45ft wide 3 mile perimeter road was Broadmead Cottage. It straddled the route to be taken and a swift demolition was required to keep construction within the tight timeframe. Sergeant Fred Kreugar realised special skills were required to deal with the building so ordered Sergeant Whidden to deal with the issue.
Dunsfold: 'Before the war it was the most remote village in Surrey: now, well hidden, an airfield tests jet fighters.'
Nikolaus Pevsner, Buildings of England: Surrey
Historic England explains that Local Planning Authorities are obliged to designate as conservation areas any parts of their own area that are of special architectural or historic interest, the character and appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance. Waverley Borough Council Planning Department are considering an application for designation of Dunsfold Aerodrome as a Conservation Area. There is a consultation process concluding on April 28th 2017. Please read what follows and look at the references to Historic England’s documents. Then if you want to support DAHS and make comments about the designation you can make them on the Waverley website. It is a simple questionnaire.
You may be surprised to know that former military airfields can – and do – become designated as Conservation Areas. This is because conservation areas are not just about ‘old buildings’. They have a much wider role to play than that. In the words of Historic England (formerly English Heritage);
‘The totality of an aerodrome cannot be captured through statutory designation alone, and other approaches such as conservation area protection….. have been shown to be appropriate’ (Historic England (4))
In respect of Dunsfold Aerodrome, the case for establishing a Conservation Area is very much about the historical context, the people, and the events (of national and international importance) that are inextricably linked to the site. But it is also about the appropriate management and preservation of the large number of heritage buildings still existing, the future of which is currently uncertain. Most members of the public are unaware of the existence of these structures as the site is still private and largely ‘hidden’. It is not coincidental that at this point in time Historic England is considering the designation of at least 10 structures on Dunsfold Aerodrome – in other words ‘listing’ them. This would have an important bearing on the designation of the site as a Conservation Area.
Plan of Dunsfold Heritage Assets click to expand:
‘The vast majority of nationally significant airfield structures will be most appropriately protected through listing…..Another mechanism by which the significance of an airfield can be highlighted as a historic landscape, is through conservation area status.’ (Historic England (5)).
Conservation of a special place such as Dunsfold Aerodrome is about the complex processes through which we as individuals or as groups define ourselves and our relationships with the natural and cultural aspects of the airfield. It is about a sense of place – profoundly important for individual and community identity, and the ‘significance’ of this airfield as a heritage asset. Currently, Historic England recognises Dunsfold Aerodrome as an Undesignated Heritage Asset; if it were to be granted conservation area status this would raise it to Designated Heritage Asset status.
There is a recognised procedure for appraisal, designation and management of a Conservation Area (Historic England (6)). Appraisal of an area for conservation can include establishing its significance for a number of reasons:-
- History, Landscape and Identities
- Rural Sense of Place
- Urban Sense of Place
- Cultural Landscapes
- Conservation, Biodiversity and Tourism
DAHS exists to research and make public all of the history of what has been called ‘Surrey’s most secret airfield’*, to celebrate historical achievements, and preserve precious assets and memories for the benefit of current and future generations. We believe that the right and proper way of doing that is for all statutory bodies, local councils and stakeholders to work together to establish a robust framework for the airfield that will inform and guide its future management and development, recognising its heritage value. A conservation area covering the site would be an ideal means of achieving this.
What makes Dunsfold Airfield special?
- The relatively ‘untouched’ nature of the 1942-built airfield
- The survival of a large number of key physical assets, including the runways, in their original form
- Home to the development of a number of iconic British military aircraft; including the Hunter, the Hawk and the Harrier ‘jump jet’ – world class technology that led to military and economic success.
- Berlin Airlift – Dunsfold Airfield helped to avert what would probably have been a humanitarian disaster.
- 3 permanent runways designed for the WWII bombers and latter used to test new aviation technology.
- Wings and Wheels – major air show and motorsport event attracting 25,000 visitors and over 1000 participants.
- Home to the BBCs Top Gear programme watched in 214 territories worldwide and has an estimated global audience of 350 million
Examples of former military airfields that have been given Conservation Area status include;