History of Lympne Airfield

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Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

 Winston Churchill

A site of International importance in the history of Aviation, Political and Social Life of the last one hundred years.

Lympne Airfield is a site of immense historical importance to the birth of military and civil aviation in this country and abroad since 1916. The development of light aircraft saw all the important aircraft designers and manufacturers of the day compete at Lympne in the 1920’s. Air racing, record breaking, international long distance flying, aerial photography, commercial passenger services and parachute training were all centred on Lympne for long periods of time.

Through two world wars Lympne saw intense activity as a base defending this country later taking the war to the enemy,  death, destruction, heroism, glory,  all wartime realities came to Lympne.  The airfield played a major part in all the significant chapters of the war in Western Europe.

In WW2 the major raids were all in the Summer of 1940, involving Dornier 17 and Junkers 87B’s (Stukas) in three such raids. Several lives were lost, civilians, RAF personnel and even a member of the Home Guard. Some of whom are buried in Lympne churchyard today.

There were nuisance raids throughout the war, but the next serious loss of life came in 1944 as the V1 flying bomb hit the airfield and nearby on a few occasions.

In its seventy year history Lympne has seen the Royal Flying Corps, the Admiralty and the Royal Air Force in residence and been attacked by the German Imperial Air Force of WW1, the Luftwaffe of WW2 and the infamous V1 flying bombs.

Between the Wars Sir Phillip Sassoon’s Port Lympne Mansion, now part of the John Aspinall Wildlife Foundation located across the road from the Airfield, was host to the Great, the Good and the Famous of the 20’s and 30’s including Winston Churchill and the Prince of Wales.

Port Lympne played an important part in national and international political life being the centre where intergovernmental negotiations over the Treaty of Versaille were conducted.

In 1932 Douglas Bader flew from Lympne to prove to Sassoon, then under Secretary of State for Air, his ability to fly with two tin legs.

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Flying ceased in mid 1980’s, the field now reverting to provide a home once more for the plant and wildlife that originated there hundreds of years ago and now well on the way to recovery.

 

Famous Names Connected With Lympne Airfield

Max Aitken

The son of Canadian press baron and Minister of Aircraft Production as Lord Beaverbrook in the coalition government of WW2. Max Aitken was at Lympne Airfield prior to WW2 with his own aircraft, an Aeronca C3. (See Roger Bushell). Famously flew Blenheims with 68 Sqn in WW2. Holds distinction of flying operationally on the very first and very last days of WW2.

Douglas Bader

Spent the weekend with Phillip Sassoon at Port Lympne House in June 1932. Made his first post flying accident piloted flight in an Avro 504 to Kenley and return from Lympne.

Jean Batten

Flew from Lympne on her record breaking flights to New Zealand in 1936 and from Australia in 1937. Made three earlier flights from Lympne too.

Lord Boothby

Controversial one time Tory Cabinet Minister was with the Edward Heath party in 1969. See below. Also rented and lived in The French House here in Lympne for some years.

Roger Bushell

The real Big X from The Great Escape, played in the film by Richard Attenborough. He was at Lympne in 601 Squadron’s summer camp in 1936. While here, crashed Max Aitken’s private plane while trying to land at Botolphs Bridge Inn. Along with another pilot, P.O. E.G. Brettell, who crash landed at Lympne in 1941, Bushell was murdered by the Gestapo after the break out in 1944.

Max Bygraves

Aircraftsman, Second Class 1212094 served in the RAF at Lympne in WW2.

Sydney Camm

The Hawker designer responsible later for the Hurricane, Typhoon, Tempest, Hunter and Harrier. Designed his first aeroplane for the Lympne Trials in 1924 and 1926. The Hawker Cygnet took first and second places in the 1926 main competion. Almost certainly attended the Lympne Trials. The winning aircraft survives in the RAF Museum, Cosford.

Roy Chadwick

Another famous designer who took part in the Lympne Trials. Went on to design the Lancaster, Shackleton and Vulcan

(Sir) Charlie Chaplin

Flew into Lympne from Le Bourget, Paris with a hired plane and pilot, to visit Sir Philip Sassoon. He was expected to arrive at Croydon where press reporters and photographers were waiting. It was October 1921, Chaplin was by now a big star.

(Sir) Winston Churchill

Inspected two RAF Squadrons here at summer camp in 1928, whilst serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer. A regular visitor to Port Lympne House. A regular Flyer in Sasson’s aircraft. Once brought from Paris to Lympne with son Randolph.

(Sir) Alan Cobham

Famous for his Flying Circus barnstorming and joyriding air shows from the inter war years. A veteran of WW1, He took part in air racing at Lympne in 1923 winning an unofficial race. Later used Lympne as a stop over on way to a Brussels show in DH 53 light aeroplane.

Noel Coward

A celebrity spectator and presented prizes at post war air racing events

John Cats Eyes Cunningham

Took part in post war air racing, flying a De Havilland Vampire jet fighter. Wartime night fighter ace, credited with being able to see in the dark because of eating carrots.

Geoffrey De Havilland

Owner of De Havilland aircraft company. Attended aircraft trials with his son in 1920’s..

Geoffrey De Havilland Jnr.

Flew De Havilland Vampire jet fighter at 1946 air racing event. Later killed in air crash in Thames estuary..

John Derry

Famous test pilot who flew a De Havilland Vampire jet at 1948 racing event. Later killed in DH Sea Vixen prototype at Farnborough in 1952

Duke of Kent

Came to visit Shorncliffe Barracks with Princess Marina in 1937, flying to and from Lympne in an Airspeed Envoy of the King’s Flight.

Neville Duke

Well known WW2 fighter ace and test pilot for Hawker. Held world speed record in 1953 in Hawker Hunter over Littlehampton.

Douglas Fairbanks Jnr.

A visitor to the Cinque Ports Flying Club air racing event in 1948.

(Sir) David Frost

Travelled with Skyways long before he was a Concorde transatlantic regular.

(Sir) Frederick Handley Page

Another famous aircraft company owner to fly with Silver City from Lympne

Ray Hanna

One time Red Arrows leader and owner of Old Flying Machine Co. until his death in 2005. A well known warbird pilot. Attended garden party open day in 1971 in Spitfire MH434, later part of his famous warbird collection.

Edward Heath

Opened the new Ashford Airport terminal building in 1969. He was photographed with Skyways Air Hostesses for the national press.

Alex Henshaw

Famous WW2 test pilot.

Graham Hill

The former Formula One world champion kept an American registered twin engined Commanche here in the 1960’s.

(Sir) Jack Hobbs

England and Surrey cricketer of the 1920’s and 30’s was a visitor to Lympne in this era.

Bill Humble

Well known Hawker test pilot. Flew the prototype Fury at Lympne in the 1947 air racing event

Amy Johnson

Used Lympne as her departure point for China (abandoned at Warsaw), Tokyo and Cape Town in 1931 – 1932.

King George VI

As the then Duke of York, visited the last day of the Lympne Trials in 1923. Witnessed the death crash of French pilot Alexis Maneyrol.

(Sir) Charles Kingsford-Smith

Famous Australian born record breaking aviator of the 1920’s and 30’s. Killed with navigator when his plane plunged into the Andaman Sea off Burma in 1935. The flight had started out from Lympne.

William Newton Lancaster

Another flyer lost after flying solo from Lympne in 1933. Crash landed in the Sahara Desert en route to Cape Town. Survived a week before running out of water. Body found by French Army in 1962. A diary had been maintained for that last week.

T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia)

The legendary Lawrence of Arabia was here with his famous Brough Superior motorcycle, to visit his friend Sir Philip Sassoon in the 1930’s. A photograph shows him in a humble Airman’s uniform. Lawrence died in a motorcycle accident in May 1935.

Trafford Leigh Mallory

Air Vice Marshal Leigh Mallory visited Lympne in 1941 as AOC of II Group Fighter Command. A position he famously succeeded Dowding from after the Battle of Britain.

Charles Lindbergh

American Charles Lindberg was the first person to fly the Atlantic solo in 1927 in Spirit of St Louis, was a visitor in the 1930’s

(Sir) Paul McCartney

After recording tracks for the last Wings album at Lympne Castle in 1978, returns to make accompanying videos in 1979, two in former Eagle Parachute School hangar. Linda McCartney also by his side.

R.J. Mitchell

The Spitfire designer designed his first landplane for the Lympne Trials in 1924 and 1926. He had just become the Supermarine chief designer in 1924 when he put forward the Supermarine Sparrow. Almost certainly attended the events.

Jim Mollison

One time husband of Amy Johnson, made record flight himself from Lympne in 1932 to Cape Town, and another to South America.

Viscount Bernard Law Montgomery

Came to Lympne in 1942 to for an inspection. Went on to Hawkinge, and Staplehurst to meet Eisenhower at the latter.

Stanislaus Niedzelfi

Polish concert pianist regularly flew with his Buick and piano in its trailer from Lympne when on tour.

Roy Orbison

Chartered flights with Skyways from Lympne to Le Bourget, Paris and on to Amsterdam and Stockholm , and back to Lympne in March 1965. Cargo contained musical instruments etc. for concert performances.

Gregory Peck

Travelled with Silver City in 1954, whilst still  a Lympne based airline.

Tommy Rose

Record breaking aviator from the 1930’s

(Sir) Philip Sassoon

Former Hythe MP and Under Secretary of State for Air before WW2, had personal aircraft based at Lympne. Lived at Port Lympne House, nearby until his death in 1939. Entertained many esteemed personalities of the times here.

Charles Scott

Another Lympne Airfield record breaker. Famous also for winning the London- Melbourne air race in DH88 Comet Racer Grosvenor House in 1937, with Tom Campbell-Black.

Sheila Scott

1960’s/70’s world record aviator attended official opening of new terminal in June 1969

William Sholto Douglas

Forrner Air Vice Marshal and Deputy Chief of Air Staff in WW2. Went on to be Chairman of BEA and Baron Douglas of Kirtleside. Took part in the Lympne Trials of 1924 and 1926 as a competitor.

Lord Trenchard

Known as the Father of the RAF. Made a crash landing here in 1917 en route from the Western Front to meet Lloyd George in London. His aircraft and escort were mistaken for enemy aircraft and engaged.
Other said to have passed through Lympne with Skyways include The Swinging Blue Genes and the Singing Nun. 

Our site is constantly being updated with new photos all the time.