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Stapleford Aerodrome is an airfield in the Epping Forest district of Essex, England near to the village of Abridgemarker. It is about 3.4 nautical miles (6 km) south of North Weald Airfieldmarker and 4.5 nautical miles (8.3 km) north of Romfordmarker. The airfield is just within the M25marker, near to the junction with the M11.

Stapleford Aerodrome has a CAA Ordinary Licence (Number P472) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction as authorised by the licensee (Herts & Essex Aero Club Limited).


The 1930s

Stapleford opened as Essex Aerodrome in 1933 as a base for Hillman Airways who provided a service to Paris and other European cities using De Havilland DH.84 Dragon and DH.89 Dragon Rapide biplanes. Amy Johnson was one of the Hillman Airways pilots. After running into financial difficulties, Hillman was bought up by Whitehall Security Corporation Ltd and merged with three other airlines that they already owned to form British Airways Ltd. Operations began in 1936, but after 4 months all flights were moved to Heston Aerodromemarker, leaving just a small number of private aircraft.

The RAF took an interest in the airfield in 1937 and in 1938 No 21 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training school was established at Stapleford. Flying training was provided by Reid and Signist Ltd, under contract to the Air Ministry. One of the most famous students was J.E. "Johnnie" Johnson who became the RAF's top scoring pilot and reached the rank of Air Vice Marshal.

World War II

The airfield was requisitioned shortly after the start of World War II as RAF Stapleford Tawneymarker. A long perimeter track and dispersal points were built and some accommodation buildings were erected. By the end of March 1940 the airfield was ready to become a satellite station for North Weald.

The first squadron to make regular use of Stapleford was No. 151 Squadron, making patrols from the base from August 1940. Six aircraft were lost and two pilots, including squadron leader Eric King, killed in action on 30 August. After a short stay, the squadron was moved to RAF Digbymarker, Lincolnshiremarker, but one aircraft struck a crane after take off and burst into flames. The pilot, Pilot Officer Richard Ambrose, was killed; he is buried in Epping cemetery.

No. 46 Squadron arrived in September, having lost all their Hurricane fighters when the aircraft carrier was sunk while evacuating the squadron from Norway.

Other units to use Stapleford included the secret 49 flight, formed in August 1940 as the operational air-arm of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). They were intended to use Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys to drop agents and supplies behind enemy lines. Westland Lysanders would be used to pick up agents as well as other important people. Because of heavy Luftwaffe attacks on North Weald, the flight moved to Stapleford on 4 September. The Whitley was a rather large aircraft to use Stapleford's grass runways. Only two operations were carried out from Stapleford; one to Brestmarker and the other to Fontainebleaumarker. The flight then moved to Stradishallmarker, Suffolk on 9 October.

Other squadrons at Stapleford were No. 242 Squadron and the RAF's oldest, No. 3 Squadron and, in 1941, a new Air Sea Rescue squadron was formed at Stapleford - No. 277 Squadron.

In March 1943, Stapleford was taken out of Fighter Command and placed under the command of No. 34 Wing of the Army Co-operation Command.

Stapleford played an important part in the preparations for D-Day and many units arrived.On 20 November 1944 a V2 rocket landed in the middle of the airfield leaving a crater 60 feet in diameter. On 23 February 1945 another rocket landed on the airfield camp site killing 17 personnel and injuring 50. A number of the personnel are buried in the church cemetery at North Weald.

Stapleford finished its wartime service with the last personnel leaving before VE Day.

A memorial at the airfield recalls those who lost their lives.


In 1946, Stapleford Aerodrome was taken over by the Royal Engineers. 869 Mechanical Equipment Squadron RE was the only plant unit in the UK and held a large inventory of bulldozers, scrapers, road rollers, cranes, excavators, draglines and all the plant items that the army had acquired - most of it worn out. The newest of the equipment was used throughout the UK in clearing minefields (armoured bulldozers) and constructing shooting ranges etc. The unit name was changed to Number 1 Plant Park Squadron RE and moved to Borden, Hampshire in September 1948.

In 1953 Roger and Buster Frogley transferred the Herts and Essex Aero club from Broxbournemarker in Hertfordshire to Stapleford, the hangars were renovated and they began flying Tiger Moths and Austers.

In 1955 Edgar Percival the famous pre-war aircraft designer, set up a company at Stapleford under his name and started a production line for his EP9 crop spraying aircraft. A total of 40 aircraft were built.


The airfield is currently the home of Stapleford Flight Centre, a privately owned, family run business which has been training pilots for around 40 years. With a fleet of over 40 aircraft, they train pilots at all levels, from PPL to CPL and ATPL. Other companies provide business charter services and London sight seeing flights.

The airfield has two long parallel runways 04/22, one of them being partly asphalt at one end, and a shorter grass runway 10/28.

Lambourne VOR is located at the south of the airfield.


  • United Kingdom AIP
Pilot magazine, October 2006

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