In 1917 a site was purchased south of the village of Henlow to function as an Aircraft Repair Depot. It was the first station to be opened under the supervision of the Royal Air Force, which had been formed on the 1st April 1918.
In 1920 the site was expanded from 220 acres to 380 acres when more land was purchased to create a landing ground. In 1924 the Officers’ Engineering School moved in from Farnborough. This School was later renamed the RAF Technical College. One of the School’s most famous students was Frank Whittle, the inventor of the jet engine, who entered Henlow in August 1932 and passed out at the end of 1933. He then spent six months at Henlow in charge of Aero Engine tests before being sent to Cambridge.
On the 1st October 1930 the airmen of Henlow pulled the R101 out of its hangar before its disastrous maiden voyage. A week later 800 of them lined the streets of Bedford for the funeral.
In September 1940 Henlow was bombed by the Luftwafe. Eight bombs fell on the airfield damaging two hangars. By this time the airfield was home to No. 13 Maintenance Unit under the control of No. 43 Group. During the early war years the most regular aircraft to be seen flying out of Henlow was the Hawker Hurricane. By 1944 however the Hurricanes had been replaced by Mosquitos and Hawker Typhoons.
RAF Henlow was raised to Group status in June 1953, under an Air Commodore. In 1968 RAF Henlow was given the freedom of Bedford. Officer cadet training ceased on 24th April 1980 and the station passed to the Radio Engineering Unit.
- Military airfields of the Cotswolds and the Central Midlands by Michael J. F. Bowyer
- Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire Airfields in the Second World War by Graham Smith
Page last updated: 28th January 2014