During the Battle of Britain, the defence of the UK was divided up within RAF Fighter Command into four Groups, each comprising several airfields and squadrons. The groups were 10, 11, 12 and 13 and each saw very different levels of activity during the battle. No. 11 Group, responsible for the defence of London and the south east saw the heaviest fighting. Each group also contained a number of further airfields which were either satelite, Coastal Command or training (OTU) airfields such as Heathrow, Bicester and White Waltham plus the aerodromes that were dedicated RAF Bomber Command – later in the war there was the addition of the USSAF/USAF airfields and further airfield construction in the build up to D-Day making the UK airspace a busy place. Sadly, few of the airfields that protected the UK in 1940 remain; many having been developed for housing and are now lost to history with little to commemorate the sacrifices made and lives lived and lost.
Having been formed at RAF Filton, 501 Squadron operated from many of 11 Group aerodromes during the Battle of Britain – 21 June 1940 – 4 July 1940, RAF Croydon, Surrey; 4 July 1940 – 25 July 1940, RAF Middle Wallop, Hampshire; 25 July 1940 – 10 September 1940, RAF Gravesend, Kent; 10 September 1940 – 17 December 1940, RAF Kenley, Surrey – and was one of only a few squadrons to remain in the front line throughout the period.
10 Group defended Wales and the West Country and was commanded by Air Vice-Marshal Sir Quintin Brand.
RAF Middle Wallop
RAF Filton – Bristol Filton Aerodrome
RAF Boscombe Down
RAF Exeter – Exeter International Airport
RAF Roborough – Plymouth Airport
RAF St Eval
11 Group covered the south east of England and London and was commanded by Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park.
RAF Uxbridge – the Battle of Britain Bunker and the HQ of 11 Fighter Group
RAF Biggin Hill – London Biggin Hill Airport
RAF Northolt – Current RAF Station
RAF North Weald – North Weald Airfield
RAF Tangmere – Tangmere Military Aviation Museum Museum
RAF Eastchurch – HM Prison Swaleside
RAF Ford – HM Prison Ford
RAF Hawkinge – Kent BoB Museum
RAF Hendon – RAF Museum
RAF Manston – Kent International Airport
RAF Martlesham Heath
RAF Rochford – London Southend Airport
RAF Stapleford Tawney
RAF Thorney Island
RAF Westhampnett – Goodwood Circuit
RAF West Malling
12 Group defended the Midlands and East Anglia and was led by Air Vice-Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory.
RAF Church Fenton
RAF Duxford – Imperial War Museum Duxford
RAF Kirton in Lindsey
RAF Tern Hill
13 Group covered the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and was commanded by Air Vice-Marshal Richard Saul.
RAF Dyce – Aberdeen airport
RAF Turnhouse – Edinburgh Airport