Stapleford Aerodrome is an airfield in the Epping Forest district of Essex, England near to the village of Abridge. It is about 3.4 nautical miles (6 km) south of North Weald Airfield and 4.5 nautical miles (8.3 km) north of Romford. The airfield is just within the M25, 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 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.
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 Digby, Lincolnshire, 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.
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 Brest and the other to Fontainebleau. The flight then moved to Stradishall, Suffolk on 9 October.
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 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 has two long parallel runways 04/22, one of them being partly asphalt at one end, and a shorter grass runway 10/28.
Pilot magazine, October 2006
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