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RAF Hornchurch 1944 – 1946

Although Fighter operations were phased out, RAF Hornchurch continued to play an important role in the ongoing war. Hornchurch became a staging post for new mobile Radar units that would make their way to Europe after the D Day landings. After the D day landings, RAF Hornchurch also became a staging post for allied service men and women returning from tours of duty in Europe. The airfield also became a maintenance and despatch centre to service vehicles for the allied forces in Europe. Although the fighters had left Hornchurch flying operations were not over as training cadres such as 567 Squadron continued to use the airfield. In addition in November 1944 Hornchurch became home to 278 Air Sea Rescue Squadron and 765 Fleet Air Arm Squadron. Hornchurch was also home to important signals units and radar and radio calibration aircraft

On June 6th 1944 allied troops landed in occupied Europe in the largest single military operation to have ever been undertaken. Almost immediately afterwards Adolph Hitler authorised the use of new and frightening weapons against targets in Britain. These were the Vengeance weapons, firstly the V1 (an early cruise missile) but later on the terrifying V2, the precursor of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Hornchurch stood directly on the route that these fearsome weapons would fly.

The attacks commenced on 23rd June 1944 when a V1 exploded on one of RAF Hornchurch's flightpaths. A second V1 exploded on the same day just outside the airfield perimeter. During June and July 1944 southern Britain suffered a new blitz, this time by V1 Doodle Bugs. A large number of these missiles exploded within Bomb Alley including at least six which narrowly missed the air field. Although RAF Hornchurch was relatively unscathed the suburban areas of East London were extensively damaged with thousands of casualties. In response to these missile attacks a special unit, 55 Maintenance Repair Unit (MRU) was formed at RAF Hornchurch to help clear bomb sites and repair V1 damaged properties. RAF Hornchurch personnel were also regularly deployed to aid in rescue and relief operations. RAF Hornchurch was also used as a base for 6221 Bomb Disposal Flight (BDF), tasked with dealing with unexploded bombs. This would include innovative work to counter some of Germany's most advanced weaponry.

In late 1944 attacks by the unstoppable V2 missiles began. On November 5th one of these exploded within 100 metres of the airfield. On March 12th 1945 a V2 hit the centre of the airfield the explosion destroying the new NAAFI and badly damaging a new Sergeants Mess, the airmen's cookhouse and a rest room.

The war in Europe ended after the suicide of Hitler on 1st May 1945 and subsequent capitulation of Germany on 7th May 1945. After the armistice Hornchurch continued to operate as a marshalling depot for service personnel and vehicles until late 1946 as well a being home to the 55th MRU and 6221 BDF. By the end of 1945, however, all operational flying had ended at RAF Hornchurch although air training units still regularly used the landing ground.

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