Originally opened in March 1918 as Ford Junction military aerodrome, an area of 85 acres adjoining the village of Yapton, for use by the Royal Flying Corp (RFC)/Royal Air Force (RAF)) and United States Army Air Service (USAAS) training squadrons.
The USAAS operated the following units between September and November 1918: 92nd Aero Sqn (Sep - 15 Nov 1918), 140th Aero Sqn (Sep - 15 Nov 1918), 326th Aero Sqn,(Sep - 15 Nov 1918), Night Bombardment Training School (Sep - 15 Nov 1918).
RFC and RAF units operated from March 1st 1918 until December 31st 1919; 148 Sqn (1 Mar - 20 Mar 1918), 149 Sqn (3 Mar - 2 Jun 1918), HQ, No 18 Wing (7 Aug - 1 Oct 1919), 144 Sqn (15 Dec 1918 - 4 Feb 1919), 215 Sqn (2 Feb - 18 Oct 1919), 10 Sqn (17 Feb - 31 Dec 1919), 97 Sqn (4 Mar - 19 Jul 1919), 115 Sqn (4 Mar - 18 Oct 1919), No 50 Training Sqn (Jul - 6 Dec 1919), 22 Sqn (1 Sep - 31 Dec 1919)..
The station closed in January 1920. The site reopened for civil flying in 1933 as Yapton Civil Aerodrome; occupants included a flying school, aerial tours, start-up airliners, Yapton Aero club, and the headquarters of Sir Alan Cobham who organised a series of flying tours of the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa which became affectionately known as ‘Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus’.
Military flying resumed in 1935 when 4 Sqn RAF briefly operated from the field in August/September, repeating this the flowing year. In 1936, the Air Ministry acquired the airfield, and £109,000 was allocated for the construction of a standard wooden hutted camp and five Belimn hangars for use by the School of Naval Co-operation were built on additional ground purchased to the east of the original airfield. RAF Station Ford was reactivated at the end of 1937 as part of No 17 (Training) Group of Coastal Command and the School of Naval Cooperation arrived with their Sharks and Swordfish from RAF Lee-on-Solent on December 29th 1937.
Commissioned as an RN Air Station
In 1937 the issue of the control of naval flying was reviewed and the ‘Inskip Award’ of July 21st 1937 transferred the Fleet Air Arm, back to the control of the Admiralty with effect from May 24th 1939. As part of this transfer four airfields in the UK, Donibristle, Lee-on-Solent, Ford, and Worthy Down came under Admiralty control on this date; Royal Naval Air Station Ford commissioned as HMS PEREGRINE, Captain (A) R. de H. Burton in command.
The School of Naval Cooperation was renamed the RN Observer School and its aircraft were issued to three new squadrons which were formed on May 24th; 750 squadron receiving Ospreys and Sharks, 751 squadron operating Walrus, and 752 Squadron equipped with Proctors and a few Albacores. Two further squadrons were formed to service the school at the end of October 1939; 782 Armament Training Squadron and 793 Air Towed Target Unit. 782 however was disbanded three weeks later before any aircraft were received.
Only one front-line squadron passed through the station during 1939, the Swordfish Is of 820 arrived from RAF Gosport on July 28th 1939, and embarked in HMS ARK ROYAL two days later. The start of 1940 saw the first front-line squadron formation on the station, 819 Torpedo, Spotter, and Reconnaissance Squadrons formed here on January 15th with 12 Swordfish Is. They briefly moved to RAF West Freugh on March 9th but returned to Ford on the 30th, before departing for RNAS Roborough on May 27th. The Swordfish of 821 had arrived from
RNAS Lee-on-Solent on March 18th 1940, and embarked in HMS ARK ROYAL two days later. May saw two Swordfish squadrons arrive from RNAS Campeltown; on the 29th 818 squadron arrived in transit to commence operations at RAF Thorney Island, and on the 31st 816 arrived on the station with 9 Swordfish Is. They moved briefly to Jersey airport on June 4th but returned on the 11th; the Royal Naval Air Station there had been evacuated and closed down on May 31st, the Island fell to the Germans on July 1st. The squadron embarked in HMS FURIOUS on June 14th.
On August 18th 1940 the station came under attack; that morning the Luftwaffe launched a force of 109 Junker Ju87 Stuka dive bombers from 2/StG77, 3/StG77, 5/StG77 and III/StG77, together with 55 Messerschmitt Bf109 fighters and a further 65 Bf109s as fighter escorts of 6/JG2, 1/JG27 and 6/JG27, from bases in Normandy and Brittany to attack the aerodromes in Hampshire and Sussex. The Stukas had four specific targets; Twenty-Two Ju87s would attack RAF Gosport, 27 would attack RAF Thorney Island, 29 would attack RNAS Ford while 31 would attack the Chain Home radar installation at Poling, 3½ miles to the east.
Initial reports claim 30 – 50 dive bombers made the unannounced attack, ater this was revised to 13 -15 dive bombers. Direct hits were scored on fuel installations, two hangars, 1 Belman and 1 Storage Hangar ex-Sir Alan Cobham, and about a third of the men’s accommodation huts were destroyed. MT and stores sheds, the ratings' and POs' canteens were damaged. 17 aircraft were written off, including all three belonging to Flight
Refuelling ltd stored on the station; a further 26 were damaged. The raid left 28 dead and 75 wounded, including naval, army and civilian personnel. Spitfires of No 602 Squadron based at RAF Westhampnett, intercepted the Stukas as they withdrew and managed to shoot down three and badly damaged another before the Bf 109s of III/JG27 intercepted them. One Spitfire pilot had to bale out and three others crash-landed, one on Ford airfield itself.
The vulnerability of Ford as a training station was
recognized soon after the German invasion of France in May
1940 and steps were taken to minimize activity with 750 and
752 being dispersed to operate from the incomplete naval air
station at Yeovilton in Somerset. This reorganization
resulted in only 751, 752, and 7793 Squadrons at Ford. The
raid prompted more drastic actions; 751 departed for RNAS
Arbroath the next day, 750 and 793 were stood down and
prepared to sail for Trinidad to operate from
RNAS Piarco, 752 moved to
RNAS Lee-on-Solent on September 30th before it too sailed for Trinidad were No.1 Observer School resumed operations.
Returned to RAF control
The decision was taken to vacate Ford and return the station
to the Air Ministry, HMS Peregrine was paid off on September
30 1940, and the following day Ford was on the strength of
No 11 Group, Fighter Command. The RN however retained lodger
rights, the RN school of Photography remaining on the the
During the war the station was developed by the Air Ministry; during 1941 with the construction of two tarmac runways of 6,000 ft SW/NE and 4,800 ft NW/SE, together with extensive new taxi-tracks to the west of the original airfield. Blast pens were built, as were a number of Blister hangars dispersed around the perimeter track to supplement the Bellmans and the one GS hangar refurbished after the Stuka attack.
Naval flying returned at the end of 1942 when 746 Night Fighter Interception Unit moved from
RNAS Lee-on-Solent on December 1st and operated with the RAF Fighter Interception Unit at Ford until it relocated to RAF Wittering on April 3rd 1944 during the build up to operation Overlord, the invasion of France. The squadron returned on October 1st 1944 as part of the new Night Fighter Development Wing which formed on the 16th; by the start of 1945 this was the main unit operating from Ford which began running down to closure after the German surrender in May. The Night Fighter Development Wing was gradually transferred to RAF Tangmere, the move completed on July 15th; 746 squadron remained at Ford until August 23rd when it moved to RAF West Raynham. RAF Ford ceased to be a No 11 Group station on July 31 1945 and was again transferred to the Admiralty.
Recommissioned as an RN Air Station
RNAS Ford re-commissioned as HMS Peregrine on August 1st 1945, Captain A. M. Mc Killop in command. At this time 746 Night Fighter Interception Unit remained on the station but it moved to RAF West Raynham on the 23rd. 720 RN Photographic Squadron was also formed here on August 1st by elevating the long serving RN Photographic Flight to squadron status.
No.813 squadron reformed here on September 1st as a Torpedo Strike Squadron equipped with Firebrand TF.IVs they were joined by 708 squadron, the Firebrand Tactical Trials Unit which arrived on the station from
RNAS Gosport on September 6th equipped with Firebrand TF.IIIs; the commanding officer and several of the unit’s pilots formed the nucleus of 813 since they were the most experienced Firebrand pilots due to their work in investigating the many problems which dogged the aircraft type.
On September 9th 811 reformed here as a two seat fighter squadron equipped with Mosquito FB.VIs. After working up with their new equipment they moved to
RNAS Brawdy on December 6th. 708 squadron also departed in December, moving to
on the 5th.
The newly redesigned Firebrand Ivs of 813 proved to be problematic; this variant was the first to be configured as a fighter/dive-bomber/torpedo strike aircraft but it was plagued with problems and the squadron did not enter operational service. Just over one year later later the squadron was disbanded at Ford on September 30th 1946 to await the arrival to the Mk.V. It reformed on May 1st 1947 with the Firebrand TF.V and after working up embarked in HMS IMPLACABLE on October 14th 1947.
A detachment of 771 Fleet Requirements Unit arrived from
RNAS Gosport on September 20th with a number of Mosquito B.23s; the grass landing area at Gosport was not suitable from these
heavy aircraft so they operated from Ford.
The start of 1946 brought another second-line squadron to Ford, 778 Service Trials Unit arrived on station on January 3rd from
RNAS Gosport t equipped with Barracuda Mk.II, III, & TR.V and Seafire Mk.XV, F.17, F.46, & F.47. The station settled in to its post-war duties with 720 and 778 as resident units and 813 ‘workin up. On September 29th 1946 Captain J. D. Luce, DSO, OBE, assumed command of HMS PEREGRINE.
The next arrival on the station was 795 Refresher Training Squadron which disembarked its Firefly FR.1s from HMS IMPLACABLE on March 24th 1947; the squadron disbanded here the same day. 778 Service Trials Unit moved to RAF Tangmere on July 18th 1947.
On December 20th 1947 the 14th Carrier Air Group (CAG), comprising of 804 and 812 squadrons disembarked from HMS THESEUS on her return from her tour in the Far East. The Seafire FR.47s of 804 departed for
RNAS Eglinton the same day, while the Firefly FR.1s of 812 squadron were to remain on the station. 804 returned from
RNAS Eglinton on January 11th 1948 before the CAG flew to
RNAS Donibristl on April 5th, 812 returning to Ford on the 13th followed by 804 on the 18th. The CAG departed for
RNAS Eglinton on May 25th 1948. Two days later 720 squadron was relocated to
RNAS Gosport and RNAS Ford was closed to flying while the station was to undergo a major refurbishing programme could be completed as quickly as possible.
It is unclear when the 771 FRU Mosquito detachment departed, they are recorded as operating from
RNAS Arbroath from October 1948.
Paid off for major refurbishment
HMS PEREGRINE was paid off on June 30th 1948 and the station transferred its account to
The books of DAEDALUS, with Commander J. F. R. Crewes, GM as the officer in charge. The work included the runways and taxiways being resurfaced, a large concrete hard-standing laid and three new hangars erected, while the technical and domestic sites were cleaned up and partially rebuilt.
RNAS Ford was recommissioned as HMS PEREGRINE on February 1st 1950 under the command of Captain H. CP. Sears RN. The station re-opened for flying in March. he first unit to arrive on the station was 703 Service Trials Unit on April 14th having relocated from
RNAS Lee-on-Solent, bringing with it examples of all front-line aircraft in service.
In mid-June the 17th Carrier Air Group arrived on the station; the Sea Fury FB.11s of 807 fighter squadron arrived from RNAS Culdrose and the Firefly AS.5s of 810 Anti-Submarine Squadron disembarked from HMS THESEUS, both on June 15th. They were the only front-line squadrons on the station, the CAG embarked in THESEUS on August 16th. On November 15th 827 Anti-Submarine Squadron disembarked its Firefly FR.1s from HMS TRIUMPH and it disbanded on the 22nd.
826 Anti-Submarine Squadron reformed here on May 1st 1951 being issued with Firefly AS.6s. After working up they embarked in HMS ILLUSTRIOUS on June 1st for three weeks of carrier flying training, arriving back at Ford on the 24th. At the end of June 1951 Ford became the new home of
1840 Royall Naval Volunteer Reserve Squadron which had formed at
on April 14th as an Anti-Submarine Squadron equipped with 6 Firefly FR.4s and 2 Harvard T.2b trainers.
RNAS Ford joined the Jet Age in August 1951 when the first of two jet fighter squadrons for service in HMS EAGLE. 800 Squadron, reformed here on the 21st receiving 8 Supermarine Attacker FB.1s. The second, 803 Squadron reformed here on November 26th, again receiving 8 Supermarine Attacker FB.1s. The two squadron were part of the 13th CAG and were to work up at Ford n readiness for Joining HMS EAGLE.
At the start of 1952 826 Squadron departed on January 17th, embarking in HMS INDOMITABLE. Their place was soon taken by third Attacker squadron was formed at Ford, 890 reformed on January 30th as a Fighter Pool squadron but did not commission until April 22nd when it received 8 Supermarine Attacker FB.1s. Its task was to hold pilots and aircraft for issue to 800 and 803 squadrons when required. 800 Squadron took their Attackers to sea on March 4th 1952, embarking in EAGLE for three weeks carrier flying training, returning to Ford on the 24th.
The next unit to arrive on the station was 814 Anti-Submarine Squadron, its Firefly AS.6s moved here from
RNAS Lee-on-Solent, on May 5th, departing for
RNAS Machrihanish on the 16th.
On June 1st 1952 the RNVR Air Branch and its squadrons was reorganized into 5 Divisions; Scottish, Northern, Midland, Southern, and Channel. The Channel Air Division was formed at RNAS Ford, initially comprising of only
803 Squadron took their Attackers to sea on June 4th 1952, embarking in EAGLE, they were joined by 800 squadron which Re-embarked three days later. Two more Anti-Submarine Squadrons passed briefly through the station in June, the Barracuda TR.3s of 815 squadron arrived from
RNAS Eglinton on the 6th, returning to Northern Ireland on the 16th. The Firefly FR.5s of 821 arrived from
RNAS Machrihanish on the 20th but moved to
RNAS Lee-on-Solent three days later. 800 squadron arrived back on
the station on July 19th, disembarking from EAGLE.
771 Fleet Requirements Unit arrived from
RNAS Lee-on-Solent on September 1st bringing with them a collection of aircraft including Mosquito FB.6/PR.16/ PR.34/ TT.39 , Sea Mosquito TR.33/ TR.37, Sea Hornet FR.20/ NF.21, Meteor T.7 , Sea Vampire F.20/F.21 , Sturgeon TT.2, Firefly FR.1/AS.6, Dragonfly HR.5 helicopters. The Attackers of 13 CAG re-joined EAGLE at the start of September, 803 on the 3rd and 800 on the 4th.
On October 1st 1952 a second R.N.V.R. squadron was formed at Ford, 1840A was a second A/S squadron an offshoot of
1840 the two units shared a pool of aircraft, by now the Firefly AS.6 and a small number of training aircraft.. EAGLE’s Attacker squadron began to arrive back on the station from the 9th when 803 disembarked, followed by 800 on the 11th. 890 fighter pool squadron relocated to RNAS Milltown on October 27th leaving only 800 and 803 as the semi-resident Jet units.
EAGLE’s squadrons re-embarked on November 7th; on returning to Ford on December 3rd the 13th Carrier Air Group was disbanded but both squadrons remained assigned to the carrier. They now settled into a routine of one month afloat, one month ashore until the spring of 1954.
The New Year brought the Firefly AS.6s of 812 Anti-Submarine Squadron from RNAS Eglinton on route to join the Light Fleet Carrier THESEUS, they arrived on station on January 17th 1953 and embarked in THESEUS four days later In February 813 squadron, still a Torpedo Strike Squadron but now equipped with Wyvern S.4s moved here from
RNAS Lee-on-Solent arriving on the 18th. 800 and 803 re-embarked in HMS EAGLE for the last time on February 3rd 1954, only 800 returned, disembarking from EAGLE on May 26th only to be disbanded at Ford on June 11th.
On March 1st 1954 810 squadron reformed here as a single seat fighter squadron equipped with Sea Fury FB.11s for service in the Light Fleet Carrier CENTAUR. After working up they embarked in CENTAUR on July 20th. Two weeks later on March 15th 700X Gannet Intensive Trial Unit (ITU) was established to put the new Gannet AS.1s through its paces prior to it entering squadron service. On March 28th 1953 No.1840A squadron was redesignated as
1842 R.N.V.R. Squadron.
With their departure of 810 squadron RNAS Ford was home to trials and training units; although 815 Anti-Submarine Squadron arrived with their Avenger AS.4 & AS.5s from
RNAS Lee-on-Solent on June 3rd it soon moved to
RNAS Eglinton on July 5th, they returned at the end of the month before embarking in HMS ILLUSTRIOUS on September 17th. They returned for the final time on October 23rd, this time from RAF Watton before moving to RNAS Culdrose on November 11th. The Gannet ITU had completed its task by the end of the year and 703X was disbanded on December 21st. There was one other short lived unit formed here in October 1954, 703W was formed as a temporary Wyvern Holding Unit , it disbanded on November 1st when 827 squadron was formed absorbing the Wyvern S.4 aircraft.
During 1955 there was a major change the stations squadrons to reflect changes in the post-war Fleet Air Arm; With the Carrier Force now operating the Hawker Sea Hawk single seat fighter, the de Havilland Sea Vampire, and the Westland Wyvern a new Advanced Training squadron was formed at Ford on February 1st when 764 squadron was reformed to provide training on the Sea Hawk F.1/F.2/FB.3, Sea Vampire F.20/F.21/T/22, Wyvern S.4.
703 STU and 771 FRU disbanded here on August 17th, they were effectively merged to form No.700 Trials and Requirements Unit the following day operating Anson, Firefly TT.4, Sea Vampire T.20, various marks of Sea Hawk, Wyvern and Gannets. Two new front-line Wyvern Torpedo Strike Squadrons were formed here on November 21st 1955, when 830 and 831 reformed equipped with the Wyvern S.4.
The Sea Hawk FGA.4 and FGA.6s of 897 fighter squadron arrived here from
RNAS Brawdy on January 30th on route to join HMS BULWARK, embarking the next day. In February 1956 the squadrons of true Channel Air Division RNVR were re-equipped with Gannet AS.1s and Gannet T.2 trainers. However just over a year later on March 10th 1957 the two squadrons, and the RNVR Air Branch were disbanded as part of defence spending cuts.
March saw a new Pool Squadron formed for Sea Hawk pilots, 767 squadron reformed here on March 1st equipped with various marks of Sea Hawk it was tasked with maintaining a pool of
qualified pilots for front-line replacements. On April 5th the Gannet AS.4s of 824 Anti-Submarine squadron arrived having disembarked from HMS ARK ROYAL, the squadron disbanded on the 17th. The Wyverns of 830 squadron departed on the 16th, embarking in HMS EAGLE. 831 squadron remained based at Ford for the remainder of 1956, making two short visits to
RNAS Lossiemouth in Late June and October.
The summer of 1956 brought the Attacker FB.2s from two R.N.V.R. fighter squadrons to Ford to conduct their annual 2 week’s training period;
1832 R.N.V.R. Squadron of the Southern Air Division arrived from RAF Benson on June 23rd and departing on July 7th. They were followed by
1833 R.N.V.R. Squadron of the Midland Air Division from RAF Honiley on August 3rd, departing on the 17th.
The Sea Hawk FGA.4 and FGA.6s of 895 fighter squadron arrived here from
RNAS Brawdy on August 1st on route to join HMS BULWARK, departing on the 3rd. 767 Pool Squadron relocated to
RNAS Brawdy on August 14th, on October 20th.
Beginning in January 1957 Fords only resident front-line squadron, 831 began operations with
HMS ARK ROYAL on the 9th, disembarking on February 25th. The following day 767 Fighter Pilot Pool Squadron departed, relocating to operate from RNAS Brawdy. 831 re-embarked in ARK ROYAL on May 3rd for a second period afloat.
The Channel Air Division was disbanded, along with the R.N.V.R. Air Branch on Match 10th
A second front-line squadron arrived on station when he Gannet AS.1s of 820 Anti-Submarine Squadron arrived from
RNAS Eglinton on March 20th for service in HMS Bulwark. Another second-line unit departed from Ford in June when 764 Advanced Training squadron relocated to
RNAS Lossiemouth on the 21st. With their departure Ford was left operating only three squadrons; 700 Trials and Requirements Unit, 820 and 831 squadrons when not embarked. 831 disembarked in HMS ARK ROYAL on July 18th, followed by 820 on August 5th disembarking form BULWARK only to re--embark on the 28th. Also in August, X fight of 700 squadron was formed as a Scimitar IFTU equipped with Scimitar F.1 and Sea Vampire T.22.
831 Re-embarked in HMS ARK ROYAL on September 28th. A new second-line squadron arrived on October 17th when the Sea Balliols of 702 squadron, Junior Officers Air Course, moved here from
RNAS Lee-on-Solent November saw both 831 and 820 arrive back on the station, 831 from RNAS Culdrose on the 2nd and 820 disembarked from BULWARK on the 4th. 831 remained for only a short time before re-joining ARK ROYAL on the 15th. 820 was disbanded here on December 5th. 831 arrived back on station from Lossiemouth on December 10th, and was disbanded on arrival. The station was now exclusively operating second-line units.
RNAS Ford was earmarked for closure under the 1958 defence estimates and the station began to rundown to closure. 700X completed its work with the Scimitar and it disbanded in June, 702 squadron was disunited on August 11th. The last remaining unit, 700 squadron moved to RNAS Yeovilton on September 19th 1958 and naval flying at Ford ceased
HMS PEREGRINE was paid off on November 13th 1958
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