Today's clientele at Biggin Hill tend to be the sort of folks who swank about in private jets and helicopters.
But during the second world war, RAF Biggin Hill was a key strategic point — and arguably the most important airfield during the Battle of Britain, when thousands of fighter planes tussled over British airspace.
A new exhibition at Biggin Hill Memorial Museum remembers the women who served during that time, in the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) and Women's Auxiliary Airforce (WAAF). Running from 28 July 2022, Women & War: Hidden Heroes of World War Two tells the often-neglected stories of these women, who performed essential jobs like working in the operations rooms that guided fighter pilots; and delivering Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mosquitoes to bases across the country.
Biggin Hill was a prime target that was under sustained attack during the height of the war, and was sometimes struck by bombs more than once per day. One display recalls the time the aerodrome's operations room suffered a direct hit from the Luftwaffe, but Corporal Elspeth Henderson, Sergeant Helen Turner and Sergeant Joan Elizabeth Mortimer defied orders to take shelter, instead carrying on with their roles — earning a Military Medal for remaining 'cool, calm and collected'.
Among displays are flying mittens and goggles, uniforms, ID tags and logbooks. There's also an immersive VR experience simulating the flights of ATA pilots, a full-size model of an MK1 Spitfire, plus child-friendly activities (including a plotting table they can play with). As is teased in this article, there are also some rather wonderful photos of the heroes in action.
Women & War: Hidden Heroes of World War Two, Biggin Hill Memorial Museum, £6.50, 28 July-sometime 2023