Historic photos of Heathrow’s RAF role as it celebrates its 100th anniversary

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If you live or work in Central London, you probably saw the flypast yesterday of 100 aircraft from the Royal Air Force to celebrate its 100th anniversary.  Heathrow Airport was closed for 20 minutes in order to manage the display.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, Heathrow has released a series of images of hangars, aircraft and engineers at what was formerly known as ‘Heath Row Aerodrome’ – see below.

Old photos of Heathrow Airport

Heathrow originated in 1929 as a small airfield, Great West Aerodrome, on land south-east of the hamlet of Heath Row from which the airport takes its name.

Old photos of Heathrow Airport

Development of Heathrow began in 1944 as a long-distance military aircraft base for the Royal Air Force, used by aircraft heading for the Far East.  By the time the airfield was completed, World War II had ended and the airport was no longer required as a defence base.

Old photos of Heathrow Airport

The government continued to develop Heathrow as a civil airport, opening as London Airport in 1946 and renamed as Heathrow Airport in 1966.

Old photos of Heathrow Airport

The first civilian aircraft to take off from Heathrow was a converted Lancaster bomber called Starlight that flew to Buenos Aires (that is not it in the photo below!).

Old photos of Heathrow Airport

An official commemorative book to mark the event, 100 Years of the RAF, has been published and is available on Amazon here.  It includes two pages on role of Heathrow in the history of the service.

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  1. watched it from LHR T5 longstay carpark.
    Very cool

  2. Watched it from London Bridge. Not the best view, but I did see the red arrows smoke trail turn to red, white, and blue. Very cool!

  3. Charlie says:

    A great uncle was the Air Chief Marshal during the Battle of Britain (and responsible for the building of radar along the coastline). Always had a soft spot for the RAF and a great show.

  4. I wonder how they came up with Buenos Aires as the first destination!

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