Croydon originally comprised two airfields, Beddington and Waddon. During WW1 the sites were used by the Royal Flyng Corps to defend London against Zeppelins, being just to the south of Central London, as well as for training new pilots. Immediately after WW1 Croydon Aerodrome was created out of the two original airfields and became London’s first international airport, and the home base for the newly formed Imperial Airways, which began life here in 1924. The famous terminal building and Aerodrome hotel were built in this period in the Art Deco style, the centrepiece of the newly named Croydon Airport which opened in 1928. Many famous aviators of the period flew in and out of Croydon, including Charles Lindbergh, Amy Johnson and Winston Churchill, who took flying lessons here with near disastrous consequences.
At the outbreak of war in 1939, Croydon once again became a military base, this time under Fighter Command. Squadrons based here at one time or another during the Battle of Britain included 111 Squadron, 501 Squadron, 401 Squadron RCAF, 85 Squadron, 72 Squadron, and 605 Squadron. The airfield was targeted by the Luftwaffe several times during the Battle.
In 1944, Croydon became the base of RAF Transport Command, and the airfield returned to civilian use in 1946. However, by then the new jetliners needed longer runways, and the new London airport was sited at Heathrow.