Opened in April 1937, Debden aerodrome was built as a fighter base as part of the RAF’s reconstruction in the ’30s. It was the only airfield that was originally constructed for fighters even though it served other purposes throughout its life. The airfield was grass covered when it opened and featured three large “C” shaped hangers that would accommodate the three squadrons that were stationed there. Until the end of 1938, these revolved around normal flight training. As war loomed in Europe, fighter combat tactics were practised.
Debden was first attacked on July 10, 1940 when a single Do17 dropped more than 20 HE bombs causing no serious damage. The first big raid was on August 26th, when a German formation dropped 100 HE and incendiary bombs. Five people were killed in addition to several buildings being destroyed and water and power lines fractured. Five days later on August 31, there was another raid on Debden. Once again, several buildings on the site were hit with three people killed and twelve injured. After this attack, the operations centre was relocated in a clay pit until a nearby grammar school was available for use. After these two major attacks, there were further raids but none of them caused serious damage and most of them were the result of less accurate, night bombing operations.
RAF Debden was home to the Debden Sector Operations Room and Staff, and the following Squadrons during the Battle:
• No 85 Squadron from 22 May 1940
• No 17 Squadron from 19 June 1940
• No 257 Squadron from 15 August 1940
• No 601 Squadron from 19 August 1940
• No 111 Squadron from 19 August 1940
• No 17 Squadron from 2 September 1940
• No 25 Squadron from 8 October 1940