Along with Biggin Hill, Kenley was built in the First World War, becoming operational in 1917. It’s conversion into a peacetime RAF station dated from the 1920s. This began with a full scale reconstruction of the facilities there. It was a prime peacetime RAF station for squadrons flying in the Hendon air displays, a regular feature of the inter-war RAF.
Concrete runways were laid at Kenley in the years before the Second World War. Aircraft from this airfield played an active part in the Battle of France. In the Battle of Britain that followed squadrons from Kenley were in almost continuous action and became a prime target for the Luftwaffe. The race became intense in the latter part of August 1940. It was on 18th August that the greatest damage was done. Over 100 high explosive bombs were dropped and resulted in 9 RAF personnel being killed. Nine aircraft were destroyed on the ground.
Kenley was to be linked to Croydon when the latter became available to the RAF. Croydon sometimes played host to squadrons from Kenley, particularly when damage to the latter was in danger of disrupting operations. Another airfield, Redhill to the south, acted in a similar manner in support of Kenley and became a satellite station. Redhill was readied for operations in case Kenley was actually put out of action by the German attacks.