Tangmere aerodrome was first founded in 1917 as a training base for the Royal Flying Corps. The following year, it was turned into a training ground for the American Air Force and remained that way until the end of World War I. Afterwards the airfield was abandoned. It reopened in 1925 to serve the RAF’s Fleet Air Arm and became operational in 1926. In 1939 Tangmere’s airfield was enlarged in order to defend the south coast against attacks by the Germans.
The first raid at Tangmere was also the worst. On August 16, 1940, 100 Ju87 “Stuka” dive bombers and fighters damaged and destroyed numerous buildings and aircraft on the base. In addition, the power, water and sanitation systems were put out of commission. Fourteen servicemen and six civilians were killed and another twenty were injured in the attack. Yet even after the devastation of the attack, the station remained open and returned to full operation. It was not a complete German victory though, as Hurricanes and Spitfires destroyed nine enemy dive-bombers in addition to severely damaging seven others.
Two days later, both sides suffered heavy losses as Tangmere squadrons attacked more Stuka planes in defense of RAF Thorney Island, Ford and the Poling RDF Station. This caused the Luftwaffe to scale back these kinds of operation over England. As the Luffwaffe was entering its third phase, Tangmere’s Hurricanes and Spitfires were involved in intercepting many raids on other RAF airfields and aircraft factories in southern England.
RAF Tangmere was home to the Tangmere Sector Operations Room and Staff, and the following Squadrons during the Battle:
• No 145 Squadron from 10 May 1940 - Hawker Hurricane
• No 43 Squadron from 31 May 1940 - Hawker Hurricane
• No 601 Squadron from 17 June 1940- Hawker Hurricane
• No 1 Squadron from 23 June 1940- Hawker Hurricane
• No 266 Squadron from 9 August 1940 - Supermarine Spitfire
• No 17 Squadron from 19 August 1940 -
• No 607 Squadron from 1 September 1940
• No 601 Squadron from 2 September 1940
• No 213 Squadron from 7 September 1940
• No 145 Squadron from 9 October 1940