Tangmere was a Battle of Britain fighter ‘plane
base during World War Two. It was based near Chichester,
Tangmere had been a training base for pilots
in the RAF before the war. It had been a popular posting for pilots
because of its pleasant site in Sussex.
Tangmere under attack
The first few months of the war did not see
a settled squadron at Tangmere. Different squadrons came and went but
between September 1939 and May 1940, the base had new runways and
bomb-blast pens built.
For all this, Tangmere did not see any
"action" during this time and it remained a "slumberous
May 1940 saw a dramatic change. The Germans
smashed through western Europe.
Tangmere, because of its position, suddenly
became an air base of major importance. Hurricanes were sent there and
battled against the Germans up to the evacuation from Dunkirk. The
Tangmere fighters did well and up to May 1940, they shot down more enemy
bombers than any other home based fighters. The Free French Air Force also
used Tangmere - landing there to stop the Germans taking the ‘planes.
On July 23rd 1940, something of
great importance took place at Tangmere. A Blenheim fighter/bomber shot
down a German ‘plane. There was nothing unusual about this except it was
done at night using the new night time radar - the first time this had
ever been done.
From August to September 1940, the Tangmere
fighters played their part in the Battle
of Britain. On average, 36
Hurricanes were based at Tangmere.
On August 16th 1940, a Stuka raid
on Tangmere did a lot of damage. Much of the base was wrecked and 7 vital
Hurricanes were destroyed. Thirteen people were killed and many badly
wounded. But the base carried on and did not shut down - not even for one
hour. Just 2 days later the Hurricanes from Tangmere destroyed an attack
by Stukas on another air base. The Stuka losses were so bad that they were
never used over Britain again.
In August 1940 the Hurricanes of Tangmere
claimed 187 German planes destroyed, 87 German planes probably lost and
107 German planes damaged.
In September 1940, the Hurricanes of
Tangmere claimed 88 German planes destroyed, 29 German planes probably
lost and 39 German planes damaged.
These figures may or may not be accurate but
they do show how effective Tangmere was as a fighter base and that it
lived up to its station motto "Attack to Defend".
Tangmere’s other claim to fame was that it
was the secret base for the Lysander planes of the
Special Operations and
Intelligence agencies who used the advanced base to send agents to France
to help the Resistance there. Bombers also used Tangmere as an emergency
landing base when returning from a raid.
In 1941 the planes of Tangmere shot down 139
German planes, in 1942, they shot down 71 German planes and in 1943 they
shot down 35 German planes.
Tangmere played an important part in the
D-Day landings. Fighter cover for the troops going across the Channel was
vital and Tangmere played its part to the full. Also fighters based at
Tangmere (including the Typhoon) were used to attack V1 and
installations in Europe.
A Typhoon based at Tangmere