RAF Eastchurch was an air base on the Isle of Sheppey, north of Chatham in Kent, during World War Two. Though Eastchurch was not part of Fighter Command, the Luftwaffe believed the base to so and duly attacked it in August/September 1940.
Eastchurch was used as a Royal Naval Air Station in World War One. As war became more and more of a threat in the late 1930’s, the base became a Station Headquarters and the home to No 21 Squadron. By late August 1938, No 21 was flying Blenheim bombers. The Avro Anson’s of No 48 Squadron joined them and the base became part of Coastal Command. However, after the Munich Agreement of September 1938, which brought “peace in our time”, there was a general belief that war had been avoided. Two days before war broke out, Eastchurch was placed under Care and Maintenance.
In December 1939, Eastchurch became a training centre for Polish pilots. By March 1940, 1,300 Polish airmen were stationed at Eastchurch. They were moved to Blackpool in May 1940.
At the very end of May, Blenheim’s returned to Eastchurch to carry out reconnaissance flights. Over the next few months, the base hosted Spitfires and Fairey Battles. German intelligence concluded that Eastchurch was a fighter base, which was not the case, and attacked it on August 13th 1940. A great deal of damage was done to the base and many planes were wrecked beyond repair as they had been parked in rows as opposed to being dispersed throughout the base. Twelve people were killed and twenty-six badly wounded. The base’s operational room had taken a direct hit, which had destroyed all communication links. Still convinced that Eastchurch was a base for Fighter Command, the Luftwaffe bombed the base again on August 15th and August 20th. Most of the base’s personnel had moved off the base after the August 13th raid, so there were no casualties. However, the runway was once again badly damaged – it had been repaired within ten hours after the raid on the 13th. A further heavy attack on September 2nd killed four and did major damage to the base as an ammunition store suffered a direct hit.
Between September 2nd 1941 and June 1942, the base saw little action despite still being under the control of Coastal Command. However, in the summer of 1942, the RAF used Eastchurch as a forward base for the Spitfires of No 124 and 401 squadrons. Both were tasked with escorting bombers to their targets in mainland Europe.
Various squadrons temporarily based at Eastchurch provided cover for the Dieppe raid in August 1942.
This was the last major action seen by Eastchurch in World War Two. The base was used as a training facility for the rest of the war – though returning damaged bombers occasionally used the base for emergency landings.
On September 1st 1946, Eastchurch was put under Care and Maintenance and it became inactive in 1947.