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Thread: Interwar Emergency Landing Grounds around London & the Southeast

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    Default Interwar Emergency Landing Grounds around London & the Southeast

    I came across this article (http://streathamcommon.org/wp-conten...Dec-17-pdf.pdf) that suggests that Streatham Common was allocated an emergency landing ground in 1927.

    I can find no further concrete references to this, but in various places have managed to find that Parliament Hill Fields (Hampstead), Gravesend, Jesson and Penshurst were also allocated as ELG's.

    Does anyone have any reference or info regarding the allocation of ELG's in and around London during the 1920s-30s, please?

    I am specifically interested corroborating information related to Streatham Common as one of 41 Squadron's pilots, Plt Off Denis Finlay, force-landed on the Common in November 1933. That said, anything on the general policy, or a list of ELG's around London, would be appreciated, please.

    I'm just seeking to add some context around why Finlay chose Streatham Common, aside from the obvious fact that it was a large green space in the middle of suburbia.

    Thanks
    Steve
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

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    Default Re: Interwar Emergency Landing Grounds around London & the Southeast

    Steve

    Your pdf link comes up with a security warning on Firefox for me, but the Streatham ELG was mentioned in the London Daily News of May 2nd 1928, under a byline going by the name 'London Calling':

    "I was surprised to learn last night that Streatham Common is to be used as an emergency landing-ground for night-fliers.
    Within a few yards of the main Brighton road, one of the busiest in South London, this public warning has been put up: "The ground at the rear of this notice is liable to be used after dark as an emergency landing-ground by Air Defence aircraft. If flares are lit is dangerous to go on the ground."
    Night manouevres are pretty general just now around London. I suppose that authorities have been reluctant to select this much-used Common as an emergency landing ground. There are bus routes and houses all around the Common, which has two ponds, several cricket pitches and fenced-in tennis courts. A ceasless stream of traffic passes the post on which the warning is printed."


    The use of the Common was proposed in May 1927, according to the Streatham News of May 13th 1927:

    In future night flying defence aeroplanes may land on Streatham Common.
    This is the result of permission granted on Tuesday by the London County Council to the Air Defence Authorities to use as emergency landing grounds various public open spaces, including Streatham and Clapham Commons.


    The London Daily Chronicle of May 9th 1927 reported that permission had been requested for sites at Wormwood Scrubs, Clapham Common, Streatham Common, Parliament Hill and Plumstead Common to be made available.

    Regards

    Simon
    Researching R.A.F. personnel from the North East of England

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    Default Re: Interwar Emergency Landing Grounds around London & the Southeast

    Thanks Simon, that excellent. I appreciate you transcribe that for me.

    FWIW, the link is the December 2017 newsletter of the 'Friends of Streatham Common', which states:

    Landing On Streatham Common

    Just imagine our common becoming a landing strip. Farfetched you might think. Yet out of the blue during the late 1920s it was officially announced that Streatham Common was to be designated as an aircraft landing ground. This was soon made clear when official notice boards began appearing around the common. These carried the stark warning that the ground behind may be used as an ‘Emergency Landing Ground’.

    All this began on the 10th May 1927. Not a day of any particular note, but two years after the formation by the Air Ministry of a new command, the Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB). This new command was created to defend the country against aerial attack, and was initially placed under the command of Air Vice Marshall, Sir John Salmond. In early 1927, the commanding officer of the ADGB made a formal request to the London County Council, the body responsible for a number of large open spaces dotted around London. The request was for certain facilities to be made available for the emergency landing of aircraft upon their open spaces.

    This had become necessary as the Royal Air Force was developing its tactics for aerial combat and defence, which entailed the carrying out of various air exercises over England, particularly in the South East. As to be expected during these early years of flight, there was the likelihood of aircraft engine failure over built-up areas such as London. This would see the possibility of aircraft making forced landings. It was therefore essential that the Air Force had designated landing places, particularly in London, as mentioned in the ADGB request.

    In response, the London County Council soon agreed that notice boards would be erected on Streatham Common to indicate the boundary of the designated landing area. On these it would state that the ground is liable to be used by air defence aircraft during the hours of darkness, and that when the flares are lit, it would be very dangerous for the public to proceed beyond the notice boards. ADGB would make all the arrangements and supply personnel during air exercises, and that the council would be duly notified.

    Exercises apart, it was not unknown for aircraft to make emergency landings on open spaces and Streatham Common was no exception. The drama of a plane landing on the common unfolded in early November 1933 when Pilot Officer Finlay, on returning from the Royal Air Force base at Hawkinge, Kent to the air base at Northolt, Middlesex, experienced engine trouble on approaching the Streatham area. Left with little choice he had to make an emergency landing, and seeing the green open space ahead made his descent towards Streatham Common. As Finlay recounted, the common was ‘sprinkled with people’ which terrified him as he brought his plane down, during which he had to ‘swerve’ to avoid hitting a woman pushing a pram. Fortunately he landed unhurt, although his propeller had caught the ground flipping the plane over and damaging the wings and the undercarriage.

    Perhaps more like a Biggles adventure is the story of a pilot who landed his Gypsy Moth on Clapham Common, and who had the nerve to taxi his plane to a nearby garage to refuel before calmly taking off. Another flying adventure took place in 1936, when a banner-towing Avro biplane landed, without the banner, in the grounds of an asylum by Wandsworth Common. Not to be outdone, nearby Tooting Bec Common can claim a further soft landing, when the pilot of another Avro carried out a dead stick landing after losing all power.

    Returning to Streatham Common, one flying enthusiast decided to pace out the landing strip, which probably stretched across the lower part of the common on a north-south axis, and made the length some 400 yards. Yet, despite all the planning and anticipation, there appears to be no record of any landing taking place on the common during any of the aerial exercises by the Royal Air Force over London. Perhaps it was not as suitable as the flatter and larger commons of Clapham, Tooting Bec, Wandsworth and Mitcham.

    The ADGB scheme was rather flawed from the start because it required that the local authority be given sufficient time to light flares across the common in anticipation of an emergency landing. This and the improved designs of fighter and bomber aircraft, plus the construction of purposebuilt airfields around London, such as Biggin Hill and Kenley, signalled the end of the scheme. In 1936 the ADGB command was replaced by the familiar names of Bomber Command and Fighter Command.

    From 1936 the warning boards dotted around the common gradually disappeared. Once out of sight the ‘airstrip’ became only a memory to those who knew and frequented the common. Little did people know at the time that such signage was to be a forerunner of things to come. When war came in September 1939, Streatham Common again found itself serving the national interest and subject to the vagaries of war. For one pilot the common was a godsend when he had to make an emergency landing here during the hectic weeks of the Battle of Britain in 1940. Meanwhile, allotments had appeared on the upper slopes and a balloon battery occupied some of the lower area, along with air shelters sited nearby. Breaking the openness of the common rows of prefabricated houses were built along two sides of the common, and it was not to be until the late 1950s, that the free movement of users over all the common was fully regained.


    Cheers
    Steve
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

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    Default Re: Interwar Emergency Landing Grounds around London & the Southeast

    Steve,

    Not without precedent, as the following "dramatic" incident shows:

    https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/221383

    Col.

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    Default Re: Interwar Emergency Landing Grounds around London & the Southeast

    Thanks Col.

    Wow, and so young :-(

    Steve
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

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    Default Re: Interwar Emergency Landing Grounds around London & the Southeast

    I assume the AA register of landing grounds would have been consulted as well.

    Whilst trawling through squadron ORBs I have come across quite a few references to ELGs but from memory I believe these were in connection with temporary deployments for exercises or similar. These may or may not have been in the London and SE areas as I was looking for bombing ranges use at the time.

    Would these ELGs have been retained or remembered in the early years of WW2, as again many locations were mentioned in ORBs that were not recognised airfields to me?

    The whole subject of ELGs of all types probably deserves research and I now feel guilty I didn't record them as I cam across them :(

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    Default Re: Interwar Emergency Landing Grounds around London & the Southeast

    Blimey I have not looked into ELG's for many years,but I always assumed that the Air Ministry/RAF did keep records of WW1 and other between war landing grounds as quite a few of them were used during WW2.
    Not sure if we (as a group) ever discussed them on ARG (as was)
    I know I had a look at a few of them in the deep south when I lived in W Sussex,of course there was rarely anything to look at as most were just large (or sometimes not so large) fields.

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