WW2 Airfields

Many airfields were built in South East England during WW2 by both the British and the Americans. This landscape project, undertaken mainly in Essex, looks at what survives from the wartime period and what has happened to these sites since they were decommissioned, which often occured after less than two years of active service (1942-4). These airfields were usually built in rural areas well away from towns and villages, and although most have reverted, at least in part, to agricultural use, there are a variety of other activities now taking place on them. Some of these are probably only permissible because their wartime use effectively turned them into brown field sites.

When farmland was requisitioned by the government, the owners were told that their land would be returned to agricultural use after the war. However, the expense involved in removing the considerable quantities of concrete used to construct the runways and perimeter tracks meant that few landowners could afford it. Consequently, much concrete remains and the sites are used for a variety of non-agricultural activities, such as gravel extraction, industrial estates and housing. Only two of the wartime airfields in Essex - Stansted and Southend - continue today as commercial airports, though several others now accommodate active flying clubs.