First World War: Air
Historic England has identified the most significant airfields and airfield buildings of the First World War, including some of the earliest associated with powered flight in the world.
It has listed some of the most intact groups of hangars and other buildings, such as those at the remarkable Stow Maries airfield in Essex,used by the Royal Flying Corps, precursor to the RAF (created 1st April 1918). All played their part in the subsequent expansion of British air power throughout the First World War. To date 42 buildings have been listed, among them airship, aircraft, and sea plane hangars, officers’ messes, and barracks.
By August 1914, powered flight by aircraft was little more than a decade old. In the intervening years the armies and navies of various nations had explored the potential of aircraft for reconnaissance and offensive operations. Initially, aircraft were flimsy and underpowered. For greater range rigid airships, most famously developed by the German Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin, were a more effective technology.
New technologies required specialist facilities and the war saw the construction of airfields and balloon stations with dedicated buildings to house and maintain flying machines. The new threat of aerial warfare, initially from Zeppelin airships, prompted a sophisticated anti-aircraft defence system, including purpose-built gun batteries, notably the listed surviving example at Lodge Hill, north of Chatham, Kent.