Treasure trove of WW2 RAF documents found

A Gillingham law firm has uncovered a haul of paperwork detailing the purchase of land for a Second World War airbase.

Staff at Hawkridge and Company had been clearing through some old boxes in the back room when they discovered the envelope titled ‘Fosters Bungalow, Maidstone Road, Detling Hill, Kent.’

When the crinkled and old envelope was opened it revealed an abundance of documents detailing the purchases and sales of the land between 1929 and 1960. The land was bought to build a new RAF base for The Second World War.

Owner of Hawkridge and Company Solicitors, Mark Hawkridge, said he was pleased they made the discovery. ‘We “inherited” them from Whyte & Co solicitors who closed in 2014 and we have been writing to their clients to let them know we have their documents.  We can’t trace the client (we assume he has died) but the papers make fascinating reading and are an interesting part of local history and our involvement and contribution towards the war effort.’

Hawkridge and Company Solicitors in Gillingham

Doctor Martin Watts, Senior lecturer of modern history at Canterbury Christ Church University said the documents date back to 1929 and they tell the story of the different owners of the land used for RAF Detling.

The land was owned by George Albert Foster up until a period just before the war when the Secretary of State came to inspect the land and made a compulsory purchase in preparation for the Second World War.

RAF Detling was used for reconnaissance flights during World War 2. Detling was not considered a fighting base and therefore wasn’t seemed important to concern the Luftwaffe (German Air Force). However, it was bombed on August 13th 1940. 22 airplanes were destroyed, 67 personnel were killed and 94 were injured.

RAF Detling memorial

The papers date back to early 1929 when the land was mortgaged at £450 on 31st October 1929 (equivalent to £20,600 today). The documents then take the readers through the 20s to the 60s when the Secretary of State was selling the land used for the Airfield.


maps detailing the land bought for RAF detling