RAF Kenley started out as an 'Airfield Acceptance Park', where new military aircraft were sent before being deployed operationally, in 1917. Regular operations ceased in 1959 when RAF Fighter Command left the site.
During World War II RAF Kenley was one of the three main fighter stations, which together with Croydon and Biggin Hill were responsible for the air defence of London
It was during the crucial days of the Battle of Britain all three RAF stations came into their own, fighting off the overwhelming might of the German Luftwaffe. Fighter Command pilots were labelled "The Few" by the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
RAF Kenley suffered its worst damage in an attack on 18 August 1940. September 15 is considered by many to be the climax of the Battle of Britain, but 18 August is often regarded as Kenley's hardest. On that day, the RAF lost 68 aircraft and the Germans lost 69. At Kenley, all ten hangars and twelve aircraft, including ten Hurricanes, were destroyed and the runways badly cratered. The Sector Operations Room had to be moved to an emergency location away from the airfield.
The aerodrome was used as a location in the following films: Angels One Five (1952) and Reach for the Sky (1956), the latter about Douglas Bader who was posted to RAF Kenley in 1930 shortly before his accident in 1931.
RAF Kenley was part of 11 Group Which covered the south east of England and the critical approaches to London and was commanded by Air Vice Marshal Keith Park.
These days, as well as 450 Squadron, there is a Royal Air Forces Association Club at Kenley and thanks to the Surrey Hills Gliding Club and 615 Volunteer Gliding Squadron, gliding takes place most days.