Long demolished, Flintfield House was a large Victorian/Edwardian Villa first acquired by the RAF in 1917, under the Defence of the Realm Act.*
It was purchased outright by the Air Council in 1920/21 and used as Kenley airfield’s ‘offices and mess,’ according to the author, Peter Flint. It is likely that Charles Lindbergh may have spent the night there in June, 1927, when bad weather delayed his return to Paris.
David D’Arcy Greig described Flintfield House in his book, ‘My Golden Flying Years,’:
Here’s a word about our mess, which at that time was a fairly large requisitioned house situated on the well-timbered slope of Whyteleafe Hill. In the early and mid-twenties it provided a pleasant home for the single blokes, some of whom lived in the main building, the surplus being accommodated in huts in the garden. The larger bedrooms in the house were made into dormitories to take a number of officers, only those of superior rank obtaining rooms to themselves.
Greig also recalls that the bonfire night celebrations of 5th November, 1923, took place inside the Mess, because the night had turned bitterly cold and it had started to snow. All available fire extinguishers were gathered in the hall and a thunder flash detonated to signal the start of the party.
In no time at all a delightful state of pandemonium reigned throughout the building and the hall curtains were ablaze.
Miraculously, nobody was injured, despite the rockets which were “snaking at high speed all over the place.” However, the acrid fumes and smoke became overwhelming, so a halt was called to clear the air.
At this point, Squadron Leader John Kilner Wells (a WW1 veteran observer, with 24 Squadron for flying instruction) announced that he had thrown a Verey cartridge in the ante-room fireplace, causing a rush for the door! Thankfully, the damage caused wasn’t extensive, though the explosion of the propellant blew the contents of the fireplace out onto the carpet, requiring the use of the fire extinguishers yet again! By the end of the party the Mess was in a “simply chaotic” state and although Greig doesn’t recall how much it cost to repair the damage, he does say that the officers had a remarkably good run for their money.
When the newer Expansion era Officers’ Mess was built in 1932, Flintfield House fulfilled other functions – D’Arcy Grieg notes that shortly after the new Mess was built, Flintfield House was occupied by the Air Ministry works and buildings department. During the war years it was used by Kenley’s batmen.
On 14th May, 1942, No.485 (New Zealand) Squadron note in their Operations Record Book that the Squadron Orderly Room was removed from ‘Flintfield’ to dispersal.
In the early 1960’s it was the Air Ministry Registry and Post Office, with a flat on the upper floor, occupied by a Group Captain. The building was finally demolished in October, 1980.
Nb. In the very early days of the Air Acceptance Park in 1917, a property called ‘The Garth’ served as a Mess. It still stands in Welcomes Rd, Kenley.
Many thanks to Kent Battle of Britain Museum. http://www.kbobm.org/
‘My Golden Flying Years’ by David D’Arcy Greig (Norman Franks, Simon Muggleton)