Did you know that, before it became home to the Kent Showground, our site was part of the Detling airfield?
First developed in 1915, the site was home to the Royal Naval Air Service and Air Force during World War One. In 1917, No. 50 Squadron RFC from Dover became the first unit to move into Detling airfield, which went on to host 42 squadrons from the RFC, RNAS and RAF across the two World Wars.
The airfield continued to serve throughout the Second World War as RAF Detling and played a vital role in both the Battle of Britain and the D-Day Landings.
Personnel Based at Detling Airfield
Whilst, sadly, many of the names of those who served here at Detling have been lost to time, we know of two extraordinary individuals who served at RAF Detling during World War 2.
Ronald Cuthbert Hay was Naval aviator who was based at RAF Detling as part of 801 and 806 Naval Air Squadron and played a pivotal role in the air support for the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk. He went on to become the only Royal Marine Fighter Ace!
Daphne Pearson served at RAF Detling as a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force Officer during World War 2. On the 31st May 1940, Corporal Pearson put her life on the line whilst responding to an airplane crash on site. When a bomb on board the plane exploded during the crash landing, Corporal Pearson entered the wreckage to recover the pilot and remove him from the plane. When a further bomb exploded, she flung herself over the pilot to shield him from the blast. Corporal Daphne Pearson was later awarded the Empire Gallantry Award for her deeds and, in 1941, she was awarded the George Cross, which replaced the Empire Gallantry Award. She was one of only 13 women to receive this award, which is the highest award for gallantry not in the face of the enemy in the United Kingdom!
World War 1 Trenches
Back in 2021, we discovered what looked to be a World War 1 trench in our woodland area. In 1915, our site would have been part of the Chatham Land Front, a series of trenches set up to train troops heading for the front line. Since its discovery, we have worked with Military Historian, Andrew Robertshaw, and his team to restore and preserve the site as well as developing a series of replica settings to bring the Belgian Frontline to life for students and history enthusiasts of all ages.
The site of the former Detling Airfield has been home to the Kent County Agricultural Society since 1964 and we are hugely proud of our home’s history! In 2000, to mark the 60-year anniversary of the Battle of Britain, our team erected a monument outside the main Show office, the Alan Day House, to honour the brave service men and women who served here.