RAF Bentley Priory
RAF Bentley Priory is a non-flying Royal Air Force station near Stanmore in the London Borough of Harrow. It was famous as the headquarters of Fighter Command during World War II.
Bentley Priory was a country house, built in 1766 on a site previously occupied by Augustinian friars.
It served as a hotel and girl’s school before being acquired by the RAF in 1926. It became the headquarters of Fighter Command on 14 July 1936, and it was from there that the defence of Britain was conducted during the Battle of Britain.
All information about air threats would come through the operations room to be filtered, removing duplicates and avoiding confusion. The threats would then be allocated to the different fighter groups for defensive action to be taken. The command and control systems vital to the Battle of Britain were developed at Bentley Priory.
On the amalgamation of Fighter Command with Bomber Command to form Strike Command, RAF Bentley Priory became the headquarters of Number 11 (Fighter) Group, responsible for the air defence of the United Kingdom. In the early 1990s it became the headquarters of the amalgamated 11/18 Group; recently all the RAF group HQs have been relocated to RAF High Wycombe. Other organisations at RAF Bentley Priory include the Defence Aviation Safety Centre, the Air Historical Branch and the RAF Ceremonial Office. It remains the home of the Royal Observer Corps.
RAF Bentley Priory Officers’ Mess still contains the original office of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding (later Lord Dowding), Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, preserved with its original furniture. Other Battle of Britain historic artifacts are kept in the Officers’ Mess, including one of the few remaining Battle of Britain Lace Panels.
The Officers’ Mess is also notable for the number of Royal Portraits hanging in the building; there are two of Her Majesty the Queen (one as a young woman in the Dining Room and one with a background of the Italian Gardens, hanging in the Ladies Room), one of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh (dressed in a flying suit, hanging in the Dining Room on the wall facing the Queen), one of George VI (in RAF No 1 uniform wearing a ‘chip bag’ and wings, which hangs in the Abercorn Bar) and one of The Queen Mother (gifted to the Mess by the Queen Mother after she generously paid for refubishment following fire).