Image: London Stansted Airport/MAG

London Stansted Airport celebrated the 80th anniversary of its runway las week.

The airport was originally an American military base during World War Two. George Washington Field, as it was known then, officially opened in 1943 and played a significant role in the war effort.

The airfield became the ninth largest US Air Force base in East Anglia, home to four B-26 Marauder squadrons from the 344th Bomb Group, known as the ‘Silver Streaks’.

Despite not being fully operational until the summer of 1943, the runway had its first unexpected visitor on Feb 26, 1943, when a battle-damaged RAF Short Sterling bomber made an emergency landing after returning from an air raid.


On D-Day, the ‘Silver Streaks’ led 600 aircraft over the beaches of France earning them the Distinguished Unit Citation.

A total of 140 missions were flown from the airfield by the bomb group before it relocated to France at the end of 1944.

After the war, the site was handed back to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and became a civilian airport.

Today, it is home to many leading airlines, including Ryanair, and Emirates and flies to over 200 destinations in Europe and the Middle East. It is also London’s third busiest airport serving more than 26 million passengers a year.

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