During Worls War I, Hounslow Heath Military Training Ground found a new lease of life as an aerodrome with a grass runway. With the increased use of aircraft in the war, the heath became a base for bi-plane fighters whose job it was to drive German Zeppelin airship-bombers away from London. It was mostly used, however, as a training school to prepare pilots for active service over the trenches in France. In 2014, Hounslow’s memorial to those lost during the First World War was unveiled by Johnson Beharry VC, on the forecourt of Hounslow’s Holy Trinity Church. Before this, Hounslow had been without a memorial, though both Heston and Isleworth have had them since the 1920’s.
After the First World War, the aerodrome became London’s first international airport. The first civil air service between London and Paris began operating from Hounslow Aerodrome, where the military camps of Cromwell and James II had once been. In 1919, the Australian Government offered a £10,000 prize for the first aircraft to fly from England to Australia – naming Hounslow Heath aerodrome as the official starting line! Seven aircraft took off from the heath, but only the Vickers Vimy bomber aircraft of Captain Ross-Smith made the flight in the required time limit of under 30 days. Choosing a route that covered Europe via Italy, across to Cairo, Egypt, down to India and then through Asia to Australia, the crew of 4 made the journey in just 28 days! In 1994, a replica Vickers Vimy re-enacted the 1919 flight. The crew faced similar problems to those experienced by Smith and his team, but amazingly, the 1994 journey took 14 days longer than the flight of 1919! Today the 1919 bomber plane is in on display in Australia, the home of the 4-man crew.
In the twentieth century, there was a steady growth of allotments across Britain with most found in the southwest where the warmer climate provided the best growing conditions. During the First World War, the area of cultivated land was extended by 1¾ million acres! Many of Hounslow’s allotments were a result of this expansion – local councillors, looking for potential land suggested, in 1916, dividing up the Hounslow Recreation Grounds (now known as Inwood Park) and using the existing football grounds for allotments. It was thought that they were no longer needed because many of the young men that had once played football there were away fighting in the war. However, this suggestion was rebuked and instead land behind the recreation ground was decided on – now Inwood Road Allotments. Just south of these allotments, across the railway tracks are Hounslow Avenue Allotments – still very popular today!