The aerodrome at Duxford was built during World War I. In September, 1918, Duxford opened as a flying school. During the 1920's, it continued its training mission, with such planes as the Avro 504, the DH9A, the Bristol Fighter, and the Sopwith Snipe. During the 1930's, squadrons based at Duxford became among the most skilled in the RAF and became the first to receive the new Spitfires in 1938.
During the Battle of Britain, Duxford played a leading role. Douglas Bader's "Big Wing," known formally as 12 Group Wing, consisting of Spitfires and Hurricanes, saw notable action during the "Battle of Britain Day," September 15, 1940, twice taking to the air to repulse Luftwaffe attacks aimed at London. After America's entry into the war, Duxford was handed over to the U.S. Army Air Force, becoming 8th Air Force's Base 357. P-51 Mustangs from the base flew escorts on daylight bombing raids of Germany and Thunderbolts provided cover on D-Day. Duxford was returned to the RAF in 1945.