THE only aircraft seen in the skies over Chingford nowadays are passenger planes, but almost a century ago pilots learned their trade there before going off to fight in the First World War.

The Chingford Royal Naval Air Station – also known as Chingford Aerodrome – was located at what is now William Girling reservoir, on the border with Enfield.

Between 1915 and 1919 it was used to train around 1,000 pilots before they were sent to Europe.

Many found it strange that the marshy and often foggy site was chosen, and some complained about the mosquitoes that bombarded their dormitories at night.

Chingford historian Leonard Davis, who wrote the book 'Chingfliers, Chingboys, and Chingford Aerodrome', said: “It was inevitable that some pilots would land in the King George reservoir and a boat was kept to fish them out.

“One famous crash-landing concerned a pilot named Flight-Lieutenant Norman Blackburn, who took a nose-dive into bank of the reservoir.

“Fortunately he was discovered calmly walking away, dripping with water and slime.”

Pilots and staff enjoyed a varied social life including a range of sports teams, who often played against local sides, and an orchestra.

At that time large military bases often produced their own magazines for their troops' entertainment, and in October 1916 'The Chingflier' was launched.

It contained a mixture of poems, articles, short stories and illustrations, all produced by the base's staff.

Mr Davis said: “The story is that five young men who described themselves as 'humble Air Services ratings' sat around on orange boxes and biscuit tins and discussed the possibility of producing a station journal, and decided to make the 'precarious' attempt.

“The magazine was well received. Later one London daily described it as the best illustrated station journal published.”

Many of the men had spent time abroad so articles were often about their experiences, such as that of Warrant Officer Abbott, who had been part of Captain Scott's expedition to the Antarctic in 1901.

Mr Davis added: “A friendly rivalry developed between the staff of 'Chingflier' and those of 'Eagle' published by a station in Scotland, and 'Wing' published on the east coast.

“Ex-Chingford staff often remained subscribers even when overseas so it became a source of information.

“Letters were received from readers in Australia, Zanzibar, Cape Town, Italy and Egypt, as well as from ships at sea.”