Work to establish Duxford as an airfield began in October 1917, a total of 223 acres of farmland was acquired under directives issued by the War Office. The aerodrome was taken over by the RFC in February 1918 and in March the nuclei of three DH9 squadrons (119,123 and 129) arrived. When the RAF came into being on the 1st April 1918 Duxford came under the control of the new Air Ministry. In September 1920 Duxford became home to No 2 Flying Training School equipped with Avro 504s, DH9As and Bristol Fighters. From 1924 three fighter squadrons (19,29 and 111) were formed at Duxford. In 1938 No 19 Squadron became the first RAF squadron to re-equip with the Spitfire, the first Spitfire being flown in to Duxford in August by Jeffrey Quill.
On the 3rd September 1939 Britain declared war on Germany. By June 1940 Belgium, Holland and France had fallen to the German forces whose next objective was the conquest of Britain. Duxford’s first Hurricane squadron, 310 Squadron made up of Czech pilots who had escaped from France, arrived at Duxford in July. At the end of August 242 Squadron (operating Hurricanes and commanded by Douglas Bader) joined 19 and 310 Squadrons at Duxford to form what was referred to as the Duxford Wing. In September two more squadrons (302 a Polish squadron operating Hurricanes and 611 operating Spitfires) were added to the wing. The three Hurricane squadrons and two Spitfires squadron of the Duxford Wing claimed many enemy losses during September 1940.
After the Battle of Britain Duxford became home to several specialist units including the AFDU (Air Fighting Development Unit) who flew and evaluated captured enemy aircraft.
Squadrons with newly acquired aircraft were posted to Duxford for trials including 601 Squadron the only RAF squadron to be equipped with Bell Airacobras. Duxford played a major part in the development of the Typhoon and in early 1942 became the aerodrome where the first Typhoon Wing was formed.
In October 1942 a squadron of the 350th Fighter Group arrived at Duxford, the group did not see operational service from Duxford. In April 1943 the airfield was handed over to the United States Eighth Air Force to became Base 357, headquarters of the 78th Fighter Group who flew P-47s.
On the 1st December 1945 Duxford was handed back to the RAF. Spitfires return to Duxford but by 1947 had been replaced by Meteors. During their stay at Duxford the Americans had laid a perforated steel plate runway over the grass strip. By 1951 a concrete runway had been laid and a T2 hanger erected beside the four First World War One hangers. The original T2 hanger has gone but the Museum has put up another two T2 hangers on the same site. In July 1961 the last operational flight was made from Duxford. In 1977 the Imperial War Museum, Duxford Aviation Society and Cambridgeshire County Council jointly brought the runway.