Air aces and tennis aces

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What do Spitfires and NPL Tennis have in common?

You’d be forgiven for struggling to find a link between air aces taking to the skies in the iconic British fighter plane and the occasional ace being served on the NPL Tennis courts.

However, as we mark the 75th Anniversary of VE Day during Local Community History Month, it is the perfect time to explain this unusual connection.

What’s in a name?

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) was established in 1900, when Bushy House became home to its first research laboratory. Previously, this historic building had been home to a Prime Minister and a future King of England, his mistress and 10 children but that’s another story. Today, Bushy House overlooks NPL Tennis courts which enjoy a stunning setting in a corner of Bushy Park.

A peaceful location for wartime inventions

NPL quickly gained a worldwide reputation for excellence. It attracted a host of eminent scientists whose inventions helped protect Britain during WW2 and ultimately turn the tide against Nazi Germany.

One of these projects began in 1927, when NPL staff carried out wind tunnel tests as part of an international competition to develop a seaplane. As well as winning this competition three times, the plane that they developed ultimately became the legendary Battle of Britain fighter, known as the Spitfire.

NPL scientists also:

  • developed the innovative Mulberry floating harbours that supported the D Day invasion by enabling tanks and heavy equipment to be safely delivered to the armies in France
  • supported pioneering research on radio waves that ultimately led to the creation of radar stations along the South and East coasts of England in 1939 to detect incoming aircraft.


Make your own connection with NPL Tennis

NPL Tennis Club is part of NPL Sports Club, a charity that provides a variety of sports and social activities for the local community.

While we enjoy close links with NPL, everyone is welcome to join – there’s no need to work at NPL to become a member. Whatever your level, you’ll find a warm welcome and plenty to enjoy at NPL Tennis.