The day before John Lennon was born, a remarkable event took place above the Liverpool airport that now bears his name.

It was Tuesday October 8th 1940 and Hawker Hurricanes of 312 Squadron were scrambled from RAF Speke, as it was then known, to intercept German bombers.

What followed was the fastest air-to-air combat kill in the Battle of Britain – and possibly of all time.

Flight Lieutenant Denys Gillam had barely taken off when he shot down a Junkers 88 on its way to bomb the industrial heartlands of the North West.

In fact, the undercarriage of his Hurricane was still retracting when he fired his guns on the enemy plane!

RAF Speke played a major role in the British war effort from 1939 to 1945. As well as hosting 312 Squadron, car-manufacturers Rootes set up a factory to build planes on the airport site.

Republic P-47 Thunderbolts awaiting shipment back to the USA after the war, August 1945

Republic P-47 Thunderbolts awaiting shipment back to the USA after the war, August 1945

More than 1,000 Handley Page Halifax heavy bombers were constructed as well as Bristol Blenheim light bombers.

Lockheed aircraft, shipped to Liverpool Docks from the USA, were also assembled at RAF Speke. These included twin-engined Hudson bombers and Mustang fighters.

Speke Airport had been operating for less than a decade when World War II broke out. Imperial Airways had begun commercial flights in 1930 from land at Speke Hall.

The airport was officially opened in 1933 and the impressive Art-Deco passenger terminal and control tower were completed in June 1937.

Passenger numbers steadily increased when civil flights resumed after the war, rising from 50,000 in 1945 to 75,000 in 1948.

Liverpool Corporation took over the airport in January 1961 and a new 7,500ft runway was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1966.

Speke Airport was the scene of many hopeful journeys and victorious homecomings in the 1960s and 1970s.

Liverpool and Everton football clubs regularly flew from the airport to play abroad and the Beatles were mobbed by crowds there at the height of their popularity.

A Philippine Airlines (KLM) jet in front of the Speke Airport control tower, October 1970

A Philippine Airlines (KLM) jet in front of the Speke Airport control tower, October 1970

Our photo shows Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon signing autographs before flying out to Jersey in August 1963. Ringo Starr was out of shot.

The Beatles, minus Ringo Starr, sign autographs at Speke Airport before flying to Jersey, August 1963

The Beatles, minus Ringo Starr, sign autographs at Speke Airport before flying to Jersey, August 1963

The band had just notched up their first Number One with the song From Me To You. Their next single, the smash-hit She Loves You, was just about to be released.

Two remarkable images capture the moment Everton football team left Speke for a month-long tour of Australia at the end of April 1964.

Everton footballers ready to take off on their Australian tour, April 1964

Everton footballers ready to take off on their Australian tour, April 1964

Wives and girlfriends wave goodbye to the Everton team from the Speke Airport terminal, April 1964

Wives and girlfriends wave goodbye to the Everton team from the Speke Airport terminal, April 1964

The first shows future stars Colin Harvey, Brian Labone and Johnny Morrissey and the rest of the squad waving goodbye before boarding a Cambrian Airways jet.

The second shows the team’s families, wives and girlfriends waving back from the airport terminal.

In another archive photo, Liverpool manager Bill Shankly – ever the gentleman – welcomes Anderlecht captain Jozef Jurion to Speke Airport in November 1964.

Liverpool manager Bill Shankly greets Anderlecht captain Jozef Jurion, November 1964

Liverpool manager Bill Shankly greets Anderlecht captain Jozef Jurion, November 1964

The Belgian team had flown in to play the first leg of their European Cup tie against the Reds, which they lost 0-3. Liverpool’s scorers were Ian St. John, Roger Hunt and Ron Yeats.

Liverpool won the return leg 1-0 with another goal from Hunt, but eventually went out 3-4 on aggregate to Inter Milan in the semi-finals.

The European Cup came back to Speke Airport for the first time in May 1977 after Liverpool beat German side Borussia Monchengladbach in the final at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.

British Airways staff at Speke Airport handle Liverpool’s European Cup with extreme care, May 1977

British Airways staff at Speke Airport handle Liverpool’s European Cup with extreme care, May 1977

Our photo shows British Airways staff taking very good care of the precious trophy as it leaves the plane. Next stop was the Anfield trophy room!