The second airfield on this part of the trail, takes us further north, to a little village and small airfield. It also features one of only a few round towered churches that hold some remarkable records of the region’s history.
RAF Little Snoring
Little Snoring is as its name suggests, a quiet hamlet deep in the heart of Norfolk. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, it boasts a superb round towered church (another called St. Andrew’s) that holds a remarkable little gem of historical significance.The airfield, to the North East, was originally opened in 1943, late in the war, as a satellite for nearby Foulsham. It had three runways: 2 constructed of concrete 4,199 ft (1,280 m) in length, (01/19 and 13/31) and one 07/25 of 6,004 ft (1,830 m) again in concrete. As with other airfields it was a typical ‘A’ shape, with 36 dispersal sites, a bomb site to the north, fuel dump to the south and the accommodation blocks dispersed away from the airfield to the east. It was built to accommodate 1,807 RAF and 361 WAAF personnel housed over eight domestic sites.
Initially under the command of 3 Group Bomber Command, it housed the rare Bristol Hercules engined Lancaster IIs of 1678 HCU (Heavy Conversion Unit) and 115 squadron, (between August and November 1943) formally RAF Witchford (Trail 11) and East Wretham, who were to carry out night bombing duties, a role it had performed well at Witchford. Then, as with many of the airfields in this location, it was taken over by Addison’s 100 Group and Mosquitos moved in.169 squadron operating both Mosquito IIs and Beaufighter VIs, would undertake night fighter missions between December 1943 and June 1944. Like their counterparts at Great Massingham, Foulsham, North Creake, West Raynham and Sculthorpe amongst others, they would take part in electronic warfare and counter measures against enemy fighter operations. 100 Group, investigated a wide range of devises suitable for tracking, homing in on or jamming enemy radars. With a wide rage of names; “Airborne Cigar”, “Jostle”, “Mandrel”, “Airborne Grocer”, “Carpet” and “Piperack”, they used both “Serrate” and “ASH” to attack the enemy on their own airfield at night before they could intercept the bombers. After a short spell with an American Intruder detachment between March and April 1944 flying P-51s and P-38s, Little Snoring was itself the subject of an attack from Luftwaffe aircraft that had followed the bomber stream home. The attack was so successful that Little Snoring was put out of action for some considerable time.
Night intruder missions continued, with 515 squadron, 23 squadron and 141 squadron operating a range of twin-engined aircraft such as the Beaufighter IIf, Blenheim V, Mosquito II, FB.VI and NF.30. Radar training also continued using smaller aircraft such as the Defiant, Anson and Airspeed Oxfords of 1692 Flt.
Eventually in September 1945, operational flying officially ceased and the airfield was reduced to care and maintenance. Like other airfields in this area, it became the storage area for surplus Mosquitos on their way to a sad ending under the choppers blade. Then in the 1950s Little Snoring was opened temporarily and used by a civilian operated anti-aircraft co-operation unit, flying Spitfire XVI, Mosquito TT.35 and Vampire FB.Vs. Finally in April 1953, Little Snoring was shut, the gates locked and the site sold off.
However, that was not the of flying. Now in civilian hands, Little Snoring operates a small flying club and a microlight manufacturer. Aircraft can visit, and occasionally a ‘fly-in’ happens and the site springs into life once more.Following sale of the site, a large number of buildings were demolished or taken away for use elsewhere. The officers’ mess housed four ornately and beautifully written honours and awards boards. Luckily, these were saved by a good samaritan and now reside in the base’s ‘official’ church, St. Andrew’s, on the west wall. Written in paint, they detail the awards and ‘kills’ of the various crew members stationed at Little Snoring. Just a short walk from the church is the village sign which depicts a Mosquito, often seen over the skies of Little Snoring all those years ago.
The perimeter track to the east is now the road, the accommodation site on the eastern side still bears the track but is closed off, what secrets it must hold! A few remnants of concrete roadway exist outside of the airfield, the northern threshold of the main runway is also there used to store gravel and other road material. A small number of buildings, mainly huts, exist in private gardens used as storage sheds. The local caravan site has what is believed to be the base hospital and / or mortuary now a washing block.
The largest and best preserved buildings are two of the original T2 hangars, both used to store potatoes. A blister hangar is also on site but thought not an original of Little Snoring.The bomb site is a field, and all but a small part of the runways are gone or at best farm tracks. Little Snoring’s gem is its watch office, standing proud in the centre of the site, a lone wind sock fluttering from its walls. Run down and dilapidated, it is crying out for love and restoration, but I suspect this isn’t going to happen and perhaps its days are very sadly numbered.
During its operational life, twelve Lancasters and forty-three Mosquitos were lost during missions over enemy territory and to date no ‘official’ memorial exists in their honour. Maybe one day this too will change.
The base commander, ‘glass eyed’ Group Captain Rex O’Bryan Hoare (Sammy) was a known character and has been mentioned in a number of books discussing night intruder missions. He was a very successful Mosquito pilot and looked up to by his fellow pilots. A superbly detailed account of him appears here and is certainly worth a read.
A once bustling airfield, Little Snoring is now a sleepy site with a few remaining remnants of its wartime activity. The church boards reminders of its successes and the toll paid by the young men of the Royal Air Force.The four award and honours boards in St. Andrew’s Church can be seen by clicking here.
Little Snoring ends Trail 22, but leads us to the last part of North Norfolk and a to Trail 23. As we continue north toward the coast, we visit two sites with some remarkable features.