Memorial Garden Opening 

Mixing my day job with my hobby is not usual but I felt this was more than worthy of a post.

For some time now I have been toying with the idea of a Memorial Garden at school tied in with the various topic work that we have been doing, which is linked to both the World War I and VE-day commemorations.

The idea really came to fruition in sort early last year when I approached the head of the school and put the idea to her. With enthusiasm the go ahead was given and the children were approached with the idea as an after school club. A small group volunteered to help and we began planning.

On June 18th 2015 the plan finally came together.

The Memorial at the Centre of the Garden.

As people arrived they were greeted with refreshments and displays of work, photos of family members along with artefacts gathered or brought in by friends and parents. My good friend Kevin Fleckner brought four original uniform and bits from a crashed B-17 for us to show.

At 17:15 two RAF Tornado jets from RAF Marham flew overhead. The first low and slow, the second 15 seconds behind, higher and much faster with her wings swept. Over the school, she banked and the crowd waved. The event had opened.

The head then read a short introduction and it was my turn. I have to tell you that public speaking is not my forte and whilst I had been a little nervous I stood at the podium and the nerves vanished. My speech went thus:

June 18th 2015 is a special day. Not just because we’re opening this beautiful space, but for several iconic reasons. 200 years ago today the British and French forces were locked in arms at the Battle of Waterloo. 75 years ago today Winston Churchill made his famous “this was their finest hour” speech. Two dates that will go down in history as both important and momentous.

But these ae not the only significant dates in history.

100 years ago last year in 1914 young men in their thousands signed up with excitement for what they thought would be the war to end all wars. However, the war they thought would be over by Christmas went on for four long years. In the killing fields of Flanders, young men, many barely older than 16 or 17 were slaughtered in their thousands, living in mud and rat infested trenches very few were to survive. If not killed by the constant shelling, sniper fire or the slow march through no man’s land, many would suffer shell shock, a brutal psychological illness that would eat away at the very heart and soul of the young men. Eventually, in 1918 the First World War ended, the guns fell silent and Europe could finally begin rebuilding once more.

Sadly man’s inhumanity to man was to raise its ugly head again. In 1939, Europe was plunged once more into war with the German invasion of Poland. As The mighty Nazi war machine blitzkrieged its way across Europe, the British Armed Forces once more fought bravely in the name of freedom and democracy.

From the beaches of Dunkirk to the defence of Britain in the skies over Kent, the landing grounds of Normandy, to the battles in the Ardennes, Arnhem, over the Rhine and eventually the battle for Berlin itself, the brutality of war would once more be seen again.

The civilian population of Europe was to suffer greatly too. The blitz of our cities and the bombing of European targets that killed thousands upon thousands as bombs rained down from the sky. The concentration camps, death camps and prisoners of war camps saw a brutality on a scale that was and still is, incomprehensible.

From the hot deserts of Africa through the warm seas of the Mediterranean to the freezing conditions of the Arctic convoys, young men would bravely fight without question many paying the ultimate and final sacrifice.

Eventually, on 8th May 1945, the war in Europe finally ended and Peace reigned once more. However, the killing went on in the Far East. On the Pacific Islands of Okinawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal, The fighting continued in some of the most brutal conditions known to man. Eventually on August 15th 1945. UK time, following the Americans dropping the world’s most devastating and horrific bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, war was declared finally over. The world has now entered the atomic age and six years of war had left it scars across Europe, the Middle East, The Far East, in the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and across both the northern and Southern Hemispheres. Across the world millions lay dead, injured, homeless or orphaned. In the words of our distinguished guests here today “There are no winners in war.”

If there is one thing that history can teach us, it is that man is unable to live at peace with his fellow-man. Whether it be disputes over territory, natural resources or religious ideologies, War has continued to be fought and young men and women have continued to die.

In post-World War 2, the world lived on a knife-edge; the Cuban missile crisis being the ultimate stand-off between the east and west. From Korea and Vietnam to the Falkland Islands, the Middle Eastern countries of Iraq and Afghanistan, Britain and her allies have continued to fight for peace and democracy something we here take very much for granted.

It is in the name of these young men and women that we have built this memorial garden, so that their memories and their sacrifice may live on in the hearts and minds of future generations. It is so that we can pay homage and remember the dedication, bravery and self-sacrifice that they have shown so that we may live today without fear and in freedom.

It is to these people that I say thank you. Thank you for willing to lay down your life so we may freely speak out against injustice. To those who never came home, who paid the ultimate sacrifice, may you forever rest in peace. Thank you

Next one of the children read what the garden meant to him. Un-nerved by the occasion, he told how his father passed on his grandfathers tales of the war, how it means he can enjoy the peace and tranquility and he made a remarkably moving speech from the heart.

We then had a young lady from the group read in full the Robert Lawrence Binyon poem ‘For the fallen’. Short gasps from some of the audience told me they didn’t realise where the Remembrance Day words came from as it appears in the middle of the poem. She too read fluently and without falter, quite an achievement. Both these children were only just 10/11 years old.

A blessing by the vicar led us into the last post and a two minutes silence for those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice. A number of visiting Vets saluted, the Air Training Cadets lowered the colours and all went silent. Not a sound bar the cool wind in the adjacent trees.

My Good Friends Baz and Helen, whom helped enormously, John and Tony the Veterans and Kevin, who brought a number of uniforms and bits for us to display.

After the reveille the colours were raised and the two veterans invited to open the memorial officially. One Tony, a Normandy D-day+1 vet and the other John, who fought from Africa against Rommel’s Tigers, through Italy up into the continent, stood either side. As they lifted the flag, John declared the garden open to applause from the gathered audience. The children then sang unaccompanied Vera Lynn’s “We’ll meet again”; many from the audience joined in. The event closed and photos were taken around the memorial.

I estimated around 150 people, which for a small school of 68 children is remarkable. We had veterans from Cambridge a good hour and half away,  visitors from Northampton another similar distance and a large number of folk from the village turn up.

The seating before people started to arrive. There were many more standing, being a small school. we simply didn’t have enough chairs!

The feedback from visitors was superb and everyone was buzzing.

A real team effort, the long evenings, the hard work and recent battle against moles had all been worth while.

We had texts and emails from those who were there praising the efforts. It all worked out far better than even I had envisaged.

We shall miss it. We had great fun, even the odd beer or two, but it has been a real bonding exercise, we have become a little ‘family’ and are really proud of our achievements.

I passed on the good wishes to the children whom I think are quite overwhelmed themselves. They did a fantastic job and were superb role models for others to follow.

The Garden as it is today. We shall seed the outside, and continue the fight with the moles. An area for relaxation and thought.

We shall continue to nurture and maintain the Garden and watch it grow. The children use it already and do enjoy it. The rose in the crown were the poppies. Made out of clay, they are all handmade by the children mounted on metal rods and bunched in groups of 3 or 4. They do look superb.

There were small stumbling blocks along the way, and these caused delays but none so great we couldn’t deal with them. All in all it went beautifully, far, far better than I ever imagined and the finished product, I hope you’ll agree, is stunning.

An article appeared in the paper on the following day, Saturday here’s a link.

Structure of the Luftwaffe – The High Command.

Whilst primarily focussed on detailing the disappearing airfields of Britain, I find it important to appreciate what it was the Royal Air Force and her allies were up against, and that to be able to appreciate the enormity and structure of these forces helps to appreciate the lives of those studied.

A breakdown of the USAAF Command and Airforces have been done, and whilst none of these explanations go into enormous depth (I have neither the expert knowledge nor the resources to deal at that level) they do hopefully give an explanation of the general layout of the relative force in question. With this in mind, I have now tackled the Luftwaffe and have hopefully provided a layman’s view of its formation and size. My German is poor to say the least, and if I have misspelt any words through translation, I sincerely apologise.

The Luftwaffe

The Luftwaffe were a fearsome, well equipped and highly trained force, who when in support of the Panzers and other ground forces, must be considered one of the best armed forces in history.

Following the Treaty Of Versailles, the German armed forces were cut to the bone and useless for Hitler’s vision of a powerful and dominating Germany. He would therefore have to commence a massive rebuilding plan along with research and development of ships, tanks and aircraft in order to build up his Third Reich and fulfill this vision.

With growth and development of the Luftwaffe happening almost unabated, Hitler was able to create a substantial force, that was well equipped and well-trained. Many models being developed under the guise of ‘Passenger’ aircraft, they were easily adapted to become bombers or troop carriers thus hiding the real reason for development.

With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Hitler offered his Luftwaffe as ‘support’, whereas some historians believe this to have been a front for a rehearsal for the forthcoming invasion of Germany’s neighbours later on.

Not surprisingly, records show that a huge build up of military aircraft occurred along the eastern frontiers of Germany in the months prior to the invasion of Poland. The writing was on the wall and once the blitzkrieg started, and the forces of the Third Reich took more and more territory, the network of support needed to sustain them also needed to grow. This expansion led to changes in the supply structure of the various forces enabling them to deal effectively with the new challenges that they now faced. As an attacking force, in September 1939, there were high numbers of bombers 1,458 in all, including ground attack and dive bombers compared to 1,077 single and twin-engined fighters. Clearly a force for invasion and not one of defence.

As the war progressed, these numbers changed. By April 1945, there were known to be 1,305 day fighters, a further 485 night fighters and only 37 multi engined bombers. A significant shift from attack to defence.

Throughout the conflict, up until the last few months of the war, the hierarchy of the Luftwaffe remained as it was. But in the dying days it began to crumble and this most powerful force soon became disorganised and demoralised.

The Luftwaffe High Command.

The Luftwaffe was divided into two parts, the overall responsibility lay with Herman Goring – Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force (Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe) who controlled both The Luftwaffe High Command (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe) and The State Minister for Air (Reichsminister der Luftfahrt). His office was within the Air Ministry (Reichsluftfahrt Mininsterium) located in the heart of Nazi Germany in Berlin. The High command, were concerned with military actions, whilst the Ministry for Air, dealt with the administration side of the Luftwaffe.

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13805, Hermann Göring

Hermann Goring*1

The Luftwaffe High Command was further sub-divided into a number of different directorates covering areas such as: operations, organisation, Training, Movements, Intelligence, Equipment, and personnel. These were then sub-divided further some coming under the command of the Chief of Operations and others the Chief of the General Staff.

Within this branch of the Luftwaffe were two main levels, a forward and a rear. The forward codenamed ‘Robinson’ fell under the Chief of General Staff and were located close to Hitler’s headquarters. This echelon composed of the intelligence and operations directorates and wherever Hitler went, they followed. The second echelon, codenamed ‘Kurfurst’ were more widely spread around Berlin, but all the directorates kept in very close and constant contact.

Regular meetings between Hitler and the leaders of these three services (Ministry for Air, ‘Robinson’ and ‘Kurfurst’) would determine the actions of the Luftwaffe as a whole with orders being passed directly to those in charge of the flying units.

Beneath these top sections lay the Luftwaffe itself, operationally split into 4 fleets (Luftflotten):

Luftflotte 1 – commanded by Albert Kesselring in Berlin who oversaw units to the north-east of Germany

Luftflotte 2 – commanded by Helmut Felmy in Brunswick who controlled the north-west of Germany

Luftflotte 3 – commanded by Hugo Sperrle in Munich who controlled the south-west of Germany

Luftflotte 4 – commanded by Alexander Lohr in Vienna who controlled the south-east, Austria and Czechoslovakia.

As the war progressed, further fleets were added:

Luftflotte 5 – covering Norway, Finland and northern Russia

Luftflotte 6 – covering central Russia

Luftflotte Reich – covering home defence and flak.

Actual flying units, were given as much autonomy as possible, being freed of all administrative duties where they could. This was to allow for a rapid response to ever-changing demands on or near the front and would involve breaking each Luftlotte into zones (Luftgaue) who monitored and organised the airfields within their own zone. This sectioning allowed for the rapid and efficient movement of flying units between zones without the unnecessary problems of obtaining  supplies and slow administration.

The Luftwaffe high command were a well organised and efficient group. Operational matters dealt with by those with experience of battle, and close to Hitler, whilst the more administrative side dealt with by those further afield.

The chain of command was tight, well organised and efficient, the Luftwaffe was a major force to be reckoned with.

In the second part we shall examine the flying units themselves.

Other pages relating to the Luftwaffe can be found here.

Sources and Credits

*1 Photo by (Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-13805 / CC-BY-SA [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons) 20th June 2015

The Luftwaffe Data Book‘, Dr Alfred Price, Greenhill Publications, 1977, Pages 13-18

Organization of the Luftwaffe (1933–45), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organization_of_the_Luftwaffe_%281933%E2%80%9345%29

A Total Success or a Human Tragedy – Operation Carthage

The Shell House attack.

Whilst researching a recent trip I came across this interesting film detailing the attack by 140 Wing (RAF) on the Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1945. Codenamed ‘Operation Carthage’. Technically it was 100% successful, the building was destroyed, the papers burned and resistance fighters escaped, but the attack resulted in the loss of 10 crew members 13 civilians and 86 children.

On March 21st 1945, 18 Mosquitos from 140 Wing (RAF) consisting of 3 waves of 6 from 487 Squadron, 464 Squadron and 21 Squadron  and two supporting photographic Mosquitos, took off from RAF Fersfield to attack and destroy the Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Leaving just before 9:00am, so they would arrive over the target when it was at its busiest, they headed out over the north sea on a direct line to Denmark.

Attacking at roof top height, they struck a blow at the heart of the Gestapo, killing 151 Gestapo officers and allowing for the escape of 30 Danish resistance fighters.

Sadly in the attack, a Mosquito s/n SZ977, flown by Wg. Cdr. Peter A Kleboe and Fg.Off. K Hall, struck a building causing it to crash and burst into flames. Following aircraft blinded by the smoke, believed this to be the target and bombed it, hitting a school killing 86 children inside.

Some argue the loss of those civilians was not sufficient to justify the attack whilst others claim the success of the mission outweighs the tragic loss of civilian life. The Debate goes on!

Aircraft involved in the attack

(Mosquito Mk.VI)

No 487 Squadron

RS570 ‘X’ Gp Capt R N Bateson / Sqn Ldr E B Sismore (Raid Leader)
PZ402 ‘A’ Wg Cdr F M Denton / Fg Off A J Coe (damaged, belly landed at base)
PZ462 ‘J’ Flt Lt R J Dempsey / Flt Sgt E J Paige (hit by flak, 1 engine u/s, returned safely)
PZ339 ‘T’ Sqn Ldr W P Kemp / Flt Lt R Peel
SZ985 ‘M’ Fg Off G L Peet / Fg Off L A Graham
NT123 ‘Z’ Flt Lt D V Pattison / Flt Sgt F Pygram (missing)

No 464 Squadron

PZ353 Flt Lt W K Shrimpton RAAF (Pilot) / Fg Off P R Lake RAAF
PZ463 Flt Lt C B Thompson / Sgt H D Carter
PZ309 Flt Lt A J Smith RAAF / Flt Sgt H L Green RAAF
SZ999 Fg Off H G Dawson RAAF / Fg Off P T Murray (missing)
RS609 Fg Off J H Palmer RAAF / 2nd Lt H H Becker RNorAF (missing)
SZ968 Wg Cdr Iredale RAAF / Fg Off Johnson
All aircraft took off at 0840; last back landed 1405.

No 21 Squadron

SZ977 Wg Cdr P A Kleboe / Fg Off K Hall (missing)
PZ306 Sqn Ldr A F Carlisle / Flt Lt N J Ingram
LR388 Sqn Ldr A C Henderson / Flt Lt W A Moore
HR162 Flt Lt M Hetherington / Fg Off J K Bell
No 21 Squadron records list only these four aircraft and crews above as taking part in this operation.
All aircraft took off at 0835; the three which returned did so at 1355.

Sources:National Archives, June 14th 2015.

 

A gathering of like minded people. 

I do enjoy and appreciate contact from fellow enthusiasts and followers of aviation (and military) related blogs.  There are a good many people out there willing to share stories of family and friends and promote the dedication and bravery of those who went before us. It’s heart warming to know that a large number of people want to keep the memories alive, share ideas and thoughts, and even discuss the days of old through personal stories or experiences. So when a fellow ‘enthusiast’ contacts me I do tend to get quite excited.

A number of followers and ‘bloggers’ have kindly offered to meet up, give tours round their local airfields, share photos and even get together for a gossip and chat over a beer or two. This I always find amazing and I have managed to meet up with some already and others are in the pipeline!

With this in mind, I was recently contacted by one such enthusiast who suggested a meeting up of like-minded people at the Petwood Hotel, Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire.  For those who don’t know, the hotel was used as an officers mess by the crews of the 617 Sqn (RAF) otherwise known as the ‘Dambusters’ during WWII. They have retained a large collection of articles and photos from those days which casual visitors can peruse and photograph.

Woodall Spa also has the Thorpe Camp museum on part of the old base, an impressive memorial (two memorials in fact)  and RAF Coningsby a stones throw away. It is also not far from the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby where Lancaster “Just Jane”, Halifax “Friday the 13th” and a C47 all reside.

If you are interested in such a gathering, very informal, a chat and a wander then please email me via the link and ‘register’ an interest with a suggested approx month or time of year.

It would be lovely to meet more of you who share a common interest in this fascinating area of history.

Engines roar over Grafton Underwood once more. 

The ‘updated’ memorial at the former American Airbase,  RAF Grafton Underwood (Station 106), has been revealed with the help of Europe’s only flying B17 – ‘Sally B‘.

A large crowd gathered at the Memorial On Friday 29th May 2015, to hear speakers and see the beautiful ‘Sally B‘ perform a number of flypasts over the skies of Station 106 once more.

I sadly could not go due to work commitments, but have been informed that it was a resounding success and that it was very well attended by well wishers and members of the public alike.

This updating, has been in the pipeline for a while now and all the hard work has finally paid off. A new parking area and flag poles have been added and the site generally improved for visitors.

I have obtained and attached a short ‘You Tube’ video taken by one of the visitors to the event for you to see.

A lovely end to a remarkable tail.

My thanks go to Kevin for all his hard work and dedication keeping the memorial in such great condition and the memories of the 384th BG (H) well and truly alive.

The video of the event was kindly sent to me,  I don’t know who took it but all credit goes to them. I will try to find their name and attach it when I can.

Grafton Underwood appears in Trail 6.

RAF Langham – A revolution on the very tip of Norfolk.

This airfield concludes our four-part tour around Norfolk. It visits a large airfield that played a revolutionary part in the Second World War. So revolutionary, that it paved the way for air defence well beyond the Second World War. We go to the very edge of North Norfolk, to an area of sanctuary, mud flats and a bird watchers paradise. A place where the sound of the Lark has replaced the roar of the piston engine.

RAF Langham

RAF Langham is located at the tip of North Norfolk’s coast. Its location perfect for the role it was to operate.

Built as a satellite to Bircham Newton, it opened in 1940, with three grass runways, and would take aircraft from a number of nearby airfields. Not having any official resident units until 1941, when the Polish and Czech units of 300 and 311 squadrons used it as a forward operating base, it saw little operational action. Langham was initially used as a gunnery training airfield, towing targets for gunnery practice at nearby Stiffkey, a few miles to the north. This is perhaps Langham’s most famous role and the one that many people associate with Langham.

Langham airfield display board

Langham Airfield (photo of the display board at Langham Dome).

Then in November 1942 Langham was closed and redeveloped having concrete runways laid and around 35 looped style dispersals. The longest runway, (NE/SW) was of 1,988 yards, the second (N/S) 1,400 yards and the third (E/W) also of about 1,400 yards, all approximate. The accommodation sites were well away from the airfield many in and around the village of Langham itself to the east or south-east. Three T2 hangars were also erected, one to the north-west and two the south-east in the technical area. There were also various technical and administration blocks and a bomb storage area well away to the north of the site.

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Langham’s Watch Office.

The first operational units arrived in April 1944, with Beaufighters of 455 (Australian) and 489 (New Zealand) squadrons of the Beaufighter Strike Wing, on the 8th and 13th respectively. This wing would famously form a combined attack against enemy shipping in the North Sea, being responsible for the sinking of 4 ‘U’ Boats and 36 surface vessels whilst here. A combination of nose mounted cannons and underwing rockets proved a deadly adversary for the flak ships and merchant vessels of the German Navy.

In August that year, the 521st Squadron moved from their base at RAF Docking to Langham to carry out its role of meteorological reconnaissance. Operating with Lockheed Hudsons, they would soon be ‘upgraded’ to Boeing’s massive B-17 adapted for these special duties. Other coastal command roles such as air-sea rescue were also carried out from Langham and a range of aircraft types would operate from here for the duration.

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A collection of technical buildings still exist today.

Post war Langham was used by the Royal Netherlands Air Force as a Technical Training School, until June 1947 when it was vacated and then finally put into care and maintenance in the following September. For a short period between March 1953 and November 1958, it became a target towing site once more, pulling targets for No. 2 Civilian Anti-Aircraft Cooperation Unit and finally as if to defy the odds, it was used as an emergency landing ground for aircraft from nearby RAF Sculthorpe.

As with many of these Norfolk sites, Langham was eventually sold off, bought by Bernard Matthews becoming home to a number of turkey Sheds, the role it performs to this day.

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Like so many in Norfolk, Langham’s main runway now houses poultry.

The majority of the concrete layout of Langham remains today, utilised by the company for transportation and storage. The technical sites and accommodation sites virtually indistinguishable from the farmland it once occupied. A small collection of buildings can be seen from the public road including: the watch tower, Fire tender shed, a Floodlight trailer, tractor shed,  a Night flying equipment store and a small brick hut used for weather balloons. To the north-east, on the brow of the hill sits the restored battle headquarters. But certainly the most famous and most distinguishable building of this site, is the former gunnery trainer dome.

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The ‘famous’ Langham Dome – former Gunnery Trainer.

Refurbished through Lottery Money, the dome is now classed as an ancient monument and a museum run by the Trust and Friends of the Langham Dome. Much has been written about the dome and recently (May 17th 2015) the BBC ran a programme about its development and history which is available on BBC iplayer for a short period. Only a small number of these structures exist today, none of which are accessible, which is what makes the Langham dome so special and unique. Developed in conjunction with Kodak, it projected a film of an aircraft onto the dome wall, to simulate an attack, at which the gunner would ‘fire’ his gun. The trainer would measure the trainees accuracy using a dot to the front of the aircraft visible only to himself. A remarkable breakthrough in gunnery training, it led the way in anti-aircraft training for a good number of years even after the war.

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A plaque from Veterans of the Royal Netherlands Airforce in the Church at Langham.

Langham is one of Norfolk’s most Northerly airfields, it provided a safe haven for returning aircraft, and its residents conducted air-sea rescue missions, sank a number of ships and played a role in meteorological reconnaissance and anti-aircraft training. A mixed bag, but certainly an important one, the memory of Langham should continue and thrive for without it, there would certainly have been many more casualties in the Second World War.

References

A website dedicated to the Dome and life at RAF Langham can be found here. It includes a range of photographs and first hand accounts of what it was like to live on or near the airfield.

The BBC iplayer programme may only available in the UK and for a short period of time. You can find it here.

Battle of Britain Memorial Capel-le-Ferne, Kent.

A recent revisit took me back to the Battle of Britain memorial at Capel-le-Ferne between Folkestone and Dover, in Kent. It sits high on the cliff-top, in a windy corner, a stones throw from the international docks at Dover, and the Battle of Britain airfield at Hawkinge. A ‘recent’ addition to the range of memorials, it is a poignant reminder of the young men who, from many nationalities, gave their lives in the name of freedom and the defence of this country.

Last time I was here, work was starting on the new visitor centre and the two replica aircraft, a Spitfire and Hurricane, had both been removed.

The replica Hurricane.

This week, on May 25th 2015, I went back to see what had been done.

The new centre is superb. First of all it has a good car park with ample space for a large number of cars.

The visitors centre itself has a bright open reception area and a small shop for souvenirs (I had to buy a book!) and upstairs a new cafe with a balcony overlooking the monument and across  the English Channel to France.

The Visitors center behind the ‘Wall of Honour’.

Entrance to the memorial is still free, but there is the option to try the ‘scramble’ experience, which I believe costs £6.00.

The Spitfire and Hurricane are both back, admittedly both are metal replicas but up here it gets very windy and the weather can change dramatically in seconds, so it’s probably for the best. They are certainly good replicas. 

The carved Pilot, sitting in the centre of a three-bladed propeller, gazes patiently out to sea, watching for his missing friends. Designed by Harry Gray of the Carving Workshop, Cambridge, the pilot is surrounded by the creats of those squadrons who took part in the famous battle in the Kent skies.

To either side, two large mounds, signify the locations of anti-aircraft batteries, now silent and filled in, perhaps two replica emplacements might add to the ‘feel’ of the site, although sometimes less is more.

As before, the monument is a quiet and moving place to sit; to read the names of those who gave their lives for us, and to absorb yourself in the battle through the numerous information panels around the site. From here you begin to imagine the vapour and smoke trails high above you and to think that Hitler and his invasion forces, stood not more than 30 miles away in the distant haze on the coast of France.

A big improvement to a very moving place.

RAF North Creake – A gem in Norfolk’s countryside.

The final part of this four part tour takes us to the very edge of North Norfolk’s Heritage coast and the nature reserves of Holkham and Blakeney.  Today it resounds with tourists and bird watchers, during the Second World War, it would have been very different.

Our first stop is North Creake, saddling the B1105 road to Wells-Next-the-Sea, it houses a few surprises.

RAF North Creake

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RAF North Creake taken in July 1945, shows a large number of dispersed aircraft around the perimeter.

North Creake, like many of the nearby airfields around this part, was originally a satellite for Docking, which in turn was originally a satellite for Bircham Newton.

Construction commenced on this decoy site in 1940/41, and North Creake, known locally as Egmere from the medieval site it stands on, operated in this role until 1942. With the need for more heavy bomber bases, it was soon decided to upgrade North Creake to a Class A airfield, with accommodation for up to 2,951 male and 411 female staff. Three concrete runways were added, two, 01/19 and 13/31 both 4,314 ft (1,315 m) and the third 04/22 of 5,643 ft (1,720 m). To accommodate the aircraft destined to reside here, 36 loop hardstandings, the majority of which are to the north-west of the site, two T2 hangars and one B1 hangar were also added in. The control tower would be built to the East side of the airfield adjacent to the technical site.

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The AML Bombing Teacher nestles in the woods.

Construction was finally completed in 1943, however changes to the structure of Bomber Command, meant that no flying units would operate from here until well into May the following year.

Initially part of 2 Group, North Creake was passed like so many on this tour, to 100 Group, Bomber Command, and would also operate in the Electronic Warfare role. 199 Squadron was the first to arrive. 199 Squadron initially operated Short Stirling bombers, and latterly HP Halifaxes, on radio and radar jamming operations. Flying between 5th June 1944 and 3rd May 1945, they used both ‘Window’ and ‘Mandrel’ on sorties that were frequently combined with standard bombing operations. 199 squadrons ‘C’ flight was broken away from the unit and formed into 171 squadron on September 8th 1944, but carried on this role in support of 199, whose last mission took place on the night of 2nd/3rd May 1945 – in which they flew 17 successful bomber support sorties by Halifaxes in support of an attack against Kiel.

On July 27th, 1945, 171 squadron was disbanded, 199 sqn went 2 days later (being reformed in 1951 with Avro Lincolns, de Havilland Mosquitos, EE Canberras and finally the Vickers Valiant in 1957) and the site was closed to operational flying. It remained as a storage for surplus de Havilland Mosquitos prior to scrapping for a further two years until finally closing in 1947.

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One of the remaining T2 Hangars.

Luckily, the causal observer can still see much of this history at North Creake. The road passes directly though the centre of the Technical Site. Nissan huts now used by small industrial units, still thrive, two of the hangers remain, both in use by an agricultural company and minor buildings such the Bomb Teacher and turret trainer can be found lurking between the trees. The main stores, gas clothing and respirator store are also in use, as are a workshop and away to the north-east, the Airman’s huts.

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Main stores and Gas clothing huts.

North Creake’s runways and taxiways along with two looped hardstandings, are all but gone, covered in trees or used as pathways for the local farmer, but their location very much evident from satellite photos. Development has begun of yet another solar farm, and these great unsightly panels are gradually taking over yet another of Britain’s wartime airfields.

The one Jewell in the crown of North Creake, has to be the control Tower, purchased by private owners, it has undergone a painstaking transformation being refurbished and turned into a Bed and Breakfast. Modernised inside, it remains one of the better preserved buildings on the site.

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North Creake’s Tower now a Bed & Breakfast.

To the south of the site, a memorial has recently been erected by the Airfield’s of Britain Conservation Trust, as a lasting tribute to not only the 17 crews who never returned, but to all those who served at RAF North Creake during the latter days of World War Two.

North Creake is certainly a gem for those wishing to see airfield architecture first hand, and if you desire, the chance to stay inside a tower that would have played a big part in Britain’s attack on Nazi Germany.

Leave North Creake heading north toward the coast, and then turn east. A few miles away lies our next and final stop, RAF Langham.

Links

Details of the North Creake Control Tower Bed & Breakfast can be found here.