Record Details

NHER Number:5742
Type of record:Monument
Name:East Wretham World War Two Airfield

Summary

This grass airfield was one of many constructed and rushed into service during the early months of 1940, and was initially a satellite station for Honington in Suffolk. Living conditions were at first primitive, and the ground was on occasions so muddy it was likened to 'the Somme without the trenches'. The station was first home to a Czech squadron flying Wellington bombers on raids over Europe. In 1942 it became a satellite of Mildenhall, still with Wellingtons, though these were replaced by Lancaster bombers in 1943. From October 1943 until the end of the war, the station was the base of the 359th USAAF Fighter Group, who flew P-47D Thunderbolts, and later P-51 Mustangs on escort, dive bombing and strafing missions, eventually providing air support for the D-Day landings and the Battle of the Bulge. After the war the station became a Polish resettlement camp. Much of the land was sold off in the 1950s and returned to agriculture, but some of the original huts, the most complete set of World War Two prefabricated buildings in the country, are still used by troops on exercise in the nearby Stanford Battle Area. The station's defences include the very rare survival of an all-round defensive position with four pillboxes surrounding a small area.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TL 910 895
Map Sheet:TL98NW
Parish:WRETHAM, BRECKLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

World War Two airfield.
Undated information on Ordnance Survey card notes a ring ditch at 9090 8950 which is the mark of a wartime structure.

4 July 1979. Visit.
Small part of airfield is occupied by a battery farm, but the majority is used as Thorpe Army Camp.
E. Rose (NAU).

This was a grass field, constructed in 1940. Czech satellite station for Honington. 1942 satellite to Mildenhall. 1943-45 used by 359th Fighter Group (USAAF). 1946 Bomber Command, later a Polish Resettlement camp.
Information from (S1).
E. Rose (NAU).

See record forms in file by source [1], who adds:
Very rare World War II type 2/20B pillbox. Very large, hexagonal with concrete tables inside. Walls 1m thick. Part of a
complete surviving all-round defensive system that must be preserved.
Survey No. Q4-2 at TL 9111 8940.

Very rare, large hexagonal type 2/20B pillbox, details as for Q4-2.
Survey No. Q4-3 at TL 9111 8932.

Common World War Two type 22 pillbox, concrete.
Survey No. Q4-4 at TL 9117 8941.

Common, World War Two type 22 pillbox, concrete.
Survey No. Q4-5 at TL 9114 8928.
D. Walker (NLA) July 1996.

This airfield has the most complete set of World War Two prefabricated buildings remaining. However because of their construction and their dispersed locations it is impossible to schedule them.
Information from Jeremy Lake, English Heritage.
E. Rose (NLA) 23 October 2000.

Press cutting (S2) in file.

For further information on the operational history of the airfield, see (S3).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 13 January 2010.

March 2010. Norfolk NMP.
Aerial photographs from 1944 (S4)-(S26) show many structures associated with the airfield. As is stated above, much of the land was sold off in the 1950s and returned to agriculture, but some of the original huts, the most complete set of World War Two prefabricated buildings in the country, are still used by troops on exercise in the nearby Stanford Battle Area (S26). Due to this continued use of some parts of the airfield post World War Two and the fact that many of the structural components have been included on subsequent Ordnance Survey maps, only very few components of the airfield have been included on the NMP mapping. The main runway is visible running northeast-southwest from TL 9060 9016 to TL 8992 8908 on (S8) with small square structures visible every 91m on both sides of the runway, which may represent runway lights, or possibly tethering structures to hold down the temporary steel matting runway. They measure approximately 1.6m by 1.6m. The control tower is sited at approximately TL 9008 9017, and the technical site is centred on TL 8983 8984. Two T2 Hangars are visible, at TL 8966 8962 and at TL 9096 8982 and four Blister hangars are visible; at TL 8978 9010, TL 9137 9009 TL 9079 8881 and TL 9020 8870. Two fuel tanks are also visible; at TL 8995 9020 and at TL 9117 9004.
The station's defences include the very rare survival of an all-round defensive position with four pillboxes (NHER 35826, 35827, 35828 and 35829) surrounding a small area, at TL 9115 8931. There are several defensive earthwork structures within this area, as well as a structure at TL 9121 8934 which does not appear to be a pillbox, but which is linked to the pillboxes themselves via a series of trenches. The pillboxes are visible still surviving on recent aerial photography (S26). A further series of earthwork trenches, and circular defensive structures are visible centred on TL 9079 8901, surrounded by a fence line. Two further rectangular structures have also been mapped in this area, as they were not apparent on the Ordnance Survey mapping of the area.
Pillbox NHER 37038 is visible partially covered by vegetation on (S20) and (S17) along with a rectangular structure situated approximately 30m to the northeast, at TL 8984 8962 which is also partially sunken/covered by vegetation, but may also be defensive in nature. Pillboxes NHER 32690, 32691 and 37386 are visible, although the latter is covered with vegetation, on (S22), and it is possible to see that NHER 37386 is an unusual shape (see individual NHER records for details).
A further possible defensive structure is visible as a circular open feature on (S9), which may possibly lead into below-ground structures, although this is difficult to be certain of. A cluster of rectangular structures and possible concrete structure is visible centred on TL 9016 8887. An emergency water tank is also visible centred on TL 8972 8982 with structures to the west of it on (S22).
NB: The mapping of this area was undertaken during a pilot phase of NMP mapping and may be extended when further aerial photographs are consulted, to the east of the pilot area in TL98NW.
E. Bales (NMP), March 2010.

November 2010. Norfolk NMP.
The only extensions necessary to the above mapping are two further areas of accommodation huts, centred on TL 9254 8995 and TL 9255 9046, visible on aerial photographs (S27-29) to the east of the former extent of the site. The huts are still visible until at least 1950 (S30), but have been removed by 1976 (S31). A linear earthwork bank and ditch is visible running from TL 9224 8989 to TL 9209 8962 (S27-28) but this is likely to be a cable trench running between two areas of accommodation.
E. Bales (NMP), 04 Nov 2010.

Monument Types

  • AIRCRAFT HANGAR (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BANK (EARTHWORK) (World War Two - 1939 AD? to 1945 AD?)
  • DITCH (World War Two - 1939 AD? to 1945 AD?)
  • MILITARY AIRFIELD (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • NISSEN HUT (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • PILLBOX (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • WATER TANK (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status

  • SHINE

Sources and further reading

---Photograph: Kent, P.. 1995. KHK 14-17.
---Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TL 98 NW 3.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Monograph: Smith, G.. 1994. Norfolk Airfields in the Second World War..
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
<S1>Article in Serial: 1973. Airfields of Norfolk and Suffolk. Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum. vol 3.
<S2>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1985. Air aces repay debt to friends. 5 August.
<S3>Monograph: McKenzie, R.. 2004. Ghost Fields of Norfolk. pp 36-38.
<S4>Vertical Aerial Photograph: USAAF. 1944. US/7PH/GP/LOC 276 5031-2 18-MAY-1944 (NMR).
<S5>Vertical Aerial Photograph: USAAF. 1944. US 7GR/LOC/351 3022 27-MAY-1944 (NMR).
<S6>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1945. RAF 106G/UK/378 3013-4 13-JUN-1945 (NMR).
<S7>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1945. RAF 106G/UK/378 4013-4 13-JUN-1945 (NMR).
<S8>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1945. RAF 106G/UK/378 4019-22 13-JUN-1945 (NMR).
<S9>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 3G/TUD/UK/59 5097-100 05-FEB-1946 (NMR).
<S10>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 3G/TUD/UK/59 5258-9 05-FEB-1946 (NMR).
<S11>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 3G/TUD/UK/101 6260-1 30-MAR-1946 (NMR).
<S12>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1634 4357-8 09-JUL-1946 (NMR).
<S13>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1707 3087-8 29-AUG-1946 (NMR).
<S14>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF CPE/UK/1801 4101-4 29-AUG-1946 (NMR).
<S15>Oblique Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1950. NMR TL 8989/3 RAF 540/604 0024 24-AUG-1950 (NMR).
<S16>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1950. RAF 58/566 (VP1) 5020-21 06-SEPT-1950 (NMR).
<S17>Oblique Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1950. NMR TL 8989/10 RAF 540/413 0065 12-SEP-50 (NMR).
<S18>Oblique Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1950. NMR TL 8989/13 12-SEP-1950 (NMR).
<S19>Oblique Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1950. NMR TL 8989/17 RAF 540/413 0087 12-SEP-1950 (NMR).
<S20>Oblique Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1950. NMR TL 8989/20-2 RAF 540/413 0088 12-SEP-1950 (NMR).
<S21>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1950. RAF 540/432 5083-5 11-OCT-1950 (NMR).
<S22>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1950. RAF 540/432 5155-6 11-OCT-1950 (NMR).
<S23>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1959. RAF 58/2688 (F22) 0387-8 25-JAN-1959 (NMR).
<S24>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1970. RAF 58/0475 (V) 0077-8 05-MAY-1970 (NMR).
<S25>Vertical Aerial Photograph: Ordnance Survey. 1976. OS/ 76017 017-8 19-APR-1976 (NMR).
<S26>Vertical Aerial Photograph: Infoterra and Bluesky Ltd. 2006. Infoterra and Bluesky Ltd 02 Jul 2006 (Google Earth TL 9115 8931).
<S27>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF/3G/TUD/UK/59 5094-5 05-FEB-1946 (NMR).
<S28>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1634 4361-2 09-JUL-1946 (NMR).
<S29>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1707 4172-3 29-AUG-1946 (NMR).
<S30>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1950. RAF/58/566 5017-8 06-SEPT-1950 (NMR).
<S31>Vertical Aerial Photograph: Ordnance Survey. 1976. OS/76017 013-4 19-APR-1976 (NMR).

Related records

32690Parent of: Rare World War Two pillbox (Monument)
32691Parent of: World War Two pillbox (Monument)
37038Parent of: World War Two pillbox (Monument)
37386Parent of: World War Two pillbox (Monument)

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