Record Details

NHER Number:8456
Type of record:Monument
Name:Ludham Airstrip

Summary

A World War Two airfield occupied this site, some elements of which still survive today, although the majority exists in the parish of Ludham. The airfield is also recorded in bibliographic sources, and is visible as earthworks, structures and buildings on aerial photographs taken from 1942 onwards. It was opened in September 1941 as a satellite of Coltishall, and was used as a forward base for squadrons of fighter aircraft from its parent airfield. It was taken over by the Air Ministry (Works) and closed to flying in August 1943. An intended handover to the USAAF never took place. In October 1943 it was referred to by the USAAF as a dummy airfield after a B17 crashed there, suggesting the possibility that it was used as a decoy airfield during this period. In August 1944 it was transferred to Fleet Air Arm, and as HMS ‘Flycatcher’ became the headquarters of the Mobile Naval Air Base (MONAB) organisation. (MONABs were mobile, self-contained units trained to service and repair aircraft, engines and components for the fleet.) The airfield was handed back to the RAF in February 1945 and was again used by fighter aircraft before closing later that year. Aerial photographs taken in 1942, 1944 and 1946 demonstrate that despite these changes in command and use, the overall layout of the airfield changed little during the war years. It had a classic ‘A’-shaped layout of three interconnected runways, surrounded and linked by a perimeter track. This in turn was surrounded by several ‘E’ pens (characteristic of wartime fighter airfields) and pan dispersals; many of the latter were located outside the main perimeter of the site, while some were detached and sited some distance away. Huts and other buildings would have acted as technical buildings; further huts, probably used for domestic accommodation, were sited to the west of the site, in Ludham village and the fields to its north. The site is still in use as an airfield today, although much is now under arable cultivation. Part of the east-west runway remains, and several buildings survive, most notably two control towers (built consecutively), the earlier of which is a particularly rare survival. The back wall of the World War Two firing butts also survives.

Images - none

Location

Grid Reference:TG 3980 1950
Map Sheet:TG31NE
Parish:LUDHAM, NORTH NORFOLK, NORFOLK
POTTER HEIGHAM, NORTH NORFOLK, NORFOLK

Full description

March 1979. Visited.
World War Two airfield.
Runways on western section have been taken up for agriculture, yet surprisingly buildings have been allowed to remain
all over the place, mostly concrete dispersal huts, sheds etc.
E. Rose (NAU), 16 March 1979.

On east are the remains of shooting butts.
One runway survives and is still used by private planes. Control tower remains
E. Rose (NAU), 24 May 1979.

This was a satellite of Coltishall, built 1941; intended to be handed to USAF but never done; home to various squadrons of Spitfires and Typhoons. In 1944 under Fleet Air Arm control as 'HMS Flycatcher', the headquarters of a mobile repair and servicing group for the fleet's aeroplanes.
1945 anti-V2 base.
Closed late 1945 see (S1) and (S2).
E. Rose (NAU), 16 September 1981.

September 2006. Norfolk NMP.
NMP mapping has led to the alteration of the central grid reference of the site from TG 398 195 to TG 3996 1953.

The World War Two airfield described above is visible as earthworks and structures on aerial photographs (S3)-(S10), centred at TG 3996 1953. A brief history of the airfield, including the squadrons stationed there and the duties they undertook, is given in a number of bibliographic sources, including (S2) and (S11). The description of the site in October 1943 by the USAAF as a ‘dummy airfield’ (reported in (S11) and (S12)) may reflect its use as a decoy site for at least a short period, or could simply have been a disparaging remark. Despite the changing role and command of the airfield, its general layout changed little during its four years of wartime use. Consequently the NMP mapping, itself schematic, is based on the 1946 aerial photographs of the site, which are the clearest. The airfield has not been mapped in enough detail to note the smaller changes which presumably took place. Although the airfield was closed by 1946, and parts had been returned to arable cultivation, its main elements were still visible.

The main body of the airfield, the extent of which has been mapped, was roughly trapeziform in shape and defined on all four sides by roads. Within this were three interconnected runways, presumably made of concrete or similar material, forming a typical ‘A’-shaped pattern. The basic outline of the runways and the perimeter track that surrounded them has been mapped. Part of the east to west runway, the perimeter track, and other areas of hardstanding are still visible on recent aerial photographs of the site, e.g. (S10), and some are depicted on modern Ordnance Survey maps. It is clear from the 1942 aerial photographs (S3)-(S4) that efforts were made to camouflage the runways with fake hedges that loosely followed the pre-war pattern of enclosure (see (S13)). Traces of this camouflage, which has not been mapped by the NMP, were still visible in 1946 (S6)-(S9). ‘E’-shaped dispersal pens (largely earth-covered and consequently mapped as banks), probably of the type comprising integral shelters, were positioned at the southeast corner and along the northeast side of the perimeter track. There were also several ‘frying pan’ dispersals sited outside the airfield’s perimeters, e.g. at TG 4061 1916. Others were detached and lay some distance from the airfield; once mapped, these will be recorded as separate sites. Several of the pan dispersals have survived (S10) and are depicted on modern Ordnance Survey maps.

Various buildings and structures dispersed around the perimeter track may have been used for a variety of technical, operational, administrative and domestic functions. Wide curved-profile structures at TG 3950 1992, TG 3949 1981, TG 4004 1993 and TG 4012 1912 were probably Blister-type aircraft hangars. The large rectangular building at TG 3940 1958, which was constructed after September 1942 (S4), was probably the T2 hangar mentioned in the NMR record of the site (NMR TG 31 NE 37). The two control towers or watch offices are visible to the west of the perimeter track. The smaller original watch office, pictured in (S14), stands at TG 3947 1970. The larger, two-storey watch office stands at TG 3948 1976. In 2003, English Heritage recommended both for possible future Listing (NMR TG 31 NE 38). A rectangular building joined to a subsidiary structure, visible at TG 3992 2004, appears to have been embanked (the banks are suggested by lines of taller and thicker vegetation). Its size, isolation and the protection given to it suggest that it was another significant building but its function is not known. It was constructed after September 1942 (S4). The shooting butts mentioned above are visible at TG 4012 1994. These too were constructed after September 1942 (S4). The layout of an embanked wall faced by a single-storey structure from which to fire is similar to both the rifle range pictured in (S14) and the machine gun range pictured in (S15). The back wall was extant in 2002 (NMR TG 31 NE 37) and is depicted on modern Ordnance Survey maps.

Smaller huts and structures (not mapped) were scattered all around the perimeter track, but there is a notable concentration along the west side of the airfield. Three curved-profile, Nissen-type huts lay just outside the western perimeter (at TG 3923 1927). Larger concentrations of huts are visible to the west, both within Ludham and in the fields to its north. These have not yet been mapped or recorded by the NMP but they almost certainly represent domestic, and possibly administrative and operational, sites associated with the airfield. Traces of buildings and other signs of activity outside of the perimeter are also visible along the southern edge of the site.

In common with other World War Two airfields, the site possessed both internal and external defences. Only the external defences have been mapped by the NMP. Internally, the cropmarks of ‘seagull’ trenches are clearly visible (e.g. at TG 4027 1961) on post-war aerial photographs (S10), although the shelters are barely visible on the 1940s photographs. Various small structures and blast walls dotted around the airfield may also have played a defensive role, whether passively, by protecting installations or personnel from blasts, or as machine gun posts or similar structures. Externally, several probable gun emplacements have been identified (e.g. NHER 45047 and 45048 to the east and northeast), as well as a number of pillboxes (e.g. NHER 14970 to the south).

The airfield remains in use today, albeit in a drastically contracted form. Traces of the more extensive World War Two site are visible on modern aerial photographs, including (S10), both as extant structures and as cropmarks. It should be noted that to date, only the eastern side of the site has been the subject of full NMP mapping. Mapping and interpretation which will be carried out as part of map sheets TG32SE and TG31NE may add further information to the record of this site. At the very least, this work will cover the probable domestic sites both within Ludham village and in the fields to its north.
S. Tremlett (NMP), 11 September 2006.

For further information on the operational history of the airfield and photographs of remaining buildings, see (S16).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 13 January 2010.

Monument Types

  • AIRCRAFT HANGAR (TYPE T)? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • AIRCRAFT HANGAR (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • ARTILLERY FIRING RANGE (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BLAST PEN (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BLISTER HANGAR? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BOMBING DECOY SITE? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BOMBING DECOY? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BUTTS (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • DISPERSAL (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • DISPERSAL PEN (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • FIGHTER COMMAND STATION (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • FIRING RANGE (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • HUT (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MILITARY AIRFIELD (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MILITARY BUILDING (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • NISSEN HUT? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • RIFLE BUTTS? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • RIFLE RANGE? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • SEAGULL TRENCH (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • WATCH OFFICE (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: Edwards, D.A. (NLA). 1999. TG 4018D.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press.
---Photograph: Photograph of Building at Ludham AirField, Ludham. Colour.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
<S1>Article in serial: 1981. Norfolk Industrial Archaeology Society Journal. Vol III, no 1, p 36.
<S2>Publication: Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum. 1989. Airfields and Airstrips of Norfolk and Suffolk. 6. pp 12-14.
<S3>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1942. RAF FNO/35 6039-41 02-JUL-1942 (NMR).
<S4>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1942. RAF FNO/142 6085-6 08-SEP-1942 (NMR).
<S5>Vertical Aerial Photograph: USAAF. 1944. US/7PH/GP/LOC298 5016-8 20-APR-1944 (NMR).
<S6>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1634 2059-60 09-JUL-1946 (NMR).
<S7>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1634 2060-2 09-JUL-1946 (NHER TG 4020A, TG 3920A, TG 3820B).
<S8>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1634 5057-8 09-JUL-1946 (NMR).
<S9>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1634 5058-60 09-JUL-1946 (NHER TG 4018A, TG 3918A, TG 3818A).
<S10>Vertical Aerial Photograph: Ordnance Survey. 1990. OS/90224 240-2 31-JUL-1990 (NMR).
<S11>Publication: Bowyer, M.J.F.. 1979. Action Stations 1: Wartime Military Airfields of East Anglia 1935-1945. pp 146-7.
<S12>Monograph: Fairhead, H.. 1996. Huby Fairhead's Decoy Sites. Wartime Deception in Norfolk and Suffolk.. p 25.
<S13>Map: Ordnance Survey. 1902-7. Ordnance Survey second edition 25 inch (1902-7) Sheet LIII.2.
<S14>Monograph: Buchan Innes, G.. 2000. British Airfield Buildings: The Expansion and Inter-War Periods.. Vol 2. p 14; p 36.
<S15>Monograph: Buchan Innes, G.. 1995. British Airfield Buildings of the Second World War.. Vol 1. p 50.
<S16>Monograph: McKenzie, R.. 2004. Ghost Fields of Norfolk. pp 61-63.

Related records

45065Parent of: Site of possible World War Two defence for Ludham airfield (Monument)
45048Parent of: Site of World War Two outer defence for Ludham Airfield (Monument)
45047Parent of: Site of World War Two outer defence for Ludham Airfield (Monument)
45064Parent of: Site of World War Two outer defences for Ludham airfield (Monument)
14970Parent of: World War Two pillbox south of Fritton House Farm (Monument)

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