Record Details

NHER Number:8170
Type of record:Monument
Name:Site of World War Two airfield at Rackheath

Summary

A World War Two airfield occupied this site, some elements of which still survive today. The World War Two site is visible as earthworks, structures and buildings on aerial photographs taken from 1945 onwards. The airfield opened in 1943. Designated Station 145, it was used by the USA 8th Air Force 467th Bomb Group, the ‘Rackheath Aggies’, flying B-24 Liberators. Its duties included attacking enemy infrastructure and countering the 1944 German Ardennes offensive. By the end of the war the group had completed 212 missions, dropping over 13,000 tons of bombs, and was credited with the best overall bombing accuracy in the 8th Air Force. One Liberator, called 'Witchcraft', flew a record 130 missions. The airfield had a classic ‘A’-shaped layout of three interconnected runways, surrounded and linked by a perimeter track, along which numerous dispersal bays were sited. Hangars and a control tower, as well as numerous smaller buildings, huts and shelters, are evident within the airfield itself; these include two Type T2, an extensive technical site (in the vicinity of what is now Rackheath Industrial Estate) and a bomb store and ammunition dump. Accommodation was provided by clusters of huts sited in Rackheath Park, immediately to the southwest (NHER 50740). Visible defences consist of a series of small gun emplacements sited around the perimeter of the airfield, although some larger sites of unknown function identified to the north and northeast (e.g. NHER 50717) could have been associated with airfield defence or communications. The airfield was closed in 1945 and was used as a private airfield from 1960, although this too has now closed. Parts of the runways and tracks, together with the control tower, still survive.

Images

  • Aerial photograph of Rackheath airfield.  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service

Location

Grid Reference:TG 2871 1398
Map Sheet:TG21SE
Parish:RACKHEATH, BROADLAND, NORFOLK
SALHOUSE, BROADLAND, NORFOLK

Full description

Airfield. World War Two, presumably a satellite field to Horsham St Faith.
Road now laid across it. Most of runways remain (one used as a coal store), though some parts removed for agriculture.
E. Rose (NAU), 20 July 1977.

Control tower now used by a scrap merchant.
E. Rose (NAU).

1942: constructed for the USAF. Home from March 1944 to the 467th Bomb Group, the 'Rackheath Aggies', flying B-24 Liberators. By the end of the war the group had completed 212 missions, dropping over 13,000 tons of bombs, and was credited with the best overall bombing accuracy in the 8th Air Force. One Liberator called 'Witchcraft' flew a record 130 missions.
1945: RAF maintenance base; had private rail siding.
1959: closed.
1960: in private use.
See (S1) in file.
E. Rose (NAU), 3 August 1983.

Press cuttings (S1), (S2) and photograph (S3) in file.

December 2007. Norfolk NMP.
The World War Two airfield described above is visible as earthworks, structures and buildings on aerial photographs (S4)-(S8), with its runways centred at TG 2867 1413. The outline of the runways and perimeter track has been mapped by the NMP, together with significant structures such as hangars and the control tower. Unfortunately, although some aerial photographs from 1945 were available (S4), the first coverage of the site as a whole dated to April 1946 (S5). By this time, no clearly defined perimeter boundary was visible, and therefore to aid in defining the extent of the site (shown in the NMP mapping by the ‘Monument Polygon’), some of the smaller, more isolated structures were also mapped. It has also not been possible to record the chronological development of the site from the available aerial photographs; the site has been mapped, somewhat selectively, as visible in April 1946, by which time much of it was under cultivation, with parts of the runways perhaps already removed (shown by ‘Extent of Area’). It includes what were by then detached elements such as the small gun emplacements which surrounded the site (e.g. that at TG 2832 1501). Some of these emplacements (e.g. at TG 2830 1335) may have been for spigot mortars.

The airfield extended across an area measuring some 2.3km north to south by 1.5km east to west, incorporating, or at least running up to, Salhouse Station to the east. What is probably the control tower, which still survives, is visible at TG 2838 1368. Two hangars (recorded as Type T2 hangars by NMR TG 21 SE 25) are visible, one on the east side of the airfield, the other on the west (at TG 2924 1422 and TG 2816 1372 respectively). A cluster of huts and other structures around the westernmost of these, in the vicinity of what is now Rackheath Industrial Estate, marks the technical site. (The domestic site was dispersed across Rackheath Park to the southwest and is recorded separately as NHER 50740.) A bomb store and ammunition dump was located to the northwest of the runways, around TG 2873 1494 (see NMR TG 21 SE 25 and compare Seething Airfield, NHER 10466). Two circular structures at TG 2922 1397 may have been water towers and/or observation posts (one probably appears in the background of press cutting (S2)).

On more recent aerial photographs parts of the runways and tracks remain visible, together with the control tower. Other elements may also survive but this cannot be verified from the available aerial photographs.
S. Tremlett (NMP), 6 December 2007.

November 2008.
Proposal to reinstate observation post on the control tower.
See (S9) for further details
H. White (NLA) 28 January 2009.

For further information on the operational history of the airfield and photographs of remaining buildings, see (S10).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 13 January 2010.

Second World War Liberators were stationed at Rackheath Airfield.
See (S11) for further details.
L.Allison (NLA), 5 August 2010.

Monument Types

  • AIRCRAFT HANGAR (TYPE T2) (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • AIRCRAFT HANGAR (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • AIRFIELD (World War Two to Modern - 1939 AD to 2050 AD)
  • AMMUNITION DUMP (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • BOMB STORE (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • DISPERSAL (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • GUN EMPLACEMENT (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • HUT (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)
  • OBSERVATION POST? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • SPIGOT MORTAR EMPLACEMENT? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • WATER TOWER? (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)
  • CONTROL TOWER (World War Two - 1942 AD to 1945 AD)
  • MILITARY AIRFIELD (World War Two - 1942 AD to 1945 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status

  • SHINE

Sources and further reading

---Serial: Airfields of Norfolk and Suffolk.. Vol IV.
---Publication: Bowyer, M.J.F.. 1979. Action Stations 1: Wartime Military Airfields of East Anglia 1935-1945.
---Monograph: Delve, K.. 2005. The Military Airfields of Britain: East Anglia: Norfolk and Suffolk..
---Article in serial: Broadland District Council. 2011. Rackheath Heritage Day.. Broadland News.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
<S1>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1977. Bits of war paint. 10 October.
<S2>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1996. Rural life carried on alongside the bombers. 24 July.
<S3>Aerial Photograph: TG2813 M-N.
<S4>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/483 6001-3 06-JUL-1945 (NMR).
<S5>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1428 4074-8 16-APR-1946 (NMR).
<S6>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1634 3001-3 09-JUL-1946 (NMR).
<S7>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1946. RAF 106G/UK/1636 3137-41 09-JUL-1946 (NMR).
<S8>Vertical Aerial Photograph: RAF. 1953. RAF 82/793 0025-8 05-JUN-1953 (NMR).
<S9>Unpublished document: Oak Square Architectural Design. 2008. Design and Access Statement, Former Control Tower, Rackheath.
<S10>Monograph: McKenzie, R.. 2004. Ghost Fields of Norfolk. pp 84-86.
<S11>Monograph: Brundall Local History Group. 2007. The Book of Brundall and Braydeston. p 150.

Related records

50740Parent of: Domestic site for World War Two airfield, within Rackheath Park (Monument)
50742Parent of: World War Two military structure, probably an outlying element of Rackheath Airfield (Monument)

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