Latest News as of April 2018

Hello and welcome to our latest e-newsletter. Over the past thirteen years, thousands of people have visited the Heritage Centre to learn about this former RAF station and its WW2 satellite airfields. If you haven't visited us yet, we urge you to do so. We will be delighted to see you and will try to make your visit as enjoyable as possible. Our 2018 season got underway with two openings on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday; you will find the complete schedule of open days and directions to the Centre by clicking on the Heritage Centre drop down menu on this website.

Veterans' Day event on the 19th of May, 2018

If you are a veteran, who served or trained at Bircham Newton, or a close family relative of one who did so, we are planning to organise a special Veterans' Day event for you on the afternoon of Saturday, the 19th of May, 2018. On this day we will celebrate the centenary of the birth of Bircham Newton as a flying station. The first flying unit, No. 3 School of Aerial Fighting and Gunnery, later known as No. 3 Fighting School, arrived at the newly-established aerodrome in late May 1918. This was probably the first airfield created under the control of the new Air Ministry, because the Royal Air Force was created using the assets of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in the previous month, on the 1st of April, 1918.

This special event will be open to all of Bircham Newton's former RAF servicemen or their close relatives, including but not limited to former national servicemen, former RAF administrative apprentices, and former RAF School of Administration trainees. The largest group of visitors is expected to be former RAF apprentices, who are holding a reunion in the area on the same weekend, but many other veterans are expected, including former WRAF personnel. Members of the general public are also welcome to attend.

Many attractions will be provided for visitors to enjoy: the RAF Heritage Centre will be opened for guided tours; an illustrated talk will be given on Bircham Newton's First Airmen and their Flying Machines; local history groups and service associations will exhibit table-top displays; military vehicles and large-scale model aircraft will be on display; and local ATC squadrons and the Royal British Legion will participate in a brief end-of-day ceremony, when the RAF ensign will be lowered as we remember those who served at Bircham Newton over the years.

Entrance and car parking will be free, and disabled access and toilets will be available.

WW1 Montage by David Jacklin

What is new

For those planning to revisit the Centre in 2018, several new exhibits have been put on display for your enjoyment. The central photographic display, depicting the chronological history of RAF Bircham Newton, has been renewed and revised.  In addition, the WWI exhibition, originally established to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, will be given a new look and enhanced to cover the progress of the war in 1918 and by adding other new displays.

As usual. you will be helped and guided by members of the Heritage Centre team, who are all dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers. If you would like to volunteer please contact one of the volunteers on duty or one of trustees mentioned under Contacts.

A series of books written by David Jacklin are on sale in the Centre, including his latest called "Canadian & Dutch Strike Squadrons" which describes the contribution and sacrifices made by Canadian and Dutch squadrons who served at Bircham Newton and other Coastal Command stations during the Second World War.

Should you have any photographs or other items of RAF memorabilia (particularly items relating to Bircham Newton) and are looking for a good home for them, we would be pleased to accept them into our archive, so that they may be displayed for the benefit of all.

Recent Activities

Heritage Centre under scaffoldingEaster Bank Holiday Weekend (Sunday, 1st and Monday 2nd of April:The ongoing roof repair work at the Heritage Centre, with its associated scaffolding, and the cold wet weather did not deter our visitors during the  Easter bank holiday weekend, when about 140 individuals visited us at Bircham Newton.  We are convinced that this success was mainly due to the excellent promotional information circulated around Norfolk and beyond by our hard-working publicity officer Avril MacArthur. Several visitors confirmed that they had become aware of our Easter openings via Radio Norfolk, the Eastern Daily Press, Lynn News and other local papers and magazines.

One of our visitors, Mrs Bernice Webb, from Burnham Market, told us she had worked at Bircham Newton during the early 1960s, as a shorthand typist in the Junior Command and Staff School (JCSS), where she was involved in preparing educational material. Mr. David Slight also came along to discuss his late uncle, Francis Joseph Thompson, who had worked at Bircham Newton as a batman from 1950 until the end of 1962, when the station closed. Mr. Thompson's wife Muriel (nee Peacock) also had connections with Bircham Newton, working for the NAAFI. During WW2, Francis had been in the Army and had been captured as a prisoner of war when his Regiment was serving in Burma. David loaned the Centre several photographs, including ones of his uncle Francis, his aunt Muriel in her NAAFI uniform, and two that appear to have been taken at the Docking satellite airfield prior to 1945. The one below is of the Beam Approach Training (BAT) Flight at Docking.Docking BAT Flight

Another visitor was Mrs. Josephine Johnson, whose father Frank Widdas Addison had been a pilot in the First World War, flying Bristol F.2b Fighters with No. 88 Squadron. He was credited with two victories over Fokker DVIIs in France. Of interest, from a local perspective, is that  Frank had done some of his flying training on Avro 504 and Sopwith Pup aircraft at Sedgeford Aerodrome during 1917. Yet another visitor was Mr. Barry Beales, the son of Docking's well-known wartime policeman Ted Beales.  Barry recalled some of his father's wartime stories, including the recovery of stolen bicycles and after-hours raids on the Norfolk Hero pub in Stanhoe, a popular 'watering hole' for airmen from Bircham Newton. Barry, who had served in the RAF for three years, donated some interesting uniform badges, including the 'sparks badge' worn by ground signalling and radio engineering trade groups. Today, this badge is worn by all airmen involved with telecommunications. Another donation, a NAAFI Chocolate and Sugar Confectionary Ration Card, issued at RAF Padgate on 28 January 1953, was provided by Ted Snowden, from Fakenham.  This card was issued in the year when the sweet rationing ended.

Mr. Neville Hall came along to discuss his father, Flight Lieutenant Peter Frank Hall, who was shot down flying a Mosquito (DZ316) over Holland in May 1943, when serving with No. 1409 Flight of Bomber Command. Peter and his observer, Flight Lieutenant Bill Woodruff, were captured as POWs and served time in Stalag Luft III, Sagan. Peter took part in the Great Escape planning at Sagan, but did not get out through the escape tunnel before it was discovered. When he was shot down, Peter had been on a PAMPA sortie, attempting to capture meteorological data in advance of a Bomber Command raid over Germany. These PAMPA sorties had previously been conducted by No. 521 Squadron at Bircham Newton, until it was decided that they should be undertaken by Bomber Command instead of Coastal Command. So 521 Squadron's Mosquitoes (including DZ316) were flown to Oakington, where No. 1409 Flight was formed on the 1st of April 1943. Peter and his observer Bill Woodruff were one of six 521 Squadron crews who moved from Bircham Newton to Oakington with the Mosquitoes. In fact, Peter's brief service with No. 521 Squadron was his second period of duty at Bircham Newton. He had previously flown from the station as a pilot with No. 235 Squadron during 1940 and 1941.

Mr. Bryan Montgomery, a former RAF Flight Lieutenant, also visited from his home in  Heacham. He donated a photograph of No. 113 Course at the Junior Command and Staff School (JCSS), which he attended in 1962. He also included a press cutting from an incident involving one of the other course attendees, Captain Sahl Mohamed Hanzeh (spelled Hamza in the press article), of the Jordanian Air Force.  He defected to the United Arab Republic - a short-lived political union between Egypt and Syria - in a DH4 Heron aircraft on the 12th of November 1962. By that time, he had been promoted to Lt. Col. and was described as chief of the Jordanian Air Force. He said that he had defected because he had been entrusted with a secret mission against the Yemen which his conscience did not allow him to carry out.

Mrs. Perdita Le Marchant Swift, who was on holiday in Hunstanton from her home in  Cambridgeshire, visited on Easter Monday. Her father, Flying Officer George Derrick Osmond Le Marchant Hutchesson, known as 'Peter', served with No. 206 Squadron at the beginning of WW2, when the squadron was commanded by Wing Commander N. H. D'Aeth. Sadly, he was posted missing, assumed killed, on the 18th of May 1940 whilst flying Lockheed Hudson N7400, which failed to return from Hamburg. He and his three-man crew are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, near Windsor. Perdita's mother was pregnant with Perdita when George was killed, and she waited 10 years before remarrying hoping that he might return. Wing Commander D'Aeth was Pedita's godfather, and she has kept in touch with his daughter, who is due to visit her later in the year. Perdita generously donated some photographs and other items, including her father's driving license, a No. 206 Squadron badge and a Squadron Christmas card. Now that she has discovered the Heritage Centre, we are hoping that Perdita will make a return visit in the near future.

 

© D. Jacklin 2017. This website is owned by the RAF Bircham Newton Memorial Project.