Latest News as of June 2020

Closure due to Coronavirus pandemic:  This year, as usual, we had hoped to open during all bank holiday weekends and other selected Sundays throughout the year, beginning on Easter Sunday. However, in the light of the Government advice for us all to avoid unnecessary travel and social gatherings during the Coronavirus pandemic, we took the decision to delay the opening and keep the RAF Heritage Centre closed for the time being. Space inside the Centre is limited, and almost all of the Heritage Centre volunteers and many of our regular visitors are over 70 and at high risk from the disease. Our greatest concern is for the health and well-being of our staff and visitors.  We hope to resume our openings later in the year, if possible, when the infection rate is at a low and acceptable level and we are allowed to do so. When we do reopen, we will almost certainly have to introduce special precautions, including the wearing of face coverings, hand sanitisation, social distancing and a strict limit on the number of visitors inside the Centre at any one time. Any reopening will be announced on this website on our Facebook page (see below) and in the local media. In the meanwhile, please stay safe.

Facebook

Follow us on Facebook: While we are closed, we urge you to follow us on Facebook, where we maintain a public group called RAF Bircham Newton Heritage Centre, which you are most welcome to join. Over recent months, we have discussed many topics on Facebook, including Bircham Newton's former RAF buildings, personnel who served there and the aircraft they flew. Your participation in these discussions would be most welcome.  

Remembrance Sunday

This photograph, courtesy of Paul Hewitt, shows BBC Radio Norfolk's Julie Reinger (second from the right) at the RAF Bircham Newton memorial with some of the Heritage Centre team members and friends during a Treasure Quest visit on Remembrance Sunday in 2019.

Virtual Tour - Treasures of the Heritage Centre. Since you cannot visit the RAF Heritage Centre at the moment, this small video will give you an insight into some of its treasures. Photographs of some of them are also displayed below. It is hoped that they will encourage you to visit us when this current pandemic passes.

RAF Bircham Newton Display Board

The photograph above shows the RAF Bircham Newton Display Board, created using stunning calligraphy by a former CITB illustrator, Mr. Austin Godfrey, and donated to the Centre by CITB. It includes a brief history of RAF Bircham Newton and the names of all of the former commanding officers. It also includes all squadron commanders from its flying era and chief instructors from the time when it was the RAF School of Administration.

Painting of Hawker Hinds

This second photograph (above) shows a unique painting donated by the aviation artist Wing Commander John Stephens MBE. The painting depicts Hawker Hinds of No. 34 Squadron flying over the aerodrome in 1936.  During that year, four light bomber units (Nos 18, 21, 34 and 49 squadrons) shared the aerodrome for a short period flying Hawker Hind biplanes. This was at the end of the biplane era, just prior to the station being transferred to the new Coastal Command. Several drawings of WW2 aircraft by John Stephens are also on show in the Heritage Centre.

Photographic displays

 

This third photograph (above) is typical of photographic displays which are on show in each of the heritage rooms.This particular display contains photographs from RAF Bircham Newton’s history in chronological order, beginning with the aerodrome’s birth during the Great War, continuing through the inter-war years and World War Two and ending in the Cold War. To the right of the display panels, three photographs from the display are shown in close up:  one photograph is of an official visit by King George V and Queen Mary in 1934; and two photographs are of an official visit by King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and the two Princesses in 1941.

Roll of Honour

This fourth photograph (above) is of an important document, the WW2 Roll of Honour, which lists all known personnel who lost their lives during WW2 whilst they were on active duty at RAF Bircham Newton or one of its satellite airfields. Two copies of the Roll of Honour are on display in the Heritage Centre.  It was compiled from squadron operational records, aircraft accident reports, Commonwealth War Graves Commission data and other sources.  It is considered to be a work in progress. Almost 540 casualties are currently listed, but more will almost certainly come to light in the future and will be added to this document.

Apprentice Shields

This fifth photograph (above) shows RAF administrative apprentice entry shields donated by the RAF Administrative Apprentice Association and individual former apprentices. From January 1959 until December 1962 Bircham Newton was the home of the RAF Administrative Apprentices’ Training School.  This school, which transferred from RAF Hereford to Bircham Newton, trained young RAF administrative apprentices, who underwent 20 months of intense training to learn their RAF trades of Clerk Secretarial, Pay Accountants or Suppliers.  This display includes the entry shields from the 32nd to 46th entries plus a graduation shield from the 46th entry. The 32nd to 35th entries began their training at Hereford but transferred to Bircham Newton when the school moved to Norfolk. The 36th to 46th entries of apprentices commenced their training at Bircham Newton but the 43rd Entry was the last entry to complete its training in Norfolk. Following the closure of Bircham Newton, in December 1962, the school was re-located back to RAF Hereford with the 44th to 46th entries, who completed their training in Herefordshire. There are many more items of apprentice memorabilia, including entry photographs, on display in the Centre.

Memories

This sixth photograph (above) represents all of the captured personal memories we have accrued from former RAF personnel and civilians who served at Bircham Newton or one of its satellites. We have files of these memories from WWI, the inter-war period, WW2, and the post-war period. Most were obtained from diaries, press reports and family records donated by the children or grandchildren of those who served. A precious few were obtained in the Heritage Centre by talking to the veterans themselves. The illustration shows some memories obtained via the family of former Flight Lieutenant Peter Frank Hall, who had two tours of duty at Bircham Newton during WW2. In May 1943, Peter was shot down over Holland and was captured as a prisoner of war (POW). He served two years in Stalag Luft III, Sagan, where the ‘Great Escape’ was hatched. Peter’s duty in the preparation for the escape was as a cartographer, making escape maps. Lots were drawn for potential escapees and Peter was drawn as number 120. However, the tunnel was closed down before he had a chance to escape.

206 Squadron

This seventh photograph (above) is a collage of four images which are typical of many photographs we have on display of squadrons, aircraft and personnel who flew from Bircham Newton. This particular collage shows four photographs of aircraft and personnel from No. 206 Squadron, a squadron that flew from Bircham Newton from 1936 until 1941.  This famous maritime squadron was flying Lockheed Hudson aircraft at the time when these photographs were taken, but it went on to fly the Boeing Fortress, Consolidated Liberator, Hawker Siddeley Shackleton and Nimrod in its long and distinguished RAF service.

School of Admin

The visual above (photograph eigth) is used to represent the RAF's School of Administration, which was based at Bircham Newton from the late 1940s when the station was transferred to Technical Training Command. Administrative training started here when the Officers Advanced Training School (OATS) moved in from Hornchurch in late October 1948 and was quickly joined by the Secretarial and Equipment Officers schools from Digby in the spring of 1949. With effect from June 1951, the whole training establishment became known as the RAF School of Administration, responsible for training thousands of RAF officers and students from foreign and Commonwealth countries. The Officers Advanced Training School subsequently became known as the Junior Command and Staff School (JC&SS) from 1958. There is a file of course photographs on display in the Centre; this is incomplete and we are always on the lookout for more photographs like the insert above.

We hope you have enjoyed this very brief tour of some of the Heritage Centre's treasures and that you will visit us as soon as you are able.

  

D. Jacklin 2019. This website is owned by the RAF Bircham Newton Memorial Project.