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What are these seven old Norfolk RAF bases now?

PUBLISHED: 12:59 27 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:16 27 September 2019

RAF Marham 11.03.1985 Photo: Archant Library

RAF Marham 11.03.1985 Photo: Archant Library

Archant Library

From turkey farms to fast cars, what are these seven of Norfolk's former RAF bases used for now?

RAF Marham 11.03.1985 Photo: Archant LibraryRAF Marham 11.03.1985 Photo: Archant Library

Back in the day, Norfolk was home to more than 50 RAF bases, some used for squadrons from all over Europe and others simply as decoy bases.

Here's how things are today:

RAF Langham - Turkey farm and heritage centre

Langham Dome. Picture: Ian BurtLangham Dome. Picture: Ian Burt

Langham airfield was active for 18 years and played a key role in both the Second World War and the Cold War.

The airfield was the most northerly of the Norfolk wartime bases, 3.3 miles from the North Sea at Blakeney.

Originally the base was built as a dispersal and satellite station to RAF Bircham, but it became fully operational in the summer of 1940.

The station was bought by Bernard Matthews, who constructed turkey sheds on the runways.

RAF Hetal British Government  Royal Ordinance Survey. Annotations on photo from Freeman, Roger A., Airfields Of The Eighth/Wiki media Photo: Public DomainRAF Hetal British Government Royal Ordinance Survey. Annotations on photo from Freeman, Roger A., Airfields Of The Eighth/Wiki media Photo: Public Domain

The Langham Dome is still at the base and was refurbished by The Friends of Langham Dome community group and turned into a visitor centre and museum.

RAF Hethel - Lotus Cars

Originally a stretch of farmland, the airfield was first developed in 1942 to be used by the US Army Air Force as a bomber squadron base - Station 114 - from which to launch attacks across Europe during the Second World War.

Group Lotus, Hethel, Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood Group Lotus, Hethel, Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

The base was assigned to the 320th Bombardment Group before construction had been completed in September 1942. The 310th and 389th Bombardment Groups were also posted at the site.

After the end of the war in Europe and the departure of the Americans, the airfield was assigned to RAF Fighter Command and saw further service before its closure in 1948.

Now, hundreds of cars are tested where military aircraft once flew.

Feature on former WW2 navigator Roy Smith, as he returns to RAF North Creake, which is now a B&B - Collect photos. Picture: Matthew Usher.Feature on former WW2 navigator Roy Smith, as he returns to RAF North Creake, which is now a B&B - Collect photos. Picture: Matthew Usher.

RAF North Creake - Bed and breakfast

North Creake bomber base was once north Norfolk's secret weapon.

Built in 1943, the station had more than 3,000 people stationed there in its heyday. The first ever flying operation at the base was in support of the D-Day landings. In 2011 Nigel Morter and Claire Nugent bought the building and refurbished it into a quirky bed and breakfast.

The RAF North Creake Control Tower. Picture: Ian BurtThe RAF North Creake Control Tower. Picture: Ian Burt

RAF Sculthorpe - Business park and military training

This base was north Norfolk's only American Air Force atomic base and was home to 10,000 personnel.

The base, three miles west of Fakenham, was the atomic deterrent against the Soviet Union for over a decade. In 1997, the Ministry of Defence sold the entire technical, domestic and administrative site to The Welbeck Estate Group.

Now, it is used for military training in the Sculthorpe Training Area and the other parts of the base have been turned into a business park which houses Norfolk Painting School, Wensum Caravan Services, and even an escape room.

RAF Sculthorpe from the sky. Photo: Supplied by Ian BrownRAF Sculthorpe from the sky. Photo: Supplied by Ian Brown

RAF Snetterton Heath - Snetterton race track

Construction of Snetterton Heath started in Autumn 1942 but was not completed until mid-1943 after its constriction was extended to turn it into an Eighth Air-Force bomber base.

It eventually had three concrete runways, 50 hard standings and two dispersed T2 hangers.

British Touring Car Championship leader Colin Turkington looked imperious at Snetterton, taking his fifth win of the season in the second race at the Norfolk venue Picture: Jakob Ebrey PhotographyBritish Touring Car Championship leader Colin Turkington looked imperious at Snetterton, taking his fifth win of the season in the second race at the Norfolk venue Picture: Jakob Ebrey Photography

After some 300 missions from Snetterton Heath, the 96th Bomb Group left for the USA during November-December 1945. The station was then placed under care and maintenance by the RAF and kept in operational condition until closed.

The airfield was bought privately in 1952 for development as a motor cycle and motor car racing circuit, the first race meeting being held in 1953.

Now, hundreds of events are held at Snetterton each year including the British Touring Car Championships and British Super Bikes.

Unveiling of a plaque dedicated to the Polish Air Forse who served at RAF Coltishall during the Second World War and shortly after the end of the war. Copy picture of Joseph Kleszewski (2nd from left) aircraft fitter at coltishall of 306 sqn. 

Picture: MARK BULLIMOREUnveiling of a plaque dedicated to the Polish Air Forse who served at RAF Coltishall during the Second World War and shortly after the end of the war. Copy picture of Joseph Kleszewski (2nd from left) aircraft fitter at coltishall of 306 sqn. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

RAF Coltishall - Accommodation/ HMP Bure

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RAF Coltishall was originally built as an "Expansion Period" bomber base in 1939, but was changed to a fighter station in 1940.

The main features of the airfield were four hangars, a control tower, a perimeter track with hardstandings for dispersed aircraft, bomb stores and initially, a grass take-off and landing strip. Between 1940 and 1945 the station was home to more than 80 fighter squadrons, including Polish and Czech units. By the end of the war Coltishall had destroyed 207 enemy aircraft, with 48 "probables" and more than 100 damaged.

The front entrace at the Officers' Mess building at the former RAF Coltishall
Picture: Neil PerryThe front entrace at the Officers' Mess building at the former RAF Coltishall Picture: Neil Perry

The air base was left vacant after 66 years of continuous use in 2006.

Now it is home to HMP Bure and organisations including a development company which plans to turn the the officers' mess on Jaguar Drive into a 300-bed accommodation complex.

RAF Marham - RAF base

RAF Marham, home of the Lightning Force. Picture: Ian BurtRAF Marham, home of the Lightning Force. Picture: Ian Burt

Marham is one of the only two RAF bases left in use in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Marham opened as a training establishment and night landing ground in 1916, but the base was later changed to a heavy bomber unit in 1937.

Twin-engine Mosquitos and Stirling heavy bombers were also based at Marham during the war. Through the 1950s and 1960s, it was home to a succession of flying tanker units, as the RAF pioneered air-to-air refuelling.

In 1990 the Tornado squadrons of RAF Marham deployed to the Middle East in what was the start of over 25 years of continuous operations in the region.

As the Lightning Force prepared to take off for RAF Marham, its home in Britain, pilots had to learn air-to-air refuelling Picture: MODAs the Lightning Force prepared to take off for RAF Marham, its home in Britain, pilots had to learn air-to-air refuelling Picture: MOD

Now, RAF Marham is the home of the F-35 Lightning, a stealth fighter.

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