IN REACH OF THE SKIES
Tibenham in Norfolk can trace its history back to WWI when it was an RFC landing ground. However it was most active with the USAAF in WWII as home to the 445th Bombardment Group who were involved in the disastrous Kassel raid of September 1944 when only 4 of 35 Tibenham based Liberators returned to base. The field is still active and has been home to Norfolk gliding club for many years. The actor James Stewart flew a handful of missions from Tibenham in 1944. Pictures from December 2017.
Opening in 1942 this Essex airfield was under USAAF control by May the following year and was one of the first bases in England to operate the Flying Fortress. Later it was home to Marauders. In September 1944 the base returned to the RAF as a glider towing unit operating Halifaxes and Albermarles. It closed in 1955 although there is now a small flying strip alongside one of the original runways but most of the airfield is buried under a golf course and a business park.
Ludham in Norfolk was a satellite to RAF Coltishall and opened in November 1941. It operated eight different Spitfire squadrons and two of Typhoons and for a short period in late 1944 became RNAS Ludham as HMS Flycatcher. It then reverted to RAF control before closing in 1946. Although most of the site has returned to agriculture there is a small private flying strip on one of the original runways. A handful of buildings remain including the control tower which I checked out in February 2018.
in 1940 Sutton Bridge became home to the second RAF Spitfire squadron, the first of course being at Duxford. Later the base was home to the Central Gunnery School. The airfield was largely grass and little remains today. Viewed in February 2018.
Matlaske was a satellite field to RAF Coltishall and was home to a number of types during its active life including Hurricanes, Spitfires, Typhoons, Lysanders, Whirlwinds, Thunderbolts, P-39s and more. The airfield only ever had grass runways and most buildings were demolished around 40 years ago. There is now little to see except for a memorial stone and a section of perimeter track that used to run to a T2 hangar. Pictured in February 2018.
Swannington in Norfolk did not open until 1944 and the RAF had left by 1947 so it had a short service life. As an active field its main claim was as host to Mosquitos supporting bomber command operatier. After this it passed to RAF MAintenance Command. The site is now used for agriculture although sections of runway and buildings, including a dilapidated control tower, remain as I saw in February 2018.
A little along the coast from Beachy Head is RAF Friston. There is really nothing there now to indicate that this used to be an airfield but there are a couple of footpaths that will take you through fields to a memorial stone on the end of one of the grass runways, of which there were two. Although aircraft were based at Friston from time to time its main purpose was as an emergency landing ground. It saw little action after D-Day and closed in 1946 although it was briefly revived in 1988 as it was the setting for the TV series Piece of Cake.