RAF Attlebridge - USAAF Station 120

Text © Copyright Evelyn Simak, June 2014
Images are under a separate Creative Commons Licence.

The Attlebridge aerodrome, named after the nearest railway station, was built as a satellite airfield for RAF Swanton Morley, for the use by No. 2 Group RAF (light bombers). It was completed in August 1942 and initially used by No. 88 (Hong Kong) Squadron RAF from August 1941 to September 1942. 88 Squadron left for RAF Oulton > Link at the end of September 1942 because on 30 September 1942, Attlebridge was assigned to the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) Eighth Air Force's 2nd Bomb Wing and given the USAAF designation of Station 120. Work had, however, first to be done to prepare the aerodrome for the arrival of the heavy bombers.

The first units to arrive at Attlebridge were squadrons of the 319th Bombardment Group (Medium) but they soon left again for North Africa. At that time the airfield had still been a satellite field for RAF Horsham St Faith (now Norwich International Airport), and the Group HQ and some of the personnel were stationed there. Later in the same year Attlebridge was used as a training airfield and No. 320 (Dutch) Squadron RAF moved in during March 1943, leaving again in March 1944. 320 Squadron had previously been based at RAF Methwold where it was formed solely from survivors of the Royal Dutch Naval squadron. In late 1943, the 61st Station Complement squadron arrived, and the 466th BT first aircraft to arrive at the end of February 1944 was one of the Consolidated B-24 Liberators with which all but three of the American Bomb Groups were equipped.

From March 1944 onwards, the airfield was used by the USAAF's 466th BG (Heavy) with its operational squadrons being:

784th Bombardment Squadron
785th Bombardment Squadron
786th Bombardment Squadron
787th Bombardment Squadron

On 22 March they were sent on their first mission, which was to Berlin, where the group lost three aircraft. By mid-August they had completed the 100th mission and a dance was held in celebration in one of the hangars, to the music of the Glenn Miller band, led by Glenn Miller himself. The actor James Stewart, who at the time served as an officer at Station 124 (Tibenham) > Link also attended the concert.

The group completed their 232nd and final mission on 25 April 1945, striking a transformer station at Traunstein, a town in south-eastern Bavaria, and by mid-June most had left for home and the airfield was returned to the RAF.

After the war, the airfield was placed under care and maintenance before being closed in 1950. It was sold during 1959-62 and the runways have since been used for extensive poultry rearing operations by Bernard Matthews Farms Ltd who began buying up disused WW2 airfields for use in the production of turkey meat.

On the occasion of a reunion in 1992 a memorial dedicated to the 324 men killed in action was unveiled at the crossroads near the south-western corner of the airfield.

TG0914 : 466th Bomb Group memorial stone by Evelyn Simak

Because of their use as hardstandings for huge poultry houses, the runways, taxiways and some of the aircraft dispersals have survived largely intact albeit in parts overgrown. The latest addition to the airfield is two large wind turbines which were installed beside runway 14/32 in March 2014.

TG1014 : Old poultry shed by Evelyn Simak TG1014 : Old poultry shed (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG1014 : Poultry shed on runway 32 by Evelyn Simak

TG1014 : Runway on Attlebridge airfield by Evelyn Simak TG0915 : The West-East runway at RAF Attlebridge by Evelyn Simak TG0915 : Aircraft dispersal site at RAF Attlebridge by Evelyn Simak TG1015 : Aircraft dispersal at RAF Attlebridge by Evelyn Simak TG1014 : Runway 14/32 by Evelyn Simak

The two T-2 hangars have long since gone but a few old Nissen huts and other structures remain on some of the dispersed sites. The Watch office (control tower) was extensively renovated and is currently used as offices by Bernard Matthews Farms Ltd.

TG1014 : The Watch office at RAF Attlebridge (USAAF Station 120) by Evelyn Simak TG1014 : The southern perimeter track at Attlebridge airfield by Evelyn Simak TG1014 : Old RAF buildings on Attlebridge airfield by Evelyn Simak TG1014 : Generator house on Attlebridge airfield by Evelyn Simak

The Battle headquarters, situated near the south-eastern edge of the airfield, was built to the same design as the BHQ at Thorpe Abbotts airfield but is in less good condition. Its entrance was blocked quite some time ago.

TG1014 : Attlebridge Battle headquarters by Evelyn Simak TG1014 : Attlebridge Battle headquarters - escape hatch by Evelyn Simak

The Operations block and generator house, the Briefing room and three Nissen huts which housed personnel have survived on the Headquarters site in Sandy Lane, near the south-western edge of the airfield. Marked on the map as Pond Farm, the converted Operations block is now a dwelling house and the office of Simple Solutions (Chemicals) Ltd. The house retains the same floor plan as the WW2 building but little of the original structure has survived.

The Norden bombsight building located on the same site was also converted into a dwelling; the adjoining Nissen huts that once provided accommodation are currently being used as workshops.

TG0914 : Pond Farm by Evelyn Simak TG0914 : The former headquarters of RAF Attlebridge by Evelyn Simak TG0914 : Bungalow at Pond Farm by Evelyn Simak TG0914 : WW2 Nissen hut by Evelyn Simak TG0914 : RAF Attlebridge headquarters site by Evelyn Simak

A damaged blister hangar still stands near Green Farm, to the south of the airfield. A concrete loading ramp remains in a field north of Green Farm and an all-purpose hut survives in good condition beside Honingham Lane. The Fuzing Point (Heavy) shed remains in the bomb and ammunition storage area to the east of the runways.

TG1014 : Ex-RAF blister hangar near Green Farm by Evelyn Simak TG1014 : Ex-RAF blister hangar near Green Farm - detail by Evelyn Simak TG1014 : Concrete loading ramp north of Green Farm by Evelyn Simak TG1014 : Ex-RAF building at Attlebridge airfield by Evelyn Simak

TG1014 : RAF building in field beside Honingham Lane by Evelyn Simak TG1014 : RAF general purpose hut (interior) by Evelyn Simak TG1014 : RAF general purpose hut (interior) by Evelyn Simak

In the south-east, a concrete slab and steps from a sentry box are recorded to have survived on the northern edge of Foxburrow Plantation, adjoined by the concrete platform of the Officers' quarters. A short distance further north, the concrete base of a building associated with the airfield was recorded by NHER within a fenced in compound to the north of the Broadway, once the main road through Site 1. Originally intended for use by the WAAF, it was occupied by the enlisted men of the 787th Squadron. Site 1 was spread out all along this road, from its junction with Paddy's Lane to where it meets Breck Road at about 1500 metres further to the east, and it had its own pub - the Shamrock Tavern. Unlike the Aero Club, the Shamrock served beer. The camp sites along Broadway are now covered with trees but in the wood to both sides of the road, and in the triangle by the junction with Breck Road, concrete hut bases, the remains of buildings and several air-raid shelters can still be found.

TG1013 : View along The Broadway by Evelyn Simak TG1013 : WW2 remains in wood by Evelyn Simak TG1013 : USAAF camp site near Weston Green by Evelyn Simak TG1113 : Entrance to an air raid shelter by Evelyn Simak TG1113 : WW2 air raid shelter - interior by Evelyn Simak

Near the eastern end of Stone Road, where it makes a sharp bend, was Site 3, another accommodation site. This area is now occupied by a poultry farm but some of the original Nissen huts would seem to be still in place. Site 2, where the officers and men from the 785th Squadron were housed, was situated a short distance further to the south-west, on the other side of the road and north of Heath Farm; no trace remains today. A number of Nissen huts, none of them would however seem to be original, can be seen to the east of the Stone Road/Heath Road junction. The Sick quarters (Site 5) were located immediately to the south of the junction of the B1535 road and Sandy Lane. A public footpath traverses this site. No buildings have survived here, but the concrete trackways are still in place and currently used for farm storage. A short distance further east, the track leading into Site 8 (accommodation) is also still in place, turning off the B1535 in a northerly direction. The location of Site 9 (accommodation) was on the other side (south) of the road and is now a crop field. The Communal site 2 was situated immediately to the north-west of Fransgreen Farm in Sandy Lane, about one kilometre south-east of the Sick quarters. The large concreted hardstanding is still in place and currently occupied by a scrap yard.

TG0913 : No Entry by Evelyn Simak TG0913 : Gated track by Evelyn Simak

TG0715 : Long bend in Stone Road by Evelyn Simak TG0715 : Fields south of Stone Road by Evelyn Simak TG0814 : Nissen huts beside Stone Road by Evelyn Simak

TG0913 : Concrete tracks from WW2 by Evelyn Simak TG0913 : Site 5 - the former Sick quarters by Evelyn Simak TG0913 : Site 5 - the former Sick quarters by Evelyn Simak TG0913 : Concreted road into Site 5 by Evelyn Simak

Some of the sheds of Woodforde Farm, at the north-western edge of the airfield, are situated on one of the aircraft dispersal sites; three heavy steel bars used for securely anchoring aircraft can still be seen, solidly embedded in the old concrete track near the farm entrance.

TG0915 : Shed at Woodforde Farm by Evelyn Simak TG0915 : View along Sandy Lane by Evelyn Simak TG0915 : Anchorage for aircraft by Evelyn Simak

On the edge of a small wood situated to the north-west of the airfield two prefabricated Orlit barrack huts have survived, fiercely guarded by a jungle of nettles and brambles. These huts were built on what then was a small field, in order to provide accommodation for the inhabitants of the small hamlet of Hungate Common, whose houses were demolished to make way for the western extension of runway 27.

TG0915 : Barrack hut north of Rectory Road by Evelyn Simak TG0915 : WW2 barrack hut by Evelyn Simak TG0915 : WW2 barrack hut - interior by Evelyn Simak TG0915 : WW2 barrack hut - interior by Evelyn Simak TG0915 : WW2 barrack hut - graffiti by Evelyn Simak

A couple of kilometres west of the airfield is Hockering Wood, now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). During WW2, the site - then known as RAF Hockering - was used for storing and supplying bombs to No. 2 Group Bomber Command in Norfolk which had a close relationship with USAAF Station 120. American bombs were stored beside Blind Lane, a rural road linking the Hockering Wood site with the western side of Attlebridge airfield. The emergency water supply, remains of brick structures and concrete hut platforms have survived, as has the Asbestos hut beside the entrance, presumably the site's former guard house.

TG0714 : WW2 Asbestos hut in Hockering Wood by Evelyn Simak TG0714 : WW2  Asbestos hut in Hockering Wood - interior by Evelyn Simak TG0714 : WW2 Asbestos hut in Hockering Wood - interior by Evelyn Simak TG0714 : Hut platform beside the path by Evelyn Simak TG0614 : Emergency water tank - a closer look by Evelyn Simak


Exhibits from the 466th BG Attlebridge are on display in the new Nissen hut at the Hethel Memorial Museum. The museum is open between 10am and 4pm on every second Sunday of each month from April to October.


My thanks go to Bernard Matthews Farms Ltd, and to the owners of Green Farm and Pond Farm for their kind permission to take pictures on their land.

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