RAF Deopham Green - USAAF Station 142

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


The aerodrome was constructed in 1942/43 by John Laing & Sons Ltd as a Class A bomber airfield, comprising three runways arranged in an A-shape. The main runway was 2,000 metres long. There were 51 hardstandings, the great majority being spectacle aircraft dispersals, and two hangars. The dispersed campsites located in the fields to the west accommodated 2,900 personnel.

The station was assigned to the 452nd Bomb Group (BG) which formed part of the USAAF's (United States Army Air Forces) Eighth Army Air Force, commencing operations in the early February of 1944, on the same day as the 453rd BG at nearby RAF Old Buckenham. The group was one of twentyfour B-17 (Flying Fortress) Heavy Bomber Groups, and one of nineteen Heavy Bomber Groups in the "Mighty Eighth" in the country. The group formed part of the 45th Combat Wing of the 3rd Air Division which also included Knettishall (Station 136) > LinkExternal link in Suffolk and Snetterton Heath (Station 138) > LinkExternal link in South Norfolk.


The following squadrons were stationed at the base:

728th Bombardment Squadron
729th Bombardment Squadron
730th Bombardment Squadron
731st Bombardment Squadron


The 452nd Bomb Group holds the record of losing nine commanding officers in 17 months, several of them in action. It also has the dubious distinction of having been the first group to use petroleum jelly bombs, known later as napalm, in an attack on Berlin on 6 March 1944, using American AN-M76 incendiary bombs with a Pyrogel filler. The group also supported the D-Day landings in Arnhem and the Rhine Crossing, and were awarded Distinguished Unit Citations as well as two posthumous Medals of Honor. The last missions flown from the aerodrome were food drops to Holland and rescue missions to liberate the French, Belgian, Dutch, British and American prisoners of war. Altogether 456 men and more than 200 aircraft were lost due to enemy fire or operational incidents.

On the occasion of a veterans' reunion, a stone memorial was dedicated in May 1995. It is located under a group of trees beside the minor road leading past Stalland Farm where the Technical Site used to be. A memorial can also be found in the grounds of St Andrew's church in Hingham, and in Little Ellingham St Peter's church. A commemorative wall plaque is mounted on the station platform wall in nearby Attleborough.


TM0298 : 452nd Bomb Group memorial near Deopham Green by Evelyn Simak TM0298 : A group of trees beside the road by Evelyn Simak TG0202 : 452nd Bomb Group Memorial by Evelyn Simak


In October 1945, the station was handed back to the RAF and remained in the care of Maintenance Command. The public roads which had been closed ever since construction had started in 1942 were re-opened to the public, one of them closely following a section of the former main runway. The aerodrome was finally permanently closed in 1948 and sold off in 1959. The farmland it occupied is now again a carpet of crop fields. The Watch office, which was situated to the east of the Administrative site beside the north-south runway, was demolished in the 1960s after having fallen derelict.

The land has long since returned to agriculture but extensive remains of all three runways and also of the perimeter track are still in place, although greatly reduced in width in most parts. A section of the main NE/SW runway is now a public road, roughly following the course of a pre-war road.


TM0298 : Remains of the main runway by Evelyn Simak TM0399 : Minor road to Deopham Stalland by Evelyn Simak TM0398 : View along the   runway by Evelyn Simak TM0298 : The NW/SE runway by Evelyn Simak TM0298 : View along the former north-west/south-east runway by Evelyn Simak


Several buildings have survived on the aerodrome's dispersed sites and dotted about on the edge of the former flying field. The fuel storage area and most of the hardstandings were demolished, the hangars dismantled and removed, and only one bomb bay remains in the bomb dump area on the south-eastern edge.


TM0298 : Ripening barley by Bush Green Farm by Evelyn Simak TM0198 : Hardstanding on the Industrial Estate by Evelyn Simak TM0298 : View across Deopham Green airfield by Evelyn Simak TM0298 : Old concreted road by Evelyn Simak TM0399 : Hardstanding by Deopham Stalland by Evelyn Simak


Near one of the spectacle aircraft dispersals which currently serves as a hardstanding and storage area for Bush Green Farm, a Nissen hut and a brick building have survived beside the road, and a small, now quite derelict and overgrown guard hut is still standing beside the track leading to the dispersals. The buildings were presumably used by the ground crew who commonly serviced their aircraft out on the dispersals in all weather. Until a few years ago a group of three similar Nissen huts used to stand adjacent to another spectacle dispersal near Stallard Farm at Stalland Common, on the south-western perimeter of the flying field.


TM0298 : RAF buildings beside the road by Evelyn Simak TM0298 : View along the eastern edge of a spectacle dispersal by Evelyn Simak TM0298 : Sentry hut beside track by Evelyn Simak


The Administrative/HQ site was located a short distance further to the north-west of the memorial. This area has since been taken over by the sheds and barns of Stallard Farm and no trace would seem to be left of any of the RAF buildings on this site. On taking a closer look, however, a borehole pump house can be seen standing on the edge of a paddock to the west of the farm, and on the other side of the road, in a small wooded area, a derelict building can be glimpsed. This was the site of the Sub-ordnance depot and the Clerk of Works. The old concreted road leading into this site is also still in place.


TM0298 : The old borehole pump house by Evelyn Simak TM0298 : Track into the Sub-ordnance depot site by Evelyn Simak TM0298 : Overgrown RAF building by Evelyn Simak


The main entrance into the aerodrome used to be located just south of the Hingham Road/Bow Street junction and the station's Sick quarters (Site 13) was situated a short distance further to the north-east, immediately adjacent in the south to Manor Farm. This site is currently occupied by an agricultural (Agrovista) depot. Several concrete hut bases have survived here, as has the original and now quite rugged surface of the staff car park adjacent to the accommodation hut housing the orderlies. The only building still in place and in good condition is the Ambulance garage and Mortuary (building 545)which has since been converted into a car garage.


 Sick quarters  Ambulance garage and Mortuary  Ambulance garage and Mortuary  Ambulance garage and Mortuary  Sick quarters (Site 13)


Four campsites were strung out along Bow Street. Site 12, the 729th squadron's accommodation site, was situated south of Rose Farm, on the south side of Bow Street, with Site 11, the 730th squadron's quarters, adjoining it a short distance further to the west, south of Croft Farm. A little further still to the south-west, on the west side of Bow Street and west of Rose Cottage was Site 10, the 731st squadron's quarters, with a sentry post on Bow Street situated beside the camp's entrance. The Mess site (Site 5) was situated north of Bow Street. The compound comprised separate dining halls for the ground crews, the combat crews and the officers. No trace remains today of any of these sites.

Site 4, the Communal site, was located a short distance further north on the west side of Hingham Road. The buildings on this site were later used for storage by Broadland Council. The area is currently occupied by a small industrial estate, utilising the remaining buildings which are the Gymnasium/chapel, home to Snelling Garage Equipment and AutoVogue; the Standby set house now the office of Direct Roof Services; and a large Nissen hut which used to be the Library and now serves as a workshop. This building contains several murals, two of which are in fairly good condition. A couple of latrines are also still standing. Amongst the artefacts found on the site by the current owner is a pair of aviator goggles with the serial number AN 6530.


TM0198 : Industrial estate at Stalland Common by Evelyn Simak TM0198 : Old latrine building by Evelyn Simak TM0198 : Industrial estate at Stalland Common by Evelyn Simak TM0198 : Industrial estate at Stalland Common by Evelyn Simak

TM0198 : WW2 aviator goggles by Evelyn Simak TM0198 : Nissen hut on the Industrial Estate at Stalland Common by Evelyn Simak TM0198 : Nissen hut on the Industrial Estate at Stalland Common by Evelyn Simak TM0198 : Nissen hut on the Industrial Estate at Stalland Common by Evelyn Simak TM0198 : Nissen hut on the Industrial Estate at Stalland Common by Evelyn Simak

The commanding officers such as Major Horace G Oliver, Lieutenant Colonel Marvin Stalder (February-March 1944) and Colonel Thetus C Odom (March-July 1944) were accommodated in a small building situated in the north-east corner of the compound. His quarters were converted into a private dwelling after the war and demolished only a few years ago, now replaced by a modern two-storey house. Site 6 was situated a short distance further to the west. Nothing would seem to have survived here and the area is now a crop field.


TM0198 : RAF building beside Hingham Road by Evelyn Simak TM0198 : Major Horace G Oliver's house by Evelyn Simak TM0198 : Major Horace G Oliver's house by Evelyn Simak


The 728th squadron's quarters and the Group Headquarters (Site 7) were located north of the junction of Hingham Road and Attleborough Road, which back then had a different name. A sentry post was situated on Hingham Road, a short distance further north. This site is currently occupied by a chicken farm belonging to Banham Poultry, based in Attleborough. Apart from one substantial building near the site entrance, which is still in use and appears to be in good condition, an accommodation block complete with boiler house and water tank, and a couple of smaller huts have also survived here, albeit quite derelict and overgrown. Site 8 adjoined a short distance further to the east, on the north side of what is now Attleborough Road, but according to the airfield site plan was then known as Warren Road or Kerby Road. Site 8 comprised mainly Contractors' huts and sheds. Some of the concrete hut platforms are still in place. Site 9, an accommodation site, was located a short distance further along, on the south side of the road. Sites 8 and 9 are currently used by Gressingham "The Remarkable Duck People", an award-winning family business who "breed, hatch, and rear their ducks on Red Tractor assured farms". (The Gressingham duck is described on their website as a unique breed that first came about when the small but flavourful wild Mallard was crossed with the larger Pekin duck giving a meaty, succulent duck with more breast meat, less fat and a rich gamey flavour. Red Tractor is described as a food assurance scheme which covers production standards developed by experts on food safety, hygiene, animal welfare and the environment.)


TM0198 : Old concreted road by Evelyn Simak  Site 7 TM0198 : Old RAF building by Evelyn Simak  Site 7 - accommodation hut

 Site 8 ... TM0198 : Hardstanding north of Attleborough Road by Evelyn Simak ...  Site 9


The bomb storage area used to be along the south-eastern edge of the flying field, to the east of the NE/SW runway. The concreted road is still in place and some of the hardstandings can be seen from the public road traversing the airfield from Bush Green Farm to Stallard Farm.


TM0298 : Concreted road on Deopham airfield by Evelyn Simak


The firing butts were situated near the north-eastern edge of the airfield which also had two fuel storage areas: one in the north-east and another near the southern perimeter. No trace remains of any of these sites. The sewage works are however still in place and operational. They can be seen beside the footpath leading from Manor Farm in Hingham Road south to the minor road to Attleborough.

---

Most of the sites described above can be seen by travelling along the minor road which traverses the airfield from Bush Green Farm in the south to Stallard Farm at Stalland Common in the north-west, and by following the minor road leading north-east to Deopham Stalland which was built on the main runway. My grateful thanks go to all the owners of former RAF buildings for very kindly permitting access and allowing photography.


KML
You are not logged in login | register