RAF Little Snoring

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


The aerodrome at Little Snoring, intended as a satellite to Foulsham airfield, was built by Taylor Woodrow Ltd in 1942/43 to the standard design of a Class A heavy bomber airfield, with three concrete runways and 36 aircraft dispersal points. The main runway was 2,000 metres long. The minor road linking the villages of Thursford and Little Snoring was closed when construction began, as it crossed the flying field. It was however reinstated in the 1960s, following the eastern perimeter track.

Completed in the summer of 1943 and initially assigned to No. 3 Group Bomber Command, the first squadrons to arrive were the 115th and the 1678 Heavy Conversion Flight, both from RAF East Wretham in the Breckland district of Norfolk which had recently been assigned to the USAAF's (United States Army Air Forces) Eighth Army Air Force, and since after the war forms part of STANTA, the British Army's Stanford Practical Training Area. After only a brief stay, the 1678th transferred to RAF Foulsham, in the Broadland district of Norfolk.

No. 115 Squadron flew offensive operations against the German night fighters. By November 1943 however, the airfield had been transferred to 100 Group RAF (Bomber Support), Bomber Command, which also flew operations from Foulsham > LinkExternal link and Great Massingham, North Creake > LinkExternal link and Swannington > LinkExternal link as well as from West Raynham, Sculthorpe, Swanton Morley and Oulton > LinkExternal link.

Number 100 Group, based at Bylaugh Hall in the Breckland district of Norfolk, was responsible for a series of secret operations involving the development and testing of more than 32 different devices. The specially equipped aircraft of this group flew within the bomber stream, using electronic jamming devices to disrupt enemy radio communications and radar. These devices were referred to under exotic code-names such "Airborne Cigar", "Jostle", "Mandrel", "Airborne Grocer", "Carpet" and "Piperack". Other aircraft were fitted with so-called Homers which intercepted the German night fighters' radar and radio emissions and allowed the RAF fighters to home in onto the enemy aircraft, and shoot them down or at least disrupt their missions aimed against the allied bomber streams.

No. 115 Squadron was later replaced by 169 Squadron, flying Mosquito aircraft, and by 515 Squadron, at first flying Beaufighters and later also equipped with Mosquitoes. No. 515 Squadron was the first RAF squadron to employ electronic countermeasures by jamming enemy radar installations. Their aircraft were fitted with a device called "Moonshine", the code-name for ARI TR1427 (Airborne Radio Installation Transmitter Receiver), a spoofing/jamming device developed at the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) with the aim of defeating the German "Freya" radar system.

The squadrons flew day and night intruder missions as well as escort duties, ie they escorted RAF bomber streams over enemy territory and protected them from German night fighters. During March and April 1944 they were briefly joined by a detachment of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), flying P-51 Mustangs and P-38 Lightnings in long-range escort trials. In mid-April 1944, the aerodrome at Little Snoring was attacked by retaliating German intruders which had tailed the returning British bombers on their home run and managed to remain undetected, putting the airfield temporarily out of commission.

In May 1944, 23 Squadron arrived from the Mediterranean, and together with the 515th they continued to fly day and night intruder raids, intercepting German fighters deep in Europe. The last missions were flown in early May, just before both squadrons were disbanded.

From July to September 1945, No. 141 Squadron operated from the base until operational flying officially ceased in September 1945 and the airfield was put into care and maintenance. In the immediate post-war period aircraft, mainly Mosquitoes, were stored on the airfield, and in the 1950s it was used by an anti-aircraft co-operation unit under a civilian contract, flying Spitfires and Vampires.


The following main units were based at Little Snoring:

115 Squadron (6 Aug - 26 Nov 1943)
No. 1678 Heavy Conversion Flight (6 Aug - 16 Sep 1943)
No. 15 Heavy Glider Maintenance Section (16 Aug 1943 - 15 Mar 1944)
No. 1473 (Special Duties) Flight (28 Nov - 12 Dec 1943)
169 Squadron (8 Dec 1943 - 4 Jun 1944)
No. 1692 (Radar Development) Flight (10 Dec 1943 - 21 May 1944)
515 Squadron (15 Dec 1943 - 10 Jun 1945)
23 Squadron (2 Jun 1944 - 25 Sep 1945)
141 Squadron (3 Jul - 7 Sep 1945)
No. 112 Storage Sub-site, 274 Maint. Unit (17 Nov 1945 - Dec 1946)
No. 2 Civilian Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit (20 Jul 1951 - 23 Mar 1953)


Twelve Lancaster bombers and 43 Mosquito fighter aircraft flying from Little Snoring were lost during missions. There is to date no memorial stone, but the village sign, besides a farmer ploughing his field, and the village church, depicts a Mosquito fighter aircraft and a propeller, thus commemorating its wartime history.


TF9532 : Village sign by Evelyn Simak


St Andrew's, the parish church, isolated from the village and located at the south-western end of the airfield, was used as the official Airfield Church by the RAF personnel based here during the war. On the west wall of the nave, the squadrons' "Victory" boards and "Awards and Honours" boards can be seen. These used to be on display in the Officers' mess. When the buildings were demolished in the 1950s the boards were rescued from destruction by the local churchwarden and given a new home in the parish church.


TF9532 : St Andrew's church by Evelyn Simak TF9532 : St Andrew's church - view west by Evelyn Simak TF9532 : RAF Little Snoring "Victory" board by Evelyn Simak TF9532 : RAF Little Snoring "Victory" board - detail by Evelyn Simak TF9532 : RAF Little Snoring - Awards and Honours board (detail) by Evelyn Simak


In the churchyard, a stone commemorating Lucy N Hoare, the wife of Wing Commander Bertie Rex O'Bryen Hoare, can be found. Captain Hoare is reported to have been one of the great RAF characters of WW2 and he is acknowledged as one of the best Mosquito Intruder pilots. He died in the spring of 1947, aged 34, following an air accident over the Pacific and is buried in Singapore. Mrs Hoare gained the rank of senior officer in the service of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).


TF9532 : The grave of Lucy N Hoare by Evelyn Simak


After the closure of the aerodrome, local flying interest was sustained by the Cushing family, who before the war owned much of the land in the area and later re-acquired it. For more than 50 years the flying field has been used by the McAully Flying Group (previously the Fakenham Flying Group) and the now privately owned airfield is today known as Little Snoring Airfield. An aircraft manufacturing company is also based here. The Light Aircraft Company (TLAC) produces the classic two-seater Sherwood Ranger biplane in both Microlight and Cat A format.

The blister hanger used by McAully is not one of the original airfield buildings however, and the building serving as the club house originates from RAF Langham > LinkExternal link where it housed the station's chapel.


TF9632 : Taxiway at Little Snoring Airfield by Evelyn Simak

TF9632 : McAully Flying Club - the club house by Evelyn Simak TF9632 : McAully Flying Club - the club house by Evelyn Simak

TF9632 : Hangars on Little Snoring Airfield by Evelyn Simak TF9632 : Blister hangar on Little Snoring Airfield by Evelyn Simak TF9632 : The Light Aircraft Company (TLAC) by Evelyn Simak


Large sections of all three runways were removed in the 1960s but portions of the perimeter track and a few service roads are still in place and can be seen from the roads skirting the flying field, with the minor road linking Little Snoring and Thursford Green having been built on part of the perimeter track.


TF9632 : Entrance to Little Snoring airfield by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : Road past Little Snoring Airfield by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : Entrance onto Little Snoring Airfield by Evelyn Simak TF9532 : Former service road by Little Snoring airfield by Evelyn Simak


The Watch office (Watch Office for All Commands, built to drawing 12779/41, with lower front windows to drawing 343/43) is also still standing, albeit disused and today surrounded by crop fields. The underground Battle Headquarters (BHQ), situated about 300 metres to the west of the Watch office in what today is a crop field, was demolished in 1989.


TF9633 : Concreted road on Little Snoring Airfield by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : Crop fields on Little Snoring Airfield by Evelyn Simak

TF9633 : Crop fields on Little Snoring Airfield by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : Crop fields on Little Snoring Airfield by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : Crop fields on Little Snoring Airfield by Evelyn Simak

TF9633 : The old Watch office by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : The old Watch office by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : View from the old Watch office by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : The old Watch office by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : Crop fields on Little Snoring Airfield by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : The old Watch office by Evelyn Simak

TF9633 : The old Watch office - interior by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : The old Watch office - interior by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : The old Watch office - interior by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : The old Watch office - interior by Evelyn Simak TF9633 : The old Watch office - interior by Evelyn Simak


Two of the original T2 aircraft hangars can still be seen on the southern side of the flying field, one standing on the south side of the taxiway currently used by the flying club and the other opposite one of the entrances to the flying field, beside the minor road linking Little Snoring and Thursford. Both these hangars are currently used by Preva Produce, a potato packing plant. The company also utilises a number of old T2 hangars at Snetterton Heath > LinkExternal link and Foulsham.


TF9632 : Hangars at Little Snoring airfield by Evelyn Simak TF9533 : Windsock in barleyfield by Evelyn Simak TF9632 : T2 aircraft hangar at Little Snoring Airfield by Evelyn Simak

TF9632 : T2 aircraft hangar (detail) by Evelyn Simak TF9632 : T2 aircraft hangar revisited by Evelyn Simak


The aerodrome's domestic campsites were dispersed to the south of the flying field, mainly in the vicinity of Little Snoring village, on the north side of Holt Road (the A148), or in the surrounding fields. The Administrative/HQ site, which adjoined the Technical site in the south-west, is today occupied by Jex Farm and the current main access road onto the flying field leads past here.

The eight domestic sites provided accommodation for 1,807 male and 361 female personnel and there were also two Mess sites and a Communal site. In his book "100 Group (Bomber Support)", author Martin Bowman reports that in 1949 about 400 civilians, local people who had lost their homes, were still accommodated in some of the wartime Nissen huts. Hardly anything would however seem to have survived on any of the former campsites. The temporary buildings were dismantled or demolished in the 1950s/1960s to make way for new housing.

Apart from the aforementioned T2 hangars, a building situated on one of the former WAAF sites, which was located on the north side of Holt Road, is however still standing in the grounds of the Crossways Caravan Park which adjoins the village shop and Post Office. Now used as a workshop with one end converted to toilets, the owners think that it was the Mortuary, but according to the official site plan the base hospital (including a mortuary building) was situated at the northern end of Kettlestone Road and the Crossways site was occupied by the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force). An air raid shelter and several hut bases as well as the old concret tracks have also survived at Crossways.

A second campsite used by the WAAF was located nearby, south of the Kettlestone Road/Holt Road junction. This area has long since been built over by housing but the ablutions block has survived in one of the gardens, where it is used for storage. The neighbouring Nissen huts (the owners, who were born in the area and have seen the airfield and its associated campsites during the war when they were school children, remember that there were about 10 huts) were long since demolished. The old concrete road leading into this site is also still in place.


TF9631 : View across the vegetable patch by Evelyn Simak TF9631 : RAF building in garden by Evelyn Simak TF9631 : Old RAF building by Evelyn Simak

TF9632 : Crossways camping and caravan site by Evelyn Simak TF9632 : Crossways Caravan Park by Evelyn Simak TF9632 : Crossways Caravan Park by Evelyn Simak TF9632 : Crossways Caravan Park by Evelyn Simak TF9632 : WW2 air raid shelter by Evelyn Simak


The airmen's, sergeants' and officers' messes were situated along Thursford Road, which meets The Street a short distance further to the south-west. Today the location is populated by private dwelling houses, and new roads such as Manor Close and The Pastures have replaced the old concrete tracks leading to the former Mess sites.

The Communal site was located to the east of a concrete track which is still in place and now serves as a footpath, leading into the fields to the south of St Andrew's church. The various accommodation sites where the squadrons were housed were located in the surrounding fields and grouped around the Communal site.


TF9532 : End of track by Evelyn Simak TF9532 : Concrete track by Evelyn Simak


Site 2 was strung out along both sides of The Street by the junction with Holt Road. A concrete hardstanding just north of the road junction is all that remains. Site 3 was located a short distance further to the north-west. It was adjoined by Site 4 in the north-west. Site 5 was situated in a neighbouring field a short distance further to the north-west. Site 6 was located in a field to the south of the concrete road leading to the station's sewage works. On the accommodation sites the officers and sergeants had their own segregated huts. The sergeants' and enlisted men's huts were open plan whereas the officers' huts had partitions which provided some privacy. Nothing remains on any of these locations which have long since reverted to agriculture.

The Sewage works were (and still are) located at the end of a concrete road in the fields to the west of Little Snoring village. They are still in use today.


TF9432 : Gated entrance to sewage works by Evelyn Simak


The station's Fuel store was located at the south-eastern tip of the flying field, whereas the Bomb and ammunition storage area was situated on the opposite side, on agricultural land to the south-east of the village of Great Snoring.


Displays and information about all the RAF 100 Group aerodromes can be found in the 100 Group Stafford Sinclair Memorial Room, which is dedicated to the RAF 100 Group (Bomber Support), at the City of Norwich Aviation Museum which adjoins Norwich International Airport (built on the site of the former RAF Horsham St Faith).


TG2114 : The City of Norwich Aviation Museum (CNAM) by Evelyn Simak TG2114 : The City of Norwich Aviation Museum (CNAM) by Evelyn Simak




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